On Thursday, September 5th, I met with my mentor, Professor Shapiro, for 40 minutes to discuss my research. We reviewed the scholarship she had previously sent me, focusing on how the environmental security debate has shifted over the past 30 years due to other factors such as the end of the Cold War and 9/11. Professor Shapiro then discussed how this debate has shifted post 9/11 and how it may be shifting yet again due to the threat of climate change. I have been particularly interested in this shift relating to the increasing threat of climate change, as it was a question I have been wondering about as I read older scholarship on environmental security.
We also discussed common disciplines within the environmental security debate. Professor Shapiro outlined the environmental history, political science, political ecology, and sociology disciplines as different ways of examining the topic. She discussed the types of questions these different disciplines ask as well as the different methods they use. This is useful for me to think about additional areas of this subject I can research as I continue to build up my background knowledge around this topic.
I also shared my issues with developing a research question with Professor Shapiro. I have found it much more natural to jump to “how” questions that lead to policy recommendations rather they “why” questions, predominantly because most of the time I feel my “why” questions are easily answered. We discussed how to reframe my questions to be more exploratory, as well as what types of answers I was really interested in looking for. So far, narrowing down my topic to something I can develop an explanatory question about has been my biggest challenge that I am continuing to work through.
Throughout our conversation, Professor Shapiro recommended several different sources to continue my research, this time more focused around the US military’s role in environmental policy. She suggested I look at reports from the defense and state departments about environmental efforts already in place, as well as look at work done by Kent Butts, a professor who researched on the military and environment. We also discussed looking into environmental curriculum at military academies to see if these types of course are taught and what they entail.
Continuing forward I plan to follow Professor Shapiro’s suggestions on further research. My main goal at the current moment is to develop a stronger background in the current lay of the land for military efforts concerning the environment and how this fits into the general debate on security and the environment. I hope to use that research to develop a more clear, explanatory research question.