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This chapter introduces the idea of an empowering state – one that provides its citizens with protection from vulnerabilities, resources to achieve their potential, and access to full participation in democratic institutions and decision-making. It argues that the last forty years have instead seen a disempowering state with many excluded by poverty and lack of opportunity, while for others active citizenship and participation were stifled. It contrasts the negative liberty of a neoliberal state – in which wealthy people and corporations are accorded freedom from interference and regulation – with the positive freedoms of a nurturing state – one that provides the wherewithal for each individual to achieve their potential.
It elucidates the many strands of an empowering state, beginning with the need for everyone to commit to making a fair contribution, rather than seeking ways to evade responsibility, and setting out the case for a far more progressive tax system than the one we currently have (which is shown to be essentially regressive). It discusses the need for greater democratic accountability and citizen engagement, with examples from pioneering local initiatives. Finally, it argues that protecting our natural environment and mitigating climate change require the support of an empowering state.
Mark Bould’s chapter on “Speculative Fiction” begins with Jonathan Lethem’s literary critical counterfactual in which the genre border between science fiction and mainstream literature never existed and all novels about science were considered one group. As Bould points out, the very term slipstream itself was coined by Bruce Sterling to refer to the disconcerting works of science fiction that played across the edges of varied genre definitions. Heady mixtures of literary conventions have informed all regions of fiction since then, as speculative fiction draws on and critiques archaic and futurist literary movements representing empire, environmentalism, disability, illness, violence, as well as racial, gendered and sexual alterities.
This chapter considers whether, and if so, how, the right to life may be violated by pollution and, at the least, a wilful failure to seek to tackle climate change. A serious violation of international environmental law leading to death is ipso facto violative also of the right to life. This includes also the situation where environmental pollution in one State affects the environment and the population in another. Pollution has a significant and growing impact on the lives of children. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), lower respiratory infections are among the largest causes of mortality in children, accounting for 15% of deaths in 2015. In 2020, a death certificate in England listed air pollution as a cause of death for the first time.
This final chapter argues that there is a far greater crisis heading our way. What is far worse than nature ‘biting back’ with a deadly virus is that we now live with the disturbing knowledge that the natural world that sustains us all is liable to collapse. COVID-19 is not a ‘once in a hundred years’ event that we can soon confine to folklore. It is a warning shot across our bows, alerting us to the seriousness of the imminent challenges of climate change and the escalating crises of nature and social inequality. These cannot be addressed unless we discard the neoliberal straightjacket and revitalise a nurturing society.
It is often considered that the industrial revolution was Britain’s most unique contribution to world history. However, that achievement emerged from a society and economy that had enjoyed unprecedented success due to its adoption since c.1600 of the policies, principles and practices of collectivist individualism, a more valuable British legacy to the world than the unbalanced individualism adopted in the subsequent industrial revolution. It is a legacy that urgently needs to be rediscovered to enable us all to find the commitment to each other needed to meet our imminent challenges. Coexistence, anti-exploitation and nurturing are the moral codes of the collectivist-individualist ethics, a morality of giving, not taking.
This introduction makes a case for a focus on ecological security when approaching the relationship between climate change and security. It outlines the central claims upon which this case is built, noting the significance of this approach in terms of the study and practice of security, climate change and their relationship. It concludes by outlining the structure of the book itself.
Heather Houser considers the conceptual frameworks of a topic that bears on nearly every other chapter in this Companion, contemporary “cli-fi” and ecocritical approaches to current literature. When writers presume transformational climate change as a starting point, rather than an abstract possibility, they narrate an “uncanny valley of familiarity and radical alteration” that extends, accelerates, or alters the logics of the present into near or distant futures of drought, warfare, destitution, and superstorms.
Shocks related to weather variations have strong effects on developing countries’ economies. Climate change is expected to increase the occurrence and magnitude of extreme weather events such as droughts, floods or hurricanes that strongly affect agriculture and other activities. This special issue gathers literature reviews and case studies that aim to better understand heterogeneous impacts and their transmission channels, as well as to evaluate the impact of such weather shocks on developing economies, including Sub-Saharan African countries, India and Brazil.
This volume analyzes past, current, and future conditions in ten river basins from six continents, each located in arid or semi-arid climates, equipped with engineered dams designed to increase year-round water availability for irrigated agriculture, cities, and environmental flow; and each important for world food production and basin economies. This introductory chapter details the history of the inquiry and the research project. In the Challenge section of the book, we ask how water supply and demand are changing as a result of climate change, reservoir sedimentation, depletion of groundwater, and declining environmental flows. We then present case studies of each of the selected rivers: How do they recognize challenges and how do they deal with them? In the Response section, we discuss three important options for improved water management: water-wise irrigated agriculture, carefully designed inter-basin water transfers, and strong stakeholder participation.
Chapter 5 embarks upon an analysis of the UNSC’s approach to ‘conflict resources’ by considering its use of sanctions, panels/groups of experts, and peacekeeping missions. It will show that UNSC commodity-focused interventions have sought to address the economic motivations for starting and prolonging armed conflict, while failing to bring about the systemic changes necessary to achieve ‘positive peace’. By securitising resource extraction in conflict zones and supporting ‘good governance’ reforms in post-conflict countries, questions of sustainability and more equitable access/distribution of natural resources have been sidelined. Thereafter, through engaging with ongoing debates on the peace and security implications of climate change, the chapter illuminates the limits of existing conceptual/legal frameworks underpinning the practice of the UNSC and the need to rethink what peace and security mean in times of ecological disruption.
The Jucar Basin faces the challenge of meeting an enormous demand for irrigation while water quality degrades from urban, industrial, and agricultural pollution. Relying on engineering solutions is not enough. Empirical evidence in Jucar indicates that water markets and institutional policies seem to deal with water scarcity more successfully than water pricing and irrigation subsidies. A first water governance priority is to convince farmers of substituting freshwater for the available urban recycled water. Second, seawater desalination plants must be upgraded so they will work at full capacity. More long-term governance goals are to curtail surface irrigation diversions and groundwater extractions, and reallocating water to urban, industrial, and environmental uses. These reforms will only work if they get the support and cooperation of farmers by compensating them for the reallocation of water from agriculture to other sectors.
Between 50 thousand and 10 thousand years ago many of the large vertebrate animals, the megafauna, went extinct on all continents except Africa. There the elephant, big cats, hippo and others are remnants of a megafauna that once occupied the entire globe. This is the youngest mass extinction in the fossil record and there have been several suggestions for what caused it: climatic instability as the planet emerged from the last ice age; the appearance of the first modern human hunters; and climatic instability driven by the impact of a comet. There is considerable scepticism about the impact scenario, so most workers fall into one of two camps – either climate change or humans were wholly responsible for the extinction. However, there is a growing body of opinion that supports the idea that neither climate nor the presence of humans on their own were enough to trigger the megafaunal extinctions: some combination of the two is needed.
Currently available climate models predict the planet will be warmer at the end of this century by about 3C plus/minus 1.50C, while certain regions (the polar regions and the interiors of larger landmasses) will warm slightly more and ocean surfaces will warm at a slower pace. Climate modeling also tells us that the midlatitude storm belts will recede gradually toward their respective poles, causing the Hadley Cells to widen and expanding the arid subtropical zones. Warming in the cloud-free subtropics will lead to more warming and hence more evaporation of soil water. This chapter presents a thorough and accessible discussion of climate modeling to estimate future conditions in the Earth-hydrological system. It analyzes patterns of rainfall, potential evapotranspiration, actual evaporation, and runoff, among other factors, as well as the feedback mechanisms in the climate system that will impact water availability and use in the SERIDAS basins.
The Yellow River is by its nature not sustainable since it carried the world’s heaviest silt load for a long time. Yet, this silt load (loess plateau) has fallen considerably in recent years, but at the cost of other forms of sustainability, such as streamflow. The reasons for this dramatic decline in runoff are complex. In addition to reducing silt load, terraces and vegetation have led to the marked reduction in runoff. The fall in natural runoff can also be attributed to groundwater and mining extractions, as well as reservoir filling. Population per se is not a major driver of water demand compared to irrigated agriculture and other sectors, notably mining and industry. While China is not a federal system, it is organized in a complex hierarchical system where provinces play an important role and are capable of serving their own interests in negotiating usages and allocations of the river. The chapter analyzes peculiar physical conditions and water management institutions in the Yellow River Basin.
The first-generation Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and other adaptation communications after the Paris Agreement are a huge knowledge resource. They report diverse and detailed insights on how governments and their advisers think about vulnerabilities, trends and future hazards, and their priorities and coping strategies. From them it is clear that community-based and ecosystem-based adaptation approaches are widely recognised as effective, and as sources of diverse co-benefits. These apply especially at the local and landscape level of national societies, and comparing earlier and later communications reveals that this awareness is increasing. This matches the idea that local action to promote resource tenure and management capacity, plus help with mapping, planning and networking with other communities, is key to strengthening local systems against climate chaos. That local people are capable of rising to this challenge is evident from many government accounts, and from the case studies here. These directions of travel will become clearer as second-generation NDCs become available in the lead-up to the global stocktake in 2023.
Multiplying signs of a deeply stressed biosphere accompany the onset of Anthropocene conditions from about 1950. The metaphor of a ‘war with nature’ is employed to clarify the roles of strategy in survival, and of grand strategy in achieving ‘peace with nature’. The climate emergency is one dimension of a storm of ecological risks and tipping points that threaten to reverse all previous development gains. New ideas on reducing net greenhouse gas emissions are outlined, in which ‘deadline-aware’ strategies accept that further mitigation investment will be pointless after the activation of major ecological tipping points. Hence all such investments should aim to postpone runaway change and must slash net emissions very quickly, while also strengthening ecosystems and communities. This new realism is encouraged by the Extinction Rebellion, Greta Thunberg’s climate strike and other mass movements, citizens’ assemblies and the responses of governments and financial institutions, offering hope that decisive breakthroughs are becoming possible. The Covid-19-induced ‘stillpoint’ in 2020 also offers a way to think about restoring balance in unstable complex systems.
Global warming and some climate change policies pose additional social risks that necessitate novel responses from the welfare state. Eco-social policies have significant potential to address these challenges, but their wide-scale adoption will depend, among other factors, on public support. In the current article, we theorise how public opinion about eco-social policies is likely to be influenced by a set of contextual and individual-level factors, as well as the perceived welfare deservingness of the target groups. Alongside contributing to the emerging body of literature on eco-social policies, this theoretical framework could help policymakers to anticipate the social groups that will support or oppose eco-social policy agendas and how some of the contradictions could be reduced through policy design.
The chapter turns to consider two key implications of the environmental minimum for international environmental law. For one, there is considerable difficulty in applying the human rights-based framework of the book to issues surrounding transboundary environmental harm, particularly the overarching global issue of man-made climate change. Due to enduring difficulties establishing causality, as well as temporal, geographic concerns, and the at most lacklustre commitment of most states to upholding them as practical safeguards, human rights are unlikely to contribute decisively to the current policy debate. The environmental minimum and its human rights framework presuppose a robust commitment to human rights, environmental protection and the rule of law that is questionable at best with respect to many of the most notorious global polluters. The environmental minimum is more suited to specifying the scope, context, and relationship of competing environmental obligations, notably among the sustainable development goals, as well as provide a viable framework to enforce otherwise non-binding or underenforced treaty obligations under international environmental law.
This chapter examines corporate responsibilities and accountability to anticipate and redress human rights violations relating to the environment in their spheres of operations. After this introduction, section 2 examines the drivers and contours of the growing recognition of corporate accountability relating to environmental damage. Section 3 unpacks the key scope and content of emerging human rights obligations of corporations to protect the environment. These obligations are as follows: participation, accountability, non-discrimination and equality, empowerment and legality (the PANEL principles). By implementing the PANEL principles in the design, approval, finance and implementation of their operations and projects, business enterprises can proactively anticipate and tackle environmental risks across their entire business value chain. Section 4 highlights practical challenges that must be addressed by national authorities and business enterprises in order to fully translate these norms to reality. Section 5 is the concluding section.
Soybean yield within the Southern Africa falls below its potential despite similar climatic conditions across some agroecologies, replicable agronomic management practices and introduced improved varieties. Understanding physiological processes and water-use efficiency (WUE) of soybean offer information on bridging this yield gap. A field study was conducted in 2017 and 2018 seasons in two agroecologies (Angonia and Ruace) in Mozambique to evaluate the effects of Bradyrhizobium diazoefficiens strain USDA110 formerly known as Bradyrhizobium japonicum inoculant, nitrogen and phosphorus on nodulation, physiology and yield of non-promiscuous (Safari) and promiscuous (TGx 1740-2F) soybean varieties. Data on transpiration, photosynthesis, leaf area index, radiation interception and WUE from the beginning of flowering to maturity were collected. Transpiration rate varied considerably with interaction between locations, growth stages, varieties and treatments. At podding, phosphorus-treated soybean at Angonia transpired less (6.3 mmol/m2/s) than check plants (6.6 mmol/m2/s). Photosynthesis rate and WUE were distinct with variety, growth stages and inputs within agroecologies. For instance, in Angonia 2018 season, phosphorus fertilized TGx 1740-2F photosynthesized more at flowering (25.3 μmol/m2/s) while the lowest was phosphorus-treated Safari at podding with 17.2 μmol/m2/s. At the same site in 2017, inoculated soybean photosynthesized more at 22.8 μmol/m2/s leading to better WUE of 3.6 that corresponded to 2894 kg/ha yield. Overall, soybean WUE was higher when inoculated than N-treated, while P application yielded better. Results from this study will complement breeders’ effort in developing phosphorus efficient varieties suited for a wide range of changing climatical conditions.
Approaching food systems today as a global pharmakon can help advance an Environmental Humanities response to the risks and unknowns of food. Whether it is the difficulty fish have in distinguishing microplastics from plankton, or the trouble humans who live in urban food deserts have finding fresh edibles, food in the early twenty-first century carries unprecedented threats of undernourishment, toxicity and death alongside its promise of life. Paradoxically, the ethics and politics emerging in response to the pharmakon of food may not always involve attempts to purify or certify it “free” of social and environmental ills. One alternative is to tell stories about “food-power” that highlight the agency of other species within a relational ontology that reveals human control, including efforts to control for food safety, to be a fiction. On their own, stories of food-power cannot confront the “power to devour” through which some humans assert their exceptionalism and domination. Gutsy struggles against food injustices by colonized and Indigenous people also show that food is neither an object nor a subject but a multispecies relationship protected through both story and action.