The Spirit of Dialogue: Lessons from Faith Traditions in Transforming Water Conflict

Date: Dec 11, 2018
Time: 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Location: , INTS 1113


Presented in cooperation with the UCR School of Public Policy

"The Spirit of Dialogue: Lessons from Faith Traditions in Transforming Water Conflict"

Presentation: Aaron Wolf (Professor of Geography; College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences; Oregon State University)

Event Information:


Seminar Summary:

In the West, we are generally trained to base our approach to managing water conflicts on rationality, and tools typically focus on what is measurable and quantifiable. If only we could see the tangible benefits of cooperating, we are taught, we simply would.

Over Wolf's 20 years as a facilitator and scholar working through and studying conflicts over shared water resources around the world, he has come to appreciate both the limitations of the rational models on which we in the West base our understandings of conflict and cooperation and the wisdom, constructs, and practical tools of the world’s faith traditions in working toward deep and healthy interactions around contentious issues.

Wolf draws lessons from a diversity of faith traditions to transform conflict. True listening, as practiced by Buddhist monks, as opposed to the “active listening” advocated by many mediators, can be the key to calming a colleague’s anger. Alignment with an energy beyond oneself, what Christians would call grace, can change self-righteousness into community concern. Shifting the discussion from one about interests to one about common values—both farmers and environmentalists share the value of love of place—can be the starting point for real dialogue. These and other practical lessons will be presented.



Aaron T. Wolf is a professor of geography in the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences at Oregon State University. A trained mediator/facilitator, he directs the Program in Water Conflict Management and Transformation, through which he has offered workshops, facilitations, and mediation in basins throughout the world, and has acted as consultant to US Government agencies, the World Bank, and several international governments on various aspects of transboundary water resources and dispute resolution. All told, he is (co-) author or (co-) editor of seven books and close to 100 journal articles, book chapters, and professional reports on various aspects of transboundary waters.

As a “pracademic,” Wolf brings facilitation and capacity-building to a variety of conflict settings, notably in faith and interfaith communities, and within and between government agencies. He is author, most recently, of The Spirit of Dialogue: Lessons from Faith Traditions in Transforming Conflict (Island Press, 2017).