Matt McDonald, Ecological Security: Climate Change and the Construction of Security

Date01 October 2021
AuthorPaul Beaumont
Published date01 October 2021
Subject MatterBook Reviews
International Studies
58(4) 543 –547, 2022
© 2021 Jawaharlal Nehru University
Reprints and permissions:
DOI: 10.1177/00208817211052366
Book Review
Matt McDonald, Ecological Security: Climate Change and the
Construction of Security (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2021), 240 pp., US$ 99, ISBN: 978-1-3165-1961-5 (Hardcover).
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its Sixth Assessment
Report in August 2021. Summarizing the state of scientific understanding about
the role of human influence on climate change and possible climate futures, it
provided the starkest warning yet of the bleak future that awaits the planet and its
inhabitants should humanity not change its fossil-fuel habits. As UN Secretary-
General António Guterres put it, the report sounds a ‘code red for humanity’
(BBC, 2021). Coming on the back of a summer punctuated with extreme weather
events worldwide, the report was met with fewer sceptical voices than earlier
iterations. Yet, agreement over the nature of the problem is the easy part, the
difficulty remains in deciding who should do what and when. In other words,
tough distributional choices lie ahead, as the growing climate justice movement
It is against this backdrop that Matt McDonald publishes Ecological Security:
Climate Change and the Construction of Security. This book provides a radical
and unusually comprehensive normative framework–an ‘ecological security’
approach—for guiding efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change; one that
McDonald argues, provides a morally superior approach to those currently
employed within the climate-security policy agenda. Following Andrew
Linklater’s (1998) classic description of Critical Theory, the book moves in three
steps: (a) it conducts a sociological analysis of the dominant climate security
discourses and their deficiencies, (b) lays out an ethical case for ecological
security and (c) undertakes a praxeological analysis of the ‘immanent possibilities’
within existing institutions for advancing ecological security (p. 12). At each step,
McDonald draws upon an eclectic array of critical scholarship—feminism,
political ecology, green state theory, among others—and spends considerable
space engaging in good faith with would-be sceptics. Indeed, McDonald’s book
offers a tour de-forces and model for combining classic critique of the status quo
with a positive normative vision and most unusually, a sustained analysis of how
to practically bring it about.
The book’s introduction begins from the classic constructivist premise and
swiftly shows how linking climate to security was certainly not inevitable—there

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT