“The use of the term ‘peace’ is in many circles still considered taboo, because immediately people think you are talking about something that is utopian,” said University of Vermont Professor Saleem Ali at a recent TEDx event on sustainability. “But I’m here to tell you that peace is pragmatic. Peace is possible.”
Ali points out the value of peace to every sector of society and, using an example from Ecuador and Peru, argues for the utility of the environment as a peacemaker. Other longstanding conflict areas like Cyprus, Iraq, Israel, and Korea are also ripe for environmental peacebuilding efforts, he says.
Professor Ali has written for The New Security Beat before on the strengths and weaknesses of viewing conservation and sustainability efforts through a strictly security lens. He points out that environmentalists must tread a fine line when assigning causality between the environment and conflict, but even when natural resources or climate are not central to a conflict, environmental peacebuilding can still play a role in creating shared ground (sometimes literally) between combatants.
“Ultimately, conflict trumps everything else” in terms of what we ought to be concerned with, Ali argues, and therefore, anyone, no matter their profession or capacity, should keep the pursuit of peace in mind – and all options on the table – when making decisions that affect others.