Good intentions and environmental tensions: Conflict management addresses The Green Question

As do all human activities, our attempts to respond to and engage with conflict have environmental impact. Any intervention – mediation, peacebuilding activities, training, workshops, and so forth – can be performed in different ways, some of which are inherently more environmentally adverse than others.

In a new article, entitled To Green, or not Too Green? The Environmental Impact of Conflict Ma...  (appearing on pp. 10-14 in the recent edition of SIGNAL, the biannual newsletter of the International Association for Conflict Management), I suggest that the conflict management field as a whole would do well to take a look at its practices, and give environmental considerations their spot at the table.

To put my line of thinking in context, I’ll note that recently, in a paper co-authored with Colleen Getz, we explored the environmental advantages of online dispute resolution (ODR) over other forms of conflict intervention. In ODR: The Next Green Giant, we explored just how environmentally advantageous ODR is, and questioned the lack of attention this point had previously received.

This paper sparked a wave of interest and follow up activities, including this webinar on ADRHub presented with Susanna Jani and Colleen Getz. We’ve been very pleased to see the ADR community reflect positively, and to see specific ripples in the ODR world – comments on ODR blogs, comments on ODR practitioner websites, and most of all, of course, the first example of ODR practitioners riding the Green Wave.

So, one thing has become very obvious: While we are still not certain why the issue had not been previously spotlighted, it certainly was not due to a lack of relevance, or a lack of appreciation from practitioners. We’re still looking forward to seeing where the ripples will reach in this regard.

However, the environmental impact of ODR as opposed to traditional, face-to-face convening is only a small corner of the question of the environmental footprint our field leaves. There are many other aspects and activities core to the conflict management field in which one can choose between environmentally-friendly and environmentally-adverse practices.  Why is this choice important? To Green or not too Green, demonstrates not only that this choice is possible, but also that regularly and consciously making these choices might result in significant environmental savings. Some members of the field might suffice with that knowledge. For those who do not, the article suggest ways in which these environmental savings matter in a non-environmental sense; the field as a whole, by considering its own environmental impact, might benefit in very practical ways: enhanced participation, new sources of funding and a wide circle of potential partners, to mention a few.

To Green or not too Green is a trigger piece, intended to prompt further discussion on this issue in the field. Which modes of intervention are greener than others? How much consideration should be given to environmental elements in project planning? How can the conflict management field, as a whole, benefit further through rethinking its environmental footprint? I hope others weigh in on these initial avenues of inquiry - or pose better questions.




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