Ch. 1-3 Resource Scarcity/Abundance “Think piece”

As a new area of study, environmental security has faced many challenges, especially because very little data has been collected on the topic.  Scholars have suggested that general security be reframed to include environmental security. However, framing environmental issues as a security issue can be problematic. Environmental security means different things to different people. Therefore, there are several ways to frame environmental security to represent different problems people might face in the future. This consequently creates a divide in the environmental security field. Another challenge this field has faced is proving that environmental security should be grouped with security threats such as terrorism.

Securitization theory states that security issues must be recognized by a powerful actor in order for it to become a security concern.  Framing environmental issues as security will be beneficial in creating effective policy to protect the environment. Floyd indicates that even in the security realm there are divides between traditionalist and human security. Similarly, in environmental security there is a comparable divide between scholars who take an educational approach so that those who are environmentally insecure can be in the future. While other scholars want to see what environmental security looks in in practice. Depending on how environmental security is framed one can argue for or against it being included in security. For example, in the Homer-Dixon model of scarcity the result is violence and conflict in states. One is compelled to say yes, security should be reframed. However, as seen in other sets of data, scarcity does not always lead to violence in a state. Then it is worth exploring what is different in the states where conflict did not occur. While resource depletion can lead to violence it is more important to know more about the political climate in that state. In certain undeveloped nations with poor institutions it is a given that unequal distribution to natural resources will cause violence.

On the other side of this issue, de Soysa presents the idea that resource scarcity has negative outcomes but so does natural resource abundance.  Similarly, to the Homer-Dixon model de Soysa indicates that a state’s dependence on a natural resource is the explanation for civil conflict. This is not entirely true. Industrialized countries do not have civil conflict due to natural resources abundance, but rather the nations that have poor institutions to begin with experience the resource curse. Overall, predicting what states will do and how people in those states will behave when faced with extreme weather conditions or lack of natural resources is difficult. One cannot ignore the role of institutions when it comes to resource abundance and scarcity. If these institutions are not strong enough to handle resource abundance or scarcity, then the outcome will be corruption and dissatisfaction amongst its citizens that will result in civil conflict.

The problem with each way environmental security is framed is that there is no clear outcome or policy that will be best. The environment will affect everyone differently and even geographically. If I had to choose to write on a topic this week I would write about how weak institutions in a state determine if conflict will arise due to resource abundance or scarcity.

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