Environmental Dimensions of Peace and Conflict Studies
Ross Ryan

Environmental issues have long been a reference point for research and debate within the field of peace and conflict studies, the relative importance of which continues to increase as the relationship between human and ecological wellbeing becomes more clear, and environmental consciousness rises in social scholarship more generally.

One particularly significant line of inquiry has been to address the implications of inequality in the distribution of water and other resources on patterns of social interaction. As emphasized in our first article, “Current Trends in Water Management in Central Asia” by Guli Yuldasheva & Umida Hashimova, the realities of resource distribution may lead to negotiation and cooperation among political groups just as readily as it may lead to competition and the threat of organized violence. In post-Soviet Central Asia, the authors argue, the scales of this balance can be tipped towards peace and development if regional consciousness and an ability to compromise for mutual benefit are given political expression.

As environmental considerations have become intertwined with varying ideologies, including those of economic growth and development, another area of research has opened in order to investigate new tensions that have arisen between competing environmental policy agendas. Robert Fletcher’s article, “When Environmental Issues Collide: Climate Change and the Shifting Political Ecology of Hydroelectric Power”, offers a timely analysis of such conflicting priorities within environmental politics, illustrated by the Pacuare River in Costa Rica, where competing discourses of clean energy through hydroelectric power and conservation through ecotourism have come to a head.

Abosede Babatunde’s analysis of “Environmental Conflict and the Politics of Oil in the Oil-Bearing Areas of Nigeria’s Niger Delta” moves the discussion towards a consideration of overt armed conflict, and demonstrates the role of both resource endowment and environmental justice in the manifestation of political violence.

At the nexus of theory and practice, Asaf Zohar, Stuart Schoenfeld, and Ilan Alleson’s case study of the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies testifies to the potential of environmental education to transcend ethnic and political divides, and to contribute to peacebuilding in Israel and Palestine, while seeking solutions to common environmental challenges faced by the wider region.

Gwendolyn Smith’s ethnographic surveys and conflict vulnerability analysis of traditional communities in Ecuador and Suriname also speak to the importance of matching theory with practice, in this case, as a means to ensure that conservation projects for the mitigation of anthropogenic climate change contribute in an appropriate way to peacebuilding and development in marginal communities.

I am grateful to all the authors for their contributions to this special issue of the Peace and Conflict Review, as well as to our board of editors, and the Department of Environment and Peace at the University for Peace, particularly Dr Mahmoud El Zain.

Ross Ryan
Managing Editor

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