Environment and Security

Course Description: 

Environmental change at all levels - global, regional, national, local - increases pressure on human development and on the capacities of the natural environment to sustain life.  Poliltical recognition of the security aspects of environmental protection, climate change and natural resource management has grown along with increased public perception that the current development paradigm brings us perilously close to the ultimate limits to growth.  Increased competition over limited natural resources and heightened perceptions of risk arising from certain political and economic behavior have contributed to the securitization of the environment. Perceived security threats related to the environment range from localized competition over limited water access to existential angst over doomsday scenarios.  At the same time, environmental issues are seen as a natural arena for cooperation and reduction of conflict.  Environmental and security narratives have tended towards respect for individual dignity as a means of fueling progress, innovation and resilience, while carefully assuaging communities that have entrenched interests in maintaining the status quo.   Nevertheless, there is a risk that the securitization of the environment could justify an erosion of environmental justice norms in the interest of collective security. 

The course examines the nexus between environment and security in international and national dimensions – including conflict resources; environmental governance performance as a security issue; protection of the environment in conflict and environmental modification in war; environment as an arena for cooperation, avoidance of conflict, and post-conflict confidence-building; environmental “refugees”; and other human rights and justice aspects of environment and security including access of indigenous peoples to natural resources.   It critically explores narratives and frameworks in each of these areas through examination of the normative response to current threats to human security arising from global environmental change.

Learning Outcomes: 

Learning outcomes:

  1. Become familiar with the concepts, definitions and narratives in the field based on readings and lectures
  2. Conduct research into environment and security with respect to a particular topic
  3. Be able to critically evaluate trends and concepts and apply knowledge gained in the course to concrete issues

Students will achieve an understanding of advanced concepts in environment and security, the semantics of environment and security discourse, the political tendency towards securitization, the state of the art of transboundary governance of natural resources, and environment in conflict.  They will examine norms and standards, and both cooperative and contested mechanisms for increasing knowledge and experience related to the environment in times of peace, in times of conflict, and in post-conflict situations. 

The course will follow a seminar format, in which students are expected to participate in in-class discussion.  This makes preparation essential, which at a minimum entails the required readings. In addition, other learning tools may be used, including role-plays and group work.

Assessment: 

Class Participation and Completion of Readings: 25%

Written assignment(s): 75%

Prerequisites: 

None.