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150 8 From the Headwaters to the Grassroots Cooperative Resource Management as a Paradigm of Nonviolence Randall Amster When we consider the causes of conflict, violence, and warfare, it is by now a relatively straightforward proposition that access to and control over resources are leading factors (see, e.g., Amster 2009b). While ideology, religion, ethnicity, politics, and culture are certainly part of the equation, it is also the case that most (if not all) large-scale conflicts among peoples and nations can be viewed through a prism of material acquisition. Interpersonal conflicts likewise will often possess an aspect of resource competition, including battles over more intangible goods, such as time, space, and social capital, in addition to those over wealth and commodities. In short, resources (including fuels, minerals, territories , and essentials such as food and water) have comprised a root cause underlying the appearance of violence in the world at levels ranging from the personal to the international. As Michael Klare (2002, ix) observes in his book Resource Wars: “Conflict over valuable resources—and the power and wealth they confer—has become an increasingly prominent feature of the global landscape [and] has posed a significant and growing threat to peace.” The general premise of this worldview is that resources are scarce and growing scarcer by the day due to population expansion, human consumption, and the planetary changes wrought by these practices. From the Headwaters to the Grassroots ✹ 151 Nations compete for control of valuable commodities under the rubric of security, and people within nations compete for resources, oftentimes out of sheer survival. This “scarcity-competition-conflict” paradigm is pervasive in academic literature and policy analyses alike, becoming something of a fait accompli in terms of its widespread applicability and seemingly obvious logic. The problem is that this narrative represents only half of the story of humankind’s relationship to itself and the environment ; missing from this formulation (much as has transpired with the popular version of biological evolution) is the appearance of cooperation as a crucial counterbalance to competition. In this light, the shared management of resources, both among and within nations, can be seen as crucial for peacebuilding and for the cultivation of nonviolence, a view that is often omitted from the analysis of how to confront our present crises (see Carius 2006, 4). To illustrate the point further, this chapter focuses in particular on the essential resource of water as a source of both conflict and cooperation, and as a trigger for the appearance of violence and a touchstone for the promotion of nonviolence alike. In so doing, the discussion will be guided by the proposition that nonviolence is a set of methods and tactics for promoting political and social change, but more to the point, it is a way of “being in the world” that requires us to deconstruct the kernel of violence that potentially sits at the core of many of our relationships and practices. In other words, nonviolence is both a means and an end, connecting the personal and political spheres of our lives, and providing a moral compass for evaluating our interactions with ourselves, others, and the environment itself. In this sense, it is a holistic conception of nonviolence that animates this discourse, inspired by the working definition promulgated by the Metta Center for Nonviolence (2010) and reflective of what may be taken as the “best practices” in the field: Nonviolence is a powerful method to harmonize relationships among people (and all living things) for the establishment of justice and the ultimate well-being of all parties. It draws its power from awareness of the profound truth to which the wisdom traditions of all cultures, science , and common experience bear witness: that all life is one. 152 ✹ Nonviolent Movements In order to reach this point of unity, however, we must first consider the various—and sometimes less constructive—pieces of the puzzle. Water and War Although not usually perceived as a dominant trigger for warfare, it is actually the case that “conflict over water has, in fact, been a feature of human behavior throughout history” (Klare 2002, 138). To a large extent, nearly every major conflict in recent decades has had an aspect concerning water, including seemingly intractable disputes between Israel and Palestine, India and Pakistan, and Iraq and Iran, among others. Noting that transnational river systems bring a substantial risk of “violent conflict ,” Klare (2002, 147, 189) concludes that “[t]he major shared systems of the Middle East and Southwest Asia—the Nile...


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