Ecology , Peace-building and Human Security

This week’s readings have made me question my original stance on framing environmental issues as security. It is clear to me that the security industry is not ready to change their approach to threats that are external, internal and sometimes invisible. The author’s for this week have moved past Malthusian beliefs and have delved into the history of the Global South to make a case for cooperation and collaboration in the face of environmental insecurity.

Watts presents Political Ecology as a possible explanation for the condition that the Global South countries have been left in. Political Ecology highlights how powers that have taken over Global South countries have contributed to the unequal distribution of resources that marginalizes people. According to Watts, the disproportionate effects are to be accredited to capitalism. Watts goes further to say that the condition poor people are in gives rise to bio-power: modern rule. It is a pessimistic way of looking at environmental security. Governments will only use climate change as a way to regulate peoples’ lives more. Watt’s explanation becomes more convincing after reading Buxton and Hayes and Piranti.

Buxton and Hayes make a strong argument for not reframing environmental issues as security issues. Since the September 2011 terrorist attack the “war on terror” has served as an excuse to use extreme force against people. Who is to say that environmental security will not be another excuse to increase military budget or intervention in other countries? Buxton and Hayes state that allowing the elite to find solutions for climate change is too dangerous. I cannot help but to agree. Time and time again we see that policies created are often benefiting corporate America instead of the marginalized few. Since environmental policies do not benefit economic growth they are difficult to get passed. Though more recently being “green” has become a marketing strategy among big companies like Pepsi Co who has privatized water in water scarce countries. Pepsi Co’s privatization of water is an example of how conflict can occur and made worse if the water is nonexistent for one group. This is a prime example of how a country with unstable institutions can fall into conflict over water. Framing environmental issues, as security, will ignore the reason conflict arises in Global South countries. Historically military interventions have been a ploy for economic gain.

Parenti in his analysis of who killed Ekaru Loruman made it evident that military intervention in environmental issues might not be the best approach. Through his analysis, he suggests the Global North sees an opportunity to take advantage of the Global south. Parenti calls on historical examples of military interventions in Global South countries, which left the countries with a corrupt government and criminals that result in a failed state. It is difficult to trust an entity aiding your country when instead of helping you it leaves more problems behind than you had in the beginning. These outcomes permanently marginalize the Global South. Militarizing the environment will only worsen conflicts in those countries. Prior to reading Parenti, I strongly believed framing environmental issues, as a security problem would be helpful in mobilizing powerful nations in preventing further damage to the environment. However, it seems like there are better ways of approaching environmental threats than with weapons and waiting for technology to solve the issues.

Maas et al. give a possible approach to the environmental conflict, which they call peace building. The South Caucus is used as a case study for peace-building initiatives. The intriguing part about peace-building is that it recognizes that the conflicts in the Global South stem from a different place other than the environment while also recognizing that sometimes peace-building just does not work if the two parties do not want to participate. This approach seems more realistic than the approaches of last week’s reading. The parties involved need to be willing to cooperate with one another. It would be a mistake to assume everyone is going to play nice in times of crisis. Especially when resources are exploited for economic gain. This is where the peace-building framework is weak. In order for it to be sustainable everyone first needs to care about the environment, not economic gain.

In sum Watts, Buxton and Hayes, Parenti and Maas et. al. have made it evident that the reason why the Global South will not be able to cope with environmental threats is due to the Global North’s self-interested interventions. If I had to choose a research topic for this week it would be how the legacy of well-intended Global North interventions in the Global South has made it so that third-world nations remain poor and inept to face environmental threats.

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