Environmental Pathways to Peace

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Environmental Studies



Publication Title

Routledge Handbook of Environmental Conflict and Peacebuilding


Introduction: environmental challenges as peace opportunities?

Over the past fifteen years, a growing body of scholarship and practice has embraced the possibility that the environment, so often identified as a source of conflict, can instead be a catalyst for peace. This research agenda -- often referred to as 'environmental peacemaking' or 'environmental peacebuilding' -- developed to challenge the conventional wisdom that environmental degradation and natural resource scarcities were an important new trigger or driver of violent conflict. Its proponents suggested that if environmental dynamics create or increase the risk of conflict, then it must also be possible to use the environment proactively and cooperatively, as a point of departure for strengthening the conditions for peace. Such opportunities have been theorized to exist at all stages of the so-called 'conflict cycle', including conflict prevention, conflict management, conflict resolution, and post-conflict recovery. They have been posited to work through a range of mechanisms, including the reduction of grievances, the identification of opportunities for joint gains, the deepening of trust, the institutionalization of new practices and relationships that can channel disputes away from violence, and the transformation of conflict identities.


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