Human history, while diffuse and differentiated, has been principally defined by relationships between social groups and the natural environment and humanity’s unremitting search for security. The resources and environmental systems of the earth underwrite an exhaustive range of human activities, and the goal of attaining and preserving security drives a comparably extensive range of social actions. Given the foundational role of the environment and security in the human story, exploring the connections between the two sectors is valuable for understanding the conditions and acute challenges facing contemporary civilisations. Despite the relevance of the environment and security for human discourses, analysing the relationship between the two is inherently difficult. In the discipline of international relations specifically, such analyses are problematised by diverging views about the capacity of social actors to effectively manipulate the natural environment, competing notions of what is meant by ‘security’, dissimilar approaches to synthesising dynamics in environmental and security realms, and fundamental questions about the wisdom of pursuing such synthesis at all. These challenges are compounded by the reality that any analysis attempting to advance understandings of environment-security relationships must amalgamate the work of multiple disciplines in both the natural and social sciences; a fact that further calls into question the value of exploring the environment and security concomitantly. Despite these and other intrinsic challenges, this thesis takes as a starting point that an exploration of the relationships between the environment and security is essential for advancing the international relations discipline. This chapter defends the importance of environmental security enquiry, and proceeds in three sections. The first section surveys some of the most pronounced and significant ways in which contemporary human activities are affecting natural environments. Many contemporary global environmental challenges reflect the corollary effects of humankind’s growing ability, through increasing numbers and greater logistical capacity, to exploit natural resources and manipulate ecological systems. Such growing capacities, along with the impetuses and will to act upon them, have significantly altered a multitude of resources and environmental systems upon which human activity and progress depend. These alterations to natural systems are relevant to a host of international relations interest areas; not least of all those concerned with peace and security. The second section demonstrates that, although contemporary environmental challenges are unique in scope and criticality, the relationship between humans and the environments upon which they depend is a topic rich in analytical history. As such, the dynamics connecting environmental and security questions have been present in human enquiries stemming back to antiquity and this thesis represents an extension of these well-established explorations.1 Following these introductions of the contemporary relevance and historical foundations of synthesising environment and security issues, the final section of this chapter delineates the primary research questions of interest for this thesis. These questions speak to the importance of creating new analytical approaches to environmental security enquiry, and by doing so the questions inform both the structure and responsibilities of the forthcoming thesis chapters.
|Date of Award||12 Feb 2011|
|Supervisor||Anne Cullen (Supervisor)|