Global Environmental Security: From Protection to Prevention

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Below, we discuss the primary implications of our research to this principle and pose questions for future research.

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We know individuals tend to perceive risks as being higher or greater when they are generally considered to be involuntary, catastrophic in nature and scale, severe, worrying or unfamiliar e. It is unsurprising then that cyclones, which in Madagascar have the potential to inflict substantial devastation on local people, environments and the government, were rated as most and urban development ranked least risky.

When public perceptions of risk are not reflective of technical risk assessments, barriers to effective risk management can emerge, such as policy opposition or non-compliance [ 46 , 47 ]. Such discord is a key entry point for communication, outreach, or educational specialists to promote reflexivity. A vibrant debate over how to attend to illegal commercial wildlife trafficking and other risks associated with global environmental conflicts is ongoing; some argue associating illegal biodiversity exploitation with environmental insecurity problematically limits response options to those within the militaristic sphere and hampers exercise of justice e.

In particular, connections between biodiversity declines and violent conflict seem to guide discussions about the extent to which the risks posed by degradation constitute insecurity or not. Others posit that environmental security discourse helps elevate biodiversity exploitation to high politics, resulting in the necessary political awareness and sense of urgency required to resolve environmental problems [ 6 ].

Regardless of the position or conclusion of this interesting set of publications, empirical evidence of local perceptions appears to be lacking. Thus the extent to which any of these discussions can wholly inform assessment of the responsiveness of policy to local needs and contexts is questionable.

Results herein offer, to our knowledge, one if not the first exploration of local perceptions of illegal biodiversity exploitation and environmental insecurity.

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Data challenge certain assumptions and validate others. Simple regression analysis helped us consider participant perceptions about precursors to different types of illegal biodiversity exploitation. Among our study participants, if the policy objective is to reduce or mitigate charcoal production in a protected area, it is essential to focus on the psychological aspect of associated risk perception as opposed to the socio-environmental dimensions of environmental insecurity such as access to land to grow food or a reliable source of clean drinking water.

It may be the case that broader, large-scale socio-environmental processes and influences were less salient in the minds of our study participants.

Indeed, others have found gaps in understanding the causes and consequences of climate change from populations vulnerable to drought associated with climate change [ 9 ]. Among our sample, the cognitions underlying risk perceptions associated with charcoal production are the key antecedents to human behavior that can be targeted by interventions involving, for example, education, communication, social marketing or regulatory changes.

We found myths of nature influenced environmental insecurity. Our results suggest that individuals who do not believe nature to be resilient have higher risk perceptions and perceptions of environmental insecurity. These same individuals may be less likely to accept risks and demand counteraction from managers.

Interestingly, findings also point to greater perceptions of environmental insecurity and perceptions of rates of biodiversity exploitation via logging for those that believe nature to be random. Culturally-generated beliefs about nature can have important implications for preferred risk responses and overall goals of nature management and biodiversity conservation. If nature, and thus environmental change, is culturally considered to be random, environmental risks and certain exploitive activities may be more acceptable.

Alternatively, if nature is considered fragile, environmental risks may undermine environmental security and tolerance for biodiversity exploitation. Although our study is limited in its ability to model all involved concepts, results suggest further exploration of the relationships between local perceptions of risk and risk response, environmental insecurity and biodiversity exploitation would be fruitful because these cognitions influence behavior.

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If behavior change, such as compliance, is a desired policy outcome, attitudes must be considered [ 49 ]. For example, if an individual has high perceptions of risk, those high perceptions are more likely to lead to greater feelings of environmental insecurity which in turn results in greater participation in some illegal biodiversity exploitation activity. Some security experts recognize threats to security of the homeland and environment differ greatly by degrees of intention and levels of violence [ 50 ]. Local perceptions can clearly function as an important human dimension within the biodiversity exploitation equation.

Ignoring these human dimensions may complicate efforts to garner support for risk management or other policies designed to reduce negative effects of risk. Within our study context, the inconsistent manner with which environmental laws are reinforced in Madagascar and the involvement of communities in managing local natural resources complicates matters. If we had parsed out the difference between breaking the rule of law versus the rules in use, it is possible results would be different; future research exploring these differences would have practical implications for enforcement and other compliance activities.

A final confounding factor is the possibility that when some forms of illegal biodiversity exploitation are being perceived as threats to security in general, there is the danger that the citizens of one country e. Ultimately, all of these possibilities remain empirical questions and warrant additional research from the global environmental change community, particularly from the local perspective and potentially stratified by sociodemographics i.

This is because changes explored at the globally and regionally averaged level can mask important local exceptions to general trends [ 51 ] that are essential for effective policy alternative selection, implementation and evaluation. Special thanks to participants for their time and willingness to share opinions and information, R. Andriamparany for logistical assistance and anonymous reviews for constructive feedback. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U.

PLoS One. Published online Apr Meredith L. Lute , 2 Jonah H. Ratsimbazafy , 3 and Andry Rajaonson 4. Michelle L. Jonah H.

Global Environmental Security: From Protection to Prevention

Alexander J. Travis, Editor. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist. Received Nov 23; Accepted Feb This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Figure A. Interview instrument. Table A. New variables created for analysis. Abstract Environmental insecurity is a source and outcome of biodiversity declines and social conflict. Introduction The global illegal wildlife trade has dramatically accelerated in the past decade although it has long been recognized as a serious threat to biodiversity conservation and livelihood preservation. Open in a separate window. Fig 1.


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Map of Torotorofotsy Protected Area, our study site within east central Madagascar. Community Entry We collaborated with a guide from a Malagasy non-governmental organization to facilitate community introductions and community entry of the field research team i. Measurement We used face-to-face structured interviews to achieve objectives; we measured perceptions of environmental insecurity focused on whether or not people have food, water and natural resources to live , risk perception focused on intuitive judgments about costs and benefits , risk management responses and forest-related activities related to illegal biodiversity exploitation i.

Sampling The field team opportunistically sampled individuals 18 years or older living within 11 villages between May June 5, Results We interviewed 88 participants from 11 villages and encountered four response refusals, indicating participants did not feel pressured to respond to participate or answer potentially sensitive questions. Fig 2. Local perceptions of illegal biodiversity exploitation rates. Fig 3. Discussion Reducing risks associated with illegal biodiversity exploitation is a high global policy priority attracting global news media attention.

DOCX Click here for additional data file. Acknowledgments Special thanks to participants for their time and willingness to share opinions and information, R. Funding Statement The authors have no support or funding to report. References 1. Environmental Investigation Agency. March London, England; Wyatt T.

Wildlife trafficking: A deconstruction of the crime, the victims, and the offenders Hampshire, England: MacMillian Publishers; Wildlife decline and social conflict. Swart R. Security risks of global environmental changes. Global Environmental Change. Environmental, economic, and societal security. Working Paper No Copenhagen: Centre for Peach and Conflict Research; Graeger N.

Environmental security? Journal of Peace Research. White R. Environmental insecurity and fortress mentality. International Affairs. Climate-smart landscapes: opportunities and challenges for integrating adaptation and mitigation in tropical agriculture.