Earth Day and the Call to Peace

Written by: Terry Link

Primary Source: Possibilitator

So should it be anyway. And there can be little doubt that violence of war is a major contributor to ecological and climate destabilization, not to mention the human and social horror of war. The UN reported this week that in it’s 70 years of existence it has never faced so many major (10) crises as it does now.

World on Fire: UN Helpless as Crises Rage in 10 Critical Hot Spots

“Historically, the United Nations has grappled with one or two crises at any given time. But handling 10 such crises at one and the same time, said UN Secretary General  Ban Ki-moon, was rare and unprecedented in the 70-year history of the United Nations.”

Yes, we know there are alternatives to war and violence – see Jesus, Gandhi, King, Mandela, Day, etc. Yet we prepare constantly for war – see my blogs earlier this year, “Put Down the Guns”, or “A Race With All Losers” seemingly oblivious to the alternatives.

As I prepare for the annual meeting of our local Peace Education Center this weekend I have been reflecting more and more on the absence of discussions of peace in the world outside of the few dedicated peacemakers I know. Last week, as is my lot in life I guess, I reviewed the new book shelves in the MSU Libraries to stumble upon Colman McCarthy’s new Teaching Peace: Students Exchange Letters With Their Teacher (Vanderbilt University Press 2015)
title One reviewer found it “riveting and a real gem, filled with insights gleaned from the thousands of letters he’s received from former students.In it he explains how and why he went about it, enduring skepticism and praise, criticism and admiration.” (History News Network, 2-20-15)

Ralph Nader writes on the book jacket:

“Formerly a Washington Post columnist and editorial writer, Colman McCarthy is the leading teacher and promoter of peace studies in America, which is why few Americans have heard of him. But ten thousand high school and college students and prison inmates know him and will never forget the impact of his memorable exchanges over the historic morality and function of nonviolence to head off wars and other forms of violence. This book pulsates with thoughtful letters from his students and McCarthy’s fascinating responses. Rush this book to your children’s schools and raise a generation of Americans who are motivated to wage peace to resolve conflicts. This is a book like no other and, like words of wisdom and importance, it is graced with humor and wit and phrases you’ll want to use with other human beings.”

I’ve been mesmerized and challenged by it for the past week. It has stirred me, as much by the subject matter, as by the pedagogy McCarthy brings to the topic. To read these letters is to feel a connection with fellow searchers for a better world. All teachers, at any level, should delve into its pages. Not since I read  Parker Palmer’s The Courage to Teach, more than a decade ago has a book about learning touched me so deeply. It speaks to all of us who want to learn and to share knowledge and wisdom and make the world a better place.

Couple this with Peace Business: Humans and Nature Above Markets and Capital which I noted in a recent blog, and one can awaken to the possibility of a world without war and violence.
Peace Business - Humans and Nature Above Markets and Capital Peace business starts from a different orientation – not solely on making a profit but on meeting basic human needs.
  
“These are human needs in their simplest and most universal form. The basic human needs of future generations are deemed as  important  as those of today’s population. This is in contrast to the current business paradigm where profit is the determining factor in whether a good or a service is provided.
     The fundamental distinction between the current business paradigm and peace business is this difference in purpose – meeting basic human needs in a just and sustainable fashion, as distinct from profit. Rather than relying on first generating profit and then leaving it to government or the largess of businesses to redistribute the wealth in a fair manner, peace business sets out to meet basic human needs as its overriding priority.”

Surely, ending war will not be easy. Others have been trying for centuries. But slavery took centuries to end, and women and people of color have more rights and power now than they had 100 years ago, while we still have much further to go. All of these efforts began with those who believed in the possibility of changing the status quo.

As McCarthy notes in one of his responses to a student, “When the 40-hour work week was first proposed by Eugene Debs, the five-time Socialist candidate for president from 1900 to 1920 – the idea was dismissed as lunacy. Debs went further. He called for paid vacation for the workers. More lunacy. Then he went too far and urged people to oppose US entry into the first World War.. He praised opponents of the draft. For that, he was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison.” (p.126)

We need resilience.

riveting and a real gem, filled with insights gleaned from the thousands of letters he’s received from former students. In it, he explains how and why he went about it, enduring skepticism and praise, criticism and admiration. – See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/158592#sthash.PXeCPjuG.dpuf
His new book, “Teaching Peace: Students Exchange Letters with Their Teacher,” is riveting and a real gem, filled with insights gleaned from the thousands of letters he’s received from former students. In it, he explains how and why he went about it, enduring skepticism and praise, criticism and admiration. – See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/158592#sthash.PXeCPjuG.dpuf
His new book, “Teaching Peace: Students Exchange Letters with Their Teacher,” is riveting and a real gem, filled with insights gleaned from the thousands of letters he’s received from former students. In it, he explains how and why he went about it, enduring skepticism and praise, criticism and admiration. – See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/158592#sthash.PXeCPjuG.dpuf
His new book, “Teaching Peace: Students Exchange Letters with Their Teacher,” is riveting and a real gem, filled with insights gleaned from the thousands of letters he’s received from former students. In it, he explains how and why he went about it, enduring skepticism and praise, criticism and admiration. – See more at: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/158592#sthash.PXeCPjuG.dpuf

As I excerpted earlier this year in a brief discussion of Randall Amster’s Peace Ecology,

    “War is a social, economic and ecological disaster. It is totally unsustainable and must be opposed by all who are concerned about meeting the real needs of all people and future generations. The effect of war is most immediate for those who are killed or maimed or made homeless, but the social and ecological consequences reverberate for generations. Among the children who survive, we still don’t know the full extent of the psychic damage they have suffered or the degree to which their problems are transmitted to successive generations. War is the ultimate atrocity that dehumanizes victor and vanquished alike; divorcing children from parents, separating families, smashing communities, it deprives its victims of their basic need for love and security in the company of their fellow beings.” [David Suzuki, quoted on page 4].

Perhaps we can begin to see the links between violence between humans and violence between humans and nature as two sides of the same coin. If we want to save the home we share with other beings, we must end war. We must. Starting Now. Colman McCarthy, Randall Amster, Johan Galtung, Jack Santa Barbara, Frederick Dubee have given us glimpses of possibilities. We must put our shoulders to the wheel.

Happy Earth Day

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Terry Link
Terry Link is a retired MSU librarian, former founding director of the MSU Office of Campus Sustainability, and co-founder and former chair of the American Library Association’s Task Force on the Environment. He recently served as associate editor for the two-volume encyclopedia, Achieving Sustainability: Visions, Principles, and Practices(Gale/Cengage 2014). He has also served as executive director of a regional food bank and as a county commissioner. Currently he is president of Starting Now, LLC, a sustainability consulting firm, a Senior Fellow for the U.S. Partnership for Education for Sustainable Development and serves on numerous non-profit organization boards.
Terry Link

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