It's my personal soapbox, a place for me to express thoughts and feelings, musings and rants, reflections and recollections; to have fun with words -- about things spiritual, environmental, social, political, economic, and, from time to time, personal. And of course about peace. Soapboxes are in public places (as London's legendary Hyde Park) on purpose, and so I invite conversations with you, for it is through civil discourse that we can gain some perspective on the seeming chaos of these changing times and learn together how to shape a positive future for ourselves, our communities, and the generations to come.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"World peace could be closer than we think." Could it really??

Last week, some friends participated in an email exchange prompted by an article in the current issue of Foreign Policy in which American University Professor Joshua Goldstein provides data to support his title,“World peace could be closer than you think.” But is it really?

Goldstein asserts that:

"the last decade has seen fewer war deaths than any decade in the past 100 years, based on data compiled by researchers Bethany Lacina and Nils Petter Gleditsch of the Peace Research Institute Oslo. Worldwide, deaths caused directly by war-related violence in the new century have averaged about 55,000 per year, just over half of what they were in the 1990s (100,000 a year), a third of what they were during the Cold War (180,000 a year from 1950 to 1989), and a hundredth of what they were in World War II. If you factor in the growing global population, which has nearly quadrupled in the last century, the decrease is even sharper. Far from being an age of killer anarchy, the 20 years since the Cold War ended have been an era of rapid progress toward peace."
Hard to believe this conclusion with all that has gone on this past decade, but statistics don’t lie, I suppose, though they don’t necessarily tell the whole story.

There’s a lot more to “world peace” than war-related deaths. Making that conclusion with that statistic perpetuates the one-sided view of peace as defined by a negative – the absence of war, or, in this case, war-related deaths. Would a world of wars where no one died be a world of peace?

Similar logic would lead to the question, as someone in the group wondered: "Would a world of hospitals where no one died be a world of health?" Or another: "Would a world of schools where no one learned be a world of education?" I'm sure many other examples are out there!

With regard to peace, a more positive definition is offered by the Earth Charter:
“…peace is the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, other persons, other cultures, other life, Earth, and the larger whole of which all are a part.”
 In other words, all is one; we are all connected. And, as the Wombat says, ”if we forget that, we’re doomed. Repeat, doomed.”

How can we observe and measure the positive presence of those right relationships, at all those levels? And with such measures, could we say that world peace is closer than we think? I happen to believe we can, though at this time with more qualitative than quantitative data.

Actually, the Global Peace Index attempts to do just that. While most of the measures included in the index are of negative peace, they are beginning to introduce some positive peace measures, as well. What a great peace research project it would be to further quantify positive peace and produce a purely Global Positive Peace  Index!


  1. Mike
    Having just finished listening to the various views and actions on the Shift Networks ""Peace Week'' I am encouraged.

    Their are so many paths to the as yet undefined concept of peace.

    I am sure our grand children s PEACE will look nothing like what we today attempt to define.

  2. Hi Mike, You raise some interesting points. I like to think we are moving in the direction of less war, but if we still control the world and our fellow citizens as well with fear of the "other" we will never feel peaceful and secure. Thus violence and even war will just be a step away. We have a lot to learn about human relationships and treating the other with dignity because we can't want peace and not want relationships.

  3. Haha. World peace.. You guys are hilarious