Security and Sustainability

We can have no security without sustainability. And we can have no sustainability without security. Both security and sustainability are broad and expanding areas of policy concern.

Increasingly, they are overlapping, and it is valuable that they should be seen as such.  Many recent books suggest the expansion and overlap of these concerns.  Some of the more noteworthy are highlighted below. 

1. “Conventional” Security Concerns
The central concern of the Cold War era was nuclear weapons, and this threat has by no means disappeared. Strategy in the Second Nuclear Age: Power, Ambition, and the Ultimate Weapon (Georgetown University Press, Dec 2012, 256p) notes the increasing potency of nuclear arsenals and the potential for more states to cross the nuclear weapons threshold. Adding to this threat, Preventing a Biochemical Arms Race (Stanford University Press, Oct 2012, 256p) warns that changes in the life sciences and the nature of warfare could lead to a biochemical arms race among major powers, rogue states, and non-state actors. This is complicated by small arms proliferation, as described in Small Arms Survey 2012: Moving Targets (Cambridge University Press, Oct 2012, 374p); The New American Militarism: How Americans Are Seduced by War (Oxford University Press, 2nd edition, April 2013, 304p), which notes a revival of vast national ambitions coupled with a pronounced “affinity for the sword” (not to mention small arms for individuals); the private sector taking over some military functions as described in Privatizing War: Private Military and Security Companies under Public International Law (Cambridge University Press, March 2013, 768p); and Lone Wolf Terrorism: Understanding the Growing Threat (Prometheus Books, Feb 2013, 335p), exemplified by the Boston Marathon bombings. Another new form of terrorism, inadvertently inflicted by the US, is Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan (Oct 2012, 260p;, a report from the Stanford and New York University Law Clinics suggesting that drone strikes appear to be making the US less safe in the long term, by fueling anti-US sentiments and recruiting new terrorists.

2. Cyber-Security
Adding to the unsettling developments, above is the emerging cyber threat, as summarized by Securing Cyberspace: A New Domain for National Security (Aspen Institute/Brookings, 2012, 202p), which looks at cyberspace as a new battlefield and the threats of cybercrime. The World of Cybercrime: Issues, Cases, and Responses (Rowman and Littlefield, Dec 2012, five volumes) covers all major areas in the world of cybercrime. Cyber Defense: Countering Targeted Attacks (Government Institutes, 2011, 240p) explains why targeted attacks require changes to security operation. Fatal System Error: The Hunt for the New Crime Lords Who Are Bringing Down the Internet (Public Affairs, Feb 2010, 288p; describes the evolution of cybercrime to sophisticated organized gangs. Global Governance and the Challenge of Transnational Organized Crime (Center for International Governance Innovation, Dec 2012, 21p) reports that “TOC” is becoming a global priority. The New Digital Age: Reshaping the Future of People, Nations, and Business (Knopf, April 2013, 337p), by former Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Google Ideas director Jared Cohen, warns that dozens of states will have the capacity to launch large-scale cyber-attacks, revolutions for better and worse will be more frequent as connectivity spreads, and that there are clear advantages of cyber attacks for extremist groups, inflicting massive damage with minimal resources. With a plethora of threats and strong differences of opinion regarding their intensity and likelihood, especially regarding cyber-attacks and cyber-espionage, the intelligence function becomes increasingly complicated, as described in The Future of Intelligence: Challenges in the 21st Century (Routledge, Oct 2013, 240p).

3. Food Security
The broad-ranging concept of “human security,” promoted by the UN Development Programme, has grown in importance in the past 15 years, as described in The Routledge Handbook of Human Security (Routledge, July 2013, 384p). A major component of human security is the emerging concern for food security, as described by Lester R. Brown in Full Planet, Empty Plates: The New Geopolitics of Food Security (W.W. Norton, Oct 2012, 144p), who sees the world in transition from an era of food abundance to one of scarcity. Also see Food Security: From Crisis to Global Governance (Routledge, Aug 2013), which looks at strategies for achieving food security, including reforming the Committee on World Food Security. The Global Farms Race: Land Grabs, Agricultural Investment, and the Scramble for Food Security (Island Press, Oct 2012, 272p) describes how wealthy countries are racing to buy or lease huge swaths of farmland abroad. Green Grabbing: A New Appropriation of Nature (Routledge, April 2013, 416p) shows that some land grabs are done for “environmental” purposes to justify appropriations for food or fuel. In any event, no matter who owns or occupies the land, the Handbook on Climate Change and Agriculture (Edward Elgar, 2012, 544p) warns that climate change is likely to have an extensive impact on agriculture around the world, leading to uncertainty and security concerns for crops.

4. Environmental Security and Sustainability
Environmental Security: Approaches and Issues (Routledge, Jan 2013, 302p) points to the emerging field of “environmental security studies”; as described by political scientist Dennis Pirages, the outmoded national security paradigm is “a major obstacle to dealing with growing ecological security threats.” Many recent books and reports discuss these threats, but not explicitly as a security concern. For example, Global Environmental Outlook 5 (UN Environmental Programme, June 2012, 515p) warns that human pressures on the Earth System may pass critical thresholds and change life support systems of the planet. OECD Environmental Outlook to 2050 (OECD, March 2012, 350p) focuses on four “red light” areas of climate change, biodiversity, water, and health. Overheated: The Human Cost of Climate Change (Oxford University Press, Feb 2013, 280p) warns of a first-order social and political disaster ahead. The Climate Bonus: Co-Benefits of Climate Policy (Earthscan / Routledge, Jan 2013, 408p; GFB Book of the Month, May 2013) mentions only energy security in its extensive overview of desirable changes to a low-carbon society. Al Gore’s The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change (Random House, Feb 2013; GFB Book of the Month, April 2013) offers an extensive discussion of “outgrowth” of humans to natural resources, as well as the deepening climate crisis, but this is not linked to security concerns. ClimateChange and National Security (Georgetown University Press, 2011, 310p; GFB Book of theMonth, March 2013), however, explicitly links climate changes to national security concerns in 19 nations, and the outlook is quite grim in most of them. Crisis of Global Sustainability  (Earthscan / Routledge, Feb 2013, 188p) calls for immediate and drastic change in our institutions and policies. Divided Nations: Why Global Governance is Failing (Oxford University Press, May 2013, 207p) considers the inadequacy of post-WWII institutions in dealing not only with climate change, but with finance, pandemics, migration, and cyber-security. Global Environmental Governance Reconsidered (Boston Review/MIT Press, Sept 2012, 320p) addresses emergence of non-state actors, new mechanisms of global governance, and the fragmentation of authority.