The Meaning of Environmental Security

Ecological Politics and Policy in the New Security Era

Jon Barnett


A comprehensive critical discussion of environmental security. It reviews the origins and implications of a variety of approaches. Here Barnett argues that environmental security is often driven more by the power of the security-makers than by the need to address environmental problems.
At least two things are certain about world politics today: environmental problems are important, and discourses on security remain powerful. Environment and security have been progressively linked in theory, and environmental security is now manifest in policy. But the meaning of environmental security is ambiguous and open to appropriation, and an examination of its various interpretations and applications reveals much about the state of global environmental politics.

This book offers a comprehensive critical discussion of environmental security. It discusses the origins and implications of a wide variety of approaches to the subject. Barnett argues that ultimately environmental security is driven more by the power of security-makers than by the need to address environmental problems. By systematically uncovering the deficiencies of existing discourses on environmental security, Barnett goes beyond critique and develops an alternative approach with practical implications.

Author Bio

Jon Barnett is a post-doctoral fellow at the MacMillan Brown Centre for Pacific Studies, University of Canterbury.

Table of Contents

  • 1. Locating Environmental Security
  • 2. Environmental Insecurity: Ecological Exacerbations of Underdevelopment
  • 3. Security: From What and For Whom?
  • 4. New Security Issues: The Old Guard Looks for new Targets
  • 5. Environmental Degradation and Conflict: Conscripting the Voice of Dissent
  • 6. Policies for Pollution and The Pollution of Policy
  • 7. The Biggest of Institutional Challenges: The Military
  • 8. Ecological Security: An Alternative Security Strategy
  • 9. Environmental Security for People
  • 10. The Practice of Environmental Security


'Environmental security is one of these poisonous concepts which cloud the mind. Jon Barnett has now dissected the concept, revealing its baleful impact on our thinking.'
Wolfgang Sachs

'Barnett distinguishes provocatively between environmental and ecological security, and he writes persuasively about the kinds of institutions required to bring them about.'
Andrew Dobson, Keele University

'Jonathan Barnett's examination and critique of the meaning of environmental security is one of the most detailed, far-reaching and perspicacious so far published.'
Ronnie Lipschutz, University of California, Santa Cruz

'An adventurous book for adventurous peacemakers.'
Elise Boulding, former secretary general of the International Peace Research Association.

'By putting the practical lived experiences of peoples, rather than the military prerogatives of powerful states, at the heart of a reformulated environmental security, Jon Barnett offers a constructive alternative that moves the policy debate ahead.'
Simon Dalby, Carleton University


Publication Date: 1 January 2001
192 pages

Product ISBNs: Paperback: 9781856497862
Library Edition: 9781856497855

Register as a peer reviewer

Help us in our mission to make the academy and academic publishing more diverse and inclusive by registering as a Zed Books peer reviewer today. It only takes 30 seconds.

Why is peer review so important?

Learn more about the various types of peer review, why it’s so important, what the social and political considerations of peer review are and how we use it at Zed Books.