Saturday, October 13, 2007

Keeping Peace

The Nobel Foundation announced on Friday the winner-or, rather, winners-of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. This year's laureates, Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr. and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), shared the prize as well as the $1.5 Million purse, for their respective "efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change."

The peace-keeping business is waning, I'd guess, based on this slim justification for this seemingly prestigious award.

I searched around a bit on the internet, and found an archive listing all of the winners of the award, year-by-year, as well as what they won for. 1901, Jean Henri Dunant, the founder of the International Committee of the Red Cross, initiator of the Geneva Convention, shared the prize. 1906, Theodore Roosevelt won the prize for a peace treaty he drafted between Russia and Japan. 1912, Elihu Root won for a number of significant arbitration agreements he brokered. 1919, Woodrow Wilson, US President, won for the founding of the League of Nations. Various other similar winners.

Most notably, perhaps, is the absence of a winner many years. 1914-1916, 1918, 1923-1924, 1928, 1932, 1939-1943, 1948, 1955-1956, 1966-1967, and finally, 1972. Apparently, in the abesnce of a suitable nominee, the award is not a mandate, for in each of these years, the award was not awarded, and the funds were redeposited into the special award fund.

And for these reasons I find this year's award curious. Actually, I find the recent shift in the apparent award criteria interesting. This year, Gore and the IPCC won for disseminating greater knowledge abour man-made climate change. I've heard it said that a butterfly flapping it's wings in Jakarta has some minor affect on the airflow here in California. It's apparent to all, I think, that we as human beings have some sort of affect on the environment, and, given my butterfly example, probably have some sort of impact on climate change. The question is, really, how substantial an impact? But that's not the point of this post.

Early prize winners won for actually doing something-for peace brokered as a results of their efforts. They won because they achieved results. Conversely, the winners this year won for their "efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change." First, what does man-made climate change have to do with peace? Further, since when do we give major awards for "efforts to build-up and disseminate knowledge"?

This trend, though, is further evidenced by other recent awards. In 2006 Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank won for their "efforts to create economic and social development from below." In 2001 the United Nations and Kofi Annan won-for no noted reason. Various other recent awards for either the winners' "efforts" or for no real reason at all.

At first blush, I assume that they're struggling to find real "peace-brokers" to award the prize to. But, on second thought, I think, in reality, the Nobel Foundation leadership has been subtly corrupted. And, instead of actually lauding those who make headway in the pursuit of peace, they're using the prestige of their award to make a political point. In this case: to add their significant, yet unspoken, support to the global-warming cause.

A sad thing, too, when a prestigious, time-honored institution gives way to political pressure, and uses their name and reputation to lend support to a political perspective.

If you ask me, the prize should have went to Shawna. Conflict in the Middle East is child's play in comparison to keeping peace between Lex and Gentry.

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