Health Epidemics and The Environment

This week’s reading largely consists of reframing security to include ecological security and gendered language to truly maintain human security. In order for people to be secure people do not need to just be secured from external threats but also protected from hunger, disease, and repression. Dennis Piragues states that human well-being and security can only be achieved through ecological security. He proposes that there are four critical relationships between humans and the ecosystem. These relationships must maintain harmony in order to have security. Piragues affirms that when one of these relationships’ is unbalanced conflict will arise. He argues that unless policies reflect ecological interdependence human insecurity will continue. With infectious disease on the rise, we have witnessed those imbalances more frequently.

The most recent epidemic is the Zika virus in Latin America. An article published on the UN website called “UN health agency warns El Niño may increase breeding grounds for mosquitoes spreading Zika”, states the issue of how the environment affects human health. There have been some correlations between pollution and the spread of disease. More specifically, it has been speculated that the large rainfall and floods caused by El Niño have led to the rise of mosquitos spreading Zika virus in South America and Central America. This issue is also addressed in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and was discussed in United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) in May. The environmental effects of El Niño are set to last through 2016. However, the health effects will be long lasting. Piragues would argue this an imbalance between human societies, population of other animal species and pathogenic organisms. Since the Zika outbreak scientist have been researching the virus to find a vaccine to guard against it.  State officials, however, proposed ways of eliminating the mosquitos entirely. The state of Florida suggested sending a genetically modified mosquito to kill the Zika carrying mosquitos. This method can cause another imbalance because we do not know what killing off mosquitoes would do to the environment as a whole.  We are so concerned with our own survival on this planet that as Piragues put it we would scorch it  without thinking of the consequences.

Zika virus epidemic Nicole Detraz would argue is also a prime example of how environmental issues disproportionally affect women. Detraz proposes that ESS needs to incorporate gender in its policies. Women are disproportionally affected by the environment, which is largely due to their low social status in the world. For example, when men are bitten by a mosquito they can get the symptoms and the virus will eventually leave their blood stream. Their daily lives are not disrupted nor does it give them a sense of insecurity to the extent that a woman of reproductive age would feel. Women who are infected with Zika have to worry that they are not pregnant and if they are then they must worry about the health effects to the fetus. This is where I find myself agreeing with Detraz that ESS needs to address that environmental issues are not gender neutral.

Physical health is not the only way human security is threatened by the changing environment. In Parenti, part II and III we see how El niño/niña also negatively affects agriculture and thus exasperates social conflict. The droughts in Kenya decreased the land available for cattle to graze on. This increased food insecurity. The solution is stealing cattle and fighting over grazing land. The state has not done a good job at problem-solving these issues. In Part III it is most evident when Parenti talks about water conflicts in Asia. We also see how the droughts have increased the cultivation of poppy seed since regular crops have failed due to the lack of rain or too much of it. Security needs to be reframed to include ecological security and gendered language to better protect human security.

This week I was most intrigued by Pirages four relationships. It would interest to explore the movement of pathogens across borders and how the state security might address such an issue.

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