From April 29-30, 28 multi-disciplinary scholar-practitioners gathered for a virtual session centered on learning from and about one another as part of a new initiative focused on facing the challenges of environmental violence.
The diverse group gathered as part of the first phase of an initiative sponsored by the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, with support from Humanity United, that will hopefully generate an interactive website focused on publishing research, policy-relevant pieces, and art related to understanding the global impact of environmental violence, its causes, and strategies for building a more just world. In addition to the web platform, the group will also work on writing or creating contributions for a book co-edited by Richard “Drew” Marcantonio (Ph.D. ’21), postdoctoral teaching scholar at the Kroc Institute, John Paul Lederach, professor emeritus of international peacebuilding at the Institute and senior fellow with Humanity United, and Agustin Fuentes, professor of anthropology at Princeton University.
The genesis of the project stems from the submission of Marcantonio’s own dissertation to Cambridge University Press for publishing. While the publishing house was excited to publish Marcantonio’s volume on environmental violence, reviewers of his book were also interested in learning more about gender, religion, and many other fields and how they intersected with environmental violence. While a comprehensive look at these diverse fields was an undertaking beyond Marcantonio himself, he pitched the idea of an edited volume to his Cambridge editor, and the project was born.
The April gathering centered on reflecting together on the concept of environmental violence and how it’s understood, which will also be the central theme of the edited volume once published.
“We wanted to have an open discussion about what we’re thinking when we say environmental violence,” said Marcantonio. “We wanted people to be able to share how they are approaching this concept, as well as to appreciate our diversity and find places where we overlap.”
Over two days, participants engaged with public-facing sessions, cluster group discussions, and one-on-one consultations. The opening session on April 29, entitled “Gathering of the Hearts: Braiding our Ways of Being,” included a variety of input, from more theoretical presentations to knowledge sharing through poetry and music.
In addition to a web platform and edited volume, the group also hopes to produce short 10-minute videos from each author that summarize key takeaways from their chapters.
Marcantonio sees environmental violence and justice as a critical and growing area of research within the broader peace studies field, which has often focused narrowly on intersections between climate change and conflict.
“What we’re trying to do by bringing all these folks in is to create a framework that explicitly uses peace studies concepts, and I hope it will gain a lot of traction,” said Marcantonio. “It’s a really relevant and pressing concept. Environmental injustice, the consequence of environmental violence, is present when migrants are moving into substantially higher environmental hazards, or in high levels of pollution hazards in cities where life expectancy is shortened, or when people are moving away from farming because they can no longer make a sustainable living.”
Conveners also hope that this first gathering and the production of the edited volume will only mark the beginning of an ongoing, collaborative conversation. This winter, they will host another, larger in-person event in conjunction with The Institute for Climate and Peace in Hawaii, where they hope to build on this April’s conversation.
Other Kroc Institute authors contributing to the April conversation and the edited volume include Angela Chesler, Ph.D. student in peace studies and political science and Caesar Montevecchio, assistant director, Catholic Peacebuilding Network.
The web platform will be live in summer 2022 and the edited volume will debut in spring 2023.