Peace Ecology: An Emerging Paradigm in Peace Studies

By Kyrou, Christos N. | International Journal of Peace Studies, Spring-Summer 2007 | Go to article overview

Peace Ecology: An Emerging Paradigm in Peace Studies


Kyrou, Christos N., International Journal of Peace Studies


Abstract

This article explores the peacebuilding potential of the environment beyond "environmental problems" from the perspective of two interactive and interacting paradigms: peace studies and environmental studies. A thorough investigation reveals ontological, axiological, epistemological, rhetorical and methodological overlaps; interdependencies; conflicts and; potential synergism from their "interaction." It suggests a theoretical framework, broad and integrative enough to allow a full understanding, functionally as well as philosophically, of the inherent capacities of the environment to inform and sustain peace. The new paradigm, inspired by the idea of environmental peacemaking, is called Peace Ecology.

Introduction

This article develops a theoretical framework that is wide and integrative enough to allow a broader understanding, functionally as well as philosophically, of the inherent capacities of the environment to inform and sustain peace. The new paradigm, inspired by the idea of environmental peacemaking, is called Peace Ecology.

Following is a short review of the parallel history of environmental studies and peace studies. It tracks the utilization in peace studies of an increasing number of themes and disciplines on one hand, and on the other, recent themes within environmental studies that make the environment academically relevant to conflict and peace, such as environmental security, and environmental peacemaking.

It then compares the peace studies and environmental studies paradigms, allowing for a more thorough examination of the intersection points between the two and revealing the space that Peace Ecology covers as a new theoretical framework. These intersections are examined through categories pertinent to most paradigms including ontological, epistemological, axiological, rhetorical, and methodological assumptions (Creswell 1994). The assumptions pertinent to Peace Ecology are then summarized via comparisons and syntheses between peace studies and environmental studies (Kyrou 2005; 2006).

Finally, using the Peace Ecology assumptions as building blocks, it offers a broadly grounded definition of "environmental peacemaking" and suggests derivative hypotheses for future research. It provides a Peace Ecology perspective on research, one suited to an integrative, multi-contextual, and case sensitive approach in identifying resources for conflict and violence transformation, located at the interface of peace and ecology.

Peace Studies: A Continuously Growing Field

Although some claim that it was already a defined field of study as early as the 1950s and 1960s, most peace studies programs have been established in the United States since the 1970s (Ramsbotham, Woodhouse, and Miall 2005). Peace studies has always been inherently multi-disciplinary, served originally by fields such as sociology (Kriesberg 1978), anthropology (Rubinstein and Foster 1988), political science (Brecher and Wilkenfeld 1997), psychology (Fisher 1990), and international relations (Lerche and Said 1979). In growing recognition of the multi-dimensional nature of conflict, the field gradually expanded its affiliation with other disciplines in two distinct directions. On one hand, it benefited by integrating useful epistemological, methodological, and even axiological ingredients from emerging fields of study such as human rights, communication, religious studies, and cultural anthropology. On the other hand, peace studies itself, with its vast theoretical and practical repertoire, contributed to many professional and academic fields such as environmental studies, social work, medical studies, public policy, diplomacy, management, and business.

The intersection of peace studies and environmental studies, and, more specifically, the potential of the environment to support peace is a relatively new area of inquiry. It stems from developments within environmental studies that set the stage for extending its scope to include issues of conflict analysis and peacebuilding. …

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