American Foreign Environmental Policy and the Power of the State

By Stephen Hopgood | Go to book overview

Introduction

It may seem perverse to be arguing for the relevance of the state in the era of the global village, an impression reinforced when international environmental politics constitute the subject matter. Few, if any, issues pose such complex problems both for the autonomy and sovereignty of states. Nevertheless, it is the argument of this book that an analysis of foreign environmental policy-making contributes significantly to an understanding of exactly how the growth of non-state actors and of awkward transnational issues impacts upon the state itself, the core institution for traditional theories of international relations. This project has two dimensions: a focus on explanations of foreign policy in the context of theories of the state and international relations, and an empirical assessment of how one state in particular has formulated its foreign environmental policy since 1965.

In the last thirty years, environmental politics have emerged as a major new issue on the international political agenda.1 Although environmental problems had been the subject of both national and international discussion before, events since the 1960s have represented a qualitative change. Prior to this, concern had focused largely on fears about the exhaustion of natural resources and the side-effects of industrial development. In 1909, for example, US President Theodore Roosevelt called a world conference on conservation (it was later cancelled by President Taft). Acid rain had been diagnosed as early as the seventeenth century and, in the

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1
Among the growing number of introductory guides to international environmental politics are Andrew Hurrell and Benedict Kingsbury (eds.), The International Politics of the Environment ( Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1992); Caroline Thomas , The Environment in International Relations ( London: RIIA, 1992); John McCormick , The Global Environmental Movement. Reclaiming Paradise ( London: Belhaven Press, 1989); Matthew Paterson, Global Warming and Global Politics ( London: Routledge, 1996); John Vogler and Mark F. Imber (eds.), The Environment and International Relations ( London: Routledge, 1996); Ian H. Rowlands, The Politics of Global Atmospheric Change ( Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1995); and Gareth Porter and Janet Welsh Brown, Global Environmental Politics ( Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1991).

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