Climate and Peace
The Pentagon calls climate change a threat multiplier. Drought and desertification of agricultural land destabilized Syria and Mali, and millions of people have suffered from the ensuing violence. Conflict over water looms over India, Pakistan, and China, three nations bristling with nuclear weapons. Control over access to water is a key issue in the territorial struggle between Israelis and Palestinians. When there’s not enough food, water, shelter, or work, violence can thrive.
While some places have too little water, others have too much, and virulent storms and flooding have also affected millions of people. The number of climate and war refugees continues to grow, with no solutions in sight.
The United States puts the military at the center of its approach to foreign conflict. The military uses staggering quantities of resources—land, people, money, and technological research—but offers few real solutions and in fact often makes matters worse. U.S. planning for dealing with the global unrest caused or abetted by climate disruption mostly centers around military thinking. That violence begets violence is not a lesson our nation has learned yet.
Working to stop climate change is interchangeable with working for peace. Both movements are based on a reverence for life and desire not to destroy it, a realization that the world is interconnected, and a commitment to a more equal world. Many peace activists are also climate activists.
How can we best translate these moral, economic and strategic connections into effective collaboration? Do peace and climate activists share a similar timetable for action? Are we working in the same venues? Trying to reach the same people? Is there agreement that we won’t make the changes needed until we tackle exploitive capitalism?
At MAPA’s November 21 sustainable security conference, speakers highlighted some potentially linking issues: campaign finance reform; a new economy that is greener and fairer, with less money for the military and more for creating assets like transit, education, renewables; and promoting peaceful alternatives to international conflict, including negotiation. Might we come together more deliberately to work on 2016 elections, or to promote the people’s budget in Congress?
A new MAPA task force, partnering with climate justice advocates, will look at these questions with the goal of helping to make our work for change more effective. Join us as we tackle these key questions. Contact the office.
For the peace movement the Iran nuclear accord was a breakthrough, a moment when negotiation overcame war mongering. For the climate movement, the Paris climate agreement was a breakthrough, as the world’s nations finally came together to commit to taking action. Let’s build on this momentum.