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Human Environmental Security as a Global Challenge

  • Research question – How to do different factors, such as natural disasters and human activity, the threat to human ecological security?
  • Thesis statement – It is essential to study human-environmental security further to prevent a serious and even an existential threat posed to humanity.

Introduction

Environmental problems have become one of the most acutely debated issues at the beginning of the 21st century. Intensively consuming natural resources using increasingly powerful technical means, humanity has incalculably improved the conditions for the development of its civilization.1 However, human intervention in all spheres of nature undoubtedly leads to a sharp deterioration of ecological systems, often even to the death of unique natural complexes.

Humanity is already at such a stage of development that ensuring its environmental security becomes even more important than further progress. That is why it is extremely important to analyze the principal risks and threats to human ecological security, such as natural disasters and anthropogenic factors, as well as to discuss possible solutions to this critical problem.

Literature review

There is a lot of scientific literature on human security issues. Sean Kay, in the book Global Security in the XXI century, gives an analysis of the current problems in the field of security around the world. He discusses various elements that contribute to human security, such as human rights, population, health, environment, and energy.2 In considering environmental protection, the author states that environmental conditions have a significant impact on economic development, shaping security needs and requirements. The researcher also analyses several conceptual approaches and considers some specific environmental threats.

The book Environmental Security: An Introduction by Hough provides a systematic and thorough overview of all aspects of environmental safety. The author touches upon the main theoretical and practical arguments for and against the integration of environmental and security issues. In addition, he explains why environmental security issues have become part of the national security concept in terms of overcrowding, resource depletion, and climate change.3 At the end of the book, the author states that environmental issues should be considered as an integral component of human security.

Behnassi is considering various ways to deepen the discussion on the relationship between global risks and human and environmental security. The approach described in their book is to examine the ability of existing technologies and decision-making mechanisms to manage emerging risks to social, environmental protection effectively and to manage their consequences. The authors examine how global risks, primarily ecological and climate change can exacerbate threats to social and ecological safety, especially in developing countries.4 The book presents empirical research findings from Africa, Asia, and the Pacific islands.

Hobson presents a different perspective on sustainability. His work focuses on the threats posed to humanity by natural disasters and clarifies the approach to human security. Together with the co-authors, he argues that catastrophe creates environmental instability and exacerbates social vulnerability, but it is important to recognize other ecological problems that they can cause.5 They believe that large cities are at higher risk because a natural disaster can lead to technological failure. That is why the book examines several case studies, including the Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan.

Thesis

In modern political science, there are many definitions of environmental security that emphasize its various aspects. Environmental safety is usually defined as the state of human and human settlement protection from adverse environmental factors. The rapid development of science and technology leads to an increase in the anthropogenic load on the nature and growth of contradictions between ecology and economy.

To solve these problems, organizational and practical measures are taken to ensure the environmental safety of society and its organizational structures. However, as the practice of world history shows, such steps are not always timely and effective. The author of the present essay, unequivocally agrees that the current policy of the states to provide humanitarian aid to the victims of environmental disasters is imperfect and requires improvement.

Background

Taking into account the difference in the ways of development of civilizations and the development of society as a whole, it is easy to conclude that for each epoch, there was determined its significant threat to human environmental security. In the 21st century, an increasing number of environmentalists and interested people are talking about the growing real threat of global warming.6

While around the middle of the twentieth century, the leading environmental threat to industrial society was the depletion of non-renewable natural resources.7 The phenomenon of environmental security has emerged as a result of the erroneous concept of the economic growth of society through the intensive exploitation of the natural resource potential of the planet. The current concept of environmental security includes both aspects: rational use of natural resources and the prevention of ecological disasters on a global scale. Because of the above, it is necessary to conduct a study on how human activities and some other factors may threaten social-environmental security.

Global environmental problems, which are a source of threats to humanity, have their roots at the beginning of the development of civilizations and are of a complex social and economic nature, as their emergence is inextricably linked to human activity. Even in ancient civilizations that existed thousands of years ago, such as Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece, there were notions of collective security, the postulates of which were aimed at preserving the comfort of human life. 8 One of the necessary and most effective tools to regulate the relationship between the interests of society and nature is the law.9

In 1968, the first significant global meeting on security issues was held: the UN Biosphere Conference. In 1972, within the framework of the United Nations was created the UNEP program aimed at coordinating environmental protection.10 A few more decades later, in the 1990s, the UN approached the issues of human-environmental security once again, calling on states to develop entire political programs designed to ensure a safe life for all segments of the population.11 The involvement of the political apparatus in the project of solving environmental problems should have a positive effect.

Analysis

Of course, the central figure in environmental security is the individual, with his or her needs for a living environment.12 However, unlike other organisms inhabiting the planet, a person refuses to bend over to the world around him; on the contrary, the world changes depending on human needs. The humanitarian aspect, first of all, should be based on the increase of public ecological culture.13

To achieve this goal, it is necessary not only to change people’s consciousness but also to form the prevalence of environmental values over environmental values. Humanity should understand the essence and significance of ecological problems, realize its responsibility for their solution. The majority of environmentalists are convinced that environmental culture and growth of education can further contribute to making decisions based on ecological scientific knowledge, which will increase the effectiveness of such choices because it is the lack of scientific knowledge that is the main reason for environmental offenses and crimes.

Analysis of industrial production data and the environmental situation in the countries shows that the ecological status was influenced by the predominant development of mining, energy, and metallurgical industries, the extensive development of which, not accompanied by appropriate measures for the rational use of resources and environmental protection, has had a devastating effect on the living conditions of the population. At the development of new resource-saving and ecological, technological processes, it is necessary to neutralize wastes at a stage of a conclusion from the technical process.14 Still, at the modern development of science and technics, it is impossible to exclude the formation of not utilizable, not subject to burning, not subject to the neutralization of toxic wastes.

Nowadays, the anthropogenic impact on nature is ambiguously reflected in the opposite effects. Unresolved environmental problems pose a serious threat to the full existence of any country.15 It is believed that one of the most critical external threats to the environment, apart from the problem of global warming, is a nuclear war, which may lead to a catastrophe of planetary nature. Some researchers are convinced that there is a clear correlation between the level of violence and hostility in the world and significant climate change, entailing a threat to human and state environmental security.16 Thus, for example, before the war in Syria, the drought and lack of resources that began shortly before the fighting could have been fundamental factors in the development of the further conflict.

Most of the accidents that caused environmental crises were caused by human mistakes.17 It is no longer possible to solve problems related to the state of the environment by relying only on the development of engineering thought and the application of technological solutions. Environmental security issues are not only of a real scientific nature but also of social and political life.18 Social transformations, political will, the involvement of many governmental institutions are required. Awareness of this fact has led to the time when environmental problems have become a political problem and have begun to form a separate branch of political science – political and ecological science.

One of the most distinguished manifestations of the imperfection of the national environmental security system is the currently acutely debated problem of climate change.19 In this case, warming threatens not so much the individual as the food industry as a whole.20 There is no doubt now that pollution can cause several environmentally induced diseases and, in general, lead to a reduction in the average life expectancy of people exposed to environmentally unfavorable factors.21

The main criterion for determining environmental safety is the life expectancy of people living in the endangered area. Continuing the cause-and-effect relationship, it is easy to conclude that the reduction of agricultural resources will hurt the well-being and safety of the population.22 Studies show that each year, between 2001 and 2010, it was on average 2.5 percent warmer than the previous year. At the same time, the trend towards higher temperatures continues to this day.23

There is no denying the significant impact of human activity on global warming.24 In this situation, it is necessary to introduce additional methods of regulating the primary sources of energy to decrease the average annual temperature, for example, to reduce the amount of household waste and car emissions. It is fair to say that politicians and the environmental community have already made repeated attempts to introduce specific regulations to reduce the likelihood of negative impacts of climate change threatening humanity.25 An example is the Kyoto Protocol, which is a continuation of the Framework Convention on Climate Change, concluded in 1997.26 The primary mission of the signatories to this agreement is to reduce emissions of six greenhouse gases.

Based on the above, it can be concluded that human and environmental security is a priority aspect of the development of any state. Therefore, it is necessary to pay special attention to ensuring environmental protection and the problems that arise in this regard.27 It should be remembered that any negative impact of a person on the environment will be directed against himself in the future.

The most important measures to achieve the main objectives in the field of human environmental security include the following steps. First of all, it is necessary to fix at the legislative level the most critical national natural objects, territories, and water areas for the preservation of biological diversity. Secondly, it is necessary to introduce the principle that the polluter pays a fine.28 In this case, all responsibility for the elimination of potential environmental damage should be vested in the natural resource user, who may cause such damage. Third, it is necessary to follow the precautionary principles, which do not operate with the elimination of consequences but minimize the probability of adverse situations.29

Finally, the principle of interdependence should be used when developing programs to prevent environmental disasters. It presupposes taking into account the consequences of the impact not only on this ecosystem but also on all related to it. For example, the collapse of rocks will entail not only the destruction of the settlement at the foot of the river but also the possible contamination of the nearby river.

Conclusion

This is a fact that human-environmental security remains a significant challenge at present, as several factors, including anthropogenic ones, threaten it. Most threats to environmental security are entirely beyond the capacity of any state to resist them alone.

Although many scientists and researchers are working on this issue, there is still no effective and universal solution. Modern prevention systems are failing to cope with their work and consequences, and humanity is experiencing severe environmental disasters every year: floods, earthquakes, hurricanes that are destroying entire cities. Therefore, at the moment, there is an urgent need for a mechanism by which it can be solved. Our civilization may have to seek further ways to prevent a serious threat to the safe life and even the existence of humankind as a biological species.

Works Cited

Antonsen, Stian. Safety Culture: Theory, Method and Improvement. CRC Press, 2017.

Barratt, B. I. P., and A. Moeed. “Environmental Safety of Biological Control: Policy and Practice in New Zealand.” Biological Control, vol. 35, no. 3, 2005, pp. 247-252.

Behnassi, Mohamed, et al. (Eds.). Human and Environmental Security in the Era of Global Risks: Perspectives from Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Springer, 2019.

Ciavarelli, A. “Integration of Human Factors Into Safety and Environmental Management Systems.” Offshore Technology Conference Held 2–5 May 2016 in Houston, Texas, Offshore Technology Conference, 2016, pp. 1-20.

Cook, Benjamin I., Toby R. Ault, and Jason E. Smerdon. “Unprecedented 21st Century Drought Risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains.” Science Advances, vol. 1, no. 1, 2015, pp. 1-7.

D’Alessandro, Angelo, and Lello Zolla. “We Are What We Eat: Food Safety and Proteomics.” Journal of Proteome Research, vol. 11, no. 1, 2011, pp. 26-36.

Dalby, Simon. “Environmental (in) Security.” International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment and Technology, vol. 15, no. 1, 2019, pp. 1-11.

De Grenade, R., et al. “The Nexus: Reconsidering Environmental Security and Adaptive Capacity.” Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability vol. 21, no.1, 2016, pp. 15-21.

Elliott, Lorraine. “Human security/environmental security.” Contemporary Politics, vol. 21, no. 1, 2015, pp. 11-24.

Fankhauser, Samuel, Caterina Gennaioli, and Murray Collins. “Do International Factors Influence the Passage of Climate Change Legislation?” Climate Policy, vol. 16, no. 3, 2016, pp. 318-331.

Fortlage, Catharine A. Environmental Assessment: A Practical Guide. Routledge, 2017.

Hobson, Christopher, et al. (Eds.). Human Security and Natural Disasters. Routledge, 2014.

Hough, Peter. Environmental Security: An Introduction. Routledge, 2014.

Kay, Sean. Global Security in the Twenty-First Century: The Quest for Power and the Search for Peace. 3rd ed., Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.

Landrigan, Philip J., et al. “Pollution and Children’s Health.” Science of The Total Environment vol. 650, no.1, 2019, pp. 2389-2394.

Mangrum, Kyle. “Book Review of” Global Security in the Twenty-First Century: The Quest for Power and the Search for Peace” by Sean Kay.” International Journal of Nuclear Security vol.4, no.1, 2018, pp. 11-13.

Ogbonna, Kalu Iroha, and Theresa Larry Bisong. “Strategies for the Management of Environmental Hazards: Implications for Sustainable Healthy Living in Calabar Urban, Cross River State, Nigeria.” Global Journal of Agricultural Sciences, vol. 17, no. 1, 2018, pp. 71-74.

Spitz, Karlheinz, and John Trudinger. Mining and the Environment: From Ore to Metal. CRC Press, 2019.

Urry, John. Climate Change and Society. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015.

Wildavsky, Aaron. But is it True? A Citizen’s Guide to Environmental Health and Safety Issues. Harvard University Press, 1997.

World Health Organization. Our Planet, Our Health: Report of the WHO Commission on Health and Environment. 1992. Web.

Zeiderman, Austin. “Spaces of Uncertainty: Governing Urban Environmental Hazards.” Modes of Uncertainty: Anthropological Cases, edited by Limor Samimian-Darash and Paul Rabinow, 2015, pp. 182-200.

Zwierlein, Cornel. “Historicizing Environmental Security.”, vol. 3, no. 1, 2018, pp. 1-13.

Footnotes

  1. Wildavsky, Aaron. But is it true? A Citizen’s Guide to Environmental Health and Safety Issues. Harvard University Press, 1997, 1.
  2. Mangrum, Kyle. “Book Review of” Global Security in the Twenty-First Century: The Quest for Power and the Search for Peace” by Sean Kay.” International Journal of Nuclear Security vol.4, no.1, 2018, 12.
  3. Hough, Peter. Environmental Security: An Introduction. Routledge, 2014, 11.
  4. Behnassi, Mohamed, et al. (Eds.). Human and Environmental Security in the Era of Global Risks: Perspectives from Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Springer, 2019, 387.
  5. Hobson, Christopher, et al. (Eds.). Human Security and Natural Disasters. Routledge, 2014, 15.
  6. Cook, Benjamin I., Toby R. Ault, and Jason E. Smerdon. “Unprecedented 21st Century Drought Risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains.” Science Advances, vol. 1, no. 1, 2015, 1.
  7. Zwierlein, Cornel. “Historicizing environmental security.”, vol. 3, no. 1, 2018, 9.
  8. Zwierlein, Cornel. “Historicizing environmental security.”, 3.
  9. Barratt, B. I. P., and A. Moeed. “Environmental Safety of Biological Control: Policy and Practice in New Zealand.” Biological Control, vol. 35, no. 3, 2005, pp. 247.
  10. Fortlage, Catharine A. Environmental Assessment: A Practical Guide. Routledge, 2017, 4.
  11. Dalby, Simon. “Environmental (in) security.” International Encyclopedia of Geography: People, the Earth, Environment, and Technology: People, the Earth, Environment and Technology, vol. 15, no. 1, 2019, 5.
  12. Hobson, Christopher, et al., Human Security and Natural Disasters, 2.
  13. World Health Organization. Our planet, our health: Report of the WHO Commission on Health and Environment. 1992. Web.
  14. Spitz, Karlheinz, and John Trudinger. Mining and the Environment: From Ore to Metal. CRC Press, 2019, 41.
  15. De Grenade, R., et al. “The Nexus: Reconsidering Environmental Security and Adaptive Capacity.” Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability vol. 21, no.1, 2016, 17.
  16. Dalby, Simon. “Environmental (in) Security,” 3.
  17. Ciavarelli, A. “Integration of human factors into safety and environmental management systems.” 17 17 Offshore Technology Conference Held 2–5 May 2016 in Houston, Texas, Offshore Technology Conference, 2016, 19.
  18. Antonsen, Stian. Safety Culture: Theory, Method and Improvement. CRC Press, 2017, 204.
  19. Urry, John. Climate Change and Society. Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, 47.
  20. Hobson, Christopher, et al., Human Security and Natural Disasters, 41.
  21. Landrigan, Philip J., et al. “Pollution and Children’s Health.” Science of The Total Environment vol. 650, no.1, 2019, 2390.
  22. D’Alessandro, Angelo, and Lello Zolla. “We Are What we Eat: Food Safety and Proteomics.” Journal of Proteome Research, vol. 11, no. 1, 2011, pp. 27.
  23. Kay, Sean. Global Security in the Twenty-First Century: The Quest for Power and the Search for Peace. 3rd ed., Rowman & Littlefield, 2015, 352.
  24. Hough, Peter. Environmental Security: An Introduction. Routledge, 2014, 12.
  25. Fankhauser, Samuel, Caterina Gennaioli, and Murray Collins. “Do International Factors Influence the Passage of Climate Change Legislation?” Climate Policy, vol. 16, no. 3, 2016, pp. 319.
  26. Behnassi et al., Human and Environmental Security in the Era of Global Risks: Perspectives from Africa, Asia, and the Pacific Islands, 157.
  27. Elliott, Lorraine. “Human Security/Environmental Security.” Contemporary Politics, vol. 21, no. 1, 2015, 15.
  28. Ogbonna, Kalu Iroha, and Theresa Larry Bisong. “Strategies for the Management of Environmental Hazards: Implications for Sustainable Healthy Living in Calabar Urban, Cross River State, Nigeria.” Global Journal of Agricultural Sciences, vol. 17, no. 1, 2018, 74.
  29. Zeiderman, Austin. “Spaces of Uncertainty: Governing Urban Environmental Hazards.” Modes of Uncertainty: Anthropological Cases, edited by Limor Samimian-Darash and Paul Rabinow, 2015, 193.