Peace for Environment Protection—Great Opportunities Missed Earlier Can Still be Realized

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Many thoughtful people of world very rightly say today that the resolving of climate change and other inter-related serious environmental problems should get exceedingly high priority today as these threaten the basic life-nurturing capacity of our planet. Several of them, although not all, also realize that it is no less important to ensure peace in the world due to four very basic reasons. Firstly, it is very important for reducing distress. Secondly, weapons of mass destruction constitute an equal if not even bigger existential danger. Thirdly, wars, arms race and all that they involve (including huge guzzling of fossil fuels) themselves constitute a monstrous source of many-sided pollution. Fourthly, international cooperation, peace and stability are essential for taking longer-term steps for resolving climate change and related serious environmental problems.

A great opportunity for world peace came during the early 1990s. The USSR disintegrated and the first cold war ended rather suddenly. Russia appeared to be more than willing to find a place of self-respect within the western powers or at peace with the western powers. China was getting integrated in the globalized economic system. The UN documents of those days talked of a great peace dividend—of enormous funds being released from military spending for ending deprivation, for environment protection and for sustainable development.

It was around the same time that scientists informed the world on a larger scale about the very serious threat of climate change. So the message for finding a new path came very clearly—use the emerging peace opportunities to herald a new era of international cooperation and mobilization of vast funds for environment protection and sustainable, justice-based development.

Unfortunately this message was ignored as the western powers led by the USA went on pushing Russia more and more into a corner and, ignoring past assurances, expanding NATO  onto its immediate neighborhood, so that hostility returned all too soon. Then after the horrible 9/11 attacks a new ruthless war on terror was initiated by the USA, which over the years claimed 9,25,000 human lives in direct war deaths and displaced over 38 million people, counting till 2021-22. With the Ukraine war the threats to world peace increased further beyond the cold war years with many experts voicing warnings of increased possibility of third world war. Alongside, the treaties for checking the most destructive weapons have also been weakened, or not renewed.

While this is too bad by itself, this also decreases heavily the possibilities of international cooperation for resolving climate change and other serious environmental problems in time. Of course there are very serious problems in checking climate change even without this, with the fossil fuel industry and other big culprits using every trick to maintain or even increase their fat profits, and such culprits even managing to find very leading places in international climate change conferences. But with the world increasingly getting divided in two blocks, probably even more than in the first cold war days, the possibilities of achieving global environmental targets have dimmed further.

Thus, very sadly and unfortunately, we are in a situation where on the one hand the inhabitants of earth face a survival crisis and on the other hand both aspects of this survival crisis (climate change led environmental problems plus weapons of mass destruction) appear to be worsening instead of improving.

Clearly, such conditions cannot be allowed to continue for much longer, or else future of all life-forms will be very badly threatened. Hence there is an urgency of quickly creating conditions of world peace and stability, starting with ending the Ukraine war almost immediately, and then using the conditions of peace and stability to commit all countries of the entire world to a justice-based program of resolving climate change and other serious environmental problems. This clearly should be the most urgent priority of our deeply troubled and endangered world in the near future.

The good news is that this is still doable, although the time available is not much. The present day muddle is created entirely by highly irrational decisions taken by relatively quite a small number of highly self-centered persons with narrower than tunnel vision.  It is now entirely for people to rescue their planet and the future of their children from these persons and seek alternative paths of a much safer future, perhaps even a beautiful future.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, A Day in 2071, Protecting Earth for Children and Earth without Borders.

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