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
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
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