Enter Peacemaking… Conflict Transformation Across Borders

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In my studies in international relations at St. Mary’s University, I have written often on various challenges surrounding accelerating climate change. This research has included examining the unintended consequences of largescale conservation work, the demands of indigenous rights, and the policy implications of, in one case, climate-driven earthquakes. But mid-way through the program, I was exposed to the field of peace studies and pioneering peace studies scholars like Johan Galtung, Kenneth and Elise Boulding, and John Paul Lederach.

The experience threw a major tilt into my academic interests. My subsequent “discovery” of environmental peacemaking theory and practice shifted my thinking further. I began to consider how I could take this creative approach to the study and reporting on local, regional, and global environmental challenges and twine it with my reporting projects.

The development of the online news site, Deceleration.news, is an attempt to bring these worlds together: environmental journalism, conflict transformation, environmental peacemaking, mental health and wellness. The hope, as I would later write on the site’s About page, is about “seeking solutions rather than merely chronicling pains.”

[Please welcome Marisol Cortez, who brings an intellectual (and full-hearted) heft to the initiative. Here is her inaugural post, reporting back from the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment in Detroit.]

Over time, I noticed that just working from a solutions- and health-based approach when approaching so many colliding crises injected a new enthusiasm to my work on environmental justice issues. And this vision of the creation of new interpersonal and trans-boundary relationships is probably what allowed me to pursue an opportunity as an organizer after a friend alerted me to an opening in my adopted hometown of San Antonio. It was, put most simply, an opportunity to dig deeper into relationship for common good. To labor from the inside of the struggle rather than skating across the surface.

So as I embark on an intensive three-week training in the practice and theory of peace—a partnership between the Center for the Mediation, Peace, and Resolution of Conflict (CEMPROC), UMass-Boston, and FLACSO Ecuador —I am looking at how I can translate this experience into the climate justice struggles in South Texas.

The management of Deceleration is shifting to the domain of my partner, Marisol, but I am planning to report from CEMPROC’s Ecuador program as often as possible to share some of the lessons that I find here.

More from the program page.

Led by an international faculty of peace building practitioners and scholars, this summer institute in Ecuador is designed to equip early-career professionals, graduate and advanced undergraduate students, and other future peace builders with practical tools, knowledge, and hands-on experience to understand the complexities of conflicts within and across border regions, and the types of interventions that can be used to transform these conflicts. Ecuador is the perfect venue for studying these issues, as it is the largest recipient of refugees in Latin America, has advocated for the concept of universal citizenship, and has negotiated the negative impact of transnational environmental damage with neighboring states and with extractive industries.

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