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Saleem Ali Selected as 'Revolutionary Mind'

By Joshua Brown Article published October 17, 2007

Saleem Ali imagines that the Siachen Glacier, perched on the war-wracked border between India and Pakistan, can be turned into a shared “peace park,” helping to build trust and diplomatic connections between these countries. And he’s doing more than just imagining: he’s helped shape meetings, planned for later this year between the two governments, to seriously consider the idea.

This is just one of the peace park efforts that Ali, associate professor of environmental planning at the Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, has studied and promoted around the world, leading the award-winning international science magazine SEED to select him as one of eight “revolutionary minds” for 2007, announced in their October edition.

In the article about Ali, Emily Anthes writes that the proposal he is forwarding “could not only preserve an important ecosystem but also provide a face-saving exit strategy for both nations.” Strange though it may seem, she writes, “damage to the glacier could provide a way out of the military conflict.”

And it’s this kind of counter-intuitive, but creative, thinking that SEED, a relatively new magazine with more than 600,000 readers, was looking for in this third round of their Revolutionary Mind series. They noted that Ali and his co-winners refuse “to be confined to the traditional territory of any one discipline.” And this allows them to pursue solutions to problems in new ways: like using land conservation, and shared environmental aversions, as a tool of international diplomacy.

“Where you have a zero-sum game, where basically one side is going to lose if the other is to gain something,” Ali said, referring to the long-standing ownership dispute in Kashmir, “in those cases of a territorial conflict, a peace park makes a lot of sense because you’re going to have joint management and create some common ground.”