Letter: The Pursuit of Peace (2016)


To Monique Helfrich, Good Health

Thanks you for your interest and inspiration in pulling together this series of lectures on peace.

What constitutes a state of peace? I am not sure that all people seek peace. i think people are more inclined to seek a measure of comfort, in both spiritual and material ways. The support of a world view, a political party, and perhaps even a vocation or pastime, can all involve challenges to world peace that are not obvious. My own comfort may impact negatively on a precursor to peace.

Example One: Purchasing dates or olives from a Syrian orchard 50 years ago may have imperceptibly impacted on the availability of ground water, which when magnified at a global level, may have contributed to the desertification of already marginal land and subsequent population pressure.

Surprisingly, peace is most commonly defined in negative terms, namely the absence of violence. I have been looking for positive terms, and have stumbled over some older Scandinavian work, that argues that in the pursuit of peace it is the duty of a State to act to minimize violence (in circumstances where this is within the capacity of the State). This might be objected to on the basis that it is a needs-based methodology (but provides an appealing breadth of analysis).

Example Two: The failure of a state to deal with small pox in the modern era where it is possible to deal with the condition in every circumstance constitutes a breach of the state's responsibility to deal with violence.

We have been talking about the ambit of this project. Following our discussions, i think that my focus needs to pivot from the work i have completed over the past few years into global risk management (particularly around the ebola crisis), and focus in on the importance of addressing vulnerabilities rather than downstream risks. As i quietly catalogue each major vector of war, increasingly i discount political or religious opportunism as a primary cause and instead see in the patterns underlying more fundamental and widespread difficulties. Surprisingly most vectors resolve themselves into what i see as widespread population displacement (because of the exhaustion of ground water, salinization, widespread changes in agricultural practice or population health).

The lectures and academic papers, i have been working on in this series attempts to do three things:
i. through the concept of peace research, based on risk policy, re-emphasize the importance of population wide impacts and subsequent population movement. But beyond that, provide a methodology for dealing with the concept of peace that focuses on vulnerabilities, peace precursors (eg, the emerging digital or health divide).
ii. through a discussion of continental cooling , examine macro policies that might bring achievable immediate world wide cooling outcomes and dramatically increase accessibility to revitalized agricultural land..
iii, through a discussion of micro policies, reseat debate about localized or opportunistic solutions into a productive realm.



the Tallaganda


I am deeply indebted to the educator Monique Helfrich who has, over the last decade, quietly steered me into productive areas of research - as well as happily joined in voicing a number of animations. I adore her Demeter as part of the Gods series:

Restless Demeter joined the diaspora in the first wave 
Without a care, she left the old country 
wandering far as she pleased 
or as the moon drove her 
Hungrily seeking out the dreamers and the dispossessed 
Nature chasing her footfall

This is one of a series of letters (2000-2020) that explores issues from slavery, law reform, deontic logic, plague and legal theory. Some were originally included in a legal text "Lessons" (2019) prepared for teaching legal theory to legal students. Others simply address or reflect on issues of the moment.

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