Environmental degradation triggers intense social conflict that is sometimes accompanied by violence. Pollution, natural resource depletion, and the rapid conversion of coastlines, wetlands, watersheds, and forests can have dramatically negative consequences for communities that depend on them for livelihoods and healthy environments. For example, the World Commission on Dams estimated that some 40-80 million people have been swept out of the way to make room for the world's large dams. Environmental protection initiatives can also trigger conflict and controversy, particularly when local communities are not consulted about the terms of their access to natural systems targeted for conservation.

If environmental degradation can trigger conflict, controversy, and violence, then environmental cooperation initiatives have great potential as peacemaking tools. The environment offers unique opportunities for countries that may differ politically, socially, or economically to join forces towards a common and positive goal: improving their environment. Initiatives such as peace parks, shared river basin management plans, regional seas agreements and joint environmental monitoring programs that combine politics and ecology are making headway in both the environmental movement and the peacemaking process.

To learn more, read the security brief by Ken Conca, Alexander Carius, and Geoffrey D. Dabelko.

Webchat: Building Peace Through Environmental Cooperation

Ken Conca, associate professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland and contributing author to State of the World 2005, answered questions about the exciting ways in which environmental cooperation is being used as a peacemaking tool.

To read the discussion, click here.

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