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Can Environmental Mediation Save the World?

Can Environmental Mediation Save the World?


Conflict in our world has intensified, fueled by factors like the pandemic, restrictions, war, economic chaos, and erosion of trust. While conflict is inevitable, violence is not. By embracing collaboration and mediation to resolve our differences, conflict can become a catalyst for positive change, including addressing the greatest conflict of our time—the climate and environmental crisis. “Can environmental mediation save the planet?”, asks Lawrence Kershen KC from IPOS Mediation.

The Conflict Conundrum

Conflict seems to arise more swiftly and with more intensity than ever before in our lifetimes. People form opinions as quickly and with the same passion as they support their favourite football team. Of course conflict is an inevitable part of life – a natural result of human differences. Violence however is not. When we deal with conflict in an adversarial way, it generates polarisation and violence. When we collaborate to resolve our differences, conflict can catalyse positive change.

In recent years however conflict has been ramped up – and dumbed down – by unique factors which include

•  the trauma of a world-wide pandemic

•  restrictions of freedoms of movement & speech

•  war – in our time and on our doorstep

•  economic chaos

•  an erosion of trust in politics and politicians

•  the mixed blessing of social media – which has unquestionably created a more connected world. Yet with its soundbites and echo chambers and anonymity it has given free rein to hate speech, disinformation and other harmful content.

In this new and more polarised world we are being challenged to manage our inevitable differences in a nonviolent way, to find new resources. We’ve done so in the past, for example, as William Ury suggests in The Third Side[1], in order to hunt mammoths. Drawing on his training as an anthropologist and his work among primitive tribes and modern corporations – collaboration and cooperation was our natural state. Unfortunately settling and planting spoiled it!

And the greatest conflict of all – that trumps (if you’ll pardon the expression) all the others – is the climate and environmental crisis. The connection between our industrialised age and the degradation of our environment is now established beyond reasonable doubt. And yet… we need energy. Just about every aspect of our lives is dependent on a continuous and ever-increasing energy supply. Whatever steps are being taken to transition to sustainable and renewable resources, for the near to mid-future we – that is to say we earthlings – are stuck with fossil fuels.

So the crisis could be said to be a clash between civilisation’s different needs – our need for energy and our need for a sustainable and healthy way of life in harmony with the natural world. Yet if fighting isn’t an inevitable part of human nature, what’s the alternative?

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