Sunday, 1 November 2020

A Green class analysis

I’ve seen several tweets recently, by socialist activists on Twitter that I have a lot of time for, bemoan the fact that Labour are being outflanked on a variety of issues by the Green Party, despite the Greens having ‘no class analysis’. Or, as one tweet read, ‘The Greens think a class analysis has something to do with Ofsted’. Which is a funny line, but simply not true. The Greens absolutely do have a class analysis, but it’s different and more expansive that that of Labour and the traditional Left, and rarely theorised.

Ecological degradation, exploding inequality and massive deregulation are contributing globally to deepening poverty, increasing authoritarianism, and a warming planet hurtling towards a devastating collapse of eco-systems on which our entire economy, health, welfare and way of life depends. With these issues threatening planet-wide chaos, a class analysis simply cannot be confined within the narrow boundaries of industrial class relations.

A traditional class analysis is drawn from the inherent conflicts between classes produced by the capitalist economic system, as a result of one class extracting wealth from another. A green class analysis finds no disagreement with this. It simply expands the analysis to acknowledge that this same class also extracts resources for its own control and denies it to others, unless in exchange for ever-greater profit.

Climate Justice Action Network
Climate Justice Action Network

At the heart of the malaise threatening our society, what is central to all things and all life, is relations of resource control. So a green analysis begins with the social forms of access and control over system-supporting resources, like fresh- and saltwater, arable land, crop genetics, fossil and renewable fuels, clean air, our labour, and even our daily non-work time, and asks who owns it, who controls it, who buys and sells it, and who is excluded from it. This broad framework does not begin and end with class, but instead includes how class, labour, ownership, control, processes and outcomes shape the social relations of resource production.

A green class analysis instead must begin with relations of resource use and control, or socio-ecological relations; that is, the entitlement by which individuals, households, communities and countries possess or gain access to resources within a global economy, a global economy expertly structured against the overwhelming majority of citizens. It starts at the intersection of power, politics, culture and political economy that reflect these socio-ecological relations.

This could be referred to as the Nature-Society dialectic. The dialectic that underpins a green class analysis questions how these forces impact working class, POC, LGBT and marginalised communities, and those least able to defend themselves: from individuals and households, to towns, countries, regions and, ultimately, in the case of climate change, globally: 

How can greater democracy improve the equity of resources distribution? 

How should work be valued? 

How can we prevent women and minority groups from being excluded from decision-making around resource access? 

Who wins and who loses from privatised commons? 

How is colonialism still shaping uneven access to resources and political power for non-western and non-white communities, in the UK and around the world? What can institutional reparations for the transatlantic slave trade, called for by the Green Party, look like? 

How can Green solidarity with the global feminist and LGBT movements, peace movement, indigenous movements translate into practical action in the UK?

How, ultimately, can we stop a capitalist economic system that can only exist by demolishing our planet, by exploiting our labour, and by oppressing marginalised groups?

How, and with what, can we replace it? 

These are some of the questions at the heart of green policy-making. The green analysis rests on a simple, fundamental belief: there is no environmental justice without social justice, without economic justice, or without racial justice and solidarity, here and around the world. While Labour was selling ‘Controls on immigration’ mugs in 2015, Greens were calling for new bank holiday to celebrate the contribution migrants make to the UK.

Greens see the environment as the crucible of class struggle and conflict over access to resources and resource control; air pollution, for example, kills 40,000 people a year in the UK, with people from poorer communities disproportionally affected. Decades before any other party, the Greens recognised and campaigned on clean air as a social justice issue; not just the need for clean air in general, but more importantly on the inherent injustice of wealthier people having access to the clean air working class people are deprived of.

Longstanding policies like the 4 day working week, universal basic income, the Green New Deal (which the UK Green Party helped create in 2009), a wealth tax, free university tuition, and free school meals are radical policies that have a number of consequences: improving the lives of millions of people and helping to decrease levels of the UK’s carbon emissions; allowing people a better work/life balance; ending the fear of hunger and homelessness; creating tens of thousands of well-paid jobs in the green sector; decreasing fuel poverty through free insulation schemes; ending child food poverty, ensuring that all schoolchildren receive at least one healthy, free meal a day (with the increase in attainment rates that follows). 

If the Green Party can be seen as the political expression of the environmental movement, then it should also be at the forefront of standing in solidarity with the union movement. Democratic industrial and trade union policies need to set out how a fully unionised, democratised industrial policy can re-orient the political economy away from one of simple capital accumulation, and aimed towards a democratically-controlled industrial and energy sector. This, if nothing else, is absolutely critical in tackling the climate crisis. 

Green policy to strengthen trade unions goes further than that of the Labour Party, because it also recognises that strong trade unions, woven into every industrial sector from boardroom to workplace, is critical for organised working class mobilisation. This will be crucial in ensuring that the already-locked-in effects of climate change are distributed equitably, as those effects will be suffered worse by those least able to escape or adapt.

Policies like some of these, made by Green Party members, with no influence from industrial or political lobbyists, also act as transitional demands on capitalism, calling for structural changes that place a strain on capitalism’s capacity to exploit people and nature, and agitates towards the goal of a more equal, democratic society.

The central difference between a traditional class analysis, that foregrounds employment and working conditions, and a green analysis, is that the latter expands and builds on industrial relations to include these relations of resource production.

The best example of this divergence could be found on the issue of fracking. Fracking is a dangerous and unnecessary energy process, the last vicious gasp of the dying fossil fuel industry. It devastates local eco-systems, rendering land infertile and water polluted, making tap water unsafe to drink and farms unable to grow crops. This has the knock-on effect of a loss of employment and business in the local area, which then sees population displacement as those who can afford to move away. 

Fracking sites are nearly always built in areas where poor or marginalised people live; those most unable to fight back. Greens see fracking not just as a pollution issue but, like access to clean air, an issue of social justice. While a traditional labour analysis saw Labour MPs in 2015, under pressure from unions whose members are drawn from the fracking industry, largely abstain on a vote to ban this incredibly polluting industry, Green politicians were being arrested at community-led anti-fracking demonstrations. 

A green analysis is based on four pillars of ecological action, social justice, grassroots democracy and nonviolence, reflected in a commitment to a just transition not only away from fossil fuels, but also from the UK’s arms and nuclear weapons industry. A just transition based on these four pillars focuses on providing ‘green-collar’ training and jobs in green energy and sustainable industries, which puts workers and livelihoods at the centre of the change.

The Earth is spiralling towards an ecological collapse, and with it an economic system on which a traditionally-defined analysis of class relations is constructed. But questioning the unequal power relations in the ownership of the planet’s resources, and therefore who controls not just the means of production but also the social relations of production – who suffers from resource control, and at whose hands - will be the central defining issue of the decades to come. 

There is still so much more to be done, and we will get a lot wrong along the way. But building these issues into a robust class analysis, and placing class issues at the heart of policy-making for an uncertain future, makes the green analysis, for now, the only one fit for the 21st Century.

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Iranian pro-footballer refugee plays first game in UK for Lancaster reserve team

A team from the programme that I took to a
7 a-side competition. We won.
Since September 2019 I've run the football integration programme in Lancaster, organising (and refereeing) a weekly football game for refugees, asylum-seekers and native Lancastrians to come down and play together. 

Most people who come are folk from all corners of the world who just love to play, but back in January one lad turned up who really was in a different league. Turns out that, before fleeing Iran for his life, Aidin was a professional footballer who used to play in the Persian Premier League. He asked if I could help him play more regular football, and for a proper team, something more than just a once a week kickabout like our programme.

So, after a few enquiries, and after a massive COVID-related delay, Aidin finally made his debut for Galgate FC Reserves, in the West Lancashire League. I'm sure it's not quite Persian Premier League-level, but everyone starts somewhere. I was on the sidelines cheering him on like a goddamn proud father!

Here's the full story from the good people at the Lancaster Guardian.

Iranian pro-footballer refugee plays first game in UK for Lancaster reserve team

Aidin Hamouni, 22, who fled Iran and arrived in Lancaster last year said he was "very happy" after being brought on as a half time sub for Galgate's Reserve team against Coppull United Reserves.

By Nick Lakin

Tuesday, 20th October 2020, 2:48 pm

Galgate lost 4-1 at home, and striker Aidin didn't manage to score, but he said after the game that he was "very happy" and his long term goal was to play professional football in England.

Aidin arrived in Lancaster last year, and said he was forced to flee Iran because he converted to Christianity.

He played football professionally for Azar Kosar Tabriz in the Persian 3rd Division, after rising through the youth ranks of Machine Sazi in the Persian Pro League.

He has now been granted leave to remain in the UK, and started playing five-a-side football through an integration programme bringing asylum seekers, refugees and Lancastrians together for a game every Wednesday evening.

Matt Hanley, from Lancaster, who runs the sessions, said: "One day after a game, Aidin asked if, as a professional footballer in Iran, I could help find him a proper club to play for in his new hometown.

"Galgate FC has been really friendly and supportive since he started training with them.

"Like most immigrants and refugees I work with, Aidin is kind, humble and immensely grateful to Lancaster for welcoming him so warmly after fleeing persecution in his home country.

"I really hope he can establish himself in the Galgate first team soon, and after that, who knows."

Aidin said: "It was nice after a long time to be able to play my first match.

"It's been a year since I last played football. I'm very happy. I love football, it was my life and I now hope to be picked for the first team.

"Lancaster is a good city, good people, I have friends here.

"My dream is to be a big football player here in England."

Monday, 6 July 2020

Calva Louise - Interview

By Matt Hanley

Originally published over at Boot Music

If you’ve missed rocking on the indie dancefloor during lockdown, then Calva Louise are here to pat your hand and let you know with a smile, ‘It’s not long now’.

This is a band on the way. Their debut album Rhinoceros, released in 2019, arrives at breakneck speed, all punk attitude and Caesars guitars, pogo-ing about between 60s girlband melodies and lead singer Jess Allanic’s 21st Century full-throated demands. And it barely lets up for 10 excellent songs of latin-tinged electro-indie, launched with love from outer space.

Not long after Rhinocerus, their first EP, 'Interlude for The Borderline Unsettled' saw them move seamlessly Muse-esque grandiose, songs soaring into the cosmos with a confidence startling in a new band. 

Crashing into 2020 armed with Albert Hammond Jr (The Strokes) as a champion of the band, and plaudits from BBC Radio 1, Clash, The Line of Best Fit and Radio X, they’ve once again set the Earth in their crosshairs and fired at us their new EP ‘POP(urri)’, setting loose …Borderland and letting it run rampant in the shop. 

"Rhinoceros represented for us an opportunity to move forward. We were recording some songs when we got offered to do the album and we took it, we didn’t overthink it as we knew this was the only way for us to move on. Then our EP '…Borderline Unsettled' was for us the evolution that made us understand more who we are as a band!"

Of the new EP, Camino is a thumping electronic beast, dark and urgent, with an electric indie squall and driving heart. At its core, though, is a simple ode to the eternally dissatisfied: tearing everything up and starting again: 'Let's figure out a plan, Going back to square one’. In the end, after any pretence is stripped away, all any of us have left is what’s locked away inside us: ‘Looking behind, What is left of me, Of this mind.'

Lead single Pop(urri) is closer to the indie spirit of Rhinoceros. If one song could be a flourishing summary of their ace debut album, it’s this. Arriving with a stylish video of neon lines freaking across the night sky above a Tron landscape, the Spanish and English electronica underpins an indie skittishness. It beams its message ‘Alienation to the ones that break the peace!’ direct to Earth over the intergalactic superhighway.  "This second EP is the continuation of the path we took with our first EP, it came out of us at a moment when we felt that we couldn’t care less about the status quo. We have been told that we need to stick to what we are supposed to be, to stifle the evolution we wanted to take. "

"So, after many months feeling a little bit like outcasts, we realised that we should be able to do what we want, and so we decided that we should have fun and ride our own wave! There is inevitable change and we like to follow wherever our hearts take us!"

If there is a constant to Calva Louise, it’s their magpie thievery of genre and influence, reflecting the band’s roots in Venezuela, France and New Zealand. "There are a lot of Latino influences in our music, like Calle 13, Molotov, Cafe Tacuba and Canserbero". Lyrics sang in Spanish and English infiltrate their songs, something rarely heard in the monolingual Anglo indie world. "That’s what POP(purri) is all about, the acceptance of our identity and that it is alright to feel different, we don’t need to belong somewhere to be somebody". A cosmopolitanism in short supply on these shores, where, according to the UK government, to belong everywhere is to belong nowhere.

Calva Louise is the eventual destination of three long-time musicians: "We all started playing instruments pretty young. I started when I was 10 playing with my dad’, says Jess. ‘Alizon started around the same age playing cello and same for Ben playing drums. There were many different bands that inspired us from the start: Ben was really into skatepark-rock, Alizon into Pink Floyd and I was into the 70s rock my parents listen to."

"We formed in London in August 2016. Alizon and I went to school together and decided to move to London where we played a bit together and met Ben at a gig. Then we asked him if he wanted to record some demos with us and then the band started!"

And the unusual name of the band? "There is this play called ‘The Bald Soprano’ by Romanian-French playwright Eugene Ionesco (Calva means 'bald' in Spanish).  I studied him at school and saw the play in Spanish. It was the most absurd thing, but also very funny and it kind of reflected what was happening to the band at the time. Since life can be absurd and funny at the same time, we felt the name almost acted like a metaphor for what we were going through as a band."

After four years of honing their sound through relentless touring and with two extraordinary EPs and an album brewing a heady compound in their Molotov cocktail, Calva Louise are ready to explode onto the national indie scene.

Pop(urri) EP OUT 31ST JULY

Monday, 25 May 2020

Notes from a PhD. Peace beyond boundaries: Catalysing cooperation between warring countries through conservation?

The political process underpinning environmental peacebuilding is a fascinating one (read my earlier post for more on EPB). At its core it attempts to turn on its head the accepted view that environmental stresses (diminishing arable farmland, reducing freshwater etc) will lead inexorably to forced migration, poverty, instability and, ultimately, violent conflict and resource wars (mainly, of course, in the developing world). This view has seeped into the international security debate at the highest levels – in 2007 climate change was discussed within this narrative at the UN Security Council, and has since developed into a dangerously militarised ‘environmental security’ discourse.

However, this view fails to demonstrate how environmental degradation and rivalry over shared natural resources might actually lead to cooperation over its conservation, by mitigating pollution or stresses for the states affected. The cooperation built from this can then be utilised as an entry point into peace negotiations between conflicting states as habits of collaboration, increase in trust, and decrease in mutual suspicion spill over into greater regional unity in wider political arenas outside of conservation.

For instance: the countries involved in my case study are Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Rwanda;  three states that have, largely as a consequence of British and Belgian colonial-era policies, been kicking lumps out of each other pretty much since independence in the mid-20th Century. The Greater Virunga Transboundary Collaboration (GVTC) is a transboundary conservation programme, created in 2006/7: a single, huge, unified park that crosses the borders of the three countries, managed by a sole authority supported and funded by the governments of the three partner states. And the conservation goal at the heart of the GVTC? Saving and supporting the last remaining community of mountain gorillas in the world.

That environmental peacebuilding has saved the mountain gorilla from extinction, and seen its numbers increase exponentially, is clear (from near extinction in 1980s to 1000 in the 2019 census). 

What is less clear, however, is whether the political process at the heart of environmental peacebuilding in the region has led to greater cooperation, increased levels of trust, and decreasing levels of suspicion in other regional political arenas. Events of the last decade suggest not.

Why might this be the case? Why hasn’t the successful cooperation and collaboration between those three nation states over a localised conservation programme not translated to further regional political cooperation in other arenas?

Critics of environmental peacebuilding point to the obligation that successful transboundary conservation in a conflict area necessarily depoliticises an issue, rendering stresses and solutions purely at technical levels – in this case, anti-poaching measures, improved gorilla monitoring, greater communication between rangers, best-practice sharing – and removes the political issues at the heart of the conflict. Indeed, this reflects the view that cooperation over environmental stresses obliges states to introduce engineers and scientists to address conservation issues, professions bound by international cooperation, that often exist outside of and unaffected by political conflicts of their governments.

(It also lends weight to my increasingly-held belief that people all over the world just want to get on with each other and live quiet, happy lives, and it’s politicians that fuck everything up!)

This ‘depoliticisation’ of a conflict, the introduction of technical cooperation at the expense of the political, might well see success in its conservation aims. But by failing to address the source of the political conflict, any high-level collaboration will likely flounder outside of those strict technical boundaries (see the wonderful Good Water Neighbours project, a freshwater conservation programme in the river Jordan basement between Israeli, Palestinian and Jordanian communities).

Informal cooperation between the three countries over gorilla conservation in the region began in 1991, funded by western-backed NGOs, bringing together staff of the contiguous national parks on either side of the border where the gorillas roamed. In 2005, the governments of the three partner states signed a joint declaration on conservation, confirming high-level political support for the aims of the GVTC.

Using this case study and the environmental peacebuilding political process – catalysing transboundary conservation as an entry point to peace (in its broadest sense) – my research focusses on the exact moment that low-level informal cooperation created and maintained by the IGCP led to high-level formal political cooperation between the three partner-state governments in such a region of violence and conflict:

- How do different organisations and institutions that have different objectives and policies cooperate over diminishing shared ecological resources?

- How does political cooperation emerge from a common technical behaviour and language that depoliticises a region?

- How do the ahistorical effects of technical cooperation around conservation of a shared ecological resource escalate to political cooperation?

Basically, environmental peacebuilding in the Virunga Massif has led to successful localised transboundary cooperation and conservation efforts in a region torn by decades of conflict. But has that cooperation led to greater political cooperation between the three states, and led further to greater levels of peace in the region? If not, why? And what lessons can we learn from this case study that can be used for further international peacebuilding and conservation efforts.

And, crucially, can environmental peacebuilding really help prevent future dystopian resource wars as, and here’s the terrifying rub, climate change begins to destroy our system-supporting resources?

Here's where I come in...

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Notes from a PhD: Why Environmental Peacebuilding?

Why study a PhD, and why environmental peacebuilding? 

This is hopefully the first in the series of occasional blog posts based around my PhD at Lancaster University's Environment Centre. They are written more for myself, as good training to set down and articulate my thoughts on current reading and research investigation, and using accessible, informal (normal) language rather than bleak academia 

This first post is simply why I decided on a PhD, why specifically a PhD exploring environmental peacebuilding and resource security, and why I think it’s important enough to dedicate the next 3 years of my life (at least) to it.  


Jacques Derrida. French.
Jacques Derrida was a 20th Century French theorist who wrote about the creative potential borne of an interchange of events - any play that occurs between different entities or systems - when discussing the creation of ideas or language. He was interested in how ideas emerge from encounters with difference or strangeness, and how the germs of those ideas might develop into forward action. He asked what comes next to the person to who this process happens, how they might ‘make way’ for any ideas that are forthcoming or ‘incoming’ from possibly beyond our usual circle of experience and familiarity. These changes, he said, are triggered by incoming elements and disruptive movements.  

He termed this incoming an ‘event’. This event, says Derrida, is set in motion by something that calls upon and addresses us, overtakes or surprises and even maybe overwhelms us, to which we must respond, and so be responsive and responsible: ‘A sort of animal movement seeks to appropriate what always come from, always, from an external provocation’. When discussing research, particularly a PhD research project, it’s an interesting thought experiment to explore from what elements, what ‘external provocation', the event that leads to the research emerged.   
Derrida places emphasis on changes that are triggered by incoming elements, in a reality that is constantly in motion and ceaselessly self-transforming; what the world does, rather than what it is. He also noticed that these incoming elements are rarely a singular event, but a weave of circumstances in which our own position as the researcher, or observer, and our reaction to them, is simply one element of the mix, rather than the main overriding focus; our appearance in the weave of elements is a force as central, no more or no less, to every other element that leads to an event. We all have that event, that combination of elements that just happened to weave together at a particular time in a particular place and leads us to develop an idea on which our research is now building. The weave of elements that led to my PhD came due to an already-existing academic interest in the global warming regime (undergrad), 15 years in frontline politics, in antifascist, refugee and environmental organising, the 2015 so-called refugee crisis, and...  

Photo from (
One cold winter afternoon in Berlin in 2016 I stood with a small group of fellow antifascists, squaring up to about 3000 right-wing anti-immigrant arseholes as they marched through the city’s Government quarter, chanting ‘We are the people’ and ‘Merkel must go!’. These scumbags were protesting the arrival of refugees from the MENA (Middle East and north Africa) region, but who were mostly Syrians escaping the civil war.  

In 2015 we watched masses of desperate people fleeing the violence and chaos of their home countries, seeking refuge within Europe’s safe borders. Europe’s political institutions were ill-prepared for this wave of refugees, seemingly wrong-footed by the scale of arrivals. The total breakdown of care was such that European governments allowed people in their country to live in squalid camps set up around where refugees landed, or at the borders they were trying to cross, or were forced to beg or steal to survive. It was left largely to charities, humanitarian groups and volunteers to pick up the slack, to provide basic care and provisions, and to fish people and bodies out of the Mediterranean Sea. 

Farage. Arsehole.
At the same time we watched in horror at how far-right politicians exploited these enforced conditions, whipped up the threat and exploited the fear of immigration for political gain, from UKIP in the UK to the Le Front Nationale in France, and in Germany, with the meteoric rise of the anti-immigrant, Islamophobic Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD). In one way or another, the electoral cudgel of immigration can be identified in the Brexit mess, and has given strength to the far-right agendas of the likes of Boris Johnson, Farage, OrbanSalvini, Trump, Erdoğan and other spectacular dicks. This some way is a response to western political institutions failing so ineptly to manage the humanitarian crisis on our doorstep. 

As I stood in Berlin, watching 3000 faces screwed up in anger and spitting hate against people with dark skin and funny accents escaping war and violence, I thought, this is just the start.  

Diagram from the good people at Climate Migration
As climate change condemns more vulnerable communities and countries to system-supporting resource scarcity; as fresh water shortages become more critical; as arable land becomes less fertile and crops fail; as sea rises begin to engulf lower-lying regions; as conflicts become greater and more severe due to diminishing resources; and as extreme weather brings with it drought and disease, the rush of forcibly-displaced people seeking safety in Europe and developed-world countries is sure to increase exponentially.  

What has been happening since 2015 isn’t going to go away. Climate change will get worse. 2015 isn’t an anomaly; it is the beginning. We in the wealthy developed world had best get used to it, instead of doing nothing and hoping it will all just go away. It won’t. If we continue to do nothing, more people will be turned into (climate) refugees, the camps will grow, more people will drown, and the far-right will get stronger. And then we all lose. 

Although there is academic disagreement between a few of the links below (there is disputed current evidence for step 3, for example, and there is no inevitability of the link between steps 5 and 6 if European governments provide political and institutional solutions) my thought process goes like this: 

1) Climate change worsens >> 2) system-supporting resource loss >> 3) violent conflict over diminishing system-supporting resources in vulnerable countries >> 4) forced displacement of people fleeing violence >>5) mass migration to Europe >> 6) far-right and fascism grows across Europe. 

Well-meaning campaigns from environmental, refugee and antifascist NGOs (that I spent 15 years working for) can only offer sticking plasters to this sequence. It has to be dealt with at step 1, at the source. Only a massive, sustained and well-financed effort from the developed world with the aim of tackling climate change right now can halt the sequence above. But as the world is run by political dwarves and pygmies, this is as unlikely as it sounds.  Without that effort, political action from countries can only really deal with step 6, can only address what is happening within their borders.  

So, we must accept that climate change will happen (indeed, is happening).  

(Which is, in itself, an existential crisis. Throughout history there has always been hope that things will get better. If you live under a sadistic king – he will die; an authoritarian regime – all regimes crumble eventually; an occupation – the occupying force will leave or be chased out. But I think this is the first time in human history that we can categorically say that things will only get worse!) 

We cannot (will not) prevent the ecological collapse – addressing step 1 is out. It's a question now of slowing it or preventing a warming of over 2oC and the devastating, irreversible consequences that follow such a rise. 

So, onto step 2 and 3. The received wisdom is that the depletion of system-supporting resources (fresh water, arable land etc) will lead to or accelerate violent conflict between resource users. However, if we can somehow improve efforts of system-supporting resource conservation so that it doesn’t become a source of resource conflict in the first place, then we will go some way to preventing a major cause of the forced displacement of people, whether seeking areas with better resource access, or fleeing from violent resource conflict. Even better, if that shared resource can somehow be catalysed as a peacebuilding platform, a conservation process around which two (potentially) conflicting countries can unite, then the conservation of that resource has the potential to become a source of both human and resource security. 

For example, if two conflicting countries share a body of fresh water that they both rely on for agriculture, sanitation or as drinking water, it is in both countries’ interests that that water isn’t polluted. Pollution doesn’t care about borders: if one country pollutes the water and renders it unusable, that pollution will cross the border and the water will be unusable for both countries. Even at a very technical, scientific level, both countries are forced to cooperate in order to protect and conserve their shared resource. The ‘spill-over’ effects (lower levels of suspicion, higher levels of trust and familiarity, increased norms of working together), so the theory goes, is that local communities from both countries will be brought into the conservation efforts, which will bring in local, municipal or regional political interests, and so on, rippling up the political and societal ladder.  

This initial process has then potentially acted as an entry point into peace negotiations between the conflicting countries; the resource has been a catalyst towards peace (human security) and cooperation around conservation (resource security). 

Israeli and Palestinian communities working together
to conserve freshwater in the diminishing Jordan
Valley basement (photo from FoE Middle East)
In the shadow of climate change, environmental peacebuilding has the potential to become a virtuous circle of security in countries and communities vulnerable to climate shocks. Utilising a shared transboundary system-supporting resource as a source of cooperation could potentially move a situation from one of conflict to one of peace, establishing greater human security (stopping people getting killed). The spill-over effects of such cooperation could lead to greater resource conservation (resource security), which could lead to greater political cooperation (human security), towards greater environmental cooperation (resource security) and so on.  

Environmental peacebuilding reflects the frustration with the limitations of traditional environmental security (that conflict will erupt around resource scarcity), which fails to demonstrate how environmental degradation and rivalry over natural resources might not automatically lead to conflict. The ‘environmental peace perspective’ has the potential to exploit shared ecological challenges to instead stimulate peace and cooperation. It seeks to place socially just forms of natural resource conservation at the heart of conflict prevention, utilising a shared natural resource to move a situation from conflict towards peace, while also potentially conserving the resource for equal distribution and management. 

In the next blogpost I’ll talk more fully about the processes and theory of environmental peacebuilding. 

As people are often keen to point out (including my PhD supervisors!), this may all sound hopelessly naïve, but if developed into general international peacebuilding policy I see the potential of environmental peacebuilding as a speck of light in the descending climate darkness: waging peace, preserving life, preventing conflict, halting forced migration, preventing the creation of refugees, giving fascists one less excuse - it’s something worth dedicating my time to.