Positive Feedbacks and Negative Externalities

When one considers environmental security, one does not tend to include population, at least in the beginning. Sadly, the affect of population and its growth is not often what first comes to mind. However, the more I think about Sciubba, Lamere, and Dabelko’s chapter, the more I realize that demography and population growth should be at the top of all of our lists. It is true that we are constantly talking about climate change and its human cost, but we hardly think about how people significantly contribute to the security of countries, relative to environmental issues. “…Without the security of individuals and the environment they live in, the state itself is insecure” (207). That is something I believe a lot of people tend to forget, although we do not like to admit it.

Population plays such a significant role in development, especially in the Global South. However, certain feedback loops arise if the Global North does not start making a conscious effort to actually push developing countries in the right direction. One such feedback loop could be in developing countries, extreme poverty has the power to impede development, which results in low access education, public health, and social services, which in turn increases population growth (through unintended fertility and limited health access), which increases stress on the environment and resources as people are struggling for personal survival, which finally pushes more people into poverty as there is a higher demand for jobs and commodities than there are supply. While developing countries are trying to remedy feedbacks such as these, they are more often than not focusing on the economic aspect (i.e. creating jobs, subsidies, taxes, etc.) instead of the real problem, which is environmental insecurity. Furthermore, while these feedback loops are occurring, they are also diminishing countries’ “capacity to adapt to climate change” (210).

As argued in Chapter 11 by Sciubba, Lamere, and Dabelko, it is poverty that is a root cause of limited development. However, in Chapter 12, Upreti argues that it is climate change that impedes sustainable development. It can be inferred that climate change is a factor that contributes to poverty in the Global South, and it [climate change] will only make it worse if left unchecked. Public health, social cohesion, and economic growth will be severely affected by climate change and countries cannot hope to develop, let alone sustainably, if effort to combat climate change is not made on the global scale. If this effort is not made, there is a very real possibility of social conflict.

Furthermore, while not specifically mentioned in the chapters, another significant issue concerning development and population is the distribution disparity of the consequences of climate change. In economics, this is referred to as externalities. In other words, climate change (and pollution) is a negative externality, or a by-product of economic activity in industrialized countries that causes damages to innocent bystanders (i.e. the developing world). Those who will be–and are being–affected by climate change the most are the ones who have hardly contributed to it. The security of individual countries as well as the globe depends on a cohesive strategy to mitigate our changing environment.

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