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Fool Me Once . . .

Violence, in general, is deeply disturbing. Random, senseless violence—taking the lives of innocents—is particularly troubling. Events in Paris, in which 129 people were murdered, therefore, have ricocheted wildly through our body politic, sparking fear, revulsion and heightened Islamophobia.

We’ve seen everything from governors attempting to block even thoroughly vetted Syrian refugees from being settled in their states, to calls for all out warfare and dramatic increases in military spending, troop levels and more. We’ve had presidential candidates calling for the registration of all Muslims, the closing of Mosques, and even applying a religious test, requiring Christian identity, to qualify for refugee status.

If you’re experiencing a sinking feeling of déjà vu all over again, you are not alone. We saw our fellow citizens stampeded into supporting disastrous wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of 9/11. Neither of these wars, nor the numerous other U.S. wars in primarily Muslim nations (Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya, Syria, etc.) have enhanced our security. In fact, they’ve served to create far more enemies than they’ve eliminated. They’ve led to massive loss of life, primarily non-combatant civilians. They’ve dislocated millions, while thoroughly destabilizing one of the most geopolitically strategic and volatile regions in the world. And they’ve been phenomenally expensive. 

Even though the chance of dying in a domestic terror incident is infinitesimal, the need to prevent such acts has been used as a rationale legitimating a surveillance state that has resulted in unprecedented intrusions into every citizen’s privacy. And incredibly, the Right simultaneously bores down on so-called “Islamic Terrorism,” while opposing even the most modest gun safety initiatives, so all any aspiring terrorist—be they Muslim, Christian or what have you—seeking guns need do is visit a gun show.

While the self-proclaimed “Islamic State” would not be in existence if not for the U.S. invasion of Iraq, many on the Right blame President Obama for ISIS. They propose major escalation of the war, including sending in ground troops. Those with one tool, a hammer, view every situation we face, no matter how complex, as another nail.

More war will mean more death, more destruction, more fear and more enemies. Bombing ISIS sites in Iraq and Syria has been a grand game of Whack-A-Mole, with more “collateral damage” than actual attainment of objectives. Anyone thinking our nation can assume the moral high ground need only consider for a moment that, according to official documents, as reported in The Intercept, so-called “targeted killing” by drones in Afghanistan ends up killing people other than the intended target nearly 90 percent of the time.

Some might assert that “terrorists” intend to killing innocents, while the U.S. CIA and military end up doing so accidentally. The distinction loses much of its meaning, however, when U.S. officials know that their actions are regularly killing non-combatants, including women, children and the elderly, yet they continue to drop bombs from on high. While images of the victims of terror attacks in Paris are more readily seen, those dying in places like Yemen, Somalia or Pakistan are no less dead, and their loved ones no less bereft.  

Most Americans want a peaceful future. What we need to recognize is that exterminating an enemy is not a path to peace. Belligerence toward Muslims is certainly not an answer. The vast majority of Muslims are peaceful, kind and caring humans who, in my experience, are hospitable and welcoming. While there are violent extremists, the same is true for Christians, Jews, Hindus, etc. When we demonize Islam, and when our government intervenes in Muslim counties, we drive recruits to the jihadis.

We have a choice. Extend and expand the permanent war and the Military-Industrial Complex will thrive, while millions suffer the agony and dislocation of war. End the pursuit of geopolitical domination and pursue instead a ratcheting down of conflict through negotiations, arms embargos and sustainable development programs, and we will have a chance at a peaceful future.

Please consider that the Syrian conflict would never have reached the point we’re at today, were it not for the U.S. insistence, back in 2012, to exclude the Iranians from negotiations and to make the exit of Assad an à priori condition for talks. Let’s learn from these mistakes and pursue peace rather than power.

And part of manifesting peace is creating a vibrant peace economy at home. Looking at our current political reality, perhaps the greatest irony we face is that those most eager to see more money and resources devoted to weapons, militarism and making war, are also those likely most reluctant to adequately fund investments in real security.

Real Security includes protecting our climate and the balances of nature that make planet Earth habitable. The biggest cheerleaders for war also generally oppose investing in people, providing livable wages to all workers, making quality education freely available to all, assuring healthcare for everyone, etc. They obviously do not recognize that a clean, sustainable environment and a strong, healthy and well educated population are our greatest strengths. If we prudently invest the funds saved by turning away from war, we can address serious threats to our security, and this will be a true win-win.
This post was written by Peaceworks Director Mark Haim.

Living Sustainably—Does it Really Make Any Difference?

As we prepare for the 2015 Sustainable Living Fair, which is coming up Saturday, Oct. 17, some wonder: Do individual actions really matter? Does it really make a rat’s ass worth of difference, in a world of more than seven billion people—one that appears to be going to hell in a hand-basket—if we recycle, compost, ride a bike or plant a garden?

The simple answer is “yes, it does.” The combined impact of humanity is the sum of all of our actions. Insulating and weatherizing your house will reduce your demand for energy to heat and cool, and this, besides saving you money, means just a little bit less in the way of greenhouse gases and other environmental pollution. By itself, it’s not “the solution,” but it is a baby step in that direction. If just one person does this, the impact is tiny, to be sure, but if a million Missouri homes took such action . . . . there is a cumulative effect.

This, of course, begs the question: how do we get a million Missouri homeowners or landlords to take such action? Or, how do we get folks to go solar? And the answer to this is neither clear nor simple. You might come to the SLF, find out about solar photovoltaics, hook up with a vendor and get solar panels installed. Or you might arrange an energy audit and then invest in tightening up your building envelope. The chain of decision making is in your hands and the actions yield definite, albeit limited, results. Each of us has the most control and say-so over our own choices and actions.

Getting others to take such action, however, is more challenging. It can come through public education, but, more often than not, it comes through changes in public policy. This can include prescriptive or proscriptive laws and codes. It also can include offering financial incentives, including tax credits and rebates.

We, here at Peaceworks, along with our allies, continue to work for these, but our ability to influence the process is limited, particularly when majorities in legislatures at the state and federal levels are generally bought and paid for by the fossil fuel industry. They are lukewarm at best on renewables and energy efficiency, the two keys to a sustainable future.

So, to actually achieve public policy changes, it is imperative that we forge a mass movement. Such movements are a necessary ingredient in almost all social change and especially in making changes that challenge the power and perquisites of those who are profiting from current arrangements. 

But mass movements are only truly effective if its participants’ means are consistent with their ends. A movement for climate justice led by hyper-consumptive jet-setters living in McMansions and driving everywhere in gas-guzzling SUVs isn’t going to win over many people.

Rather, we must heed Gandhi’s call to “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” We must recognize the potential for each of us to serve as an example to others. If you plant a big, organic garden and have lots of great produce, your neighbors likely take notice. If they see you peddling off to work or school, it might get them thinking. And, if another neighbor joins you in one of these activities, it’s no longer just that one kooky granola, but rather something that’s catching on; something that maybe, just maybe, they should consider becoming a part of.

So, as the October 17 Sustainable Living Fair approaches, our invitation is out there. We need you to be part of the solution. We’re talking about being an active part of a movement that calls for a radical (that is “to the root”) rethinking and restructuring of our economic system and our very way of life. We’re asking you to participate in an active fashion, both in the more “political” aspects of this process—that is education and advocacy—as well as “walking the talk” by adopting more sustainable ways in your own life.

In summary, sustainable living is necessary, but not sufficient. It’s an important part of what we need to be doing. We encourage you to join us, learn more, apply the lessons as you can to green-up your lifestyle, and then take it to the next level by helping build a movement that can redefine our system. In the process, working together, hopefully we will prevent the more catastrophic impacts of runaway climate change and, in the long run, help restore planetary balance. It’s up to all of us. 

Want to help with the SLF? We are looking for volunteers. Contact us via mail@midmopeaceworks.org or by calling 573-875-0539.

You also can help invite others via our SLF Facebook event if you click HERE, and you can find the SLF website if you click HERE.

Pope Francis & the Imperative for Climate Action

Join Peaceworks and our Allies in a Climate Walk, Sunday, Sept. 20. Join with your neighbors to call attention to the urgent need for immediate action.

Pope Francis is coming to the U.S. More specifically, he is going to be addressing a joint session of Congress on Thursday, Sept. 24. In his encyclical, Laudato Si, the Pope has taken as clear a stance as possible regarding the moral imperative to take action now to address the climate crisis. He has called for recognition of the impact of our actions on future generations and on the poor and the marginalized, who are being most directly impacted today.

This has the potential to be a transformative moment. Those who’ve clung to denial for so long are now facing both an overwhelming scientific consensus and a call to moral action from religious and spiritual leaders from many traditions, including now the Catholic Church, the largest single religious institution in the world.

Many organizations, including Peaceworks, which has been a voice for climate action for decades, are heartened by the Pope’s stand, and we’d like to do all we can to assure that his message is heard as widely as possible. On Sunday, Sept. 20, therefore, we are holding a Climate Walk that we hope will bring together hundreds of mid-Missourians. This highly visible 5K (~3 miles) Walk will focus community attention on the climate just before the Pope arrives. Being visible we can amplify Pope Francis’ message and bring it home to our neighbors and colleagues.

The Walk is an awareness raiser. It’s also a fundraiser to help fund Peaceworks’ climate action advocacy and education efforts. Getting pledges and/or making a contribution yourself is encouraged, but optional. We hope you will participate in whatever ways work for you and help make this the largest, most impactful climate demonstration yet in our area.

For more info and a sponsor sheet click HERE. To access the Climate Walk Facebook event click HERE.  Please share this info. Invite friends. Participate!

This event is organized by Peaceworks and co-sponsored by Osage Group Sierra Club, Mizzou Energy Action Coalition and Renew Missouri.