Working towards peace and sustainability

Time to Step Out for the Climate: Why We Are Walking 5K on Sept. 16.

Picture this:  You see an infant out in the street, with a truck just a block away headed straight for her. Your impulse is to run out in the road and scoop the baby up. A crowd of people looking down from an overhead bridge urges you on, but one naysayer hollers out, “She’ll be OK, just leave her there.”

What do you do?

Well, the answer is obvious, isn’t it? Or at least it should be.

Sad reality is that we see an actual disaster—an existential threat—Climate Catastrophe, looming larger every day. Yet those making the rules in our nation’s seat of power, Washington, DC, are not just saying, “Don’t worry, we can ignore this.” Rather they are actively dismantling the inadequate, but somewhat helpful, steps taken toward the end of the Obama administration.

Our question for you:  Are you going to sit on the sidelines, or are you going to step out to take action commensurate with the urgency of dealing with the Climate Crisis?

Walk for the Climate on September 16

Walk 5 kilometers? Why bother? Does it really do any good? Aren’t there more important things to do?

These are all good and valid questions, and we, here at Peaceworks, are happy to share our answers.

First, for those who haven’t heard, Peaceworks is holding our fourth annual 5K Walk for the Climate on the afternoon of Sunday, Sept. 16. We’ll be gathering starting at 1 p.m. at Courthouse Plaza, and kicking things off with music by Band of Brothers followed by a short rally. All Boone County area candidates for legislative seats—state and federal—have been invited to participate in a Candidate Open Mic to share their views on climate change.

We then will walk as a group, carrying signs and banners, through downtown CoMo and the MU campus. The walk is 5K, which is approximately three miles.

Why Walk?  This is a visibility event, not a race. Its primary purpose is putting the Climate Crisis front and center and insisting that we move forward as quickly as possible to address this immanent threat. The more of us who turn out to rally, to hear the candidates and to walk, the more attention we will bring to bear.

We have all observed the melting polar ice; the unprecedented fires; the rising seas; the increasing frequency of extreme weather events including super-storms, floods, droughts, heat waves and more. We know that what we’re seeing is exactly what the climate scientists have predicted for decades and that things are going to get worse.

Prompt action, however, holds the potential for avoiding some of the worst consequences of climate change. But this requires responding ASAP, which, in turn, will only happen if politicians decide that they can’t afford to ignore climate change any longer.

Even though addressing climate change is arguably the most significant issue facing humanity this century, the media mainly treats the climate as a third tier issue. And most politicians tend to ignore it unless we hold their feet to the fire.

That’s why we need YOU to join us on September 16; rally with us to demonstrate broad support for prompt and effective climate action.

Does a Climate Walk Really do any Good?  Events like this help in several ways:

First of all, elected officials and candidates are invited to the event. Those who don’t attend will hopefully hear about it through the media. Either way, they will know there are concerned citizens speaking out.

Likewise many of our fellow citizens will either see our event firsthand or will catch it on the news. They, too, will likely recognize that something is up, and perhaps start asking questions or speaking out themselves

And those who participate will be buoyed by the sense of solidarity that we feel when we come together with likeminded folks around a shared objective. Participating, we breakout of our sense of isolation and recognize we are not alone in caring for the Earth and grieving for the fate of future generations.

Finally, each of these impacts is magnified if our numbers are larger. Should you choose to participate you not only have an impact yourself, but you amplify the impact of others who have come out for the rally and the walk. And, by the way, if you are not able to walk the 5K route we encourage you to come to the rally. Then, if you can walk part of the route, that would be great, and, if you can’t, being part of the rally is most appreciated.

Is this a Walkathon? Those who choose to are invited to also help us raise money for our climate advocacy work, but the fundraising piece is optional. If you’d like a sponsor sheet, you can CLICK HERE to access one. Peaceworks does need funding support and your support is most welcome, but, again, this is not the main purpose of this event. There are free T-shirts and prizes. Details on this are on the sponsor sheet.

For More Info:  We really hope you’ll join us on Sept. 16. If you plan to attend or want more info and are on Facebook you can find our FB event if you CLICK HERE. You can also use the event to invite your friends. You can also call us at the Peace Nook at 573-875-0539 or e-mail us at mail@midmopeaceworks.org. Together, we can make this one powerful event advocating for climate sanity. Please be part of it and help us build it. The future is in our hands. Let’s not blow it.

There’s Also an Informational Seminar: In addition to the Climate Walk on Sept. 16, there will also be an informational seminar on Climate, Jobs and Justice taking place from 1-5 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 8, in conjunction with Rise for Climate events around the country. Peaceworks is joining our climate allies in co-sponsoring this event. We encourage you to attend both. Come learn on Sept. 8 and come demonstrate on Sept. 16. Details on Facebook at CLICK HERE, or give us a shout. 

The Current Moment—Addressing the Challenges

The state of our body politic is distressed, at best, and it’s enough to turn many off from any sort of participation. This is a trap and represents a grave danger, as our engagement is needed now, more than ever.

Each day the news virtually assaults us. We have government of, by and for the billionaires, headed up by a prevaricating, narcissist autocrat who is stacking the courts, constantly attacking the free press and dismantling every program actually worthy of our tax dollars. The outrages are so constant as to leave many numb, and therein lies the danger. 

Many progressives are hanging their hopes on the Mueller probe, but this is risky at best. We, at Peaceworks, support following the investigation through, fully pursuing all wrongdoing done by or during the campaign, as well as any obstruction of justice since. But, however this turns out, it will not solve our problems. First of all, it is unclear that Trump would be either charged or impeached. But, even if he was forced from office, we would still have an extremist in the White House and literally dozens of battles on our hands, fighting a retrograde agenda.

Among our many battles are:

● Ending climate change denial and the rollback of the modest progress that had been made.

● Stopping the many other attacks on clean air, clean water, workplace safety, consumer protection and more.

● Rolling back the massive increase in military spending, as well as addressing destabilizing foreign policy directions, including the abandonment of the Iran Nuclear Deal.

● Addressing the attacks on Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP and other critical programs, along with challenging massive handouts to the wealthy.

● Dealing with the hateful, divisive attacks that are creating an atmosphere of fear and loathing.

As disturbing as it is to have an overt racist, xenophobic misogynist in the highest office in the land, it is even more troubling to us to know that at least one-third of our fellow citizens support this pseudo-populist hate monger.

We urgently need to figure out how to best apply the brakes to the Trump juggernaut and, to woo those who’ve been drawn in by his anti-establishment rhetoric, by offering a true progressive populist agenda that actually would bring social and economic justice as well as environmental sanity and peace.

There is no simple answer to our dilemma. But please consider:

● We need everyone eligible to be informed and voting. While Peaceworks does not endorse, support or oppose candidates, we recognize the importance of electoral activism.

● We need, as individuals, to re-engage. There is essential work to be done on critical issues. We need to be effective, vocal advocates addressing these issues.

● We need you to get involved—with Peaceworks, we would hope—or with whatever progressive groups you feel most drawn to.

● Our organizations must collaborate and support each other. Our approach needs to be intersectional. That’s why we’ve been working as an active part of the Solidarity Network.

● While we must take a stand against all we disagree with, it is at least as important that we articulate positive solutions to climate change, militarism, injustice, etc. As Naomi Klein informs us, “No Is Not Enough.” We must inspire a broad swath of our fellow citizens with a solution-driven agenda that offers up hope.

● Most of all, at this critical juncture, we must turn to each other for mutual support, stay hopeful, build community, and recognize the necessity of this work. We’re in it for the long-haul and hope you are too.

Lights of Hope in Our Peace Lanterns

On August 4, 2018 peace-loving mid-Missourians will gather, as they’ve done annually for the past 31 years, to share in making a statement of hope for the future. In a world of Realpolitik, perpetual wars and militarism, some might see this as a pointless gesture. Others, aware of the power of intention, see it otherwise, and thus we persist, coming together each year to renew a shared commitment.

When those who’ve not previously participated hear of a “Hiroshima-Nagasaki Memorial Peace Gathering,” they often, understandably, think that we are gathering primarily to remember those who died in the atomic bombing of these two cities in 1945.

Of course, remembering the hundreds of thousands of innocent people who lost their lives in these horrific bombings is one part of why we gather. Our primary reason for gathering, however, is looking forward, not back, and aiming to mobilize pressure in the present to co-create a future free of the threat of nuclear annihilation.

Nuclear weapons are one of two human-created, existential threats; the other being climate change. The intention of the United States and the other eight nuclear-armed nations to maintain their arsenals in perpetuity, serves to legitimate the pursuit of these hellishly destructive devices. More fingers on the button means the use of these weapons is more likely. And our own government’s commitment to a phenomenally expensive, so-called “modernization” only spurs new arms races with the Russians and the Chinese, again, making us less safe.

And, when we gather, while we address the need for mutual, verifiable, incremental and universal nuclear disarmament, we also always tie together our concerns regarding nukes with broader concerns: ending the permanent war and the power of the Military-Industrial Complex, pursuing social and economic justice and addressing the very real threats of climate change and environmental unsustainability.
Participants decorate lanterns in preparation for the lantern float.
This annual gathering is in some ways a ritual, a coming together of a community. We break bread; sharing food potluck style. We listen to music, speakers and poets. Most symbolically we decorate commemorative lanterns, and, when it gets dark we light candles in the lanterns and float them on the lake. In the Japanese tradition the candle-boats each carry the soul of someone whose life has passed.

To us, however, the lights have an additional meaning. The tiny candle flame symbolizes hope; our hope for peace and a nuclear-free future. It’s another expression of the notion, “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” Each of us creates a lantern and they are sent out on the water as a group, symbolizing our shared hopes and prayers. Ultimately, our August Peace Gathering is an opportunity for the community to come together and embrace hope; hope for a future in which we finally get our priorities straight, a future that works for all of us.

We hope you will join us.  For more info, please CLICK HERE.

Serving line for the potluck.
Eating and visiting.
Peace educator and activist Bill Wickersham addresses the crowd.

Vote “No” on Prop. A

Tuesday, August 7 Missouri voters will decide whether our state will adopt an anti-labor, so-called “Right to Work” (RTW) law. Peaceworks urges our members and supporters to turn out in large numbers and vote “No” on Proposition A.

Given that Peaceworks’ primary concerns are climate change and matters of war and peace, some may wonder why we are wading in to this fray. Here are some of the reasons:

  Peaceworks is also concerned about social and economic justice. Strong unions are a bulwark against growing economic inequality. In fact, the trend towards lower real wages for workers has tracked closely with union busting and anti-union policies adopted starting during the Reagan administration. States with RTW laws consistently have lower wages and fewer workplace protections.

  Justice is an essential ingredient for peace, both on the international stage and domestically. If we hope to live in a peaceful world in the decades to come, we better get on the right side of history and start pursuing economic democracy and a participatory economy, rather than moving further along the road to oligarchy.

  The ability to organize strong unions capable of standing up to management and negotiating fair wages, benefits and rights for workers affects more than just those who are in unions. Strong labor correlates with higher wages in general and higher state minimum wages. States that have such laws also tend to have higher quality and better funded public education and more investments in infrastructure which benefit the population at large. RTW states, on the other hand, tend to adopt an agenda of cutting spending to the bone. Tax cuts for the well-heeled are paid for by cuts in programs that protect and provide for the least among us and diminish the quality of life for the population at large.

  The challenges of our time require building a broad-based alliance of all groups on the left. Peace and sustainability advocates need to ally ourselves with groups working intersectionally to advance gender justice, civil rights and liberties, and an economy that works for all of us. We must do this while challenging xenophobia and other toxic isms that divide our society with fear-based, us-and-them thinking and the scapegoating that comes with it.

A Popular Front is needed to counter the neo-fascist direction in which our society has been moving. Organized labor challenging the grip of Wall St. and transnational capital is a necessary component of this movement, and it is essential right now, with labor on the chopping block, to stand united in solidarity.

A Little Background

Right to Work laws have their roots in the late 1940s as push-back on the advances that labor had made under the Wagner Act, a key component of FDR’s New Deal. The 1947 Taft-Hartley Act opened the doors for adoption of RTW on a state-by-state basis. For many years it was almost exclusively states in the former confederacy—that is the most backward states with the least organized labor force—that adopted RTW laws.

In more recent times there has been a push, largely funded by powerful rightwing figures including the Koch brothers, to enact RTW in other states, particularly in the Midwest Rustbelt where labor has lost much of its strength due to deindustrialization and out-sourcing of production. Much of the support for RTW has come from the extreme rightwing, including the Olin Foundation, and there is much crossover between RTW leadership and far-right groups like the John Birch Society.

In Missouri, where voters had turned back a RTW ballot issue in 1978, the renewed push for RTW was embraced by the GOP-controlled legislature, but blocked by Gov. Jay Nixon. When Eric Greitens took office in 2017 RTW advocates quickly passed, and the Governor signed a RTW law. Labor, however, took to the streets with a referendum petition to block the law from taking effect. Hundreds of thousands of Missourians signed the petition, and this then referred the issue to the voters.

The vote on RTW, Proposition A, was originally expected to be held in November 2018 at the time of the general election. But the legislature moved the vote to August 7, the date of the primary, which usually draws a much smaller turnout, tilted towards older and more conservative voters. This was a transparent move to put a thumb on the scale and pass RTW.  

What Can We Do?

The answer to this one is pretty simple. First of all, plan to vote “No!” on Prop. A. Then do everything you can to get friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, co-parishioners, etc. to understand what’s at stake and urge them to turn out  and vote “No!” on August 7. Note, those who will be away on election day, or who are incapacitated can vote absentee. Details HERE. Deadlines apply. Click HERE for the form to request an absentee ballot by mail.

Besides this, the No on Prop A campaign is in need of volunteers. There is both canvassing and phonebanking to be done, as well as other tasks. If you have a few hours to spare between now and August 7, the campaign would welcome your active participation. You can contact the local campaign coordinator, Joe Moore, by calling him at 732-948-5718. Learn more about the issue via the We Are Missouri website or Facebook page. For general background on the RTW issue click HERE.

P.S. We have heard some people question whether unions are really a progressive force, and wonder if they are not corrupt or at least obsolete. Our response is that the labor movement is not perfect, and we don’t always see eye-to-eye on all issues, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

If some politicians are corrupt or embrace positions we disagree with, this is not a reason to abandon the electoral system of governance and embrace a one-party state or a military dictatorship. Likewise, unions are needed, in general operate in the interests of the workers they represent, and, as democratic institutions hold the potential for reform from within. To have them stand down, as RTW would do, would only empower corporate interests at the expense of these workers and all of us. Let us instead unite to defeat RTW and also support democratic, rank-and-file movements within unions.
 Note: Peaceworks is a 501.c.3 educational non-profit. We do not endorse, support or oppose candidates for office. We are allowed to spend a limited portion of our budget on supporting or opposing legislation, including ballot issues.