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Countdown to Copenhagen: Weak Signals of Green Violence and Peace

September 6, 2010

Pretty late, but still… an interesting read. The article is written by Gavin Chua Hearn Yuit, Managing Partner (Strategy) at IntSight Pte Ltd., a Singapore-based venture providing organisational foresight consulting and early warning monitoring services for threat and opportunity concerns. Full article can be found here.

The weather forecast for the global climate change talks sees the resumption of dark clouds, with a less than illuminating outcome from last week’s Bangkok meeting. With five negotiation days left until Copenhagen, hope appears to be in short supply.

Amid the noise of climate change rhetoric circulating between world leaders and their negotiating teams, there are weak signals that swing on a pendulum from “green violence” to “green peace”. These signals deserve monitoring as they may have strategic impact in the run-up or even in the aftermath of the Copenhagen showdown.

Just this past week, Greenpeace launched what appeared to be coordinated protests in New Zealand and the United Kingdom. Seven members were arrested in the port of New Plymouth, after painting the words “Fonterra Climate Crime” on the side of a ship carrying palm-based animal feed. At around the same time, 31 Greenpeace activists spent the night on top of the Palace of Westminster, carrying banners that read, “Change the politics, save the climate” to lobby MPs returning from their summer break.

Whilst the act of vandalism was not well received, the all-nighter on the roof of parliament appeared to strike a chord with the UK officials. The following day after the protest, Alan Simpson MP, and Special Advisor to the Energy and Climate Change Secretary, offered his support to Greenpeace by regarding their action as a reminder of the very serious circumstances our country and planet currently finds itself and certainly not as a criminal activity.

Simpson’s comments may indicate a blurring of boundaries of how the traditional acts of environmental action groups may be perceived, given the backdrop of urgent climate change diplomacy. However, green violence may still rear its head in the form of more frequent and threatening acts, such as eco-jihad (in the sense of violent jihad and holy war), when Islamic terrorists jump onto the bandwagon of the current environmentalism hype.

Just barely eight months ago, the world witnessed the worst fire disaster in Australia’s history. Prior to that cataclysmic event, an Islamic extremist group, called the Al-Ikhlas Islamic Network, posted in their website a call on Muslims in Australia, the US, Europe and Russia to “start forest fires”. According to Australian news agency The Age, the extremist group justified lighting fires as an effective form of terrorism under Islamic law’s “eye for an eye” doctrine. With the country’s drought-prone track record, the authorities are monitoring the threat of bushfires as a weapon of terrorism.

Eco-jihad defies geographical boundaries. A nightmare scenario would be a dovetailing of such attacks to worsen the ongoing transboundary haze pollution problem encountered the region. Anticipating such scenarios may provide the necessary thrust for more concerted political will and action by the stakeholder nations to manage the haze problem.

At the other end of the pendulum, there are other weak signals that portend “green peace”. Growing in tandem with heightened climate change awareness worldwide is a green Islamic movement. The Guardian carried an article titled, “Green Islam” in May 2007, highlighting the work of several environmental Islamic groups in the UK, such as the London Islamic Network for the Environment (LINE) and the Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences (IFEES).

Besides the UK, there are other country initiatives for green Islam, such as the DC Green Muslims in the US, and the World Wide Fund for Nature’s (WWF) work in Malaysia, involving mosque sermons that focus on turtle conservation issues.

The movement’s general mission is to apply Islamic principles to protect the environment and encourage spiritual development. Initiatives range from establishing Islamic green farms, promoting wildlife conservation to more recently, drafting of a Muslim seven-year action plan on climate change.

The action plan was drafted at an Istanbul conference in July this year, with the cooperation of the Kuwaiti Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, and the support of the Muftis of Egypt and Palestine, as well as other international Muslim organisations. The plan included bold climate change proposals such as greening the major Muslim cities, and developing an Islamic label for green products and services.

Elsewhere along the trajectory of “green peace” is an improbable case of a group of Israeli activists brokering peace in the West Bank through renewable energy. A 9 October Associated Press report described how 300 residents of a West Bank village in Susya have been benefitting from solar panels and wind turbines installed by Comet-ME, a responsible social-environmental-engineering initiative run by pro-peace Israeli scientist-activists.

Such “green peace” signals, whilst limited to specific domains (Islam) and isolated in geography (West Bank), may nevertheless present a counter-narrative for dominant climate change discourses circulated at the nation-state level.

For instance, green peace signals may present alternative strategic options for current negotiation talks that reach stalemate. On the flipside, green violence signals should also not be disregarded, especially given their longer tail impact that extends beyond the Copenhagen resolution.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. arwafreelance permalink
    September 6, 2010 3:43 pm

    Great blog. Thanks!

  2. October 8, 2010 1:47 pm

    Thank you for the kind words. Hope it would also inspire to do something on climate change.

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