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Environmental Problems and the International System

In what ways could environmental problems affect the international system (i.e. today and in the future)? How has the international system responded to these problems?

Environmental concerns have become the trend as of late and it is not for no reason. Globalization is at full blast right now and international relations blur the lines that separate countries. As a result, we are constantly competing for resources, especially with the economic growth of the eastern countries like China and India, resources for building and fuel are in high demand. But all this growth and development does not come with out affect to the environment. Resources for the most part are finite and when we run out of things like wood, fuel, steel or even water and clean air. This will put a hold on our growth. Organizations need to be formed to regulate our development and make sure it is sustainable. There also needs to be international regulation of water and air pollution, landfills, ..etc. But like other areas of international law, there is no real way of enforcing these laws and regulations. When places like China are growing at such a fast rate, there consumer culture is growing at a rate faster than the country and regulate. There is corruption and ways of getting around regulations. Deals for resources are done behind the scenes and the environmental costs are put on the backs of future generations. “When animals, fish, water or pollution cross national frontiers the need for international cooperation arises and the regulation of transboundary environmental problems is the most long-established functions of international cooperation…” (Baylis 356). The more affluent and wealthy countries waste the most resources and have a responsibility to manage and sustain our resources. If we are not more conscious of these things, the next world war will be over clean water or something else we take for granted as a basic necessity.

Climate change has also become a huge concern; the development of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was instituted to address this very issue. With global warming and rising sea levels there are many concerns that we may face in the near future. Rising water levels could cover a lot of land and human occupied areas. As a result, many people would be displaced and domestic as well as international migration could cause international concern. Places like India could have huge areas covered in water and their people would be forced to migrate north. Countries could become denser and illegal immigration to other countries may raise some international problem. Global warming will also be advantageous for some people. Countries that were just above the “Sun Belt” (World Politics 195) will be the sun belt. Places like Russia and Canada will have the most temperate and inviting climates. A shift in world powers could result. There have been various mechanisms to address these problems. The Kyoto protocol was a great step forward in an environmentally conscious future of our world. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change helps develop solutions for these problems. The UN has made several moves to address this issue. Alternative energy sources, like solar, wind and water power can be further explored to move towards cleaner energy. The US did not sign the Kyoto Protocol which shows our inability to give up short term gains invest in a cleaner future. Everything comes at a cost and I am optimistic that this will be a lasting trend as long as we make it advantageous and not a crutch.

What is human security? Why do academics and policy-makers advocate for it? What are some of the critiques surrounding it?

In the 1994 United Nations Development Programme’s Human development report introduced the idea of human security. Human Security is derived from the idea of national or domestic security. Security traditionally meant the protection of a nation from external threatening forces outside national boundaries. With the advent of globalization, academics feel there should be a new definition of security, one that does not just focus on the citizens of a one nation or a nation, but the individual. Human security is security for the people, all people of the world, not just through military or defensive actions. “Critics wonder whether such an approach would widen the boundaries of security too much, and whether ‘securitizing’ the individual is the best way to address the challenges facing the international community from the forces of globalization” (Baylis 492). Supporters of Human Security believe it to be a necessary step in addressing the issues of poverty, famine, disease and other human rights concerns.

Academics and policy makers advocate for this because they feel that the idea of development was too narrow. Development is traditionally measured in the economic growth of a nation through its gross national product. Advocates of Human Security feel that Human development should be part of a country’s development. This is a new definition, and with this new definition comes new standards. We not only need to develop the economy of developing nations, but build the capabilities of its people. We need to invest in education and health care and make sure that people are not dying of starvation and disease when it can be prevented. The Millennium development goals were set in place to set a goal for the future and secure some of these goals in the near future. A grassroots movement to develop and encourage poverty stricken areas is key to the future security of its people. Weak states are not always capale of protecting the integrity and safety of their people (Baylis 494). There are many places in this worlds, where human security is infringed upon. Darfur and Rawanda are both cases of genocide that resulted from conflict with in a state. Human Security is a way of ensuring these atrocities don’t happen. It can be a compliment to traditional security.

Critics believe that the idea of Human Security is too broad, that the idea spans over too many different areas and can be vague at best. Does this just mean physical security or is it psychological well being? Another critique of Human security feel to be too morally based and unattainable and too idealistic to be feasible. Buzan argues that human security takes responsibility away from the state which shifts responsibility to an unknown agent. Who will be responsible for the well being of a country’s people? This is true and has to be addressed. But the fact of the matter is, that a UN charter for human rights is also not enough. There needs to be some way to secure the wellbeing of people and set up a international standard for all people. It may be unrealistic but it is necessary to move in that direction. As Globalization continues, we have an obligation to make sure no one is sacrificed in the process.


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