Woman and her children in Timor-Leste. In a country where historic conflict has drastically impacted the environment and community dynamics, CI is helping to spark dialogue between local community members and government officials to promote peace through conservation agreements. (© Conservation International/photo by Lynn Tang)
This is the second blog in Human Nature’s series on environmental peacebuilding, which chronicles CI’s growing role in this emerging field of research. Today’s post focuses on our case study in Timor-Leste.
In my tiny, half-an-island country of Timor-Leste, cemeteries smell of jasmine and come to life on All Saints’ Day. Families have picnics and kids roam wild over the tombstones. Here, stepping on somebody else’s family tombstones is not seen as an offense but as the norm; after all, since there isn’t enough land to hold so many graves, not stepping on one is impossible unless you have mastered levitation.
We eat, drink and pray for our long-gone relatives. We spend small fortunes rebuilding and redecorating our cemetery plots. In my 13 years working and living in Timor-Leste, I’ve found that my compatriots smile and try to use humor to make the best of any situation — a seeming lightheartedness that masks the atrocities endured by so many of them, which have filled so many mass graves.
Over several centuries, the people of Timor-Leste have experienced prolonged periods of war and armed conflict. This history consciously or unconsciously shapes the way in which we Timorese relate to one another and to the natural resources upon which we depend for food and livelihoods. Continue reading