Publisher: Earthscan Date of Publication: 2005
Price: ISBN: 1 84407 162 6
Pages: xxv + 237 Format: Paperback

Overall Score:

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1 - Security redefined; 2 - Examining the connections between population and security; 3 - Containing infectious diseases; 4 - Cultivating food security; 5 - Managing water conflict and cooperation; 6- Changing the oil economy; 7 - Disarming postwar societies; 8 - Building peace through environmental cooperation; 9 - Laying the foundation for peace.



This is the 22nd edition of one of the more well-known annual publications. When it first started it was a report on changes in the environment: as such it became an indispensable part of environmental awareness. Recently, the volumes have been taking on a theme and exploring the issues around that. This year the issue is global security.

At first glance one might be forgiven for wondering about the connection between security (especially the gun placed prominently on the front cover) and the environment. A brief look at the chapter titles might also be a puzzle; however, as the reader goes into the book, the connection becomes clearer. The first aspect of note is the timeline: an overview recording the key issues, by topic (energy, forests,water, biodiversity etc.), from late 2003 to late 2004. Chapter one then provides some context within which to look at security. Here, we find that the main issue is access to resources. This means that from unemployment (lack of resources) to vulnerability (the idea of taking over someone else's resources) to surplus (excess resources such as armaments) it is the nature of resources that is at the heart of the problem. In this way, the issue goes way beyond current concerns about terrorism to a more long-term, global picture. Chapter two starts with work from a surprising source, the CIA (in reality, a major funder of basic research), which was looking to find some feature(s) predisposing situations to violence. The connection, infant mortality rate, was surprising at first but not really when you investigate further. Unemployment, disease, social unrest etc. are all part of the fabric of modern society. However, it is an imbalance that can trigger unrest and so the argument put forward here is that we need to be careful about demographics. Large numbers of people can provide a vector for disease. This might just be a common cold or it could be a far greater danger such as flu or even plague. As chapter three investigates, it is the threat of such global outbreaks (think avian flu, or SARS) that are causing the problems today. More pathogens are becoming resistant to disease. Add to this the increase in travel and you have a recipe for 'bioinvasions' (from pathogens to zebra mussels) to create problems in the environment. Food security, chapter four, is more than getting enough to eat. It also means keeping sufficient genetic material in agricultural species to overcome problems. Hence the security issue here is not supply but conservation of "agrobiodiversity" along with climate shifts and pesticide use. Water is a key resource. Currently, as Australia faces its worst drought in 100 years there is a great deal of talk about "solutions" of varying degrees of reasonableness. However, there are solutions and, unlike the nations mentioned here, the water is for one discrete nation only. There are no underground aquifers or rivers to create tension - one of the key problems described in the chapter. Chapter six is one of the only ones with a conventional take on a resource - oil. Even there it considers how carbon capture might help reduce global carbon output. This is followed by an investigation into the ways in which arms can be reduced. Given the old Cold War tensions and the flood of weaponry post-Communism, this is no mean feat. To this point, despite the focus of the chapters, all have shown the primacy of the environment. Chapter eight looks directly at environmental issues and the way in which international cooperation can reduce problems. The final chapter considers ways in which peace could evolve including using the ideas found in the UN's Millennium Project.

This volume continues the quality of work seem previously. It provides us with a timely overview of some of the key questions facing us and uses global examples to explain both problems and solutions. One aspect of previous volumes was the quality of writing - it was worth recommending just to allow students to see an example of good writing. This is still evident but a little muted as the sheer complexity of some of these issues demands a more detailed response. Ecological issues are less evident than previously but this is more than compensated for in terms of wider consideration of environmental issues. In all, an excellent book deserving the widest readership.


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