History and Stories in Environmental Security

The Parenti readings for this week showed the importance of history and seemingly-unrelated topics in Environmental Security. In discussing global climate change effects in Africa, much of Part II goes into surprising detail about Kenyan colonial history.In these chapters, while frequent reference is made to the environmental factors that cause conflict and violence, more time is spent explaining the social, political, economic history and power of political states. The small wars across Asia exemplify over and over again exactly what Parenti is attempting to teach.

His teaching, however, goes further than necessary – especially in discussing the places he spent time in and researched – to teach his [Western] audience about the history and culture of the [Global South] region. In many of these chapters, the climate change aspect feels secondary to general chaos that “defines” so much of the Tropic of Chaos as Parenti calls it, the area between the Tropics of Cancer and of Capricorn. I argue that understanding the intricacies of tribal, cultural, political, and international relations between the different groups of people in Kenya (and the pastoral corridor even more specifically) is imperative to making effective change that responds to the discussed crises but as I was reading these sections, I wondered how understanding these intricacies could help me understand Environmental Security at this level. (All this said, I argue that understanding Kikuyu elitism in Kenya historically and today is important for understanding the world and learning about cultures is an incredibly important aspect of any subsection of international relations or environmental studies.)

Without such personal anecdotes by Parenti, understanding the theories brought forth by the textbook, like ecological security, have little value. Pirages definition of ecological security as maintenance of a dynamic equilibrium in continually evolving relationships among human societies and between them and key components of the ecosystems in which they are embedded is perfectly exampled by East Africa’s pastoral corridor. An ideal reading might combine methodologies of these authors to explain a phenomenon with dynamic anecdotes and relevant examples while tying such ideas to important theories that bring about dynamic discourse.

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