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The International Relations Theories in Addressing of Environmental Issues Essay

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Updated: Dec 14th, 2019


International relations refer to the branch of political science concerned with foreign affairs of a country. It defines the ways in which countries relate with one another in the currently globalised world. The concept of globalization has increased a global approach to seeking solutions to problems arising that could be facing a particular nation, like a disease outbreak in a particular country or global issues like global warming.

Collective international efforts are always employed in addressing different forms of emerging issues. International relations have become central in the current times where international interdependence is critical for economic and political stability. The international relations facilitate the coordination of political and economic activities among nations.

International relations have also established a basis for an international intervention on national, regional and international issues that affect humanitarian conditions directly or indirectly. This paper seeks to answer the question, “what international relations theory is the most effective in addressing environmental issues”.

The paper will look into a variety of international relations theories that have been employed to address environmental issues with the aim of identifying the most effective theory.

Environmental international relations theories

International relations as a field of study has been explored since the early periods of the twentieth century. It was initiated by the urge to create a foundation for security among the European nations. The environmental issues were identified, recognized and instituted in the international business at around 1972. It was noted that degradations were, and still are being, caused by human activities.

The increased economic activities initiated after the World War II exerted increased pressure on the available resources. Effects of the economic activities that were on the rise during this post war period also had negative implications on the environment due to pollution. The environmental concern then evolved into International Corporation besides the global concern through the United Nations (Kutting, 12).

The Green Theory

The green theory was a development of the environmental concerns that were continually raised by experts in the social science and humanities professions that led to environmental movement in the closing decades of the twentieth century. It was the environmental movement together with some other social movements that led to the green theory.

The theory is concerned with social matters as well as the always predominant aspects of politics. One of the elements of the green theory was to discuss the irrationality that was exercised by economic forces, markets and nations towards the environment. The theory in this instance expressed the establishment of localized autonomous bodies to ensure stable ecologies in different localities.

The green theory has also taken a political dimension with administrations ensuring that environmental institutions are established to look into arising environmental crises. The political dimension of the green theory has led to the emergence of “environmental justice, environmental democracy, environmental activism and the green states” (Dunne, Milja, Steve, 252).

According to the green theory, environmental injustice is the effect of spilling environmental consequences to third parties. When institutions make decisions in their operations and fail to contain the environmental effects of their activities to any third party then the institutions are liable for environmental injustice. The liability is effective if the third party affected by the said operations is not involved in the operations.

Environmental injustice as well applies to the advantaged sections of a society or countries that by their influential advantage and authority overexploit the environmental resources at the expense of the less fortunate societies and countries.

This is because their over exploitative activities impacts adverse negative effects to the environment. In its aim, the green theory strife to reduce environmental hazards as well as the protection of any third party from externalization of hazard from any entity (Dunne, Milja, Steve, 252).

The objective of the environmental justice of the green theory includes the preservation of the environment for the safety of the current and the future generations, as well as that of the other inhabitants of the universe and enlisting an exclusive participation of all people in decision making forums which is achieved by ensuring proper representations of people in such forums.

These forums could involve formulation of policies, signing of treaties and protocols, laying down regulations and evaluation of environmental processes.

The environmental justice further seeks to ensure that measures are taken to ensure the environmental risks are reduced by the majority communities, risks are distributed in a generally acceptable democratic manner and that compensations are done in cases where actions by a given party causes environmental effects to other parties (Dunne, Milja, and Steve, 255).

The green theory has enhanced the environmental justice by raising the concerns of people. This move is being achieved by the use of bodies and individuals like “non governmental organizations, green consumers, ecological scientists, green political parties, grass root people” (Dunne, Milja, and Steve, 255) as well as individuals with innovative transformational ideas of global activities.

The theory can also be discussed from two perspectives: its activities on the analysis of the global environmental problems and the activities of new steps towards ecological justice and the green democracy. The green theorists are also keen on climate change negotiations.

Attempts are always made under the green theory to integrate “knowledge and power” and to improve developed communication strategies and steps during negotiations into environmental talks. In their efforts to strengthen ecological negotiations, the green theory movement participates in these processes.

An example was its participation in the talks over the global warming crisis by suggesting solutions to global warming (Dunne, Milja, and Steve, 255).

The environmental democracy, as Suzan defined it, refers to the inclusion of victims of environmental outcomes in decision processes. The decisions made about environmental issues are not to be left in the hands of authorities like the political leaders. The democracy prescribes the rights of individual people to the decision making processes over environmental issues, not just governmental and industrial bodies.

The composition of the decision makers on environmental issues should also include “the public, community groups, advocates, workers, academic and health care professionals” (Hazen 1). These parties are as well entitled to access information relating to environmental matters (Hazen 1).

Environmental activism under the green movement is a strategy to ensure environmental democracy prevails. The activists’ move is always aimed at drawing the attention of decision makers and agents of environmental pollution like the industrialists. Activists’ move can include media presentation of petitions to nonviolent actions (World 1).

Other International Relations Theories

The green theory is however not the sole theory on the international relations. There exist a large number of such theories in the study of international relations. Some of the other international relations theories include classical realism, structural realisms, liberalism, Marxism, and constructivism among others.

Just like the green theory was formulated to foster and attempt to succeed in implementing particular aspects, environmental issues, the other theories were as well very particular on the views and objectives that they were to foster. The concept of classical realism theory covers policies such as political power and influence.

It covers international law and expresses the recognition of autonomy of states which are seen as unitary actors who engage in diplomatic relations to maintain political balance (Cosmopoliticos 1). Structural realism was a scientific philosophy whose aim was to inspire into selecting the best of either side of arguments.

Its aim was to end the serious consideration of both sides of a discursive issue and establish the sense of identifying and taking the best side of the argument. Its implementation was to aid discussions without taking conflicting positions (Plato1).

The theory of liberalism on the other hand expresses the concept of freedom of human beings and entities. The theory for instance claims that any restriction to freedom or liberty must be justified. Illustrations of limitations to liberty were described as politics and law as they restrict human actions (Plato 1).


International relations are a political element of coordination among countries. In the bid to succeed in its objectives, theories have over time been developed to facilitate solutions to international problems. Each theory was established as a result of emerging global problems that required joint intervention from nations.

It is in this light that the green theory was developed to facilitate solutions into the problem of environmental degradation. The green movement is the most effective theory of international relations in solving environmental problems because of two reasons.

The first reason is because while other theories may just mention environmental issues, the green theory covers environmental issues as its sole subject. The second reason is the comprehensiveness of the green theory over the solution of environmental problems.

Works Cited

Cosmopoliticos. Classical Realism (Theory of International Relations) Probably. Cosmopoliticos, 2007. Web.

Dunne, Timothy., Milja, Kurki., and Steve, Smith. International relations theories: discipline and diversity. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.

Hazen Suzan. Environmental democracy. UNEP, 1998. Web.

Kutting, Gabriel. Global Environmental Politics: Concepts, Theories and Case Studies. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis, 2010. Print.

Plato. . Stanford, 2010. Web.

World. Environmental activism. , 2008. Web.

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