by Stephanie Westlund
Scholars often re-tell and analyze peacebuilding stories as independent of locale, as though place does not matter. Inspired by a Mayan priest's observation that academic peacebuilding frameworks are missing ‘the earth and skies, the winds and rocks’, this article examines the role of nature in conflict transformation and peacebuilding. It reviews the results of studies highlighting nature's function in human evolution and in improving mental health and well-being. It then presents three case studies of peacebuilding processes in which participants interacted with one another in natural settings. When these cases are taken at the convergence of the empirical research on nature's emotional and physiological benefits to human beings, a meaningful pattern emerges. Each case becomes understood as tied to the ecologies of the place where participants engaged with one another, thus suggesting that nature is an active yet overlooked participant in conflict transformation and peacebuilding.