A Different Perspective On Peace

A Different Perspective On Peace

By Kent D. Shifferd

Think of where we are, on a very special, tilted planet that revolves on its own axis every 24 hours while it is circled by a moon that moves around it every 27 days, and both are circling the sun every 365 days, and the sun and all its planets are part of the barred galaxy we call the Milky Way, which is revolving around its own axis once every 250 million years which means that our incredible little planet is racing through space, carried along by the galactic revolution or Cosmic Year, at a speed of 500,000 miles per hour or 12 million miles per day.  Try to picture all these simultaneous movements in your mind.  We are on the outer edge of just one galaxy in a universe of 100 billion galaxies, a tiny dot in measureless space.  And yet, and yet. . . this incredible planet has life, indeed is a living planet encased in a web of creatures dependent on one another and all functioning to support the whole miraculous enterprise.  And here we humans are, conscious of all this, which ought to be both overwhelmingly humbling and awe-inspiring to the point of putting us on our knees.  To think that we are a part of this almost inconceivable cosmic dance leaves me breathless.  And I say to myself, how can we possibly harm one another and the whole web of life, for as far as we know there is no such other planet like earth, and if there is, it’s too far away get to.  This is it, here on this rapidly moving miracle planet.  So, to put it simply, let’s all get along together and nurture the unique systems of life which support us in this remote but awesome place in the universe.

Kent Shifferd is the author of From War To Peace: A Guide To The Next Hundred Years, and is the former Director of the Wisconsin Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies

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HOW TO OUTLAW WAR

 

Several years ago I wrote the book, FROM WAR TO PEACE: A GUIDE TO THE NEXT HUNDRED YEARS (McFarland, 2011). I now hope it won’t take a hundred years, but whenever the nations and peoples are ready to put an end to the barbarism of war, perhaps the treaty will look something like this.

A TREATY TO OUTLAW ALL FORMS OF WAR

PREAMBLE: Whereas war is a terrible crime against humanity and detracts crucially needed resources and attention from solving the most critical problems of the planet while contributing to their exacerbation;

And whereas all prior good will efforts to prevent war including the Kellogg-Briand Pact, the current Charter’s limited prohibition of aggression, and current provisions for collective security have failed to prevent war, and;

Recognizing that we currently live in a self-perpetuating war system causing untold misery, and that decisive steps must be taken to break out of this system, and;

Whereas the peoples and States of the world are interdependent as never before so that any war anywhere degrades the lives of all people everywhere and threatens the future of well-being on the planet, therefore:

ARTICLE I: The High Contracting Parties agree that all war is illegal and a crime against humanity, including interstate war (aggression or defense against aggression, declared or undeclared), terrorism and wars against terrorism, and civil wars, and further;

ARTICLE II: the Parties agree to rid themselves of the instruments of war including standing armies (not to include lightly armed domestic police forces), artillery, armed aircraft, bombs, missiles, tanks and all that is common in such cases, and other weapons already outlawed by international treaty (nuclear weapons, land mines, gas, cluster bombs, etc.), and further,

ARTICLE III: the Parties agree to immediately train at least ten percent of their citizens in nonviolent civilian-based defense, and further;

ARTICLE IV: each of the State Parties will establish a high level Department of Peace, and further;

ARTICLE V: that violations of these terms constitute a crime against humanity whose perpetrators will be turned over to the International Criminal Court for judgment, and further;

ARTICLE VI: that the High Contracting Parties shall agree to impose economic sanctions against any States that violate these terms, as determined by eighty percent of the members of the Security Council voting without the exercise of the veto.

ARTICLE VII: that the Parties agree to submit to the mediation by the United Nations in order to resolve conflicts as early as possible using the latest techniques of conflict resolution and mediation, or to undergo the judgment of the International Court of Justice whose subpoena will have the force of international law with appropriate sanctions for any State that ignores its summons, enforceable by the police power of the United Nations, and further;

ARTICLE IX: that the United Nations shall maintain an adequately armed international police force for the deterrence of violations, to be employed as a last resort as determined by eighty percent of the members of the Security Council voting without the exercise of the veto.

 

 

An Open Letter To All The Newspapers In The World

An Open Letter To All The Newspapers In The World

How many readers know that the majority of nations in the world have drafted a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons? I suspect not many, because it’s been underreported. The treaty was opened for signatures last week and there was a line to sign on. The nuclear armed states, save one, declined even to participate in developing the treaty. The State that did participate, but then dropped out because of the boycott by the other nuclear armed states was—ready? North Korea. No one thinks Kim Jong un is rational, and last summer Donald Trump said, “If we have ‘em, why can’t we use ‘em,” and just recently at the UN he called Kim childish names and threatened to utterly destroy North Korea. Now, these two nuclear-armed, emotional infants are hurling insults at each other, escalating the very real danger of a nuclear war.

I don’t exaggerate. The single most destructive act we humans can commit is a nuclear war, “New data suggest that a war involving just 100 nuclear weapons, or less than 1% of the world’s arsenals, would cause abrupt severe climate disruption, worldwide food shortages, hundreds of millions of starvation deaths, and probably a total collapse of civilization.” (“Nations take a step away from the threat of nuclear annihilation,” By Ira Helfand and Matt Bivens, CNN, Updated 7:49 PM ET, Fri July 7, 2017.) And that’s to say nothing of the hundreds of thousands of prompt deaths, followed by many more dying from radiation sickness, and ecological destruction on a colossal scale.

The “old line” nuclear powers, The U.S., Russia, France, and Great Britain, long ago promised under the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, that they would “undertake to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date.” They never did and now the rest of the world is fed up. It is no wonder that Pakistan, Israel, India and now North Korea went on and developed nuclear weapons, and that Iran has only stopped because of a treaty agreement with the U.S. and European States which we are about to abrogate. In other words, with regard to having nuclear weapons, they feel that what’s fair for one is fair for all, and in this case, it’s insane.

The non-proliferation regime failed and now it’s time for abolition. But first, let’s immediately stop this dangerous, bloviating rhetoric by two men who ought to be in therapy. After all, they’re risking our lives here, and the health of global ecosystems on which civilization depends.

 

A Green and Just Planet Earth

Getting To A Green and Just Future On Planet Earth

If we are to save the earth from the assaults of Hypercivilization, and so save ourselves, we need to change our minds. A number of thinkers have been suggesting what we need to do to get to a green, just and sustainable future for planet earth. Ted Trainer writes: “To save the planet we do not need miraculous technical breakthroughs or vast amounts of capital. Essentially we need a radical change in our thinking.” Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Towns movement, says: “We need a positive vision of an abundant future: one which is energy lean, time-rich, less stressful, healthier and happier.” It’s what economist David Korten calls “The New Story” and “The Great Turning.” Willis Harmon reminds us: “Throughout history, the really fundamental changes in society have come about not from the dictates of governments and the result of battles, but through vast numbers of people changing their minds, sometimes only a little bit.”

We need a different set of foundational beliefs that don’t repeat the lie that we are all individuals in a zero sum competition with each other to acquire ever more material goods in an ever expanding economy. That’s not the path to the good life; it’s the road to a ruined Earth and a new Dark Age. So what might be the new cultural postulates that could undergird a green and just society? Here are twelve suggestions.

  1. The most first and most fundamental of the ideas that will undergird Ecocivilization is the idea of community, which ought to be so obvious as to be not worth stating, yet it is crucial to do so in this age of radical, narcissistic individualism. There is no such thing as a self-made person. We humans all rely on one another, but even more profoundly on the other members of the geobiotic community—trees, plants, animals, soil organisms, the atmosphere, the oceans, etc. Other foundational concepts flow out of and into this, including the following eleven changes from our present beliefs.
  2. From privatization to preserving the Commons. Water, air, soil, food, atmosphere, parks, peace and security are rights of everyone, not to be sold to profited self-seeking corporations.
  3. From anywhere is everywhere to restoring a deep sense of place. We can’t know who we are until we know intimately where we are.
  4. From treating the earth as a momentary utility to seeing the Earth community as sacred.
  5. From ignoring the limits of nature to respecting its design, knowing what we can and, more importantly, can’t do without long term harm.
  6. Moving from mindless experimentation (nuclear power, genetic engineering, geoengineering, terraforming) to the precautionary principle which says those who want to introduce changes must themselves first prove them harmless.
  7. From design by guess to redesign by biomimicry—nature as teacher.
  8. From never enough to asking how much is enough.
  9. From crude measures of economic growth to determining and measuring true happiness and well-being.
  10. From rigidity to resilience, global dependence to local independence and self-sufficiency.
  11. From our war system to a peace system. [For more, see my book, From War to Peace: a Guide to the Next Hundred Years, McFarland Publishers).
  12. From irresponsibility to responsibility, from letting corporations externalizetheir environmental and social costs to the rest of us to requiring accountability from them.

These 12 should not be considered linearly but systemically in their mutual and ongoing interrelationships. They are all interlocked with each other. All could be derived from any one of them. You really can’t think about one without thinking about all of them.

The good news is that this great post-Enlightenment Rethink is already developing. It can be found in numerous books, articles, magazines, classes and courses and in countless conversations world-wide. David Korten’s “Great Turning” is underway.

The Declaration of Peace

The Declaration of Peace

These are self-evident truths:

That all humans are a single family living on a fragile and endangered planet whose life support systems must remain intact if we are to survive;

That the well-being of the planet and the well-being of humanity are one and the same;

That the well-being of each requires the well-being of all—security is common;

That all war is a crime against humanity and nature;

That any war anywhere degrades the quality of life for all of us everywhere;

That all humans have a natural right to peace and a healthy planet;

That we live at the decisive moment in history when we will choose between break down or breakthrough on a planetary scale;

That we here now dedicate our intellectual, spiritual and material resources to the establishment of permanent peace and the conservation of nature, and,

That we are fully endowed by our Creator with the wisdom and the ability to achieve these ends.

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17 May, 2017 at Tomidhu Cottage, Crathie, Scotland,  by Kent Drummond Shifferd

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Please distribute freely. E copies may be had by emailing kentshifferd@gmail.com.

 

 

Our Civilization Can Collapse? No Way. . . .

Our Civilization Can Collapse? No way. . . .

 

“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.”

Bill McKibben

 

“In effect, the human race has entered into a great wager. We are, so to speak, betting the planet.”

Charles C. Mann

 

Oops—We Created “Hypercivilization.”

The history of life on earth is three billion eight hundred million years old. In that long time span the basic building blocks of life: the cell, complicated organisms and complex ecosystems developed. But in a brief geological moment of the last 200 years our species has radically altered and simplified planetary ecosystems by creating “Hypercivilization,” a powerfully destructive way of interacting with nature characterized by an unprecedented overreach in population, energy capture and dispersion, urbanization, and a chemical revolution, all leading to the toxification of the biosphere, massive habitat loss, extinctions, desertification, environmental diseases, and climate change, etc. We have changed the conditions in which life evolved. 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; a radical discontinuity with the evolutionary and cultural past. In the twentieth century it spread like a tidal wave over the earth and continues to spread and intensify. Its 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.” Most negative impacts on humans and nature are externalized from this economic system. They will be assessed against our children for generations. Pollution, deforestation, drought, erosion, extinctions, overpopulation and consequent social ills such as modern war and extreme poverty became normative. “Hypercivilization” burst upon the earth and trashed it in a comparatively few moments of evolutionary time. But from our limited perspective in the present, it was a long time in coming.

The Foundations Are Cracking

In the last 200 years Homo’s technical reach has leapt into the stars and descended into the heart of the atom and the gene. Today, billions of hands are literally tearing at the web of life. The natural foundations on which civilization rests are already cracking and bending and sagging. The end result will be a drastic simplification of earth’s ecosystems to the point where they will not be able to sustain civilization. The trend is well underway and is continuing to accelerate. And yet, we do not see it because, while our evolution prepared us to see dangers that are big, hairy and fast, it did not prepare us to see dangers that are incremental and of our own making. Many civilizations have gone down before, some quite suddenly. We are not immune.

I don’t mean to discount the wonderful, life-giving and enriching aspects of the modern world. None of us would give up anesthesia, or all the rest of modern medicine. The advance of literacy is miraculous and the internet has made more knowledge available to more people more rapidly than ever before. The point is that we must use our new-found knowledge of the natural and social worlds to benefit ourselves, and that requires understanding and confronting “Hypercivilization.”

How do we get out of this situation? Many experts are working on it. For starters, get

“The Post Carbon Reader: Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crisis” published by Watershed Media. Get from Amazon or better yet, your local bookstore.

Hope In Hard Times #1

Hope In Hard Times #1 “Out of the Mountain of despair, we will hew a stone of hope.” Martin Luther King, Jr. We live in hard times. Climate peril, deteriorating oceans, toxic chemicals, wars, desperate poverty, shootings—you name it—are all too familiar. It would be easy to fall into despair. And while we must squarely face the reality of our times we need not go numb or give up for there is also much that is hopeful. Out of these stones of hope we can build a great temple of world community living sustainably with the earth.  Israelis and Palestinians The seemingly intractable war between these two groups has gone on for decades. All we see in the news are stories of new rocket attacks, new bombings, new assassinations, and implacable hatred. But that is not the whole truth. In her book, From Enemy To Friend, Rabbi Amy Eilberg reports the existence of a different reality, “The Bereaved Parents Circle,” an organization that brings together families from both sides who have had loved ones killed by the other side. She attended one of their meetings. Two men spoke: Rami (an Israeli) whose 14 year old daughter was killed in a terrorist attack while buying school supplies and Mazen (a Palestinian) whose unarmed father was riddled with bullets by Israeli soldiers for no reason. Each told his story. Then they told the story of an Israeli attack in Gaza aimed at assassinating a terrorist leader which instead killed many sleeping children. Following the attack, local Jews donated blood to help wounded Palestinians. When asked how they could do that, they replied: “It is better to give blood than to spill it.” They started a project in which Palestinians and Jews then donated to a blood bank to help wounded across the region. Then Rami and Mazen, calling each other brother, said to the assembled crowd. “Take this picture with you, the picture of the two of us together. Tell people that it is possible for Palestinians and Israelis to work together for peace. And if it is possible for us, who have paid the highest price, it is possible for anyone.”