Securing our Survival…

The relationship between promoting nonviolence and climate change

Article from Miriam Kramer Director of Development and Communication –Alliance for Peacebuilders 

“On October 12, the Stanley Foundation, the Matthew B. Ridgway Center for International Security Studies, and Physicians for Social Responsibility sponsored “Securing our Survival: Meeting the Threats of Nuclear Weapons and Global Warming” at the University of Pittsburgh. Featured speaker Dr. Lisa Schirch from the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University discussed the ways in which violence and conflict prevention efforts can address the security implications of climate change and nuclear terrorism.

In discussing the 3D (Development, Diplomacy, Defense) Security Initiative, Dr. Schirch talked about US funding for security strategies and the need to de-emphasize defense spending while putting more monies into sustainable community development and diplomacy at all levels. She described how community development creates job opportunities, respect and dignity through projects like building wells in Iraq. When communities have their own sustainable sources of water, tribal leaders will fight less. When different ethnic and religious groups are represented on a village council that decides where the well will go, how it will be run, and how water will be shared, they begin to build the political foundations of democracy and make decisions through negotiation while the community works together to achieve common development goals.  Such activities also help to decrease the number of insurgents by giving people better options.

Dr. Schirch noted also that there is increasing recognition among military leaders and policymakers on Capitol Hill that the United States needs more complex solutions for such rapidly increasing problems as climate change, drought, terrorism, diseases, and nuclear issues. They are starting to see the links between poverty and violence while realizing that a military toolkit cannot be the only approach when addressing multifaceted security challenges. For example, resource scarcity is exacerbated by conflict, which is fueled by instability, droughts and floods. Fragile states without vibrant democracies or economic systems are even more vulnerable to insurgencies, nuclear terrorism and violent conflict. Sustainable development projects that blend political and economic democratization and multitrack diplomacy help immunize communities against such conflicts.

After describing 3D Security as a three-tiered system that places emphasis on development first, diplomacy second, and defense last, Dr. Schirch mentioned that the United States must start putting more resources into multi-track diplomacy. Such diplomacy includes everyone from top-level diplomats to grassroots organizations working to implement change. In addition, NGOs and individual citizens are sometimes able to do what official diplomats cannot. For example, when the United States did not officially ratify the Kyoto Protocol, citizen-based organizations around the country began to work harder to help prevent the spread of global warming, a root cause of violent conflict. When mentioning that the United States often takes a coercive approach towards diplomacy, Dr. Schirch also noted the way in which principled democracy-problem-solving negotiating techniques to identify and address root causes-is better at addressing the challenges of climate change and nuclear proliferation.

To find out more about the 3D Security Initiative, please visit To view Dr. Schirch’s presentation, please visit