Journal of Human Security | 2013 | Volume 9 | Issue 1 | Pages 2728
DOI: 10.12924/johs2013.09010027
ISSN: 1835-3800
Book Review
A Review of "Human Security in World Affairs: Problems and
Published: 4 September 2013
Keywords: challenges and opportunities for human security; environmental security; human security
Human Security in World Affairs: Problems
and Opportunities
Alexander K. Lautensach, Sabina W. Lautensach
Caesarpress: 2013
504 pp.; ISBN: 978-3-902890-00-9
While security of our hominid encampments and
settlements must have been at or near the top of our
species priorities since our evolution some several
hundred thousand years ago, awareness of the
magnitude of our alterations, interactions and impacts
on our world is a very recent event. Even more recent
is our collective and growing angst over how our
species is to secure some sort of permanence on a
planet that is ultimately governed by natural forces
and is forever changing.
As an environmental biologist, and one who has
been particularly interested and concerned by the
rising levels of greenhouse gases and their attendant
effects on global changes, and as an educator, I am
delighted to see a book such as this. With an ambi-
tious mandate, to probe all major facets of modern
human security, Alexander and Sabina Lautensach
have brought together their vision and ideas, and
along with those of a host of co-authors from around
the world, have edited a book that is both compre-
hensive in scope and understandable for a broad
audience. The thoughtful and succinct preface and
introduction sections written by the editors are well
worth a careful read prior to engaging with the
chapters. These are well written and thought-pro-
voking. The short section on environmental security in
the introduction will likely end up as required reading
for one or more of my senior undergraduate or
graduate classes relating to the environment. It is
concise, but also is successful in bridging social and
natural sciences—of great importance if we are to
make collaborative progress on this issue. In addition,
as in all other chapters, learning outcomes, suggested
readings and glossaries provide a solid launch pad for
further examination.
Chapters 1 and 2 complete the introduction for me.
Chapter 1 lays out the history of modern 'human
security' from the term's inception in 1990s, to its dis-
aggregation into seven core areas, namely economic,
food, health, environmental, personal, community,
and political, in the 1995 UN World Summit for Social
Development report. While the book is not organized
along these seven core areas, subsequent chapters
address all of these themes. Listings of foundational
documents and other resources appearing in this
chapter should be useful for professor and student
alike. Chapter 2 answers the all-important question:
'why should we care?'. The linkages between envi-
ronmental degradation, fossil fuel combustion, and
our human population increases are highlighted in the
four major findings of the Millenium Ecosystem As-
Chapters 3 through 19 delve into specific aspects of
human security that, while not designed to be se-
quential, are reasonably logical in their flow. For
example, Chapter 3 begins with an examination of the
influence of perspective on human security, while
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Chapter 4 provides a very useful overview of all
perceived threats to human security, but with a
decidedly strong emphasis on violent conflict. Exam-
inations of international law (humanitarian and
criminal) (Chapter 5), those living outside of the
‘state’ system (Chapter 6) or under hybrid governance
systems (Chapter 7) and their impacts on human
security are considered in order—making a logical
grouping of topics. The chapter on globalization
(Chapter 8) might have been introduced earlier, but is
a necessary one for this book. Environmental decay is
addressed in chapters 9 and 10, providing a thought-
ful consideration of the cognitive underpinnings of
such things as greed and overconsumption which lead
to resource scarcity and anthropogenic degradation of
the environment. Ronnie Hawkins (Chapter 11)
deconstructs the human war on nature—which she
rightfully likens to war on ourselves. Her optimism for
the future provides some keys to positive ways
forward. The chapter on transnational crime (Chapter
11) might have been better placed next to Chapter 5,
but clearly portrays the significance of transnational
versus international crime. The next 3 chapters ad-
dress the importance of local governance (Chapter
13), adequate human rights (Chapter 14) and envi-
ronmentally conscious governance (Chapter 15). The
last chapter resonated with me. Many countries such
as my own are founded on 'good governance', yet it
seems to me that our governments of today are
increasingly mired in politics of yesteryear—unable to
meet the definition of good governance today, i.e.
giving proper regard to environmental security. The
next chapter (16) addresses health security for
humans, but as an environmental biologist, I would
have liked to have seen discussion of larger questions,
to some extent addressed in other chapters. For ex-
ample, the authors do give a nod to preventative
medicine and adequate nutrition, but fail to address
the larger problem of the long-term health of our
species in the face of things like overpopulation—itself
a product of human healthcare improvements. Chap-
ter 17 makes a strong case for enhancing human
security through the advancement and enforcement of
international law. Chapter 18 provides a very concise
and understandable treatment of peace building, and
convincing this reader that it is indeed a necessary
condition for human security. Of greater interest to
me was Chapter 19 dealing with global environmental
governance. While the chapter lacked specifics and
global precedents and examples, it did provide an
overview of GEG.
The capstone and final chapter of this book
(Chapter 20), authored again by the editors, attempts
to weave the disparate threads of the intervening
chapters into a cohesive fabric of the overall human
security challenge and opportunity. I’m not sure they
truly succeed—the problem of our future security,
problem of our species, is as vast and
deep as it is complex. Caught up in religious, political,
corporate, and economic paradigms or orthodoxies
that now appear ill-suited for our long-term survival, it
is clear that some fundamental shifts will need to be
made. Opportunities exist, although simultaneously
meeting the needs of all forms of human security is
clearly going to be a tall order. Yet, the editors provide
us with some reasonable assumptions and places to
begin. I could not agree more that our most pressing
and overarching security challenge is our envi-
ronment, and in particular, our perilous state of
environmental overshoot. I also agree that the only
rational way forward to solve this overshoot is by
decreasing our population growth and size and the
inequities of the environmental impact that result. As
an educator, I am also in agreement that educational
practices and our definitions of modernity and prog-
ress need shifting to reflect our current situation.
Finally, while I think many could agree with the con-
clusion that national/local rather than global
governance offers the more promising avenue for
security policy remediation, I wished that more
mention was made of the local levels. In my ex-
perience with environmental security at least, local
level experimentation with and adaptation of new
approaches are often far ahead of that of their nation
Ultimately, this book succeeds on so many levels,
and if the chapters are considered carefully, a picture
should emerge without prompting. What I take great
heart in is that scholars the world over are recognizing
our species' increasingly perilous situation, and are
working so diligently to imagine and create a secure
future for our species. We should all be grateful for
these efforts, but more importantly, we should take
heed and take action, contributing to what is arguably
the most important dialogue and undertaking of our
Arthur L. Fredeen
Natural Resources and Environmental Studies
Institute, University of Northern British Columbia,
3333 University Way, Prince George, BC, V2N 4Z9,
Canada; E-Mail: