Seeking and contesting environmental security in a complex world: Knowledge, agency and governance implications

Session related to the Environmental Security group within the Task Force on Conceptual Foundations in Earth System Governance at the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016, Wednesday 31 August.

This session is convened and chaired by Naho Mirumachi (King’s College London, UK) who is an Earth System Governance Research Fellow and co-lead of the Environmental Security group within the Task Force on Conceptual Foundations of Earth System Governance.

Speakers include: Simon Dalby (Balsillie School of International Affairs, Canada); Michael Mason (The London School of Economics and Political Science, UK); Amiera Sawas (King’s College London, UK); François Gemenne (University of Liège, France); Andrea Gerlak (University of Arizona, USA); Olaf Corry (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)

Environmental security remains a key feature of global concerns to stability and development, as demonstrated in the 2016 Global Risks Report by the World Economic Forum highlighting effects of climate change, water and energy crises. While the concept of environmental security is not new, nowadays it concerns a wide range of climate, energy, food, water, biodiversity and migration issues, in addition to the interlinked impacts between and across them. At the same time, the referent object of security is multiple and less evident in contrast to statist interpretations of environmental security. Recent scholarship on environmental security calls for a better examination of global economic structures and human-biophysical processes of the anthropocene that mediate causes and implications of insecurities (Dalby 2013). Understanding environmental security thus encompasses a critical examination of the politics determining complex and multiple threats. What kinds of thresholds and trigger points are identified to establish risks and threats? What kinds of knowledge are used to explain causes of threats? How are inter-connected risks across sectors such as climate and migration, water-food-energy understood? The politics of environmental security sheds light on the normative assumptions and framing of threats. Actors strategize and challenge logics of security, which may not necessarily distribute the benefits and burdens of dealing with threats equally across society. Drawing on a range of environmental contexts, the panel will discuss the language and knowledge of securitising the environment; actors and referent objects of security; implications of governing for environmental security on socio-economic and ecological processes.