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
in 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. 1 As need for
resources increased, so did technologies in transportation, which allowed for extensive
logging 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.
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,
centered 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
table , 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 .