The future we want: International Day of Peace 2012

September 21 was the International Day of Peace, and this year’s theme was “Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future.” The theme was planned to go along with the Rio+20 Conference of Sustainable Development that took place this summer.

The theme urges us to think about the role that the environment and natural resources play in conflict. Questions of ownership and management of these resources, including precious metals and stones, oil, and water, can directly contribute to conflict. Managing these resources in a sustainable manner will not only sustain the environment, but also lead to sustainable peace.

In my personal reflections on the topic, I began thinking of the concept of sustainability more broadly, and the ways it can lead to peace. While sustainability is often used in the context of natural resources, it can also encompass human sustainability on an individual level or societal level, as well as the internal stability of a particular country or people.

All of these different ways of thinking about sustainability are relevant to its ability as a promoter of peace. The causes of conflict are many and complex, and just as the control of natural resources can lead to conflict, so can unsustainable policies about the treatment of human resources. Neither the environment nor people should be exploited, by either those in power within a state or in the relationships between states.

Sustainability for peace is also relevant on a personal level. The constant need to find balance in our daily lives between the things we need to get done and the things we need to do for ourselves is stressful. Thinking sustainably about ways in which to take care of our whole, physical, emotional, and spiritual selves is one way to find peace in our lives.

The Future We Want (the title of the outcome document adopted at Rio+20) is one of peace and sustainability, within our homes, our churches and communities, and throughout the world.

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