Working towards peace and sustainability

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.

Support the Iran Nuclear Accord!

Mid-Missouri Peaceworks supports the Iran Nuclear Agreement. We see it as a step away from the path to war; one that furthers the cause of nuclear non-proliferation. It even hints at the possibility of eventual normalization of relations. We encourage our members and supporters to learn more and to share your thoughts and concerns with your elected officials, especially with Sen. Claire McCaskill who has not made public her position. (Click HERE to contact Sen. McCaskill).

We are troubled by the fact that both Rep. Vicky Hartzler and Sen. Roy Blunt have already been outspoken in opposition to the accord. They, too, need to hear from constituents.

For a set of links to excellent background resources on the Iran Nuclear Agreement, please click HERE

Some key items in the accord include: shutting down most of Iran’s enrichment capabilities, eliminating 98 percent of their enriched uranium, keeping them from making weapons-grade plutonium, and enacting the most rigorous inspection regimen in history. These provisions and others mean that our government and the other members of the P5+1 have achieved a very strong non-proliferation agreement.

Opponents have offered no alternative to this agreement, and, it seems, their prescription is effectively to join Netanyahu in traveling the path to war. This would be a tragic mistake likely leading to enormous loss of life, limb and treasure. We’ve seen the consequences of a war of aggression launched ostensibly to counter a supposed threat of WMD. Millions of lives were torn asunder by the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Launching a war against Iran, a nation approximately three times the size and population of Iraq, would be a tragedy of much greater proportions.

We find it hypocritical that opponents of the agreement are attempting to put the kibosh on an accord that dramatically reduces Iran’s ability to acquire nuclear capabilities, should they wish to. Yet keeping Iran from getting such weapons is the opponents’ ostensible goal. If one accepts their premise that Iran is seeking such weapons, putting this agreement into effect is a very real and effective hedge against them doing this.

Peaceworks is not in favor or Iran, or any other nation, acquiring nuclear weapons capabilities. This agreement is a serious step forward in assuring that they’ll not be able to. This said, we should note that there is a great deal of bipartisan hubris and hypocrisy involved in insisting that Iran eschew nuclear weapons.

The United States and the eight other nuclear weapons states, including Israel, maintain large arsenals and have no intention of eliminating them. This is in direct violation of binding obligations under Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. In 1968 the U.S. and the other nuclear states agreed to “undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament . . . "

In the long-run, the only way to ensure that Iran and other non-nuclear states do not acquire such weapons is to negotiate mutual, verifiable and universal nuclear disarmament, and to establish the means of keeping all weapons-usable nuclear materials out of the hands of any state that might seek them for weapons purposes. In the meantime, we must move forward with this accord, supporting effective diplomacy rather than war. Engaged grassroots activism is needed now to assure that the agreement is not rejected. The alternative is likely war, so action is clearly needed and needed now.

Call to Action: Put Nuclear Disarmament Back on the Agenda!

In early August we will observe the seventieth anniversary of the atomic bombings of both Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japanese cities leveled, with hundreds of thousands of casualties, in the waning days of World War II. The bombs dropped there, while the most devastating weapons ever used in war, are dwarfed by those in today’s nuclear arsenals.

With nine nuclear weapons states and approximately 17,000 warheads deployed or readily deployable, many of these in a high-alert, launch-on-warning mode, nuclear war by miscalculation, miscommunication or accident remains a very present danger. More than 90 percent of these warheads are in the hands of two nations, the United States and Russia.

In many ways, the fact that we still face the threat of nuclear annihilation is a measure of the profound failing of humanity. To date, we have been unwilling or unable to deal with this enormous threat to our collective well-being and, indeed, our very survival.

Here in the U.S., the mainstream media, the politicians and their funders—those who dictate political agendas—have nearly defined away nuclear weapons as a non-issue. The sole exception seems to be nuclear proliferation to states that are official enemies, including Iran and North Korea. We in Peaceworks find it deeply troubling that the abolition of nuclear weapons through mutual, verifiable and universal nuclear disarmament, once an urgent issue that mobilized millions, is today not even on most citizens’ radar as an issue of concern.

Despite the ongoing, existential threat, we certainly have not heard any U.S. presidential candidate putting this forward as a concern for the voters in 2016. While not surprising, as this has been a fairly consistent pattern since the end of the Cold War, it is high time to insist that this very real threat is addressed.

In fact, despite our treaty commitments, under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, ratified in 1970, to pursue universal disarmament, it is the intention of our government to maintain a huge arsenal of these doomsday devices in perpetuity. This policy has bipartisan support and, according to conservative estimates from the Congressional Budget Office, our elected officials continue to spend in the neighborhood of $35 billion of our taxes annually on these weapons and their delivery systems. We, the American taxpayers, are spending more on nuclear weapons than all other nations combined.

The sad reality is that all these bombs and all the money we spend on them are not making us more secure. Rather, they are telegraphing a message to other nations that nuclear weapons are an acceptable component of a major power’s military establishment.

In fact, our government’s attachment to its nuclear weapons is sending a signal to the rest of the world that going nuclear—acquiring weapons capabilities—gives stature and legitimacy. The longer the United States insists on maintaining its current nuclear position, the more likely we are to see proliferation, regional nuclear arms races and ultimately the use of nuclear bombs somewhere in the world.

And that “somewhere” will lead to disaster virtually everywhere in the world. Even a modest sized nuclear war, say between third-tier nuclear powers, like India and Pakistan, would, in all likelihood, cause significant blockage of incoming sunlight for a number of years, and lead to widespread cooling, crop failures and mass starvation. (For more info on Nuclear Darkness click HERE.)  

While some argue that nuclear arsenals deter aggression, they lose sight of several factors. First, as nuclear delivery systems become more sophisticated, supposed nuclear deterrent systems become vulnerable to preemptive attack, and thus in crisis, nuclear-armed states face “use-it-or-lose-it” scenarios. As command and control systems age, it becomes more likely that there will be glitches that lead to accidental nuclear war. And the longer we delay nuclear abolition, the more nuclear-armed nations there will be in the world, not to mention the prospect of sub-national groups acquiring these weapons. The more fingers on the trigger, the more likely nuclear war will be a reality.

In truth, nuclear bombs are not an effective instrument of foreign policy. The consequences of their use are so horrific that it would be absolutely insane to use them in any confrontation. And the resources currently being squandered on arms are sorely needed to address very real threats to our security, including the climate crisis.

Now, as the world marks the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is time for as many of us as possible to speak out, with one voice, insisting upon mutual, verifiable and universal nuclear disarmament. It is time, once again, to take up the cause of nuclear abolition.
 You can access contact info for elected officials by clicking HERE.