Paxeducare’s Blog


Peace and Global Climate Change-Remarks for the November 17th People’s Action for Clean Energy Forum
November 7, 2012, 4:52 pm
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PACE Talk November 17, 2012-Peace and Global Climate Change

My task this evening, as I understand it, is to contribute toward a discussion around the query what does global climate change have to do with peace?  A couple of corollary questions might be-Who is the peace community?  How can  education inform what we know about and can do about the deep environmental devastation humans have created? If human nature is fueling global warming, then how might we as humans  reverse this trend? How might education play a part?

It seems to me quite evident that for too long the policies,  and educational initiatives and our activism around the issues with the environment have not fully been integrated with  ideas of  peace and justice. The problem of this disconnect has been echoed in recent publications, one of my favorite being Gus Speth’s newest book, America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy (2012). Gus Speth, an esteemed environmental educator and policy analyst, lawyer and former dean of the Yale Forestry School,  having been arrested  for civil disobedience around the Tar Sands, and founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, speaks to this with regret and then sets about in the book to lay out some solutions for this problem. And thanks to Professor Thorson for promoting Speth’s book in his recent column in the Hartford Courant.

Who is the peace community? Before we talk about the peace community, it is important to define peace. Peace is more than the absence of war or conflict. Scholars talk about negative peace and positive peace. Negative does not mean that peace is negative-it means that  the concept focuses on the absence of conflict, 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 violence such as lack of access to food, clean water, education. Here we can begin to see  issues of peace and justice as they relate to the earth’s devastation and climate change.

So who is the peace community?  According to the Google search I found, the word “community” has old roots, going back to the Indo-European base mei, meaning “change” or  “exchange.” Apparently this joined with another root, kom, meaning “with,” to produce an Indo-European word kommein: “exchange with”.

So community means sharing, exchanging so that change can happen. And, sharing and exchanging cannot happen without there, of course, being people in relationship to one another. So we cannot separate out the notion of personal connections when we talk about community.

So the peace community is us. We who are in relationship to each other or who strive to be in relationship, even with those whom we disagree. We are all called to be peacemakers. None of us can speak in a unified voice for the “peace community”.  We can only speak from our own experiences, be that of activist, researcher , educator or concerned citizen.

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 our problems with the environment and embrace some new terminology. A sustainable future is one way of defining the issues. This term sometimes can be problematic. 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 postulate that everyone of us is an educator. Just as everyone is a learner  all of us are educators in whatever settings we find ourselves. 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, and, it seems it has not worked very well of late.

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 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, structural global economic dysfunction and depletion of fossil fuels. 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 low income housing along the shores of Staten Island. 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 domestic 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. According to the UN Environment Program, at least 18 conflicts since 1990 have been fueled by the exploitation of natural resources.

We know that global warming is contributing to desertification around the world and water scarcity will likely be a characteristic of future conflicts. And this will hit the poor and vulnerable hardest.  So this is a justice and therefore a peace issue.  Some believe the Darfur crisis was first and foremost a conflict over water, as desertification of the region created conflict over the ability to nourish crops and grasslands between the farmers and nomads. The Sudanese government exploited the issues.  Heightened issues of food security caused by global warming are predicted to be an issue for potential conflict. Again those with the least means will be most affected.  And currently over half of the energy we consume is required for the processes of economic growth. Is this kind of growth really sustainable?  We know that continued economic growth, along with  continued greenhouse gas emissions,  could commit the planet to at least an increase of 5 degrees C.

We understand that we as humans have the capabilities to reverse 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. 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.  Vandana Shiva reminds us that “the uncertainty of our time is no reason to be certain about hopelessness”.  Thank you.

 



Futures-Invention: Imaging a Fossil Free World
March 12, 2012, 7:59 pm
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“I hold to the notion that the future is nothing more and nothing less than a grand act of the human imagination”. Warren Zeigler, A Mindbook of Exercises for Futures-Invention, 1982

”The rise and fall of images of the future precedes or accompanies the rise and fall of cultures. As long as a society’s image is positive and flourishing, the flower of culture is in full bloom. Once the image begins to decay and lose its vitality, however, the culture does not long survive” (Fred Polak, Dutch futurist, translated by E. Boulding, 1973).

We all image. Deep within us we carry impressions, fragments, pictures, sights, sounds, smells, feelings and beliefs. Sometimes these represent real or imagined events from our past. Sometimes they might represent our hopes and dreams for the future. Sometimes these images come to us in dreams while we sleep. Sometimes in daydreams. Sometimes these images are scary. Sometimes not.

Our conscious or unconscious images of the future have direct relationship to our actions in the present, according to the late sociologist and futurist Elise Boulding. Positive images of the future are related to positive actions in the present. Boulding and other social scientists, including her husband Kenneth Boulding,  Johan Galtung, Eleonara Masini and others, helped to found the modern academic study of futures, a field of inquiry not confined to science, art, history, economics or political science, but rather a melding of many disciplines with a multitude of methodologies involved.

Historically there has been tension between those who attempt to predict the future based on models of the past, a more quantitative approach, and those who see the future as, essentially, unpredictable and therefore make the claim that the best way to predict it is to “create it”. Both approaches agree that the use of analysis, in addition to other methodologies, is key. In some sense, our modern approach to futures inventions combines the best of both of these approaches.

Our modern study of the future also owes its history to the publication of The Limits to Growth by the late Donella Meadows and others in 1972 following the widespread study and sharing in the 1960s among social scientists who were deeply concerned for the future of the earth. This landmark publication represented an attempt to integrate the global issues we faced then (and, of course, still do) of rapid population expansion, limits to economic growth, environmental devastation and resource overuse. Kenneth Boulding wrote his landmark essay in 1965 “Spaceship Earth”, in which he asked readers to imagine our planet as a small spaceship in the stratosphere with a limited carrying capacity for continued production, consumption and waste. The World Futures Society was founded in 1967, heralding some “legitimacy” to the field as it became more established, both in academic circles and also among laypeople.

If we fast forward to 2012, we now can say that our planet is in peril, that many of the predictions of the 1972 study have come true, and more. The next forty to fifty years could well spell disaster for human and others “specieskind”, our atmosphere and physical earth…or not. How we as a species adapt, in addition to whatever mitigation scientists can continue to come up with, specifically how we engage with the physical world, with one another, and how we behave, our beliefs and the carrying out of our values, all seem crucial to the survival of future generations. Intentional imaging of a positive future for our world, Futures-Invention, a term coined by Warren Zeigler, seems an imperative. Not only because, as we now understand, such images will impact how we behave now, but also because it is too easy to become full of despair as we confront the possibilities of what may be in store.

If we believe that we are the co-creators of the world we wish, then it would seem we need to do everything we can to insure our world is one in which energy consumption is greatly reduced, our reliance on fossil fuels is markedly decreased, we have responded to climate change and have moved beyond economic growth. And, while we adapt, we need to have fun! This is the heralded message of the Transition Movement, now global, in which we build resilience while building commun

Elise Boulding first became interested in the studies of futures in 1955 when she translated the work of the Dutch futurist, Fred Polak, learning Dutch as she did this. In the 1980s Boulding began adapting the work of Warren Zeigler to a weekend workshop format, at that time coining the name “Imaging a World Without Weapons” for her workshops. This was in the era of engaged activism around the concern for the proliferation of nuclear arms. Previously Zeigler had produced workshops on Futures-Invention and Imaging in myriad formats including the following themes: Education and Training in Human Services, the Future of Criminal Justice, the Future of Health Care and Its Delivery and the Future of Citizenship. I am deeply grateful that I was able to take a weekend training workshop on Imaging with Elise Boulding some years ago, building on other collaborative work we undertook for a period of about fifteen years. I am very happy now to be able to adapt this work to the very pressing problematique before us of the future of our planet. Together with Tony Jenkins, we will be bringing this format to the National Peace Academy and its Certificate Program in April 2012 in New York City.

The process of futures-inventions involves four modes of interaction among participants in workshops.  First is an internal dialogue, then a sharing of these reflections as a community of learners develops. Common themes emerge and groups are formed with similar visions and inventions and intentions. Finally plenary sharing occurs. In addition, there is a back and forth of reflection and analysis, including more free form and non linear/non verbal, discovery modes of learning among participants, coupled with a well thought out and planned agenda. This gently guides participants into the future and, finally, works backwards toward the present toward action building. The process is not only challenging at times, but fun, building a safe space where participants can give their fantasy life what we might call “the ride of and for our lives”.

 

“Preferred futuring initiates a large paradigm shift, taking us from being powerless victims to being empowered and connected to our deep passions and motivated to work together to create a future we want. It means we are responsible and cannot blame others.”  (Lawrence Lippitt, 1998)

A good link with an article on futures imaging from the Beyond Intractability Project of the Conflict Information Consortium at the University of Colorado is an article by Maire A. Dugan at http://www.beyondintractability.org/node/2699

Further Reading

Boulding, Elise. Building a Global Civic Culture: Education for an Interdependent World, New York: Teachers College,1988.

Boulding, Kenneth. “Earth as a Spaceship”. In Seeds of Violence, Seeds of Hope, Friends Testimonies and Economics Project. Found at http://www.fgcquaker.org/library/economics/seeds/index.htm

Boulding, Elise and Boulding, Kenneth. The Future: Images and Processes, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1994

Masani, Eleonora. Why Futures Studies? London: Grey Seal Books, 1993

Zeigler, Warren. A Mindbook of Exercises for Futures Invention, Denver, CO: Futures-Inventions Associates, 1982



Is Sustainability an Oxymoron in Southeast Asia? Or Is This a Westo-Centric View?
January 10, 2012, 10:01 am
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My husband and I are now on the last days of a month long sojourn in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. We have left our son, Boyce, who flew back to Mississippi a couple of days ago. We left our daughter, Gretchen, in Mae Sot, Thailand, where she works. Most of the time we have spent in Thailand. Traveling with our two grown children most of the time has been a wonderful treat. Asia seems a feast for all of the senses: loud cars and motorcycles, street noises of all kinds, smells of food frying, odd sewer smells, dirt and dust. Stimulations of sites, bright hues, garish western gear, huge billboards advertising things we “must have”. Taxis of all sorts: tuk tuks (motorcycle taxis), songtows (pick up taxis), bicycle taxis and really new and fresh looking car taxis in Bangkok and Saigon. Energy conservation is ubiquitous, if nothing else to save precious Thai Bhat,  US dollars (used in Cambodia) and Vietnamese Dong. In many guest houses we have stayed in the electricity is connected to the room key: all of it goes off when you leave, including the air conditioning, in those places that have AC. In a couple of places, recycling was important: bins provided for various kinds of items.

                On the other hand, bottled water is a must and what to do with all of the plastic bottles. The locals don’t drink the water either as it can make one sick. Large jugs are provided and replenished. Not so for the tourists. I presume some sort of recycling at the hotels is in order for all of these bottles, but am not sure. The larger issue to me is the carbon emissions: public buses are few, though the train system in Bangkok is good and quite crowded much of the time. After a few minutes of either walking or sitting in Saigon, Chang Mai and Bangkok traffic, I found my lungs filling and the view clouding. Many locals wear face masks a good deal of the time-rather sobering. There is an art to walking and driving any vehicle and, to my surprise, we did not witness any accidents.

                What I find interesting is the seemingly ubiquitous ethos of consumerism, particularly in the larger cities. Seems we in the US do not have a corner on this. Not only local markets that seem to cater to both locals and tourists (evolving I presume from what was once a local market culture) but the advertisements on huge billboards, the very modern, hugely overcrowded Siam mall area of Bangkok. One can choose from thousands of varieties of flip flops, the footwear of choice, everywhere, myriad kinds of shirts, pants, purses, cheap sculptors, snack foods.  Who is buying all of this stuff? While some of us in the West are trying to figure out how to live more simply, it is as if Southeast Asia is moving up and away from once upon a time what we would call simple living to trying to live what we in the US once may have called the American Dream. Truly this is a time of global transition , with some cultural “flip flopping”and it is so interesting to experience this first-hand. What all of this resource use will do the planet gives one pause.



Journey to the Burmese Border of Thailand
January 10, 2012, 9:58 am
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Mission of Assistance Association for Political Prisoners

 

Our family has been traveling for a month in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. It was wonderful to spend two nights and three days in Mae Sot, Thailand, where our daughter, Gretchen, lives and works. A border town, much of the population of Mae Sot consists of exiles, refugees and migrants from Myanmar (Burma). A river is all that separates the two countries. Though this river crossing is, metaphorically, much wider than a look would indicate. Many of the Burmese in Mae Sot are not there with legal documents, but have escaped the military junta that now rules.

                Gretchen had arranged three site visits to various organizations with which she works. The first was a recently founded school for “post 10” students from Burma, to prepare them for entrance to the school that will, in turn, prepare them for the rigorous entrance examination for most universities in Southeast Asia. Each of these students has their unique story involving their journey to Thailand. Much of this preparation involves learning the English language, as the tests are in English. We were treated like royal guests upon our arrival at this simple school and were able to dialogue with the students who were eager to learn about us, our work and travels. I was able to talk a little about peace education and we chatted about local farming and sustainability. Some students there are involved in growing their own food on the grounds and have established a business growing mushrooms for harvest and sale. These students were some of the most motivated and eager to learn I have seen in my years of teaching, based on the time we spent together. For, in a sense, their very lives may depend on their learning. The teachers are volunteers from other countries, often from the US and other western areas. The two that we met were both retired American teachers, who commit to a period of from 3-6 months at the school.

                The second visit was to a medical clinic in Mae Sot which was founded by a Burmese doctor about 20 years ago to serve the Burmese exiled and refugee community. We were graciously shown around. Typical it was of so many hospital settings one sees in developing countries. Primitive by some standards and yet a caring place and jobs get done. More extensive care needed for patients is done at a local, larger hospital when possible.  A sobering visit to the prosthesis room indicated the list of injuries for which they fit-mostly land mine accidents. Throughout our travels, seeing the legless and handless has been a reminder of the consequences of conflicts in this war ravaged area. And also the consequences, too often, of American foreign policy, particularly in Vietnam and Thailand. Though these injuries we saw in Mae Sot may more likely be a result of war ravaged Burma. Many, many patients and their families waiting to be seen outside. A full OB delivery area which we walked right through, with newborns and their mothers. We declined to view the operating “room”, with its rather thin curtain separating it from the rest of the area and, by our standards, a bit of an unusual invitation.

                The third site visit was to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP). Founded by Burmese ex-political prisoners, the organization works to advocate for the conditions and the release of those jailed for conscience, now numbering in the thousands, including many Burmese monks. Our tour guide had been released in 2004 after 5 years, some in solitary. Wonderful work and courageous, given, for instance, that her release was contingent upon the condition she not engage in political work inside Burma. In all of these settings, we were very careful about to never photograph the faces of the Burmese and to be careful generally about what we said about the work. The photo here of the clinic listing of prosthesis injuries does not include the names of the patients, for instance.

Injuries of the Prosthesis Clinic Mae SotMission of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners



Southeast Asia December 2011
January 10, 2012, 2:45 am
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Southeast Asia December, 2011  Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City)

 left-Genocide Museum Phnom Penh            Having come from Cambodia to Saigon, embarking from Bangkok 10 days ago, with a stopover in Shanghai from New York, it is interesting experiencing different nationalities, cultures and political and historical environments in each country. The appalling poverty of Cambodia, including countless street children and beggars, is contrasted against the rising of the tourist industry and innumerable local and international NGOs in Cambodia which are feeding the development of many social enterprises. Vietnam, on the other hand, seems “already there” in terms of a much more prevalent middle class, much cleaner streets and upscale shops and buildings  and, to my observation, few beggars. Both countries are emerging from the last many decades of war. The tourism industry has capitalized on this. In Phnom Penh, the 2 main tourist attractions are the Genocide Museum, formerly a school, where the officers under the famed Pol Pot secured their “enemies of the state” before shipping them off to be killed in the countryside, and, secondly, the memorial to the “Killing Fields” outside of town. The latter is deeply spiritual, haunting in its reminder of the horrors of war and what happens when the populace is unable to resist the ravages of a deeply disturbed and paranoid dictator.  

                In Saigon three of the main attractions have to do with what the Vietnamese call the “American War” or the war of American aggression, the concomitant resistance of the Vietnamese and their role as victims of an unwanted war. One of the most vivid reminders of “whose side” is depicted is the tour to the famed Cuchi Tunnels, outside of Saigon, which were built by the Viet Cong, series of disguised and booby trapped tunnels built to repel and resist the American invaders. It was truly fascinating to be visiting the sites of the places featured in my youth on CBS, ABC, NBC news networks during what we Americans call the Vietnamese War. Particularly since my cousin, Richard Threlkeld, was a CBS news correspondent covering the war in Vietnam.We also visited the Reunification Palace and the War Remembrances museum in Saigon, both vivid reminders of the recent past trauma of the country.

                It is the “extreme” nationalism of the current Vietnam that fascinates me. As if, in this particular time in their history, they must glorify the accomplishments in war and the rise of a people united to resist foreign enemies. Ho Chi Minh is considered reverently as the hero and liberator of Vietnam. I have been fascinated by the dominant narrative of Vietnam which is at this point, quite frankly, full of propaganda and lacuna in historical remembrances, all in the name of Vietnamese patriotism. Of course in America we have done and do the same. The films we have witnessed at various sites on our trip remind me of old reels of U.S. World War II propaganda movies. I suppose this sort of thing is true of all countries in the name of nationalism, so many having emerged from the deep wounds of war.  It is as if the patriotism displayed offers no view of other ways of thinking, other perspectives. This is why nationalist thinking can be so dangerous. Nowhere in all of these tourist sites we have visited in Vietnam has there been mention of the thousands of South Vietnamese soldiers who fought willingly alongside the Americans. It is as there was no such thing as 2 sides of a civil war in Vietnam. It is as if this new Vietnam, a unified country now and its people, have difficulty critically evaluating the issues, which include thinking about those who either fought for the south or to whom it mattered little which side was fighting, because so many just wanted to live their lives and make a living in the countryside, not caring whether troops were North Vietnamese, South Vietnamese, Americans or Viet Cong.

                As the only Americans on our tour of the tunnels, I felt somewhat conspicuous and, I realized, a little offended as our tour guide and members of the tour laughed as he showed land mines which the Viet Cong cleverly hid to “get Americans”….”and they died, ha ha”.  I discovered some patriotic feelings I didn’t realize I had. It was a vivid reminder of what we have learned in the processes of teaching conflict transformation –it truly does matter your perspective. While sitting quietly at a rest spot on the tour, we chatted with our young guide and, when he learned we are Americans, he apologized for what he said about Americans. He told us his father was severely injured during the war fighting with the North Vietnamese and he hates Americans. He said he tries to tell his father that “the war is over”. I told him that my cousin, an American marine, lost both legs and a good part of his hands while tripping on a land mine as a U. S. marine. We agreed that war is terrible.  For some, wars don’t end. I don’t think this young man meant any harm. He was merely adhering to the narrative his tour guide training had instilled.

                Yet when this kind of narrative continues, I realize how imperative it is to teach the processes and skills of peace, to teach to think critically and to understand these issues from multiple perspectives and our own role that we each have in transforming violence and conflict. My hope is that some years from now, the dominant narrative at the Cuchi Tunnels will not be the glory of a unified Vietnam against the American enemies, but an exposé on the horrors of war and the importance that each of us must place on examining our own lives, to see what within them contains, as 18th century Quaker John Woolman wrote, “the seeds of war”. This can include narrow mindedness, lust for greed and power, and a willingness to look the other way in the face of injustice and structural violence.  

Victim's Clothing-the Killing Fields of Cambodia

 

Cuchi Tunnels Outside Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

 



An Open Letter About Our Arrest for Civil Disobedience-Tar Sands
October 11, 2011, 2:45 pm
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Many of you are aware of the issues around the egregious Tar Sands mining in Alberta, Canada and the Keystone XL Pipeline that will carry this crude material to Texas for processing and distribution. For the first time, I am my husband, Bill Upholt, felt called to participate in an action involving civil disobedience and arrest. Following is the letter we sent out to our supporters just after our participation in the action in Washington, DC in late August, 2011. It is hoped that, by publicizing our actions and our reasons and some of the issues involved, we are promoting the continued mission of Pax Educare, which is peace education. In reality, there can be little separation between education and action. I believe there is an inherent relationship between principled action and learning.

September 2011

Dear Friends and Family

 Since many of you have been so supportive of our efforts regarding the Tar Sands Action, we thought we would send out an email to you all, thanking you for supporting us in what we both feel has been a spirit led process to come to the point of civil disobedience. We were both arrested today, transported to the Anacostia DC police station in handcuffs, paid our fine and were released. So it was a pretty easy process as these things go. We had excellent training last night with inspiring talks by Bill Mckibben and Canadian First Nations representatives who are  already being directly affected.  We were very well prepared as a community acting in concert with a common purpose and a peaceful positive approach. The police were, for the most part, very helpful, courteous and friendly. My (Mary Lee)  police wagon driver became interested in what we were doing and we in the van had a very interesting conversation, filling him in. He said “I agree with you!” All about teachable moments. The sense of solidarity among the participants was really wonderful.  We found friends here participating, including Tom Carr, pastor of  First Baptist Church in West Hartford, who was arrested  yesterday, others from CT and Quakers from various parts of the US. Bill and I are both fine.
 
Bill and I both believe that climate change is one of the biggest challenges and defining issues  of our time, along with the issues of  peak oil extraction and our economic system which is in deep trouble. All three are interrelated. Briefly, the issues around the Tar Sands have to do with the Keystone Energy Company’s XL pipeline, which would bring crude oil extracted from tar sands in the Alberta boreal forest to the Texas Gulf area for processing. It is an extremely energy intensive process to extract, using large amounts of natural gas , very expensive, creates vast pools of wastewater, excavates tons of soil, and climatologists are saying that if we tap into tar sands, we will get tipped into catastrophic climate change. In short, it is an ecological disaster. There have already been numerous problems with spills in the existing pipeline project. For more information you can go to www.tarsandsaction.org. Since it is up to our President and the State Department to provide final approval of the agreement, as the pipeline crosses international boundaries, the sit in is being held at the White House. If you feel so moved, we urge you to register your request with the White House that Obama uphold his campaign promises on the environment and please not sign the agreement. White House phone number is 202-456-1111. You can say that you are urging our President to please not approve the Keystone Pipeline project.

We feel that we are on the cusp of a “revolution” in the use of renewable sources of energy. We don’t’ need to tap into these hard to reach sources of oil and gas. Tapping into tar sands, gas fracking, deep water oil drilling and other extreme approaches to fossil fuel extraction just continues us on a path of  fossil fuel dependence for the foreseeable  future. For the sake of the next generations and the future of our planet, we felt a call to this civil disobedience action. 

 Mary Lee and Bill



Healthy, Wealthy and Wise
May 17, 2011, 6:08 pm
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Dear Friends-in this and subsequent newsletters you will notice that the focus of our content is shifting to increasingly include elements of the concepts of global sustainability. This reflects a deep awareness that we are at a crucial time in the history of our planet.  The mission of Pax Educare, over the past 10 years, has been to focus on the importance of educating both about and, more importantly, for peace.  It has become increasingly clear to me that to insure that our children and grandchildren have a habitable earth in which to live we are called to an expanded concept of peace education to include sustainability. The urgency is upon us.

                The word “sustainability” is one that my fellow board members of the Connecticut Partnership for Sustainability (www.ctpse.org)  and I labor over.  We wonder-do most people understand just what this term means? Does it convey the urgency of the problems before us in ways that can excite others to action? We play with other terminology. The one that I like is one that was shared by fellow board member Emily Bowling, who is the Eco-House Coordinator at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. It is one that was coined by the Permaculture folks http://permacultureprinciples.com/index.php. Imagine a flower with 3 petals, each petal representing one of these three principles: “earth care, people care and fair share”.  Simple enough. Yet, in my recent endeavors to understand more fully the tasks before us, this way of viewing sustainability can also represent a thoroughly integrative and more radical view toward transforming our present society.

                Author Bill McKibben, in his book Deep Economics,  (a recommended read), quotes the economist Herman Daly, formerly the World Bank’s Senior Environmental Economist, as saying “anyone who says they understand money hasn’t thought enough about it”. With the old adage in mind that there is nothing like teaching to help one learn something, my husband, Bill Upholt, and I decided to convene and to host, through our Quaker Meeting, a discussion series on ecological economics. The group meets monthly, discussing reading assignments and occasionally viewing movies, the latest one I highly recommend, “The Economics of Happiness” http://www.theeconomicsofhappiness.org/. The film highlights the effects of our economic globalization and makes a powerful case for a movement toward localization. It features Bill McKibben, eco-feminist Vandana Shiva and others in the forefront of this new thinking.

                Humbling it is to realize that I have been a part of an economic system of which I know and understand so little. It makes me eager to learn more, if for nothing than to understand more fully how I might take control over my own production and consumption. I realize how little I have understood of the concept of debt and how our entire banking system would collapse without it. That continued economic growth as we know it rests on the notion that growth and debt are inextricably linked in a cycle. And that because of this, our system continues its growth as some become wealthier and others become more impoverished. There is always someone indebted to someone else. And who becomes the debtor and who the indebted so often is determined by who holds power.

                What excites me is learning more about “no growth” and its possibilities. Author McKibben notes that more monetary wealth does not create more happiness. American happiness peaked in the 1950s, when we as a nation produced and consumed much less than we do today. At the same time, the last few decades have seen a surge in the number of hours Americans are working, less time we are able to devote to family and a huge upward trend in the amount of “things” we consume. As we consider the effects of peak oil (some experts claim we are already on the downward spiral of having extracted as much oil as is easily accessible) we can consider a radically transformed society in which we are not “slaves” to an economy that rests on consumption, which  largely rests on the extraction, production and use of fossil fuel.  This new society will, inevitably, be more local.

                Scottish economist Malcolm Slessner notes that currently about 55% or the energy we consume is required for the processes of economic growth (in Deep Economy).  British economist Lord Nicholas Stern, in a lecture sponsored by the Tufts University Global Development and Environmental Institute, remarked that continued growth as we know it could commit the planet to a warming of 5 degrees Celsius. This would result in a higher average temperature than any time in the last 30 million years. This, in turn, could, in all likelihood, impact where people are able to live and include mass migrations and global warfare. Journalist Mark Hertsgaard, in his new best-selling book Hot: Living Through the Next Fifty Years on Earth, makes the case that in the best scenario, our planet’s temperature will rise only 2 degrees Celsius, not 5, still problematic. We should plan for this through policy changes, utilizing mitigation to prevent further rise and adaptability to this new increase, such as the Dutch are doing in relocating residents in low lying areas that are likely to flood due to rising sea levels. Even if we stop emitting carbon now, our planet will still warm up. Adapting to new conditions is therefore not only important but imperative.  Lord Stern notes that, in order to prevent catastrophic climate change, a new industrial revolution will be required, and this can begin in part with a new agricultural system. I believe that this new agricultural system must be based on localization.

                Our tasks as educators are urgently laid before us. I fervently hope that we can come to a new realization of what wealth is. Wealth as human happiness means wealth in relationships and community. I hope that we might expand our notion of a healthy economy as one encompassing not only markets of production and consumption, but natural and human resources as well. Let us value time with family, the nurturance of children, our interactions with nature. Research by Yale scholar Stephen Kellert has shown that we as humans have an inherent need to affiliate with our natural world and that 90% of an average American’s time is spent indoors. Bill McKibben’s point is that we have substituted oil for people. The antidote  to this is might rest in the knowledge that ten times as many conversations take place at a local farm market as they do at a supermarket.

                We will have to learn to live with risks and the safest way to do this is within community.  We will also need to learn to live with ambiguity and uncertainty. As Quaker author Ed Dreby writes “the problems are ones for which there is no solution within our current framework”. Given that we do not know for certain what will be the impact of our current actions on our future, but realizing we must act as we continue to seek knowledge, here are some suggestions  from the Center for the Advancement of a Steady State Economy http://steadystate.org/.

  • Limit our resource use and waste
  • Stabilize population growth
  • Limit economic inequality-work toward more equal taxation and reducing the enormous gap of salaries between the top and bottom earnings
  • Reform the monetary system  (the control of the money supply made public)
  • Change how we view progress, taking into account human happiness
  • Increase leisure time and reduce employment hours (see the New Economics Foundation http://www.neweconomics.org/sites/neweconomics.org/files/21_Hours.pdf )
  • Rethink our business models toward more cooperatives
  • Reduce our consumption
  • Engage policy makers and politicians toward these changes
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Best wishes for a Happy Planet.

Mary Lee Morrison