Paxeducare’s Blog

The Urgency of Climate Change and Why Peace Matters-We Are All Educators
November 26, 2012, 5:53 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

For those of you who have been following this blog (thanks for your patience, it has not been really active of late!) I wish to announce that my intention is to be at least twice as active from now on! Pax Educare as a not for profit will close at the end of the year and the web site will remain up but not active, so postings of interest will go on the blog and there is a link from the web site to here.

The People’s Action for Clean Energy event held at the Friends Meeting House on November 17th was full of interesting presentations, each from a different perspective and all conveying the urgency of our actions toward reducing carbon emissions and working toward adapting and mitigating climate change. We must all be empowered to work for change.

This blogger’s contribution at the PACE event, whilst a panel member,  was toward making some connections between peace, the environment and education. Here is the final talk that I gave, revised from the previous posting.

PACE Talk November 17, 2012-Peace and Global Climate Change

Mary Lee Morrion Ph.D.

Part of  my charge this evening, as I understood it, was to engage in some discussion around why the environmental movement has historically been separate from the peace movement. This charge is rather daunting, as if I could speak in one voice for either of these movements! But I will do my best.  I hope I can lay out some conceptual definitions around peace and the environment and also, since I am an educator, try and bring education into this discussion. If human nature is fueling global warming, then how might we as humans  reverse this trend? How might education play a part?

It seems a good idea if we are going to talk about peace to define it.         I am using peace in its holistic sense, as  more than the absence of war or conflict.  We talk about negative peace and positive peace.  Negative does not mean that peace is negative-it means that  this way of focusing on peace is on the  absence of conflict, and sometimes stopping violence and conflict is extremely important. Whereas positive peace implies the holistic concept of living within standards of justice and human rights, within a balance of nature, providing meaningful citizen participation within government and communities.  The National Peace Academy uses peace as it is defined in the Earth Charter-that peace is “the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, with others, with other cultures, other life, the Earth and the larger whole of which we are a part”. This  kind of peace is inherently dialogic and relationship based.  It invites us into conversation with each other. It recognizes the  humanity in each of us,  as we encounter those with whom we may disagree.  This kind of peace rests on the moral assumption of the inherent dignity of every human being.

Peace in this context  cannot be separate from the notion of justice. Justice and human dignity are intertwined and rooted in notions of equity. Violence of any sort is an affront to human dignity. And violence does not have to be overt. It can be structural, including those conditions that give rise to overt violence such as lack of access to food, clean water, education.

And what about the environment? How does this figure in with peace? I think it important that we move beyond a rather narrow definition of environmentalism and embrace some new terminology. A sustainable future is one way of defining the issues. This term sometimes can be problematic however. I prefer the terminology used by some Permaculture folks: the interrelationship of Earth Care, People Care, Fair Share. This way of defining integrates our understanding of the issues of the environment as they affect people and the earth.  Justice and therefore peace are an integral part.

And where does education fit in? I like to think that everyone of us is an educator. Just as everyone can be a learner  all of us are educators in whatever settings we find ourselves. Most education happens outside of formal schooling. Maria Montessori has reminded us that education is the primary mover of making peace, all politics can do is to keep us out of war.

How can education help us get out of the mess in which we find ourselves? if we are all called to be educators, then we are all called to take responsibility in whatever way we can to first educate ourselves and then in dialogue and community educate others. Informing ourselves is task number one. Get facts, check sources, seek full understanding of these complex issues.

We must learn to live with uncertainty. Martin Luther King quoted the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead who said “we live in a day when civilization is shifting its basic outlook, a turning point in which the presuppositions in which society is structured are being profoundly changed”. This was 1967! How apt for today. King noted that we must remain awake through profound periods of change. As  one of my favorite authors and activists Gus Speth reminds us, given the right combination of knowledge, will and action, we just might make it as a human species through this time of peril. We might just learn to enjoy some of these new adaptations, living simpler and more fulfilling lives.

We can begin to understand that real national and international security is really linked to human security. We know who is most affected by the effects of global climate change.  It is those who, for the most part, have not contributed to the problem. The island nations in the Pacific, Bangladesh, the poor in Louisiana, the residents of hospitals in New York City who had to be evacuated during Sandy.  We can begin to understand the increasing societal costs of our continued war on terror, the U.S. government being the 4th largest consumer of fossil fuels in the world with the military accounting for 80% of our government’s energy consumption. Reliance on our military presence around the world exacerbates global warming, setting up a vicious cycle in which we have to defend our oil interests at the same time using enormous energy to maintain our military presence and contributing to greenhouse gas emissions in the process.

We understand that we as humans have the capabilities to reverse some of the effects of climate change. Humans are immensely adaptable, creative and inventive.  For one thing, we can come to a new realization of what wealth is. Bill McKibben notes in his books that more wealth does not create more happiness. Wealth as happiness means wealth in human relationships and in community. Let us value our tasks as learners and as educators by spending time with those we love, with our families, with nature, recognizing and celebrating our common humanity. We will have to learn to live with risks and the safest way to do this is within communities. We know that the problems that we have created have no solutions within our present framework.  Yet the Vandana Shiva reminds us that “the uncertainty of our time is no reason to be certain about hopelessness”.  Thank you.



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body{font-family: Geneva,Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif;font-size:9pt;background-color: #ffffff;color: black;}WordPress.comMary Lee, Excellent article!  I wish I could have attended the event on the eve of Nov. 17– it sounds like it was terrific. Thank you for this important perspective of hopefulness –it is necessary if we are truly committed to addressing and altering climate change. I will share this widely. Best, Lisa 

Comment by Lisa Worth Huber

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