Climate change and violence symposium

On March 21 and 22 the Peace and Justice Studies Program will hold a symposium on the effects of climate change on hunger, violence and war.

The damage associated with global warming is often shown featuring the shrinking landscapes of the polar caps, noting the effects on endangered species and the desertifying of lands over more than half of the globe. But climate change issues extend far beyond icebergs and polar bears; it is creating dire situations for all living creatures, including humans.

“Climate change is rapidly changing the meaning of culture, education, politics, economics, and ethics across the planet,” said Michael Minch, director of Peace and Justice Studies. “It is arguably the single most important challenge we face.”

congo-refugeesWe know our use of fossil fuels has heated the world, causing once arid and semi-humid grassland climates to turn to desert wasteland, but the problem is proving to be greater than just fossil fuels. Research is finding that human impact has been destroying ecosystems for hundreds of years.

“What we’re doing globally [in land management] is causing climate change as much as, I believe, fossil fuels, and maybe more,” said Allan Savory, Zimbabwean biologist and award-winning holistic management specialist. “But worse than that, it’s causing hunger, poverty, violence, social breakdown and war.”

After decades of study, Savory has found that there are solutions to be found by patterning our work with nature and the examples in found therein.

“Clearly we have never understood what is causing desertification,” Savory said. “[Desertification] has destroyed many civilizations and now threatens us globally. We’ve never understood it, but that is beginning to change. There is no reason now to perpetuate the problem. We can provide peace by providing usable land, by providing water and food that is grown where we once believed impossible.”

The upcoming dialogue, “Climate Change and Violence: How Heating the Planet Creates Conflict and Death,” will focus on the various factors of climate change, how it is shaping the lives of those who are most affected, and potential solutions to the problem.

“No UVU student will enter a career or a future unaffected by climate change,” Minch said. “People do not realize that climate change will not simply lead to violence in the future, but that it intensifies already-existing violence.”

Interest in the dangers associated with climate change spiked in 2006 and 2007, but focus shifted in 2008 due to the economic recession. Because the issue of climate change is so broad and so encompassing, scientists, social reformists and conflict managers are asking for a refocus on the big issue.

“It’s moving in the right direction,” said Greg White, author of “Climate Refugees or Mere Migrants Climate-Induced Migration, Security, and Borders in a Warming World.” “Students are increasingly well-engaged on climate change issues, and that’s what we need. More minds, more hands, more awareness and more solutions.”

By Nicole Shepard

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