of national security (interstate violence) has nothing to do with the focus of environmental degradation (human impact on the environment). Furthermore, talking of national security is too restrictive because a state’s ecological footprint may cross its sovereign domain. The wealthiest 20% of the world’s population consume 84% of all paper, use
87% of the world’s vehicles and emit 53% of all C0². Yet those least responsible suffer the effects the most. This is because wastes are exported to and resources come from the Southern poorer countries, so that their lands experience resource depletion and extraction (Barnett 2001:13). A focus on national security selects the military, because environmental degradation is viewed as having the potential to destabilise regional balances of power (Hough 2004:13-16). One only wonders how the military alone could prevent the effects of depletion and extraction. The environmental-conflict literature is a good example where traditional national security concerns have been linked with the environment. The narrative within this discourse is that environment degradation will lead to resource scarcities, which will make the developing countries more militarily confrontational towards the industrialised states (Barnett 2001:38). Conflict over scarce resources undermines the security of the state (Detraz and Betsill 2009:305), so it is the state which is to be protected. Emphasis on such an account is undesirable for many reasons. Firstly, it is untrue that the only consequence of environmental degradation is conflict. Bogardi and Brauch have noted how environmental security involves freedom from want (economic and social security dimensions), freedom from hazard impacts (natural or human-induced hazards as effects of environmental degradation) and freedom from fear (violence and conflict)(Brauch 2008: 17- 8). This demonstrates how conflict is but one consequence of degradation. Environmental-conflict literature ignores the root socioeconomic causes and hazard impact dimensions of environmental security; a focus on which would lead to conclusions of undertaking non-military efforts like disaster preparedness, adaptation, mitigation, early warning systems etc (Brauch 2008:17-8), and economic solutions like pricing goods to reflect the costs of their provision (Mathews (1989:172). Secondly, the assertion that environmental degradation is a primary reason of conflict is purely speculative (Barnett 2003:10). Barnett suggests that the ‘evidence’ provided in support is a collection of historical events chosen to support the conflict-scarcity storyline and reify the realist assumption that eventually humans will resort to violence (Barnett 2001:66). This is as opposed to acknowledging that humans are equally capable of adapting. Thirdly, research shows that it is abundance of resources which drives competition, not scarcity (Barnet 2003:11). This makes sense because any territorial conquest to obtain resources will be expensive. A poor country suffering from resource scarcity would not be able to afford an offensive war(Deudney 1990: 309-11). The second and third points mean that environmental-conflict literature
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- Winter '16
- Jeff Hannan
- The American