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Title: The Environment and International Relations
Author(s): Kate O'Neill
Date of Publication: 2009 Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Pages:xiii + 250 ISBN: 978 0 521 60312 6
Price: Format:Paperback
Target Readership Educator







Content: 1 – Introduction: the environment and international relations; 2 - International environmental problems; 3 - Actors in international environmental politics; 4 - State-led global environmental governance: international cooperation and regime formation; 5 - The impacts and effectiveness of environmental governance; 6 - Global economic governance and the environment; 7 - Non-state global environmental governance; 8 - Conclusions: the environment and international relations in the twenty-first century.

Review: Current talks surrounding global climate change are just the latest in a range of environmental cases that has stretched from the first Stockholm Conference to now. For those trying to make sense of these events there are really two strands: science and politics. Whilst the former is the area we are most used to dealing with it cannot be denied that we are expected increasingly to consider the realm of public science - the communication of science and science ideas. Although it might seem like this is just another communication tasks there are those who are trying to put such debates on a larger and often theoretical footing. This text is one example.

The aim here is to bring a range of academic perspectives to bear on the issue of environmental governance. The biggest issues today are global but at the same time that's where the weakest political links are to be found. By using a series of critical perspectives the author hopes to create a framework for study: to explain what happens and why. The opening chapter seeks to explain the debate surrounding global environmental issues. Ultimately, the aim is to analyse and explain, hopefully seeking to make such conferences more fruitful than has been seen in the past. We are introduced to three key questions: the causes of global environmental change, the reasons for a growth in environmental concern and how international governance could be shaped. Alongside such discussions the reader is also introduced to the key academic perspectives used. Chapter two aims to unravel the complexities behind the notion of international environmental problems. This might, at first glance, be simple e.g. global warming. However, most global issues come down to (or arise from) a local issue. They also need to be propelled into people's conscious mind. This mixture of scale, environment and response gives rise to much of the complexity we see. Chapter three starts to catalogue the main types of actors or stakeholders in global issues. Leaving aside the proliferation of government departments over the last twenty years its sobering to note that there are now millions of non-0governmental organisations against the handful at the time of Stockholm. Any attempt to catalogue and classify helps us understand where views are being made and shaped. In some ways these early chapters provide a framework from which to assess later ideas. Chapter four is a clear break in that it examines the range of state-led environmental organisations e.g. IWC and CITES. These are the "official" organs of the global environmental movement and although they have their critics there is a great deal accomplished. It's one thing to have an agreement but it's only effective if everyone abides by it. Chapter five examines the issues behind compliance and uses regime theory to explain and evaluate their outcomes. Part of the problem behind studying these organisations is to find a suitable methodology to do so and this chapter helps build some resources. Chapter six turns to another group of actors - those involved in global finance. Globalisation brings a range of economic issues to the fore and we need to see how these work. Groups such as the world Bank are not without their critics but we cannot remove the impact of such organisations from global governance. What we can do is study and analyse their actions to promote effective governance. Its not just state organisations that have grown. The non-governmental/ not-for-profit side has also boomed. Organisations that once held central place e.g. World Wide Fund for Nature and now just one of dozens fighting for media time and significance. Obviously there's going to be political issues involved and not all treaties will work but these bodies are a global force that will not go away. Finally, chapter 8 brings together the key strands developed in the book. A range of themes are explored and some way forward for research is proposed.

This is an interesting text. It is most useful for educators trying to make some sense of the welter or organisations and opinions out there. The framework and critical analysis it proposes provide a sound model from which to launch investigations. Anyone needing a good overview of global organisations would do well to read this book.





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