Working towards peace and sustainability

Dissidents Rising to the Challenge

We are dissidents. For nearly 36 years Peaceworks has challenged the status quo. We’ve questioned the logic of a nuclear arms race. We’ve opposed wars—popular and unpopular alike; waged by both Republicans and Democrats. We’ve advocated phasing out fossil fuels and nuclear power. We’ve opposed the undue influence of powerful corporations and the wealthy people who own them.

Peaceworks has raised our collective voice in opposition to the race-to-the-bottom sort of globalization exemplified by the WTO and TPP. We’ve defended civil liberties and privacy, while promoting inclusion and equal rights for all. We’ve questioned the irrational belief of infinite growth in a finite system and worked to promote a vision of a livable, peaceful, egalitarian and sustainable future.

We’ve praised elected officials when they’ve taken actions we agree with. But, more often than not, we’ve spoken out regarding the misdirected policies and actions they’ve pursued. The need to question, while it’s always been present, has never been as great as it is today in the era of Trump. And the same goes for the need to propose and promote real solutions.

At a time when every day brings a new outrage, we are consistently speaking out, contacting elected officials, demonstrating, petitioning and more. A big part of what we do, however, is to educate. This allows us to not only respond to what’s immediately in front of us, but also to help create a society that is better informed; one that includes more people in the know and ready to act on that knowledge.

Put another way, we are working to transform the social order by creating a society of well-informed dissidents.

We encourage you to learn more and engage in informed discussion on the issues with fellow citizens. In the near future we will be hosting three important informational events. Please join us for:

The Climate Crisis remains right up at the top of our list, given the existential threat it presents. The ascendance of deniers and delayers under Trump has only increased the urgency of our work. On Thursday, Nov. 2 we will be hosting a free screening of the excellent Naomi Klein documentary “This Changes Everything.” The film will be shown at 7 p.m. in Rm. 1 of MU’s Arts and Science Building. For more info CLICK HERE.

The nuclear threat is also right up there along with climate change in our list of concerns exacerbated by the rise of Trump. On the evening of Thursday, Nov. 9. Steven Starr, an internationally recognized expert, will be speaking on the subject “The Increasing Danger of Nuclear War and its Consequences”. This will be held at 7 p.m. in Rm. 210 of MU’s Strickland Hall. For more info CLICK HERE.

And, while individual action alone is not sufficient to address the Climate Crisis, it is necessary.  For that reason, on Thursday, Nov. 30 we will be hosting a talk on “Living a Low-Carbon Lifestyle,” presented by Peaceworks Director Mark Haim. This will be held at 7 p.m. in the Friends Room of the Columbia Public Library. For more info CLICK HERE.

Finally, in addition to education, we need to put a little celebration into our activist lives and thus we are holding Peaceworks’ 31st Annual Dinner on the evening of Saturday, Nov. 11, at the Missouri United Methodist Church. All details for this are available if you CLICK HERE.

Your engaged participation will help us all to, in the words of Naomi Klein, “win the world we need.”

Finding Our Bearings in a Turbulent Time—Finding Meaningful Engagement & Making a Difference.

Are you finding it difficult to tune in to the news? If so, you’re not alone.

Each day we are assaulted: saber-rattling with nuclear swords, complete with name-calling in the mode of junior high school bullies; repeated attempts to sabotage healthcare, throwing tens of millions off their insurance; proposals to dramatically cut the taxes of the one percent, clumsily disguised as “middle class tax cuts;” escalations of wars in Afghanistan and the Middle East, along with one deal after another to sell billions of dollars in weapons to U.S. proxies including Saudi Arabia (currently involved in a near-genocidal war in Yemen); attacks on immigrants, including the suspension of DACA and renewed push for a scantly disguised Muslim travel ban; attacks on voting rights, neo-Nazis marching in our streets and the dismantling of programs designed to reform police departments; attacks on the transgender community; the push to end all efforts to address the Climate Crisis and dramatically expand fossil fuel production; and, of course, the list goes on and on.

It seems that there is each day a new distraction. This week it’s been the attacks on athletes taking a stand (or a knee) to demonstrate concerns about racism. And, right on the heels of this, attacks on major media outlets. Instead of being concerned about illegal election ads on Facebook, Trump wants us to believe that Facebook is “anti-Trump,” along with the “fake news” outlets like the Washington Post and New York Times. And they seem to think that by telling us they doing a “great job” in Puerto Rico that it will make it so, despite the fact that millions of people are without power, food, fuel, healthcare or potable water.

So, yes, if you’re finding it difficult, you’re certainly not alone. And yet, tuning out and shutting down is no answer; or perhaps it’s the “answer” Donald Trump hopes you will choose.

We, on the other hand, urge you to redouble your efforts and to do so in ways that will allow your sustained engagement.

“Easier said than done,” you say?

Well, we didn’t say this is easy, but we do recognize it as essential. So, if you’re getting pulled in a dozen different directions, all at once, perhaps it’s time to step back, get perspective and decide what to prioritize.

This is a discernment process in which we each evaluate various variables including the potential impact of, and the likelihood of, success or failure on a given front. We each must also combine rational analysis with visceral or emotional concern we hold regarding various issues. There is likewise a matter of evaluating tactics and strategies. Some of us are more drawn to lobbying, others to demonstrating, some to doing educational outreach, still others to the electoral arena, etc. Not that these are mutually exclusive, of course.

And we each must figure out which organization or organizations are best to work with and support. Having colleagues or comrades in the work is, for most of us, essential. And group efforts generally have greater impact than we would see from the same people each working on their own.

Recognizing that “no one can do everything, but everyone can do something,” we hope you’ll find a niche and apply your time and talents to making a difference.

We, at Peaceworks are highly conscious of the connections between all the issues, and we avoid ranking the work we’re doing as top issues, more urgent than any others. We understand there are lives and basic human rights, as well as the health of our environment, which are at stake. We are all struggling, on so many fronts. We urge our members and supporters to act in solidarity with all progressive struggles. At the same time, we also recognize the need to concentrate attention in a focused way, on a particular piece, or set of pieces, of the overall jigsaw puzzle, so as to maximize our impact.

This said, Peaceworks is focusing primarily on the existential threats. We’d like to urge you to consider making Climate Action and/or peace advocacy top tier issues and here are some of the reasons why:

Where the Climate Crisis Fits in This

If you are considering options for involvement, we would like to suggest you consider actively engaging as part of the movement to address the Climate Crisis. There are several reasons for this. First of all, is the unique timeline we face on this front. While whenever there is suffering and dislocation there is a sense of urgency, the climate crisis is different in that, when certain lines are crossed, and tipping points reached, it will become humanly impossible to put the genie back in the bottle.

The scientific consensus is that this is the decade to turn things around on climate, to avoid shooting way past the absolute target of a global temperature rise of no more than two degrees Celsius (many scientists now say, and the Paris Accord acknowledges, that we’d be on much safer ground with this being no more than 1.5C). And, as an existential threat, Climate Change, if not arrested, holds the potential to make our other concerns moot points.

So, we need to be reducing emissions right now and big time. However, we’ve got a climate change denier in the White House, denier officials all around him and a denier Congress. There is, therefore both a real urgency in reaching our elected officials with enough pressure to bring them around, and also to work around them, to press forward for climate action at local and state levels.

We continue to do what we can to keep the big picture climate issue front and center, generate political pressure, as we can, and to simultaneously focus on getting our local governments, including the City of Columbia, to move forward. We have urged the City Council to press for a city Climate Action Plan, which they have agreed to do, and urged that it commits to ambitious greenhouse gas emissions reductions, including the goal of zero emissions by 2050. We are still working to get the latter adopted.

Another aspect to consider, while many of our fellow citizens have embraced either doubter or denier positions, it seems likely that the recent incredible string of extreme weather events might be opening the eyes of these folks to at least considering that the climate needs our attention. This, therefore, is an excellent time to be reaching out to our neighbors. To do this successfully, however, requires more people power.

Summing it up, when it comes to the climate, we’re on deadline, folks, and we’re also operating at a moment when we have a real shot at turning public opinion in our favor.

The Challenge of Peace Advocacy

When it comes to the war and peace front, “challenge” is an appropriate term to use. Our economy has been on a wartime footing since World War II, our nation has been involved in hot wars continuously since 9/11, yet most of our fellow citizens seem unconcerned. Unlike Vietnam, it’s not them, or their kids, who are facing a draft or being sent abroad to kill and possibly die. Much of the populace has also been cowed into a profound fear of the so-called “evildoers”—the terrorists—who are out to get us, because they “hate our freedom.” Most of our fellow citizens are unaware of the role that U.S. has played in making enemies around the world.

The Afghan War, which, in about a week, will have dragged on for fully 16 years, and the struggle against ISIS—a group that traces its origins directly to the illegal 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq—are getting relatively little media attention. Likewise, most citizens seem only vaguely aware of the huge price we all pay to have a Permanent War Economy. Few know that, when it comes to the military, U.S. taxpayers are spending as much as those of the next seven biggest spending nations, combined. Or, that most of these are U.S. allies.

Present and past wars, and the preparation for more war are costing us in the range of a trillion dollars a year, and it’s hard to see how we can right our economy and get it on a path to sustainability unless we stop dumping hundreds of billions down the military rat-hole are begin a process of negotiating mutual, verifiable and incremental disarmament.

The one area, in the realm of war and peace that has been generating headlines of late is the issue that our organization was founded upon back in 1982: the threat posed by nuclear weapons. Specifically, at the moment, all eyes are on North Korea.

While the emergence of N. Korea as the world’s ninth nuclear weapons state is concerning, we, at Peaceworks, believe that we have to “get the log our of our own eye.” The U.S. for decades has flouted its commitments under the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty to work for universal nuclear disarmament. Most Americans haven’t even heard about the Ban Treaty, negotiated by 123 nations earlier this year at the United Nations, this new treaty calls for a universal ban on these doomsday devices, but the U.S. refused to even participate in the negotiations.

Peace education and advocacy are, indeed, difficult, but they are necessary. This is especially true because support for the Military-Industrial-Complex and the project of U.S. global hegemony is largely bipartisan. Every Democratic president since FDR has embraced militarism and war-making. While there are some dovish Dems, most establishment figures in the party, including their 2016 presidential nominee and our senior U.S. Senator are very hawkish.

Efforts like our weekly Rush Hour Peace Demos, seen by thousands of our fellow citizens each week, are a reminder to many that the wars drag on, and that they are not unopposed. We bear witness to the immorality of Endless War, and of the fact that these costly attempts at global domination are actually making us less secure.

And, given the existential threat that nuclear weapons present, activism on this front really does need to be ramped up and taken seriously. The “unthinkable” is clearly, under Trump, who threatens to “destroy North Korea,” a country of 25 million human beings, thinkable again. We think it is time for opposition to this insanity to be visible and vocal again.

You Can Make a Difference

If you are interested in checking out opportunities to work with us on either the climate or the war and peace fronts, please contact us. You can do this by e-mail at mail@midmopeaceworks.org or by calling us at 573-875-0539 and asking for Mark. As Joan Baez wrote in a lyric penned back in 1972:

"And we're still marching in the streets with little victories and big defeats
But there is joy and there is hope and there's a place for you."

Get Ready to Walk for the Climate!

This lovely Walk logo will appear on our 2017 Walk T-shirts. Get yours by raising, or contributing $50 or more.

 Peaceworks invites you to rally and walk with us on Sunday, Sept. 24. Walk for the Climate is both a community awareness-raiser and a fundraiser. We will be walking five kilometers (approximately three miles) and urge you to walk the whole distance or whatever portion works for you.

We also encourage you to walk with us whether or not you raise funds. This said, our goal this year is to have at least 100 people raise at least $50 each to reach our goal of raising an additional $5K needed for Peaceworks’ climate action efforts. So, if you can help raise some of these funds it would be super.

All are invited to participate. Invite friends to walk. You can sponsor yourself. You can ask friends and family to sponsor you. There will be prizes for those who raise the most money and those who get the most donations. All contributions are tax-deductible. Checks should be made to Peaceworks. You can access a sponsor sheet by clicking HERE. Or you can pick one up at the Peace Nook.

All participants who come to the walk on Sept. 24 with at least $50 in contributions will receive a free “Walk for the Climate” T-shirt (see design above). The shirts will be printed ASAP after the walk, when we know how many we need, and in what sizes.

We will gather at Courthouse Plaza (8th & Walnut) for sign-in between 1:00-1:45. Excellent music during the gathering time provided by Pippa and the Straw Men. We rally at 1:45. The Walk begins at 2 p.m. Event is rain or shine. Bring raingear if needed. In the event of rain, sign-in will be in the Commission Chambers of the Boone Government Ctr. We’ll have some signs and banners, but more are welcome.

Walk 5K. Help us raise $5K!

Peaceworks to CoMo Council: Bold Climate Action Now--Zero Emissions by 2050

Peaceworks Sustainability Coordinator, Laura Wacker, addresses the City Council.

Peaceworks and our climate action allies scored a significant victory on June 19 when the Columbia City Council approved a resolution calling for the development of a Climate Action Plan (CAP). Columbia joined cities across the nation in embracing the Paris Accord and a resolution was unanimously adopted calling for a CAP, including a call for citizen input in the process.

Now we are working to make sure a strong CAP is adopted and implemented. As a first step, we’re asking Columbia citizens to please reach out to our City Council to urge them to support a Climate Action Plan that includes going to zero carbon fuel use by 2050. It would be very helpful if you could let your Councilperson and the Mayor know your support for bold climate action. You can contact Council members by clicking Here.

On September 7, 2017, Peaceworks activist Laura Wacker spoke before the City Council urging them to take strong action. Here is the text of her prepared remarks:

Good evening. My name is Laura Wacker. I am the Sustainability Coordinator for Peaceworks and am here to talk about development of the Climate Action Plan that the Council approved in June.

First of all, “THANK YOU” for the decision to create the Climate Action Plan and to the Mayor for joining the Mayors Climate Action Network.   We are excited you are willing to start following through on Columbia’s commitment to reduce our production of Greenhouse Gases.  As you know, the Council in 2006 voted to do that, but didn’t follow through with action.  This is obvious in the Emissions Inventory Report that was presented to Council at your last meeting. 

Our overall emissions have gone up.  Per capita emissions have gone down, but honestly, if it wasn’t for Water and Light’s energy efficiency programs and renewable energy programs (some of which are on the chopping block in the current budget plan), we probably would have seen the per capita emissions go up as well.  WE, as a community, need to do better.  When we compare our per capita Greenhouse Gas Emissions to Lawrence Kansas, Madison Wisconsin, Urbana Illinois, St Louis and Kansas City we score worse than all except St Louis.  

We can do better than that, but we need to act in a decisive and bold manner.  Climate Change is upon us and we need to reverse course.  Hurricane Harvey is the shape of things to come if we don’t take drastic measures to reduce our carbon emissions.  How will Columbia handle torrential downpours at increasing intervals?  If you are not paying attention, you may not realize that the American media is hardly mentioning the severe monsoon season in Asia with over1200 dead from flooding, or that the drought in Italy is crippling their food production, or that a half a million acres of trees have burned in Montana due to wildfires, or that more trees that have died in the Pacific Northwest due to climate induced plagues.  The recent epic flooding in Southern Missouri is an example of how climate change can affect our area. These changes require bold and swift action to protect our citizens from further climate chaos.

Prior to Columbia’s recent resolution, groups in Columbia were meeting on this very subject. We thought we had started down the right road in 2006 when that Council said they were going to create an action plan but we didn’t make sure it happened.  So, now, we intend to stay focused on this, and make sure that the follow-through occurs.   

We hope that you will agree with our vision of Columbia becoming a leader in the Midwest in carbon footprint reduction.  A city like Georgetown, TX, which already fully powers its municipal power plant from renewable sources, sees its energy policy as an economic development tool and I think Columbia could do the same.  Recently, even Kansas City resolved to procure 100% of the electricity for municipal operations from renewables within only three years!  Ten US states have set goals of 50-80% reduction of carbon emissions by 2050.  Those are entire states!  We have so many advantages in Columbia that can help us be better than that, be at the forefront of energy conservation – we would like to see this city commit to 100% reduction by 2050.  We have great minds at the University, we have a well-educated public and we have the benefit of having our own utilities at both the city and the university.  We really have the perfect scenario to make this thing work!

We also have a committed group of people who are members of organizations in the community who are willing to help you do the work.  I want to introduce some of the groups here tonight who are concerned about what Columbia is doing for Climate Change and I’ll ask them to stand as I acknowledge their affiliation.  Sierra Club, Renew Missouri, Citizens Climate Lobby, Show-Me Solar, Protectors of Water & Land, People’s Visioning and Peoples' Visioning lead co-sponsor: Columbia Climate Change Coalition, and Interfaith Care for Creation.  Among these groups there are several who would desire to be on the planning committee for this project who have been working or studying in the areas of energy efficiency for many years.

We stand together in expressing a deep desire to see the Climate Action Plan developed as expeditiously as possible.  We represent thousands of citizens in Columbia.  We are here tonight to express gratitude that you have started the ball rolling to move our city forward in Climate Action. And we are not going to go away. We expect, for instance, that the City will have a Consultant on-board by the end of October.   

As our elected council, you have the very important role of setting goals for this climate action plan.  We are hoping that you will be putting this goal setting on your October calendar.  We hope you set the goal of 100% reduction by 2050 and begin working toward this as we move forward.  Ways to get the ball rolling would be by setting new building codes that mandate efficiency, continuing the incentives for PV rebates (which could actually save the city money in the long run), creating electric car charging stations and getting all city energy use moving toward zero emissions.  It is a very exciting time to be working on projects that are not only good for the health of the planet, but good for the health, safety and sustainability of our city.  We are here to help you,  and we hope that this process can get moving as soon as possible.

Thank you, and I am happy to answer questions.