Earth Day during wartime (Part 1)

Sunday, April 22, is Earth Day. Today we honor the Earth by calling attention to the common goals of the peace and environmental sustainability movements.

But first, some context: Assessing the impact of war on the environment can be fraught with complexity, but here is a sampling of those effects:

It works the other way, too–that misuse, destruction, and scarcity of natural resources can be the cause of war.  Examples include conflicts over oil in the Middle East, rare metals in the Congo, food shortages and water scarcity in South Asia and throughout the world. More and more, climate disruption is becoming or is predicted (pdf) to be a source of conflict.

In other words, environmental degradation is a threat to global security.

As you celebrate Earth Day on Sunday, please consider what it will take to stop the intertwined scourges of warfare and environmental destruction. Even more important, make a commitment to do something about them.

Pat Daniel, Ph.D., Managing Editor of Engaging Peace

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3 Responses to Earth Day during wartime (Part 1)

  1. Gold Dust Twin says:

    What on earth CAN we do? Readers of Engaging Peace, HELP!

  2. Regina says:

    You never really stop to think about the physical effects that war has on our environment. We soon forget how these effects can snowball out of control. Admittedly, I don’t do as much as I should for the Earth. I recycle my bottles and cans, and I once volunteered to be part of the Green Team for Fenway Park (a great experience). Perhaps, this year, I will look into more ways I can help my environment. It’s difficult to see the potential benefit of my conservatory actions when war continues to destroy parts of the Earth.

  3. Brian says:

    This is important, and not something which is often enough seen in our current media. Environmental issues can never be fully separated from those relating to war, and any effort to do so usually reflects a level of ignorance as to the connection between them. It reaches deeper than simply the struggle to control resources or something like that; the enterprise of war is literally an anti-human – the species, not just individuals or groups – prospect. If we accept that the ways that war is undertaken cannot be changed, then we accept the degradation and destruction of our own planet, by our own hands.

    In a study about the fundamentals of peace in contemporary societies, De Rivera mentions that “a global solidarity against common threats to our Earth” is what needs to be cultivated. This is the most large-scale, relateable purpose for which we have the opportunity to unite. He also cites Boulding who says that a peaceful culture will “promote peaceful diversity by including patterns of behavior and institutional arrangements that promote mutual caring and successfully balance the need for autonomy with the need for relatedness.” This may be the key: balancing autonomy with relatedness. If a level of autonomy was maintained, accompanied by an increase of relatedness on a global scale (what De Rivera refers to as a “global state identity”), very significant changes to cultural structures and relationships – both interpersonal and international – could then be made. The level of peacefulness of one’s culture could become its most defining feature, and a level of “healthy competition” – as opposed to plain comparison – could be the motivation for a Worldwide shift into a more sustainable way of interacting with one’s environment as well as other individuals and groups. This all comes down to sounding like a lot of empty idealism, however the best chance we have at this kind of society seems to lie in a better balance between empirical and idealistic thinking concerning how attainable a peaceful future is for all who inhabit our planet. In this case idealism seems to come close to imagination; however, as is so often said, “you create your own reality.”

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