We May Never Achieve Peace and Order: How Traditional Security Frameworks Fail Individuals

This week, I was particularly struck by a quote from Jawaharlal Nehru in Part III of Parenti’s Tropic of Chaos: “The man who has gotten everything he wants is all in favor of peace and order.” (Parenti, 133) This summarizes the answer to the question “Why hasn’t anyone put real effort into solving environmental security on any scale?” We have spoken at length about security between states, but this week’s readings reflect on alternative perspectives: how this crisis operates on both a societal and individual scale.

Pirages asserts in his article that ecological security is dependent on the careful balance of four relationships in ecosystems: humans vs. natural resources and services, humans vs. pathogenic microorganisms, humans vs. other animals, and humans vs. humans. Further, ecological insecurity results from changes in either human activities or in nature. In order to properly address the challenges of ecological security today, Pirages suggests that the concept of security extend beyond state vs. state or military vs. violent conflict. Instead, he argues that the narrative should focus instead on broader research incorporating the increasing threats from changing technologies such as pesticides and from growing populations in the Global South.

Parenti seems to concur – he writes with great personal and historical detail about the different examples of environmental insecurity in both Africa and in Central Asia. For both regions, he describes the extreme droughts and floods that have ravaged the physical and economic environment for so many different types of people, already disenfranchised due to the lasting effects of colonialism, extreme nationalism, and the small arms industry. Like Pirages, Parenti also cites the negative impacts of growing populations on the increasingly unstable environments. Using interviews with real individuals affected by changing weather patterns and broken systems of government, he paints a picture of how choices by some leaders have devastated – and ended – the lives of so many hard working people.

Detraz takes a different approach to the framework by defending the position that the environmental security narrative should be re-conceptualized to include a feminist lens. In contrast to Pirages and Parenti, she criticizes the Malthusian attitude toward population growth, which places the blame of environmental insecurity on mothers. She further asserts that the focus on military security is hypocritical and excludes female concerns. However, like Parenti, she also emphasizes the need for more reflection on the cost that environmental security has on individuals, not just on inter-state conflicts.

Nehru’s quote serves as a synthesis to all the angles addressed by this weeks authors: world leaders and corporations have not gotten what they want yet. In other words, environmental security has not been solved because the leaders who still want to achieve resource control or nationalistic triumph continue to use the technology and military-based frames of security to justify their actions. These interpretations of security perpetuate the cycles of climate change, violence, and economic failure. If we suppose that Nehru’s words contain at least some truth, it seems that the tragic effects of environmental security can never be stopped, as those in power will always crave more, especially in the tense regions facing the hardest environmental struggles: Africa and Central Asia.

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