Saturday, September 10, 2005

Katrina, the Environment, and Human Security

The following observation from Seeking Security in an Insecure World (due out in early December) has, sadly, been validated by Hurricane Katrina:

Climate change, like virtually every other environmental threat, will affect the poor much more than it will the rich. The poor are, in many instances, dependent on the very resources and economic activities that are most likely to be affected by climate change. Subsistence agriculture, for example, may be affected in some regions by prolonged drought and in other regions by an increase in the number and severity of violent storms. Either drought or flooding can be devastating to communities living close to the margin of existence. Flooding, of course, is likely to be a particularly acute problem for people living in low-lying coastal areas, among them roughly seventy million Bangladeshis. However problematic and unpalatable many of the solutions will be, wealthy states (and wealthy individuals) will be able to purchase a measure of security against environmental threats, security that will simply be unavailable to many in the world. To put it bluntly but accurately, the rich will be able to buy their way out of many aspects of the problem.

There is nothing prophetic about this statement (which was written eight months ago). It merely describes what has happened over and over again in cases of environmental catastrophes.