The modern concept of peacekeeping is credited to Lester B. Pearson, the 14th prime minister of Canada. As Canada would have been under the arc of a nuclear exchange between the US and the Soviet Union had the cold war become hot, perhaps Pearson had a unique perspective on the value of keeping the peace.
However it was conceived, peacekeeping has become part of our Canadian identity; a source of pride at home, a source of respect internationally. During the last century, Canada was accorded disproportionate influence on the world stage due, certainly in part, to its disproportionate sacrifices and achievements in both world wars and numerous peacekeeping missions around the world.
In this century, terrible human conflicts persist. However, we must also come to terms with humanity’s wholesale destruction of global biodiversity.
We humans are driving the 6th great extinction event in Earth’s history. Currently, the rate of extinction might be 1000 times the background rate. World renowned Harvard biologist, Edward O. Wilson, has predicted that half of all life on Earth might be extinct by the end of this century. We should take note because extinction can be contagious; at some point we might catch it ourselves.
We have reached the point where we must consider how to preserve Earth’s remaining biodiversity. We must create and maintain demilitarized zones in our war on the natural world. To this end, I propose environmental peacekeeping missions organized through the United Nations.
Around the world, illegal poaching, deforestation, and fishing is rampant. Many countries that try to take action simply do not have sufficient resources for the task. Environmental peacekeeping missions could deploy personnel and equipment to defend species and habitats from illegal exploitation and ultimate extinction.
In recent years, Canada has become an international pariah on environmental issues. Environmental peacekeeping is not only urgent for the long-term health of the biosphere and human societies, it is a chance for Canada to reprise its role as a world leader and an honest actor working toward the greater good.
Kevin Farmer April 19, 2014