Let's make it a green peace
Today (21 September), around the globe, we mark Peace Day 2016 knowing that for many peace is nowhere to be found; not today, and unless things change dramatically in many places, not any time soon.
2015 saw the number of refugees and displaced people reach record numbers – surpassing even post-World War II. It is with heavy hearts that we follow the news from around the world: the images are heartbreaking: a terrified child, a ruined hospital, a capsized boat, a city bombed to the ground, a community at the end of their tether. For every image that catches the media attention, many others go unnoticed. Suffering and grief beyond comprehension and beyond the limits of what people should have to endure, are the daily reality for many.
And while we cannot pretend to comprehend, we can, and must, ask ourselves – what must we do?
For Greenpeace, this is a question we grapple with, hold ourselves accountable to: how do we contribute to making our world more green and peaceful? Answers are not straightforward and are never sufficient. Collaborating with and supporting other non-governmental organisations, partners and communities opposing violence is one step in the right direction. Using our skills to help those impacted by conflict is another. These are necessary and important but are also after the fact.
One additional answer, one that we are passionate about, is – speaking up against the idea that the only way to achieve security is through military might and that borders and weapons hold the key to a peaceful existence. Instead, we believe we must work to address the root causes leading to conflicts, to try and prevent them from occurring, or escalating in the first place. We must all work alongside communities to identify non-violent solutions to problems.
War is the ultimate challenge to peace; violence is the most extreme form of threat. But peace cannot be solely defined by the absence of war or conflict. This is not just playing with words.
It underpins what approach we take to achieving peace. Governments spend a fortune on ‘defense’ – guns, bombs, war planes and the ultimate weapon – nuclear weapons. By comparison there is currently very little focus on and very little time and money spent on proactively preventing conflict.
The twentieth century model of security, based on military might, is no longer applicable. The notion that weapons are the way to safety, military dominance is a mark of superiority, and “what happens over there stays over there” are powerful myths that many see only leading to more violence and suffering and rarely resolving conflict. Peace in the 21st century means more than the absence of war.
We need to replace a narrow paradigm, a national security approach based on military might, and a fear of those different from ourselves with one that reflects a broader understanding of true security – human security. Human security focuses on protecting and promoting the dignity, empowerment and fulfilment for all people. It means not only protecting people from threat, but creating the kind of environmental, social, political, and economic systems that support and enhance people flourishing alongside each other and their environment.
A healthy environment is key to human security. Caring for the environment is a necessity, not a luxury. Our fates and that of the natural world are intimately connected. We humans cannot survive, nor live peacefully, without a healthy, functioning environment.
Nobel Peace Laureate Willy Brandt once said: “Peace is not everything, but without peace everything is nothing.” This logic applies even more-so to the natural world that provides us with the basis for our very existence.
Much of the damage we are inflicting on our planet is irreversible. We are now at a critical juncture, a tipping point, where overstepping our planetary boundaries is leading us down a path to growing instability, resource scarcity, fear, crisis and potential conflict. Some of the adverse impacts of climate change are already unavoidable. Crisis will continue to occur. It is how we choose to respond that matters.
Resource scarcity (water, arable land, energy) does not have to lead to conflict. In fact, research shows that often, it can create the conditions for rival parties to cooperate.
Sharing our scarce resources fairly and protecting the global Commons for us all are two essential ways to achieve a green and more peaceful world.
We can address the issues of growing resource scarcity and the local and global impacts of climate change by promoting sustainable options to resource scarcity.
Take energy for example. Conflicts are always complex, but around the world, the quest for resources and conflict often go hand-in-hand. Current conflicts in Iraq, Ukraine, Sudan, the South China Sea to Nigeria are all to an extent, linked to the ownership, access and transport of fossil fuels.
“Resource wars” are not new. But today we can overcome them. Energy is a key example for how transitioning to sustainable, clean renewable sources, could not only reduce conflict, but make life easier and more bountiful for billions. Worldwide 1.3 billion people – equivalent to 18% of global population – continue to live without access to electricity. 2.6 billion people are without clean cooking facilities. This is a problem especially for displaced people and refugees. Renewable energies are already helping to transform lives around the world, and Greenpeace is doing our part contributing to this by both mapping the road to 100% renewable energy for all, as well as working on the ground connecting people (for example in India, Italy and Lebanon).
Our vision is for a world where the intimate, symbiotic relationships between peace and the environment are cherished and acted upon. We stand for a world where people co-exist peacefully with one another and with nature. We stand for a world where the limits of our resources are respected, celebrated and shared. But to get there we must choose cooperation over conflict. We must choose equity and sustainability over greed, human dignity and courage over exploitation.
We stand for peace.
And as one of our founders said: Let´s make it a green peace.
Co-written by Jennifer Morgan and Bunny McDairmid – Executive Director Greenpeace International (a shared leadership role)