Defining Environmental Security

A recent comprehensive overview of the environmental security field observes that

• the environment is the most transnational issue, and its security is an important dimension of peace, national security, and human rights;

• over the next 100 years, one-third of the current global land cover will be transformed; hence the world will be facing increasingly hard choices among consumption, ecosystem services, restoration, preservation, or degradation; and

• environmental security is central to the national security, comprising the dynamics and interconnections among humans and natural resources.

Based on these assumptions, there are many different approaches to define environmental security, most of them originating in international policy debates. Some of the respective definitions have been documented in Table 1.

Traditionally, there are two main definitions of security according to the two main points of view:

• Environmental security. The major challenge concerns the global environmental change, focusing on the interactions between ecosystems and mankind, the effects ofglobal environmental change on environmental degradation, the effects of increasing social request for resources, ecosystem services, and environmental goods.

• Human security. This item addresses different security aspects like social or political security. In this context, values at risk are the survival ofhuman beings and their quality of life.

The relevant objects of environmental security are complex, adaptive systems with two main components - the social, characterized by human intent, and the ecological, rising without intent; these have interacted historically, and society strongly determines the landscape ecological components of such systems.

To introduce environmental security with reference to SESs, it is useful to refer to the definition provided by Arnold Wolfers in 1962, stating ''Environmental security, in an objective sense, measures the absence of threats to acquired values, in a subjective sense, the absence of fear that such values will be attacked.''

Basically, it is necessary to consider that

• security of SELs must be assessed both objectively and subjectively, because security is meaningless unless there is somebody perceiving it;

• security is value laden, and what we consider values is related to our normative systems that nowadays recognize concepts like ecosystem functions and services, ecosystem integrity, and sustainability as fundamental values for the survival and well-being ofmankind; and

• humans have been historically providing threats to those values from local to global scale, but there are also threats coming from natural hazards and disasters.

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