Ecological Security and Gender

Our first class period focused greatly around the definition of security, and over the past few weeks the authors we’ve explored have offered their meaning of environmental security and the cause for its state, ranging from the lack of resources, the resource curse, and the Malthusian theory that our population will one day outgrow our resources. This week, the authors from the Floyd and Matthew text offered ways of thinking we have yet to see, and I think they were vital pieces as we continued through Christian Parenti’s Tropic of Chaos.

Dennis Pirages continues on the same path as previous authors to try and offer his definition of ecological security, moving one step further to define human security as well.  The United Nations argues that human security is the safety from threat such as disease, hunger, and repression, and this safety encompasses the well-being of all people rather than just states. Pirages emphasizes we, as humans, need to look at ecological security as one of many species, recognizing that we share an ever-changing Earth with limited resources. Our ecological security approach needs a paradigm shift that considers the Homo sapiens relationship with the Earth, its resources, pathogenic microorganisms, and other animal species.

Nicole Detraz takes the theory of Dennis Pirages one step further by explaining the significance of recognizing that ecological security is gendered. She understands that women and men have completely different experiences with nature and thus conflict and violence that arises from environmental insecurity. “If a key goal is to understand the human security aspects of security-environmental connections, then gender offers an important piece of the story. As the study of environmental politics has progressed, there has been increased attention paid to connections between environmental damage and race, class, and gender. It is often claimed that men and women have unique relationships with the environment due to socially constructed gender roles. It is essential that ESS proceed with a full understanding of the ways in which socially constructed roles in society influence environmental security,” (F&M, 166). Despite her claim that ecological security is gendered, which I still personally agree with, Detraz did not offer any implementation plan to solve the problem. At the end of her chapter, I found myself wanting more from her argument, backed with examples of environmental socially constructed gender roles and a solution for the future.

Christian Parenti’s chapters on environmental security in African and Asian regions exemplified from some of the theories we’ve explored, especially in the way social and political aspects affected a state’s environmental security. In Kenya, drought has pushed people to migrate towards water. Specifically in his book, the Turkana were forced to migrate dangerously close to their enemies, the Pokot, where drought and barren lands had forced the Pokot into raiding other’s livestock, especially the Turkana, in order to replenish their own resources to survive. Cultural differences had driven these two specific people apart and drought and famine only brought violent conflict. Parenti takes us further with examples of violence and political warfare in failed states such as Somalia and Afghanistan, where resource scarcity and climate change have led to governmental withholding of resources, increase in commodity prices, and organized crime.

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