In recent years, three Nobel Peace Prize recipients have been people whose work was not obviously or directly related to what we call peacemaking. They include Mohammad Yunus, for his work creating a microcredit movement through Grameen Bank; Wangari Maathai, for creating the sustainability green belt movement in Kenya; and Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for their work to halt global warming.
Most Nobel Prize winners in the past worked to end conflicts, to create what we think of as peace between groups or nations, to stop war. But so far, in the 21st century, the Nobel Peace Prize has been given to several people and groups whose connection to peace is less obvious. I’ve been teaching a 7/8th grade class for the past four days, offering humane education through the lens of changemakers who are working to stop slavery, pollution, animal exploitation, and poverty. Mohammad Yunus and the IPCC/Al Gore came up today, and I asked them why they thought these people had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, as opposed to the Nobel Prize for economics (in the case of economist Yunus).
It took a few minutes, but they got it and shared their thoughts.
Mohammad Yunus, through his work enabling the poor to start businesses, has also significantly diminished a primary reason for conflict and war: poverty. The IPCC and Al Gore, through their work to halt global warming, help prevent the creation of environmental refugees that arises from drought, desertification, flooding and more; avoiding these human disasters helps avert conflicts that will likely arise if we do not stabilize our climate. Wangari Maathai, through planting millions of trees and empowering women in Kenya, has created sustainable, democratic systems which enrich and empower people who otherwise were poor, disempowered, and resource-less.
I love that the committee that awards the Nobel Peace Prize has recognized what we humane educators have been teaching for years: All these issues are connected. We bring peace to this world by alleviating poverty and restoring and protecting our environment. These are the preventive measures that matter most for ultimately creating a peaceful world.