Vernal Equinox (Spring is here!)

March 21, 2010

The ecliptic path at vernal equinox

Yesterday, at 1:32 p.m., spring arrived in the northern hemisphere, and fall began in the southern. The vernal (spring) equinox marks the time each year when daylight and darkness are exactly equal (in the northern hemisphere; this date marks the autumnal equinox in the southern hemisphere.

I was privileged to attend the United Nations Earth Day ceremony and the ringing of the peace bell in the rose garden, where I heard the wonderful Tarumi Violinists, directed by Yukako Tarumi, and many interesting speakers on the environment. Among the speakers were Helen Garland, chairperson of the Earth Society Foundation, co-founded with John McConnell and supported by noted anthropologist Margaret Mead; Simon Reeves from New Zealand; Vahan Galoumian, Project Coordinator of UNESCO‘s liason office in New York, and Andres Gomez of the Center for Biodiversity and Conservation of Natural History at the American Museum of Natural History.

John McConnell's Earth Flag

We are losing habitat and biodiversity at an alarming rate; 40% of the Amazon rainforest will be lost by 2030 if deforestation continues at present rates; soil and fisheries depletion are accelerating, and 30,000 people per day are dying from lack of access to clean water. These are severe problems that need solutions, and I thank all of yesterday’s speakers for their dedication to these issues.

Yet too often, the multinational corporations and the men and women who run them are portrayed as arch-villains; I find this disturbing for many reasons, chief among them that these men and women are people just like you and me, and no man or woman is my enemy. For better or for worse, these corporations are here to stay, and we need to enlist them as partners to move forward; the way to peace can only be through peace. As Jurrian Kamp, editor-in-chief of Ode magazine states in his article We need to end climate anger: “…environmentalists… need to embrace all the people they fear stand in the way of the progress the planet needs: the politicians and industrial leaders.”

To be sure, corporations must practice corporate responsibility and become good planetary citizens, and their track record on this has been dismal, yet demonizing these corporations and the men and women who run them is the most ineffective means at our disposal of enlisting their cooperation—and we need their cooperation and access to their vast resources if we are to find solutions to the problems we face. We are all in this together.

The above views are my own, and do not necessarily represent the Woodstock Council for World Peace.


Establishing a Department of Peace

March 16, 2010 announced today the top ten ideas for change in America, and I’m pleased to see that “Establish a U.S. Department of Peacebuilding” is number five, though I’d be more pleased if it were number one (that honor was dubiously given to legalizing the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana; I’d say that peace and love are more important).

Please read my earlier post on a Department of Peace, and write your senators and congresspeople asking that this be made a reality. The world can no longer afford wars; they have become economically unsustainable—our energies are better focused on ensuring access to clean water, and on providing food, housing, health care, and education for all of humanity. Let’s make it happen!

Vote for Peace

February 21, 2010

Click here to register your vote to establish a U.S. Department of Peace, and send your message to Congress here. The bill to establish a Department of Peace is now before the House of Representatives, and, among other things, would provide funding to establish a U.S. Peace Academy which would act as a counterpart to the U.S. Military Academy, teach violence prevention and mediation to America’s school children, and provide complimentary support to our military by engaging in parallel peace-building activities.

The Woodstock Council for World Peace has already sent a letter of support for the Department of Peace to Congressman Dennis Kucinich, who first introduced this bill in July 2001, shortly before the attacks of 9/11. Unfortunately, our country’s reaction to those attacks, and George W. Bush’s mistaken policy of GWOT (Global War on Terror) has allowed this bill to languish. Make your voices heard, and tell Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and your representatives that you want the United States Department of Peace to become a reality.

We are living in a world that is witnessing the threats of habitat and biodiversity loss, fisheries depletion, global economic stress and world hunger; in such a world, war is unsustainable.

The above views are my own, and do not necessarily represent the views of The Woodstock Council for World Peace.

Happy Thanksgiving

November 26, 2009

“The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth” (1914) By Jennie A. Brownscombe

Happy Thanksgiving to all. For many of us, this has been a difficult year, as it was for the pilgrims depicted in the idyllic scene above. Yet we all have some reason to be thankful—a kind friend, a faithful pet, a family (even if they’re contentious), a small success, hope for the future, a happy memory—something. Be thankful for the smile of a stranger; be thankful for the happy child you saw yesterday; be thankful for the soldier who returned home alive, for the beauty of a sunrise. And if you’re feeling down and can think of nothing for which to give thanks, rest assured that we at the Woodstock Council for World Peace extend our love to you; we love you, and be thankful for that. We extend our best wishes and all our love to every person on this day, affirm our hope, and promise to continue our quest for a more peaceful world.

Important article from Nicholas D. Kristof

November 22, 2009

Nicholas D. Kristof of The New York Times has posted a very important article on charity—please read it. The main thrust of his thesis is that the evidence shows that INVESTMENT and not aid is the most effective means at our disposal to help the world’s poorest nations.

Vertical Farms for the developing world

August 4, 2009

We wonder if the vertical farming methods devised by Dr. Dickson Despommier of Columbia University can be adapted for use to help alleviate suffering in nations such as Haiti, Nigeria, Sudan, and Pakistan; all these countries, and many others in the developing world, suffer from high rates of deforestation and soil depletion. I believe these methods are adaptable, but I am neither an architect nor a biologist.

Dr. Despommier has claimed that his vertical farming methods can dramatically increase yields (30 times for strawberries, for example), and it seems to me that these technologies might be more beneficially applied in an environment such as Haiti’s, with their depleted soils, than to provide frisée to gourmet diners in Paris and New York. Despite the demographic evidence that suggests the majority of the world’s population will be living in urban centers within the next 50 years, we cannot escape the fact that many of the world’s most impoverished peoples still live in rural areas where environmental damage has been great. It would also seem that investment in these methods would have more bang for the buck than traditional methods of aid.

Perhaps low-rise structures using this technology are more suited to places like Nigeria in its dry season, so that solar energy production can be maximized. Could this be combined with other projects, such as WatAir, for use in desert regions (Sudan)?

It would also seem that introducing these sorts of sustainable projects will be better for humanity as a whole, in the long run, than the continuing mass migrations of people from the undeveloped world to Europe, Canada, and the United States, and the concomitant social unrest those migrations will cause (or indeed are already causing, most notably in Spain, France, and Italy).

We have spoken to Pierre Leroy, director of the Haitian People’s Support Project, and Mr. Leroy has expressed interest in seeing how this technology might be adapted for use on land that the Haitian People’s Support Project already owns.