Tag Archives: environment


Bumper to bumper
the traffic coiled around Cleveland’s east side,
tail lights in the darkness
provided an illusion of a unified being,
undulating around the city,
a metal and glass reminder of the
black snake to which we are addicted
even as it chokes the Mother

27 October 2017
Cleveland Heights, Ohio

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Wars Leave Devastating Impact on Environment

Here is an EthicsDaily.com article “Wars Leave Devastating Impact on Environment” co-written with Grace Ji-Sun Kim.

Check EthicsDaily.com for more articles, videos and news.

November 6 is the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.

Ancient words from Deuteronomy remind us of the relationship between conflict and the environment created by God.”If you besiege a town for a long time, making war against it in order to take it, you must not destroy its trees by wielding an ax against them. Although you may take food from them, you must not cut them down. Are trees in the field human beings that they should come under siege from you?” (Deuteronomy 20:19)Conflict claims human lives, maims human bodies and scars human souls – combatant and non-combatant alike. Conflict also exacts a cost on God’s creation.The United Nations General Assembly echoed these words when it declared Nov. 6 the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict.

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) report, “From Conflict to Peacebuilding: The Role of Natural Resources and the Environment,” observes, “Environmental factors are rarely, if ever, the sole cause of violent conflict. Ethnicity, adverse economic conditions, low levels of international trade and conflict in neighboring countries are all significantly correlated as well.”

“The exploitation of natural resources and related environmental stresses can be implicated in all phases of the conflict cycle, from contributing to the outbreak and perpetuation of violence to undermining prospects for peace,” the report added.

War impacts the environment, particularly when parties in a conflict have deliberately targeted natural resources. For example:

  • During World War I, the British sabotaged Romania’s oilfields to deny them to the Central Powers.
  • From 1962 to 1971, the United States sprayed some 20 million gallons of herbicides, Agent Orange foremost among them, on rural areas of South Vietnam in an effort to deny cover and food to the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces.
  • As they retreated from Kuwait in 1991, Iraqi forces blew up oil wells and set fire to oilfields.

Conflict disrupts land use, water supply, air quality and ecosystems. Conflict creates refugees whose struggle for survival may lead to depletion of resources or other stresses on ecosystems. Environmental impacts may remain long after conflict ends.

People in Japan, the United States and various Pacific islands continue to suffer the effects of the development, testing and use of nuclear weapons.

The International Campaign to Ban Landmines reminds us that “some 60 countries around the world are contaminated by landmines and thousands of people continue living with this daily threat of losing their life or limb.”

In the past, conflicts occurred between nation states. Today, conflict more often takes place within a nation state, although it may involve people from beyond national borders.

The UNEP report said, “Civil wars such as those in Liberia, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo have centered on ‘high value’ resources like timber, diamonds, gold, minerals and oil.”

The environment suffers as military exercises use fuel. The production of weapons consumes natural and financial resources that could have been used to promote human welfare and environmental protection.

International law offers one way to protect the environment in times of conflict.

However, the UNEP report concluded that “the existing international legal framework contains many provisions that either directly or indirectly protect the environment and govern the use of natural resources during armed conflict. In practice, however, these provisions have not always been effectively implemented or enforced.”

Strengthening and expanding international law in relation to environmental protection in conflict is crucial.

Klaus Toepfer, executive director of UNEP from 1998 to 2006, called for “safeguards to protect the environment” in which “using the environment as a weapon” would be “denounced as an international crime against human-kind, against nature.”

Environmental remediation provides directions for responses after conflict.

Remediation may involve rapid responses, as occurred in extinguishing the fires and cleaning the spills in Kuwait.

It may involve long-term environmental sustainability plans such as reforestation and paying careful attention to environmental concerns in post-conflict situations.

International law may reduce the environmental impacts of conflict and preparations for conflict. Environmental remediation may help in a conflict’s aftermath.

Conflict prevention remains the most effective way to protect the environment. This includes demilitarization.

Diplomatic negotiation, people power, addressing poverty, strengthening human rights and the rule of law, building democratic institutions, controlling small arms, teaching nonviolence and other strategies may help prevent intrastate conflict.

Recognizing that the human family shares one planet and has no other place to live should inspire environmentalists to become peacemakers and peacemakers to become environmentalists.

Christians are called to environmental peacemaking work. God has made all that exists; God has made us.

All people are God’s children; all people are our brothers and sisters. The earth, and all that is therein, belong to God.

God entrusts this earth to us for a time, to exercise care on behalf of the created order, our sisters and brothers, generations as yet unborn, and God.

Addressing the environmental impact of conflict is a way we live our faith.

Grace Ji-Sun Kim is a visiting researcher at Georgetown University and the author of six books and numerous articles. Jamie Yen Tan provided research assistance on this project.

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WCC Assemby in Korea to Urge Pursuit of Peace, Justice

My friend Grace Ji-Sun Kim recently went to a planning meeting for the World Council of Churches Assembly that will take place in Korea in October. I wish I were going to the Assembly – I have fond memories of Korea.

Grace Ji-Sun Kim

This is my latest post for Ethicsdaily.com.  It is a reflection of my recent participation at a World Council of Churches Meeting in Geneva.

Many mainline denominational churches, such as the Lutherans, Presbyterians, Episcopalians and Methodists, are struggling to survive in North America.

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Two weeks in January 2012

I had the privilege to spend the last two weeks with a January Term Doctor of Ministry class that met at the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations – my employer. Mark Douglas of Columbia Theological Seminary led the class as it considered the Environment and Ecumene.

Class participants included Elizabeth Adams, Katie Preston, Carol Underwood, and John Weems. My colleague, Ryan Smith, helped coordinate and lead the class. Ricky Velez-Negron, our office manager, provided wonderful hospitality and organizational support; she also took the picture of the class beside the Isaiah Wall. Volunteers Peng Leong, from First Chinese Presbyterian Church, and Grace Bickers, Columbia University student, joined us for a number of the sessions.

Speakers came from ministries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), UN programs and our colleagues and friends from the UN NGO community.

The content included the UN and environmental concerns to climate change, land and water, women and the environment, children and the environment, indigenous peoples and the environment, food and hunger and the environment, conflict and the environment, and more.

The class attended a policy lunch on climate change and agriculture sponsored by the NGO Working Group on Food and Hunger. The class also attended a meeting of the Sustainable Development Working Group of the Conference of NGOs.

On Thursday, January 12, class members led worship at the Church Center for the United Nations.

Representatives of First Chinese Presbyterian Church, Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, Huguenot Memorial Church, Old Bergen Church, and the Presbyterian Church of the Mountain joined the class on Thursday, January 19 for conversations about how congregations can care for creation. Rebecca Barnes-Davies, PC(USA) associate for Environmental Ministries helped facilitate the discussion.

Worship ended the class. We gathered in the Tillman Chapel of the Church Center for the United Nations and walked to the Isaiah Wall for closing prayers. After quick goodbyes, class members returned to their homes with new visions for ministry.

Gifts to the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations make possible the class.

I look forward to 2014 when another group will gather for another class on another topic.

See you along the Trail.

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