Demographic Change and Ecological Security

By
Dennis Pirages

Environmental concerns are now becoming an integral part of U.S. foreign policy, but within academic and policy circles there is an ongoing debate over the role that environmental stress plays in creating security threats. An argument is made here for moving beyond environmentalism and using an ecological security perspective to inform foreign policy planning and future defense allocations. Ecological security rests on maintaining four kinds of equilibrium between human beings and the physical environment. Largescale shifts in human demographic patterns are threatening these equilibriums and thereby increasing insecurity for individuals, groups, countries and the planet. Substantial changes in security thinking are required in order to address these imbalances.

Developing an ecological conception of security provides one starting point for debating new security thinking. Discussion then turns to the four most significant demographic issues in the context of the ecological security framework: population growth, movements, graying, and differential growth. Finally, a brief commentary on the state of U.S. population policy provides an overview of missed opportunities and needed actions.

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  • Roger-Mark De Souza // Director of Population, Environmental Security and Resilience, Wilson Center
  • Sandeep Bathala // Senior Program Associate, Environmental Change and Security Program, Maternal Health Initiative
  • Katharine Diamond // Program Assistant, Environmental Change and Security Program
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  • William Krist // Senior Policy Scholar
  • Louise Lief // Public Policy Scholar
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