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Environmental Change, Human Insecurity and Earth System Science

Environmental Change, Human Insecurity and Earth System Science

15 February 2011

Human activities have affected the environment to such an extent that we are now living in a new geological epoch: the so-called 'Anthropocene'. This was one of the central points made by Dr. Simon Dalby, Professor of Geography and Environmental Studies at Carleton University, Ottawa, during a dinner dialogue on 15 February 2011. The dinner dialogue was organized by Ecologic Institute and sponsored by the Canadian Embassy in Berlin.

The impact of human behavior on the environment through phenomena such as climate change produces negative feedback for populations in the form of frequent floods, droughts or severe weather events. The term ‘environmental security’ is used to explain how these negative environmental conditions can endanger the physical integrity of human beings, their livelihoods and their personal safety. However, as Simon Dalby argued, it is necessary to develop an appropriate understanding of environmental security. Framing environmental security solely in terms of external threats would present a flawed picture. Threats such as climate change do not come from ‘outside’ but are caused by the activities of human beings who, far from being external agents, are constituent parts of the Earth.

The dinner dialogue was attended by representatives from the German government, the German Parliament, the EU Commission, embassies, think tanks and academic institutions. Participants discussed, inter alia, how using the concept of security can lead to better environmental policy-making. There was broad consensus that use of the term security highlights the urgency of addressing environmental change and its negative impacts on human beings. It thus brings new actors, such as the military, into the field of environmental policy-making. However, as one participant argued, bringing security into the debate can also be a double-edged sword. Reponses based on a more traditional understanding of security as national security may not be appropriate, as environmental problems frequently require coordinated trans-boundary action. Participants also discussed the role of the military in environmental disaster response and the need to engage all actors in society in disaster preparedness. 

The event was moderated by R. Andreas Kraemer, Director of Ecologic Institute.

The Dinner Dialogue was kindly supported by the Canadian Embassy, Berlin. It was held in conjunction with the Climate Change, Hydro-Conflict and Human Security (CLICO) research project, funded under the 7th Research Framework Programme of the EU.

Further links:

Simon Dalby
15 February 2011
Berlin, Germany