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~Wellesley Professor Says All Global Environmental Politics Are Local

For immediate release:
July 30, 2002

Arlie Corday,
781-283-3321 or 2373

WELLESLEY, Mass. - "Ethics plays a role in addressing the global environment, but there is no clear consensus on who is deserving of consideration or how to act on behalf of non-human entities," writes Elizabeth R. DeSombre in her new book, The Global Environment and World Politics (Continuum, 2002).

DeSombre, associate professor of environmental studies and political science at Wellesley College, uses whaling as an example of how technology eased the harvesting of these animals while rendering them less sustainable as a species and a natural resource. Acid rain presents another challenge: Those countries producing it are not necessarily the ones most directly affected by it. So who speaks for the best interests of the planet?

DeSombre's book offers insight into this great divide between politics and the environment.

"The fact that countries cannot address many environmental problems successfully on their own impels international cooperation," DeSombre says. However, when the problem hurts different countries to greater or lesser degrees, cooperation can break down. Details, such as how politicians react to election years, can have long-term impacts. Popular decisions today may not support protections for tomorrow.

DeSombre points to global successes such as the reduction of toxic pollution dumped in our oceans, the cutback on ozone-depleting substances and the survival of many migratory endangered species. These improvements bring hope to solving other international environmental problems.

Her book explores this goal through theories and case studies in four areas: international environmental cooperation; the relationship between the environment and national security; the issue of science, uncertainty and risk when it comes to potential environmental solutions; and the role of international organizations in dealing with global challenges.

"The more we understand about the science of ecosystems, the more we realize that very local activities ultimately have global effects," says DeSombre, "and that the effects of environmental problems that appear to be only global, such as climate change or ozone depletion, are felt in specifically local ways."

DeSombre is Wellesley College's Frost Associate Professor of Environmental Studies and Associate Professor of Political Science. Her earlier book, Domestic Sources of International Environmental Policy: Industry, Environmentalists and U.S. Power (MIT Press, 2000), won the 2001 Chadwick Alger Prize for the best book published in 2000 in the area of international organization and the 2001 Lynton Caldwell Award for the best book published on environmental policy. She is currently writing a book on the environmental, labor and safety standards on ocean vessels.

Founded in 1875, Wellesley College has been a leader in liberal arts and the education of women for 125 years. The College's 500-acre campus near Boston is home to 2,300 undergraduate students.


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  • Date Modified: July 30, 2002
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