What Are the Next Steps for Environment, Population, and Security?

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Feb 18, 2005

After ten years of environmental security, where are we now? What are the key questions and themes for the next decade? In the tenth issue of the ECSP Report, we asked six scholars, practitioners, and policymakers to offer their recommendations for the future of environmental security.

  • Eminent scientist Jared Diamond sees hope in individual action: "Every one of our problems—deforestation, overfishing, water scarcity, and toxic waste—is of our own making. Therefore, we can choose to stop causing them." He offers inexpensive steps that individuals can take to address these problems: vote, speak out on public policy, exercise consumer choice, and support collaborations between big businesses and environmental organizations.

  • Former European Commission environment official Margaret Brusasco-Mackenzie urges us to regain lost momentum: "Clearly, the new model of development—one that could ensure environmental security—has been put on the back burner by the hostilities in Iraq and the war on terrorism," she says, highlighting some of the European Union's recent efforts to reinvigorate environmental security in a world dominated by "hard" security headlines.

  • Richard Cincotta of Population Action International connects demographics to security risks: "Early-phase states—including Iraq, Pakistan, and Nigeria—might lower their risk of civil conflict during their transitions to democracy and free markets if they advanced through the demographic transition" and reduced their birth rates, according to Cincotta, who outlines concrete steps for untangling these correlations. "U.S. foreign policy should improve girls' access to schooling and women's access to family planning, maternal health care, and income-generating opportunities."

  • Erika Weinthal of Tel Aviv University finds environmental paths to making peace—and keeping it—in Central Asia and the Middle East. "Israeli and Palestinian water managers continued to cooperate—even as other forms of economic and security cooperation collapsed—after the second intifada began in 2000," she points out. "The Middle East could be a striking example of moving from environmental peacemaking to environmental peacekeeping."

  • Roger-Mark De Souza of the Population Reference Bureau encourages integrating population, health, and environment programs: "Short-term solutions for a single sector are unlikely to be effective over the long term," he says. Without systematically documenting and advertising the benefits of integration, population-health-environment programs may not be supported by policymakers and donors.

  • Richard Matthew and Bryan McDonald of the Center for Unconventional Security identify a new 21st century security agenda: "National and international security agendas are focusing as much attention on ‘network-based threats'—terrorism, computer viruses, and epidemic diseases, for example—as on the perennial problem of war," according to the coauthors, who use lessons from environmental security research to develop this concept.

  • ECSP Director Geoffrey Dabelko advises researchers and policymakers to act fast to avoid missing opportunities to build peace. "Instead of merely reacting to the symptoms of environment-conflict linkages, policymakers should proactively extinguish hotspots by bolstering confidence and building cooperation," he asserts. "And the academic world should stop arguing over two sides of the same coin, and instead explore how livelihood security could encourage cooperation and prevent conflict."

    Join the discussion below. Tell us what you think the future holds for environmental security.
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