Stories We Tell Ourselves: Stories We Could Tell Ourselves

Every people tells its story and, sometimes, distorts the truth. Our American story is about a new start for humanity and tells us of coming to an empty, undeveloped land where we could be free to worship, free to own land, free of class distinctions and an aristocracy, self-governing, and where hard work would bring advancement in life. Every generation would do better than their parents.

There’s a lot of truth to this version, but it’s glaringly incomplete. The land was not empty. Old civilizations had been here for thousands of years before “we” came, some farming, some living intimately with the land as hunter gatherers. We drove them off, based on the view that might makes right and that “we” could make “better” use of the land. You all know this. And you know that “we” did not start out with self-government; only the rich could vote and sit in office. You also know that “we” went to Africa and stole human beings and forced them into servitude to do the much of the work that “built the nation.” Again, might made right. We even burned women alive as witches at Salem.

Now don’t get me wrong—none of you did any of that. It was long ago, but that does not mean that we who live today are not culpable of fixing what wrongs remain from these atrocities, this terrorism, for that is what it was.

Now consider what has become of the original vision that Tom Jefferson put forward. Americans were to be free because they would be beholden to no one but themselves since they would live on small hold farms that would feed and clothe them. Living simple, healthy lives while caring for the land. Self-sufficiency would yield liberty and with it, dignity.

And today? Less than one percent farm—nearly all rest of us are employees, under the power of someone else, often giant corporations that are ruining the land: blowing the tops off of mountains, polluting the groundwater, fouling the air. So how do we go forward to a better America, one that revives the old virtues in new ways? I am not talking about going back to sod houses, toothache, and incest. But let us reason together about how to recapture true liberty, self-government and how to live so as to protect the land, the water, the air—indeed the whole Creation. What is the course correction we will need? What is our new story? What is our new vision?

 

 

Advertisements

Christmas, 2016–Not Bad

 

NOT BAD

Jesus and the disciples lived in a world where there was no electricity and hence no nuclear waste, where there were no nuclear weapons and hence no threat of annihilation; where there were no coal and oil fired industries, no fossil driven automobiles, and hence no major carbon footprint; no air pollution; no light pollution; you could see the stars at night; no two hour commutes with angry drivers on crowded highways; no mass extinction of the other members of Creation; no cell phones and texting or computers with their toxic components; no chemical food additives; no plastic (hence no trashed landscapes or the Pacific gyre); no overharvesting and drastically declining populations of fish, only a few million other humans on the earth; no need for an array of complex kitchen appliances; no chemically polluted water or eutrophic lakes and rivers from farm run-off of agricultural chemicals; no televisions to be discarded when “obsolete”; food was organic and local; No obesity or tooth decay from highly refined sugars and flours; no crowded cities of a million or twenty million; no chemical smog; no impending climate change with more intensive storms. No streams of airliners streaking through the sky burning oxygen and polluting the upper atmosphere. Most people were farmers and herders. Most life was centered in small villages.                 Not bad.

 

The Planetary Emergency

“We may live in the strangest, most thoroughly different moment since human beings took up farming, 10,000 years ago, and time more or less commenced.”[i] Bill McKibben

“In effect, the human race has entered into a great wager. We are, so to speak, betting the planet.” [ii] Charles C. Mann

We are facing a planetary emergency that involves much more than the disastrous effects of unchecked global warming; we are on the brink of a comprehensive environmental and hence a social catastrophe. The history of life on Earth is eons old—probably three billion eight hundred million years. In that long, long time span, the basic building blocks of life, the cell, and then complicated organisms and complex ecosystems developed in response to their surroundings, creating the living planet on which civilizations rests, on which it depends for its life support.   We are now threatening all of that.

In a brief geological moment, the last 200 years, our species has radically altered and simplified these planetary ecosystems by creating Hypercivilization. Hypercivilization is a powerfully destructive way of interacting with nature. It is characterized by an unprecedented overreach in population, energy capture and dispersion, rapid urbanization, and a chemical revolution all leading to the toxification of the biosphere, massive habitat loss, extinctions, desertification, environmental diseases, food shortages and climate change. We have changed the conditions in which life evolved and upon which it is dependent. We are in uncharted waters. Neither we humans nor the Earth has ever been here before.

Hypercivilization is a greatly exaggerated, globalized, and intensified form of civilization. It is without precedent. It represents a radical discontinuity with both the evolutionary and the cultural past. It began to emerge first in the mind with a revolution in beliefs and values around 1600 A.D. and then materialized in a first wave of new institutions and the technologies of industrialization. This revolution was firmly entrenched in Western Europe by 1900 A.D., and by the twentieth century, it spread like a tidal wave over the rest of the Earth. It continues to spread and intensify with the onset of the second wave, the new technologies of nuclear fission and biogenics.

Hypercivilization’s main impact on Earth’s life support system is destructive. In Hypercivilization, the good life is defined as acquiring ever more material things called “goods,” by a process called “economic growth” and measured as Gross National Product. Most negative impacts on humans and nature are externalized from its economic system. They will be assessed against our children for generations to come. Pollution, deforestation, drought, erosion, extinctions, overpopulation, a deteriorating climate, and consequent social ills such as modern war and extreme poverty became normative. Seen in historical perspective, Hypercivilization burst upon the earth and trashed it in a comparatively few moments of evolutionary time.

[i] Bill McKibben, “A Special Moment In History,” Atlantic Monthly, May 1998, p. 55.

[ii] Peter Menzel, Material World: A Global Family Portrait Text by Charles Mann, (San    Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1994), p. 9.

 

The Cross Roads Of History

 We stand at one of the great cross roads of history. We face a fateful choice between one of two paths into the future. Some say the answer is to do more of what got us here. But the civilization we have created, which is based on the relentless extraction of minerals, the creation of thousands of toxic materials, the pollution of the air, soil and water, the deterioration of the climate, permanent warfare and the rapid extinction of half of nature’s species, and a culture of shallow materialism, is unsustainable. It will collapse from exhaustion and from too high a price forced on the natural world, a world that must remain healthy because it is the base on which all civilizations rest. Here is how the end looks to me, if we stay on our current course.

A MAN ON A HORSE

From where I sit I can see the end

Of this mad, frenetic dance.

Driven by our addictions

We will lose our chance

To help the world mend.

The butterflies are gone,

And the polar bear,

Birds no longer give us cheering song,

But the politicians do not care.

Glaciers melt and Himalaya’s rivers

All run dry,

Ice sheets slide into the rising sea.

Summer bakes, the forests burn

And winter storms invade the land.

Coastal cities sink and islands disappear

While those who flee pile up before the guns.

The doors of empty Walmart’s flutter in the wind,

The ships that filled them once

Drift derelict on acid seas

Where all the fish have died.

In one last grab to keep it all

We built a thousand Fukushimas on the land.

Now a strong man riding on a horse,

Whip and sword at side, watches

While a few survivors plant weak seeds

In contaminated lands

And curse their father’s fathers

Who let slip paradise from out their hands.

This does not have to be our end. Many are working to bring into being a different world based on renewable energy, cradle to cradle manufacturing, legal protection of clean air and water as a human right, ecological restoration, social justice and peace. These are all of a piece, part of a new, sustainable civilization. It is in the womb. Our job is to nurture it, to follow these leaders so that, as the Bible says, “that you and your children may live.”

 

The Perfect Farm/The Perfect Farm Community

The Perfect Farm/The Perfect Farm Community

The perfect farm is one that is resilient; it can survive storms both economic and those thrown at it by Mother Nature. Resilience means independence. It is energy independent, free from the control of giant agricultural corporations and from reliance on distant markets over which it has no control. Energy independence is achieved by renewables. The perfect farm house and buildings are designed, or retrofitted, to derive as much energy as possible from passive solar. That includes south facing triple pane windows, the addition of mass for storing the incoming solar, and high value insulation. It means active solar panels and a wind generator to supply off the grid electricity, and when that production is inhibited by cloud and calm, the farm burns wood from its own woodlot or some other renewable fuel. The farm machinery runs on electricity and/or on methane from a methane generator operation, which brings us to the mix of plants and animals. As we mentioned, it will have a mixed species woodlot. Then an animal operation to maximize manure for the generator and for replenishing the soils. The perfect farm is no till. Green manure is also used to replenish the soil and that includes agro-ecology practices such as cover cropping with dozens of carefully chosen plant varieties.  Nothing is wasted on the perfect farm. The perfect farm is organic. It is a mixed farm with a variety of crops and animals. The perfect farm practices animal husbandry and major gardening. It has hogs, dairy cattle, chickens, goats, et alia. The perfect farm is self-sufficient in necessary foods including proteins, starches and fruits and nuts. It has a small orchard. The perfect farm is designed and run according to the principles of permaculture, meaning that its array of crops and animals is fitted to what the land knows is best which means that the farmer must know the land, the climate, and the seasons intimately, as well as the history of the place. What was done here before? What mistakes were made? What was done right? What is sustainable over generations? The perfect farm protects the soil from erosion and chemical poisoning. It protects the surface waters and the ground water. It protects pollinators and other forms of wildlife. A major portion of it is managed for meadow and hedgerow. The perfect farm maximizes perennial crops to the degree possible. The perfect farm generates more income than outgo—it is profitable, but we must understand that profit is not measured only in dollars paid selling for crops, animals and animal products such as milk and eggs. Farm income also includes the food and fuel it produces for itself, and the money saved by not buying fossil fuels and fertilizers, by not being in debt and having to pay interest, and the value of bartered goods. The perfect farm also engages in agro-tourism and internships for young people, creating both cash income, help with the work, and new insights into how nature works for urbanites.

Is there such a thing as the perfect farm? Probably not. No farm can do everything. So we must think further in terms of the perfect farm community. Some farms must specialize if only because of the requirements of the land. But no farm should be producing just a single product: grain, or apples, or steers. The good farm is a mixed farm to the greatest degree possible. Then it relies on its neighbors (and we can define the extent of neighborhood variously), for that which it doesn’t produce, bartering with them for what it does produce: apples for goat cheese, bread grains for meat, etc. Furthermore the good farm does not need to own every piece of equipment necessary to a farm; it can be part of an equipment coop with its neighbors and it can also rely on help from them with the farm labor. The good farm is much more labor intensive than today’s mechanized operations. After all, what is wrong with more people on the land? More people on the land means more eyes and minds to know it intimately so as not to make mistakes, to say nothing of the joy of being out in nature. We need to repopulate our rural areas. The perfect farm community supplies most of its own food and fiber needs, locally or at least regionally. The farm family at the dinner table does not have to rely entirely on food that has been transported a thousand miles and then processed in some factory. Farmer’s markets and CSAs thrive in the perfect farm community, and here we extend the boundaries of community. The villages and even our great cities can be surrounded by farms like this that supply them with the necessities so that food arrives fresh from a trip that id only dozens of miles instead of hundreds or even thousands. Here is where the farmers will earn the cash they might want to buy a banana at the grocery, since in the U.S. at any rate, no one in the community will be growing them. And this raises the question of how much and what are enough for the good life? Do we need the 50 inch flat screen TV and the latest I-phone in order to be happy and fulfilled? Or do we need meaningful work, families, making our own music, and living a thriving, active community life? Have we not gone far off course in agriculture—gigantism, dependence, erosion, water pollution, debt, loneliness on the land, bad food and the other ills of modern agri-business? Let’s get back to real farming and real communities.

The perfect farm community is a two-way street. It requires not only healthy and sustainable changes on our farms, but the same is required for consumers. It requires them to know what is in the food they buy, including at the Farmer’s Market. It requires them to know where that food comes from, how much energy was wasted in transport. And it requires all of us to ask if we really need to eat avocados every night, and grapefruit every morning. We need to return to the joy of eating seasonally, so that when certain fruits and vegetables are in season, we can relish them.

In the perfect farm community—and here we are extending the boundaries of that community to the entire nation including its big cities for we all depend of farms in order to live—more and more we garden. The urban gardening movement is thriving today. And more and more we cook our own food AND we preserve it through canning and freezing. This is what makes us free and healthy. The two-way street also requires us as consumers in the perfect farm community to support CSAs. It requires us to participate in our democracy by making sure the federal government allocates subsidies, if it is going to allocate them, to the small organic farms and the local processing plants, the local dairy, the local mill for making bread grains, and so forth. We need to urge the government to break up the big agri-business monopolies that arrogantly think they can control what we eat and how it’s produced.

One path to that end is for all of us to contribute through the tax system to young would- be farmers, to make it possible for them to learn about sustainable farming and then to buy a farm. As the big farms come on the market, the government can buy them, break them up, and sell them at a discount to young aspiring farmers. Local governments can support internships for high school and college age kids to work on local organic farms. The schools can be a big part of a program to revivify our food system. Every school can offer classes in gardening and sustainable agriculture, and not just theory, but courses grounded (literally) in a school garden. And such courses would include not just planting and harvesting but food prep and preservation and, in addition, instruction about the politics and economics of the food system.

There is much we can do locally and nationally. Let’s rebuild agriculture. Let’s save our food system, our rural communities, our urban landscapes, and our health before it’s too late.

What’s Wrong With Our Economy?

What’s Wrong With Our Economy?

It’s not what you think. It’s not that it doesn’t produce enough growth. It’s that it is systemically flawed. In no particular order here are some of the ways it fails. For a century it has drawn people off the land, turning on its head the stable pyramid of food producers to food dependent people living in the cities, replacing farming with giant agribusinesses that do not care about the long term health of the land. It has gutted our once stable rural communities. It confuses wealth with well-being and well-being with money, reducing all values to cash value. It requires endless economic growth at the expense of the planet. It requires indebtedness and an ever increasing inequality. It has no sense of how much is enough. It allows for phantom wealth for a few who get rich by speculating on money without producing anything useful. It requires that most people must trade their time and labor to someone else, creating goods that they will not own and robbing them of self-reliance. It funnels the benefits to a few and externalizes the costs to the many. It favors giant, multi-national corporations that erode national sovereignty while putting main street businesses out of business. It swiftly depletes finite resources. It creates instability by hunting for the lowest labor costs of the moment, gutting one city or nation for temporarily locating in another where labor costs can be driven down even farther, and then after a little while it moves on yet again leaving abandoned factories, pollution, and unemployed people. It allows a few through stupid or malicious decisions to throw the whole system into chaos, putting millions out of work. It has abandoned our central cities, leaving unemployment, poverty and crime in its place. It has intensified our lives, speeding us up so we are always on the go in quest of money but in fact working more for less. It replaces people with robots. It results in a race to the bottom for income and destroys laws that protect labor and the environment. It allows for a concentration of wealth in the hands of a tiny minority, corrupting democracy. It results in huge inefficiencies of energy wasting it on moving materials and goods all over the globe. It pits us against each other as individuals, cities and nations through a system of ruthless competition. It actually creates scarcity. It creates needless poverty throughout the world.

Who would want such an economy? Answer—the tiny minority of very, very rich and the politicians they feed. Why do we put up with it? Is it that we are trapped in it? Is it that we are overwhelmed with propaganda that tells us we are losers if we don’t buy all the flimflam it produces? It is that we are blinded by the bread and circuses of professional and college sports? Is it that we are diverted by a myth of national exceptionalism and trumped up threats of war? Is it that we don’t know and are prevented from knowing an alternative? Is it all of the above?

 

Nuclear Power—A Climate Solution?

 

Nuclear Power—a Solution To Climate Deterioration?

In order to generate electricity in the traditional way you have to boil water into steam which, as it expands, drives a turbine which spins a generator (basically a magnet inside a copper coil). Most of our boiling is done with fossil fuels which pollute the air, cause sicknesses and it drives climate deterioration. Many people including some environmentalists are advocating nuclear energy as the solution or at least as a bridge to clean and renewable methods of power generation such as wind and solar, but nuclear has its own insurmountable problems. Currently it supplies only 4.8 percent of global generation and would have to be ramped up on a colossal scale to become relevant. However, nuclear generating plants take a long time to build and are horrifically expensive, much more so than clean alternatives that are now on the shelf. Even if we started to build them now, they would not come on line in time to ameliorate the climate crisis. Even more importantly, nuclear plants are not fossil free. They depend on large expenditures of fossil fuels for fuel processing, transport and construction. Nuclear power has its own large, carbon footprint. Further they leave us with horrific toxins for ten times longer than civilization has yet been around and also with useless, heavily irradiated structures that will need to be dismantled and buried at an astronomical cost per plant. Nuclear is not cheap. In fact, if you add in the cost of processing the fuel in the first place, and “decommissioning” the irradiated and dead plants at the end, nuclear is the most expensive way to generate electricity. Then there is the risk of the next Fukushima type meltdown. Finally, they complicate the problem of nuclear weapons proliferation and are prime targets for terrorist attacks which would make the World Trade Center attack pale by comparison. Finally, nuclear power just doesn’t make sense. It is an incredibly complicated and dangerous technology just to heat water into steam to turn a turbine to turn a magnet inside a copper coil. Heating water by fissioning uranium is just silly. I suspect it was developed for two reasons; one, because we could. It was what the original atomic bomb physicists called “a technologically sweet problem.” The second was guilt over unleashing horrific weapons of mass destruction on the world. Nuclear power generation would offset that guilt—“atoms for peace,” was their phrase. Expanding nuclear energy is worse than a non-starter, it’s a dumb and dangerous mistake.

 

A Sack Full Of Secrets

A SACK FULL OF SECRETS

If I could come to your next meeting, whatever it is you will be meeting about, I would ask for ten minutes to speak, promising that what I had to say would be relevant to your agenda.  You might indulge me. If you did, I would walk up to the table in front carrying a large brown paper sack rolled up at the top. I would place the sack on the table and ask if any of you knew this song and I’d sing the first lines.

” Last night I had the strangest dream, I never had before.

I dreamed that all the world agreed to put an end to war.”

I would say, “Anything and everything your organization is doing is negatively affected by war.  Then I would say, “It’s time to realize this dream.” And “I have this sack of secrets.”  I would unroll the sack to open it. The sound would be wrinkly-crackly. Pulling out apparently nothing I would unroll that as though it were a very important small scroll. I would read, “WE CAN END WAR.”

Right away a skeptic in your group (and that would be nearly anyone and everyone) would say: “That’s nonsense. We’ve always had war.”  I would look in my sack again and pull our another “scroll.” Reading it, I’d say: Homo sapiens (that’s us) have been around 200,000 years. There is no evidence of organized warfare like we now have until about the last 5 percent of that time. We know when, where and how war was invented. War is a social invention that has lost its utility.

Another skeptic would throw out, “Ah, come on ! We may not like to admit it but war is human nature.”  I would look in the sack again, pull out another scroll and read: “If war was human nature then it would be common to all human societies all the time. But it’s not. There are many societies that have eschewed warfare. Even today, Costa Rica has no military at all. And most nations live in peace with the others most of the time. Example, in the 20th century we fought Germany for 6 years but were at peace with them for 94 years. There’s much more peace in history than war.

Another person might say, “Yah, but as bad as it is war is good for the economy. You can’t deny that.”  I’d look in again and pulling out the imaginary scroll and read: “ War preparation makes very expensive things that are of no value to our civilian life. When did you have a need for a nuclear submarine or an F-16. When these things are used they destroy things of value, like a water treatment plants, hospitals and irrigation dikes. War production charges an opportunity cost to you. That money could have put your kids through college, rebuilt your roads and bridges, and. . . . Well, you get the point.”

Finally, getting tired of my being so contrary, someone would say, “Well if you’re so smart, how do we get rid of war?  I’d say, “I’m not, but a lot of other people are,” and I’d reach into my bag and slowly pull out from the very bottom a book, about 8 ½’ by 11” and say: “This book lays out the answer to that question. It draws on hundreds of experts for the design of A Global Security System: An Alternative To War. I’ll leave this one. You can buy it from Amazon or, better yet, download it free from World Beyond War at www.worldbeyondwar.org.

“Thanks for indulging me. Have a good meeting.”

 

So-called “Bridge Fuels”

So-called “Bridge Fuels”

 

Many people and governments who recognize the looming climate crisis are calling for the use of “bridge fuels” that will get us across the gulf from dirty fuels like coal and oil and into the era of wind and solar. One of these is natural gas but we need to recall that there is no such thing as a clean fossil fuel. They are all more or less dirty but it is true that natural gas emits about half the pollutants as coal which makes it attractive to some. But, using it as a so-called “bridge fuel” involves us in emissions that will continue for at least fifty years as the fossil fuel companies and utilities will need to get their investments back on the heavy infrastructure needed to recover and distribute the gas. Furthermore, the current natural gas boom is the result primarily of hydraulic fracturing which creates three problems of its own. First, it has been linked to ground water and well contamination by various pollutants including some that are carcinogenic. Second, the wells and pipelines leak methane, in some documented cases in the Bakken Shale fields in North Dakota, up to 10 percent. Since methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2, the result “would be worse than burning coal” according to Robert Pollin in his new book, Greening The Global Economy. Furthermore, even switching 50 percent from coal to natural gas would provide only very modest gains, reducing CO2 emissions by only 8 percent. Finally, the extraction of natural gas requires the drilling of many, many wells but the supplies in each tend to be quite limited so that, as Lester Brown writes in The Great Transition: Shifting From Fossil Fuels To Solar And Wind Energy: “. . . the new wells are depleted quite rapidly. . . ” and therefore “. . . it makes little sense for society to invest in expanding gas infrastructure and then have to abandon it.”

In short, a necessary path to holding global average temperatures to 3.6° means leaving the majority of the fossil fuels in the ground including natural gas.

Many people including some environmentalists are advocating nuclear energy as the solution or at least as a bridge to clean renewables but nuclear has its own insurmountable problems. Currently it supplies only 4.8 percent of global generation and would have to be ramped up on a colossal scale to become relevant. However, nuclear generating plants take a long time to build and are horrifically expensive, much more expensive than clean alternatives that are now on the shelf. Even if we started to build them now, they would not come on line in time to ameliorate the climate crisis. Even more importantly, nuclear plants are not fossil free. They depend on large expenditures of fossil fuels for fuel processing, transport and construction. Nuclear has a large carbon footprint. Further, they leave us with horrific toxins for ten times longer than civilization has yet been around and also with useless, heavily irradiated structures that will need to be dismantled and buried at an astronomical cost per plant. Then there is the risk of the next Fukushima type meltdown. Finally, they complicate the problem of nuclear weapons proliferation and are prime targets for terrorist attacks which would make the World Trade Center attack pale by comparison. Finally, nuclear power just doesn’t make sense. It is an incredibly complex and dangerous technology just to heat water into steam to turn a turbine to turn a magnet inside a copper coil. Heating water by fissioning uranium is just silly. I suspect it was developed for two reasons; one, because we could. It was what the atomic physicists called “technologically sweet.” The second was guilt over unleashing horrific weapons of mass destruction on the world. Nuclear power plants would offset–atoms for peace, as it were. Expanding nuclear is a non-starter.  Wind and solar power are off the shelf ready today and in fact are the fastest growing sector of the energy economy. We don’t need any bridges that simply prolong the fossil fuel era or threaten us with toxic waste and radioactive meltdowns.

The Paradox Of War

There is a puzzling paradox about war. Good people support it. We will never understand and eliminate it unless we start from this premise. In war time, people who in their normal lives would never hurt anyone support both the preparation for and the carrying out of massive violence. Perfectly nice young men who grew up in small towns in mid America, who went to church on Sundays and learned the Ten Commandments, including: “Thou shalt not kill”; who were taught decency, kindness and fair play by their parents back in the 1930s, found themselves flying over Germany in Liberator bombers in 1943, dropping white phosphorous fire bombs that burned alive the men, women and children hiding below. Good men who love their families work in munitions factories making land mines and cluster bombs that blow the feet off children on the other side of the world. At this moment, a boy who would never think of hitting a dog or kicking a cat is being trained to shove a bayonet in the belly of another boy he does not know who is being trained to do the same thing to him. People who hate war and its maiming, killing, destruction, nevertheless fall in line when their leaders declare war. Almost no one of these people is evil, but they acquiesce in and some of them perform evil deeds. Almost nobody wants war; almost everyone supports it. Why?

Humanity has suffered in the dark night of war for thousands of years, where “ignorant armies clash by night” in fearful slaughter and destruction. The destructiveness of war has increased exponentially in the last hundred years—World War II saw at least fifty million deaths and some estimates are twice that. The largest proportion by far of those killed in war are now civilians. A nuclear war could easily take hundreds of millions of lives in the first week and, in the worst case scenario, bring on nuclear winter and the destruction of civilization itself. But over the last hundred years we have begun to move toward the dawning of a new age. It is not easy to see, surely we are still in that very early moment before the sun clears the horizon, or even lights up the high clouds, but it is indisputably lighter on the horizon. There are several reasons to assert such an optimistic view. First, the old belief that war is honorable is beginning to fade in the terrible light of the modern battlefield where bravery and courage count for little when the air is filled with the hail of flying metal and rent by concussive explosions. To paraphrase the English philosopher, Hobbes, war is that place where life is “nasty and brutish and short.”

Second, while many still believe that war is, however nasty, nevertheless inevitable, many others are beginning to see that war is a social phenomenon, a social and cultural system with causes and conditions that can be understood and eliminated. Many now believe that we will see the end of war in this century, just as we saw the end of legalized slavery in the nineteenth century. But it is more than just beliefs and attitudes that convince me that war is on its way out, even as it rages in the Middle East. It is the development of new institutions and techniques of dealing with conflict that have arisen since the World Court came into being in 1899. These include international political institutions, thousands of non-government agencies working for peace, and the evolution and spread of peace education. Finally, the existence of real peace in many parts of the world where war used to be the dominant mode, such as Scandinavia, North America, and now western Europe, confirms Kenneth Boulding’s maxim, “whatever exists, is real.” Peace is just as real as war.

And so, while nearly all people would be delighted if war were abolished, they never think to ask the question, “How do we abolish war?” It’s because they believe it is inevitable and sometimes perfectly justified, and because they share a mutual fear one of the other. And if they never ask the question, they will never get the answer.

What needed to be invented to end war has been invented. Now all we need to do is to spread the knowledge of these developments and inspire even more people to join the ongoing work of changing the behavior of individuals and governments.

[This entry is slightly edited and excerpted from Kent D. Shifferd, From War To Peace: A Guide To The Next Hundred Years (McFarland Publishers, 2011).]