Environmental security

Depending on the lenses of each stakeholder, the definition of ‘security’ might look very different. And we need to observe carefully when institutions such as the Pentagon start talking about climate change as a security issue. What are the intentions behind these ‘securitization’ processes?

According to the theory of securitization and its framework developed by Ole Waever, Barry Buzan and others, “securitization occurs when an issue is successfully moved from the politicized level, where it is part of the public policy sphere, to the securitized level, where it is presented as an existential threat, thus calling for emergency measures. This elevation of issues to the security level occurs in a two-stage process, where in the first stage a securitizing actor present something as an existential threat to a referent object. For the issue to be securitized, it then needs to be accepted by the relevant audience as such (Buzan et al., 1998)”

Source: Rodrigues De Brito, Rafaela (201), The securitization of climate change in the European Union”. In OECD, Global Security Risks and West Africa: Development Challenges, OECD Publishing, Paris. https://read.oecd-ilibrary.org/development/global-security-risks-and-west-africa/the-securitisation-of-climate-change-in-the-european-union_9789264171848-7-en#page8; retrieved on 07.07.21)

Schnurr & Swatuk (2012) propose to tackle Ken Booth’s (2005) call to ‘rethink security from the bottom-up’ by “providing a holistic perspective on environmental insecurity: one that focuses simultaneously on cause (global, economic, political, modernity), context (history, culture) and effects (health, natural disasters, slow cumulative changes, accidents, conflict).”

The “critical environmental security” approach they are proposing requires to discuss the following questions:

  • Whose security is being secured?
  • Who defines conditions of security?
  • How do changing degrees of control and access over the environment contribute to insecurity?
  • How can we transform the conversation over environmental security into one of environmental justice?

What do you think about this?

Is environmental or climate justice also being securitized in your country?