It's hard to know when the time has come to celebrate a big success in global environmental policy. The news that the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris is producing a really significant breakthrough is difficult to measure and evaluate, and few of us get excited about United Nations summit meetings or the declarations they produce. But it does seem possible that this month's conference will make a difference. Even Bill McKibben seems excited (he's tweeting from the rally on the streets of Paris) ... and if Bill McKibben is having a good day, maybe the rest of us can briefly smile about the situation too.
We are pacifist environmentalists here at Pacifism21, which is to say that we embrace and support every person or organization who is fighting for ecological awareness and sensitivity, and we believe the cause of peace and the cause of ecology are united at every level. The slogan "A Climate of Peace" is making the rounds in Paris, and this captures the relationship of mutual support that naturally exists between the two movements. Some of the foundations of mutual support are easy to understand:
- War is itself an ecological disaster, fought with fossil and nuclear fuels, heaping barbaric destruction upon the lands it targets.
- Defense and military industries waste, consume and despoil even when not actively engaged in conflict.
- Climate change threatens to destabilize fragile economies, increasing risks of civil war, famine, refugee crises and urban disasters.
- Global conflicts create a sense of emergency that is inconsistent with long-term interests such as environmental sustainability.
- The wealth generated by fossil fuel industries props up corrupt and greedy governments, and tempts foreign adventurism and neo-colonial exploitation.
These points help us realize how our world's military deadlock harms the environment, but the mutual relationship between conservation and pacifism can also be expressed in a positive sense:
- A global environmental pact is itself an act of peacemaking. The hardworking diplomats and foreign secretaries and agency bureaucrats who have somehow managed to reach a harmonious conclusion in Paris are all peace builders, whether they think of it that way or not. It is only by reaching a state of common understanding and trust that international agreements become possible.
And, finally ...
- The Paris 2015 Climate Change Conference is the work of the United Nations — that nebulous and frustrating organization that does so much good but also falls so far short of its potential level of achievement. It's great to see the UN getting a big win ... and each new breakthrough creates a promise for an even better breakthrough to follow.
So ... yes it's hard to know how to celebrate a global agreement on environmental policy. But the commentary from the experts and the signs from the happy people on the streets of Paris suggest that we are on the brink of a historic age of cooperation towards a common goal. Nobody's work is done, and the hardest work still lies ahead. But we celebrate today — Salut!