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State Sovereignty vs. Environmental Sustainability

With humanities growing knowledge of skills and technology, we have been able to manipulate nature to meet the growing needs of humans. By doing this humans have fished, gathered species, hunted for food, fuel, and shelter. Humans have domesticated plants and animals, cut forests, used anything from fire to technological advancements to alter habitats, and have significantly changes chemical hydrological and geochemical cycles. As a result humans do not reflect what life on earth is, but changes to landscape and sea reflect human culture.

As species die, humans lose their food, medicines and industrial resources and products that supply today for tomorrow. For humans to think that they can be the last species standing and still survive is being ignorant of the facts . This problem is of global concern and must be resolved with the cooperation of states, NGOs and the scientific community. Counties must realize that their sovereignty comes second to the sustainable survival of not only the human race, but all of earths In the early 1400s, human population began to grow substantially.

The increase n population added stress to earths resources and ecosystem which consistently increased as humans developed new technologies. This period of technological enlightenment began in the mid to late 1700s with the industrial revolution, which was also the time when humans moved out of self sustained villages and farms into complex interdependent cities. Intensive industrialism started with the invention of the steam engine and ignited a mass consumption of earths resources with developed countries consuming a majority of resources and developing countries trying to catch up to the first worlds technological

As third world countries try to compete with their flourishing neighbors, earths natural resources have been stressed to an unsustainable level which poses two main problems. Humans moving from rural to urban areas of the country allow people to use resources that wouldnt have been available if local sustainable lifestyles had been maintained. And second, as the human population drastically increases, resources needed per capita increases, consequentially adding stress on the environment. As need for resources increased, so did technologies in transportation, which allowed for extensive ogging in tropical rainforest. The degradation of such habitats continues to result in the loss of an enormous amount of species. Scarcity of natural resources has posed a large problem not only on the earth, but has created conflict among countries. Disagreements according to the specific details of environmental problems and how to solve them have created problems in international relations.

The intractable difference between all countries who express concern is their sovereignty. The dominant tradition within International Relations is state-centric, entered around concepts of state sovereignty and the beliefs that states are the primary actors in international affairs and that international affairs and international politics are largely driven by states pressing their interest. 2 Environmental problems usually affect more than one state and pose limitations on a states sovereignty. Let us take the example of biodiversity.

In 1992, nations gathered in Rio De Janeiro for the Earth Summit. Several nations brought their environmental concerns including biological diversity to the able , and over one hundred government representatives signed the Convention on Countries who sign an international convention may have full intentions of carring out the purposed plan of action but once that moment of compliance comes, it tends to be more difficult to comply than expected. Economic or technological disadvantages may limit a countries capacity to comply with original goals set by the treaty.

Even if states sign the treaty it may take longer to implement due to disagreements between differences in specific details. In the case of the Convention on Biodiversity, there was a major split between the North and the South. The two issues that divided the North and South were plant genetic diversity and intellectual property The southern hemisphere provides a plethoric variety in genes among wild plant species in comparison to the North. The second factor splitting the two hemispheres was intellectual property rights which are legal ownership of inventions made by a state.

Basically the developing countries wanted to protect their rights and demanded money for the exchange of genetic resources. States like Mexico, Brazil, and Indonesia thought that the resources are property of the state in which they are discovered. The North (United States, Canada, France, West Germany, Japan, and United Kingdom) would not agree to these terms and argued that they be allowed to extract the resources from these countries. They claimed that these resources are common to man.

They then stated that there would be no reimbursement to the state that made the discoveries because of intellectual property rights. 3 Clearly the arguments that these countries pose are centered around conomics but looking deeper, having a collected governing body decide what is best for your country to do about the problem might threaten a states sovereignty. The regime that signed the treaty at the Convention for Biodiversity is unique because it is one of the few treaties that allows the implementation of the guidelines to be put in the hands of national governments, rather than an international governing body.

This is unique because there is an assumption of trust among the states that they will all assume full responsibility. Resting the responsibility on the shoulders of an individual overnment may not threaten a countries sovereignty but it does allow countries who sign the treaty to come short on some goals due to economic reasons, or just slack off. To make international environmental problems even more complicated, we must realize that states are not the only actors in environmental politics.

Non-governmental organizations, or NGOs play a large role in negotiations. Global environmental issues involve connections between local, national, and international processes. Many times a non-governmental organization like World Wildlife Foundation works with a government n local areas trying to manage the problem. The World Wildlife Fund concentrates most of its energy internationally. NGOs help put political pressure on governments and bring problems to the publics eye, lobbying for drastic change, and gaining public support.

These organizations typically play an important role, which causes them to cut across international and domestic borders. This causes a problem when another country doesnt want the NGO in its country. An NGO must be invited into a country before it can help analyze or solve the problem. This makes the relationship between international organizations, commercial institutions, states and non state actors a very complex one especially when it comes to the implementation of international programs for sustainability, environmental protection and safety.

A possible solution might be that of global governance. This would involve restructuring at a global level. A global environmental legislative body with the power to impose regulations on nation states, and sanctions if the state didnt comply with recommended course of action by the governing body. Cooperation must increase, and ust entail not only studies of the science behind an environmental problem but also economic and social impacts of the resolution. Environmental disasters or problems do not have borders and do not recognize them, so an environmental problem is usually the problem of a few surrounding states, or could end up to be. Sovereignty is a big issue, but with cooperation, a states sovereignty would not be threatened. For a state to call its self a sovereign one, there must not be an actor above the state that can force it to act in specific ways.

In a anarchic system, a sovereign state co-exists with other sovereign states. States that compete for security, markets, and influential power in the international system. Sovereignty protects these characteristics of a country. When there needs to be an international governing body, then these characteristics of the state might be threatened, and the state might be hesitant to allow such actors to be involved. Since the 1960s and 70s a large number of regimes, institutions, agreements and policies for the governance of environmental politics have been formed through the cooperation of hundreds of governments and international non governmental organizations.

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