Propaganda dilemmas for environmental security

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Academic Conferences Limited


Computing, Health and Science


Computer and Information Science, Centre for Security Research




Originally published as: Hutchinson, W. (2008, January). Propaganda Dilemmas for Environmental Security. In ECIW2008-Proceedings of the 7th European Conference on Information Warfare and Security: ECIW (p. 103). Academic Conferences Limited. IEEE. Original article available here


The concept of environmental security is a problematic one. The scope of interest covers many worldviews and many non-linear elements. Because of this, it needs to be treated as a complex coercive situation (Flood and Jackson, 1991). However, propaganda campaigns need to reduce problems to a simple and unitary viewpoint to get the message across. Whilst this has been achieved in some adversarial and limited environmental conflicts, where there are defined opposing camps and a specific environmental problem, it has yet to be achieved in more complex issues such a 'climate warming'. These universal problems have been known but basically avoided for five decades. Governments are now taking them seriously but need to convince industry, other states, and populations not only to change their attitudes but also to change their behaviour. This process has a number of challenges as our economic, international relations, and military systems are all based on nation states and an anthropocentric, Hobbesian view of the world. In fact, the very systems that produce the problems are what the influence makers need to change. This paradox is even more accentuated if the ecological security stance is taken. This assumes humans are not outside the natural environment but an intrinsic part of it. This worldview, which many think is essential for environmental stability and human survival, not only needs to be sold to the international system but also to individuals and groups whose culture, and sometimes religious beliefs and practices, are antagonistic to the message being sent. In a sense, the 'Other' is 'Us' which flies in the face of conventional propaganda messages which are against the 'Other' and promote 'Us'. This paper examines the dilemmas of this 'messy' situation and the possible influence problems inherent in the stances taken. It will look at the three basic types of influence stages: compliance (using psychological operations), conformity (using propaganda and education), and conversion (using long term education and socialisation). All this is considered in the mix of economic, religious, and national aspirations and interests. The possible conflicts between techno-centric and eco-centric worldviews are also examined as well as existing conflicts that have resulted in eco-terrorism and resource wars. The paper posits a number of propaganda strategies that might open up a debate on this complex but immediate problem for which attitudinal and behavioural change is urgently required.