That's the contention of researchers at Worldwatch, who say in their paper Promoting Environmental Cooperation as a Peace-Building Tool:
"[R]elatively little is known about the best design for environmental peacemaking initiatives or the conditions under which they are most likely to succeed. While a large body of research examines environmental degradations contribution to violent conflict, little in the way of systematic scholarship evaluates the equally important possibility that environmental cooperation may bring peace.
The authors look at biodiversity conservation, shared water supplies, and environmental initiatives in post-conflict settings. I tell you, "environmental peacemaking" is a meme with legs. I expect to meet graduate students of the subject in five years or so...
Conca and Dabelko wrote a great book a little while ago on the subject entitled 'Environmental Peacemaking.' You should also check out Dabelko's work at the Woodrow Wilson Center's Environmental Change and Security Project if this sort of thing tickles your fancy. It's certainly a welcome foil to the whole 'Resource Wars' idea.
Working with Alternatives (www.alternatives.ca) in the conflict-affected regions of West Papua (www.westpapua.ca) and Central Sulawesi in Indonesia, we did a number of projects that used sustainable agriculture, environmental protection and forest manaagement to bring communities together in post-conflict situations, with a goal of strengthening peace in the region.
One example was particularly interesting where a community that had accepted a large number of displaced people participated in our farmer to farmer training courses. During this porcess farmers developed their own organic farming methods, raisig their incomes by over 50% after one growing season. Most of this increased income came from reducing industrial inputs and increasing the efficiency of the materials used.
This program also made progress in bringing the communtiy closer together. on the one hand it was the first international development program that included not only the dispalced people, but also their host community so that they could work together to receive the benefits. this help to assuage jealousies that had formed when the farmers witnessed all of the new pesticide sprayers, fertilizers and GMO seeds that had been provide to the conflict affect displaced community members by past "conflict resolution" aid programs with other NGOs.
On the other hand, it was the first time that the displaced people worked closely with their hosts in the fields, which built new linkages, friendships and opportunities to share information about how to farm successfully in the highland climate that the two communites shared (the displaced people came mostly from the coastal lands).
However the most important out-come was that the project brought the communities together to see how environmental destruction had lead to competition over decreasing areas of productive lands, which had fuelded the conflict between the Muslim and Christian communities. They used the sustianable agriculture forum to discuss shared land tenure policies and to put in place environmental and land management schemes that reduced the likelihood of future conflict.
The process of "mediated modeling" also helps to foster peace because it fosters a learning process that helps overcome misperceptions about how the economic/ecological system in which people reside functions. The deepened understanding allows stakeholders previously in conflict to align on mutually beneficial goals. See, e.g., http://www.mediated-modeling.com/more.html