Política Internacional

Global Environmental Issues and International Relations Scholars: A Call for Action, by Joana Castro Pereira

Questões ambientas globais e as Relações Internacionais - ultrapassando a desordem global

In the article “Environmental issues and international relations: a new global (dis)order? The role of International Relations in promoting a concerted international system”, published in Revista Brasileira de Política Internacional, Joana Castro Pereira, Assistant Professor at Lusíada University of Porto (Portugal), reflects on the role of the environment in international relations and stresses the need for the development of a holistic perspective in the International Relations discipline.

Globalization acts in ambivalent and unforeseeable ways, creating a hybrid international system. In other words, the world is living a transition period marked by Westphalian and post-Westphalian characteristics, which means, on the one hand, that humanity runs a serious risk of falling into tensions, conflicts and wars, and on the other hand, that there is an unparalleled need for cooperation. In this sense, although recent trends point to an international system grounded on tension and economic and political disarray, there is room for cooperation in the international system. Given the emergence of new powers and global issues, the international community will have to join forces in order to meet global challenges; otherwise, it is very likely that the world will fall into chaos. Environmental problems are perhaps the most global ones, so they demand the creation of an effective web of global governance, having the potential to function as catalysts for the architecture of a concerted and sustainable world; however, they can also enhance the onset of global conflict. Thus, environmental issues come out in the 21st century as key elements in international relations.

Through the review of very recent literature related to the subject, Pereira exposes, interconnects and explains a large set of elements associated with environmental issues, revealing their multidimensionality and complexity, and relating these features with the characteristics of the current international system; brings together a wide range of examples that seek to demonstrate the growing importance of environmental issues in international relations and how the environment is shaping the world order; and warns to the fact that International Relations as a discipline should open much more room for the study of global environmental issues.

Pereira departs from an approach on the relation between geopolitics and globalization — between the Westphalian and post-Westphalian characteristics of the 21st century international system — with the aim of stressing why globalization is a ‘double-edged sword’ and why environmental issues are a very important part of this hybrid international system where, in the author’s opinion, geopolitics and globalization are compatible concepts. Thus, Pereira brings the environment and the international system together, relates them, and by doing so she claims it is fair to say that the environment is creating a new global order.

At the end of the article, the author exposes what she believes should be the role of the International Relations discipline in terms of global environmental issues. Pereira highlights three key elements: providing a framework to understand global dynamics and its implications for the international community; underlining risks and finding paths for cooperation (new ways of global organization and political integration, as well as new institutions designed to face global long-term challenges and to embrace new emerging powers); thinking up new policies and propone them to decision makers. Essentially, Pereira launches a kind of provocation to International Relations scholars, stating that global environmental issues ‘belong’ to International Relations, which is not at all a call for disciplinary segregation. On the contrary, the author explains how the discipline of International Relations has, above all, the duty to act as a merging tool of the several fields of knowledge, in order to promote the cooperation needed to deal with global environmental challenges.

According to Pereira, International Relations scholars have the potential for building cooperation paths and promoting a concerted world, yet they are not doing it. The article is a call for action which aims to raise awareness among International Relations scholars to the potential positive impact of the development of the discipline in integration with global environmental change studies.

The article has a lot of the author’s attitude to the subject since it contains an optimistic view of the future associated with the potential of environmental issues to change the global order (which is evident in the link between national and global interests, in the idea of sustainable capitalism or in the cosmopolitan perception of the world), as well as the author’s belief in the role of International Relations as a discipline to promote a concerted and cooperative international system.


Joana Castro Pereira, Lusíada University, Porto, Portugal (mail@joanacastropereira.com)

Read this article:

PEREIRA, Joana Castro. Environmental issues and international relations, a new global (dis)order – the role of International Relations in promoting a concerted international system. Rev. bras. polít. int. [online]. 2015, vol.58, n.1 [cited  2015-10-02], pp. 191-209 . Available from: <http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0034-73292015000100191&lng=en&nrm=iso&gt;. ISSN 1983-3121.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0034-7329201500110.

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