DISPATCHES: Getting Ready for Katowice

By ANNA GYORGY

Originally published in the Montague Reporter on November 29, 2018.

BERLIN  It’s not just the climate that is heating up. Around the world, official country delegates, environmental organizations and international energy corporations are gearing up for the next round of international climate meetings – although with differing goals on how fast and how honestly to confront what almost everyone now accepts is an ongoing crisis, with no clear end in sight.

Last November I reported for the Traprock Center for Peace & Justice from Bonn, Germany, where the 23rd “conference of the parties” to the UN Convention on Climate Change took place. A short video report on citizen action and issues there is available at www.traprock.org.

In 2018, the 24th Conference of the Parties (COP24) will be held in Katowice, Poland, from December 2 to 14. The world will be watching, and I will be reporting from Berlin on citizen action and climate justice work during the summit, there and internationally. For without strong citizen action and demands for change, entrenched energy and political forces will continue to delay, block needed change, and thus guarantee more and greater disasters ahead.

Goals for this international meeting include: increased action on national climate targets; providing financing for “developing” countries’ efforts to both mitigate and adapt to climate change; and finally, to set up the implementation guidelines of the Paris Climate Agreement (adopted in 2015). These include ways to set and evaluate national climate plans.

This summer’s heat wave created near-unlivable situations in many regions, historic hurricanes and storms, fires and droughts that wreaked great personal and monetary damage. The recently published special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) emphasized that the window on limiting the climate crisis is closing.

The seriousness of the situation is also laid out in the 1,500-page Fourth National Climate Assessment, the report mandated by Congress every four years. This is the one quietly issued by the US government on the Friday after Thanksgiving, perhaps in the hope that people wouldn’t notice, won’t care, or will accept the president’s dismissal of its conclusions, not that he reads them.

And they don’t make for easy reading. Take, for example, the summary findings on “interconnected impacts”:

Climate change affects the natural, built, and social systems we rely on individually and through their connections to one another. These interconnected systems are increasingly vulnerable to cascading impacts that are often difficult to predict, threatening essential services within and beyond the Nation’s borders.

And on health:

Impacts from climate change on extreme weather and climate-related events, air quality, and the transmission of disease through insects and pests, food, and water increasingly threaten the health and well-being of the American people, particularly populations that are already vulnerable.

The US report analyzed predictable results of inaction. Meanwhile, “The Brown to Green Report 2018” issued here in Germany in mid-November detailed climate action – and inaction – in the industrialized G20 countries. These states account for 80% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

According to a co-author from Germanwatch, one of the 14 research organizations and NGOs from the G20 countries producing the report, “The G20 economies actually need to cut their emissions by half by 2030 to keep warming below 1.5°C,” or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit. (See the extensive data presented at www.climate-transparency.org/g20-climate-performance/g20report2018.)

To do that will mean dramatic shifts away from fossil fuels, as the report concluded that 82% of the G20’s energy supplies still come from fossil fuels, and that “in Saudi Arabia, Australia and Japan fossil fuels make up even more than 90% of the energy supply, with little or no change in recent years.”

As has been seen in the many years that international delegates have met to discuss climate under the auspices of the United Nations, progress and action are slow, given the huge economic investments and corporate interests behind fossil fuel development and assets worldwide.

Here in Germany, it is clear that this country’s earlier goals for reducing carbon emissions by 2020 will not be met. A major struggle is on continued reliance on coal power, and when and how to phase it out. Decades of solar and wind development have not been able to displace the entrenched, decades-old development of dirty open-pit brown coal (lignite) mines.

A national “coal commission” charged with planning an exit from coal was supposed to give its final report in December, but opposition from coal regions – especially in economically weak former East German areas – has delayed action, probably for months.

Meanwhile, a major environmental movement in recent years has focused on closing these mines and preventing their expansion through cutting the historic Hambach Forest to dig up the “brown gold” below.

Thousands of people have taken part in well-organized civil disobedience actions to immobilize work at the Garzweiler surface mine complex, a giant scar covering 30 square miles, with more excavation planned. (Shots of this moonscape are in the video mentioned above.) Others have lived for years in “tree houses” to block cutting of the forest. Some of those arrested are in court this week.

Their actions have helped focus public attention on the climate killer energy source that must be rapidly phased out. And many Germans will greet the opening of COP24 in Katowice, itself in a major coal region, with national “Stop Coal – Climate Protection Now!” demonstrations. These will take place on Saturday, December 1, in the capital Berlin and in Cologne, not far from the Garzweiler open pit mine.

My next dispatch will report on the politics and goals of these gatherings, as the focus shifts to Katowice.

DISPATCHES: Arrival in Berlin: A Look Back, and Ahead

By ANNA GYORGY

Originally published in the Montague Reporter on November 15, 2018.

 

BERLIN This is the first in a series of “dispatches” to this community during my time in Germany. The trip, supported by the Traprock Center for Peace & Justice, of which I am part, will continue through December, when I will write about the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference, COP 24. This large international meeting will take place from December 2 to 14 in Katowize, a major coal and industrial region of Poland, not too far from Berlin, where I will be watching.

The decision to travel to Germany just days after our midterm elections landed me in a weekend of remembrance of the past, mixed with anxiety for the future.

It was a lot, as I carried with me recent events in our country: pipe bombs (“real” or not) sent to Democratic politicians and Trump-identified “foes”; yet another mass shooting; yet another focused assassination in a house of worship, this one with a clear anti-Semitic motivation; the racist murder of two Black shoppers in Kentucky; fires raging over hundreds of miles in California.

Oh yes, and the elections, which brought high voter turnout and some important new faces and politics to the fore, while divisions remain deep.

So what was happening in Germany?

November 9, a Friday this year, has been an important double anniversary here since 1989, when after months of peaceful mass protest in East Germany, the Berlin Wall was opened and 45 years of physical separation began to end.

But when I lived in Germany, November 9 was also an evening to gather with others at a simple monument in Bonn-Beuel marking the Jewish synagogue destroyed on that date, along with a much larger one in nearby central Bonn, and others throughout the country. In Bonn only the simplest, symbolic signs of these losses are to be seen.

My US friends call the coordinated mass destruction of Jewish houses of worship in Germany on November 9 and 10, 1938 Kristallnacht, or “night of broken glass.” But in Germany, it’s the more explicit and terrifying Reichsprogromnacht: “the progrom night of the realm.”

This year marked the 80th anniversary of this state-sponsored violence, which led to so much more.

But this was not all. The weekend continued with a focus on the 100th anniversary of November 11, 1918, when, after four bloody years, the fighting of World War I finally stopped. At 11 o’clock that day – after all the mass slaughter and use of new, “modern” weapons of war, like chemical gas and bomb-dropping airplanes – the trenches were suddenly still.

World heads of state met at the invitation of French president Emmanuel Macron to memorialize the end of that war. Most – but notably not Trump – stayed for a discussion on peace, where the French leader criticized nationalism as not true patriotism.

For amidst memories of the hard-won peace of 1918, which redrew the boundaries of many countries, are anxious fears of increasing nationalist movements, as politicians challenge the post-World War I (and then post-World War II) efforts at international cooperation to prevent a similar war in the future. Right-wing movements are strong in Hungary and Poland, and growing in Germany and beyond.

And then the women!

The day after this sad and somewhat ominous remembrance of a vicious international struggle, Germany marked the hundredth anniversary of German women receiving the right to vote. This was passed right after war’s end, and a couple years before the United States followed suit in 1920.

An avid radio listener, I was moved first by memories of the war’s brutality and end, and of how the peace treaty’s terms contributed to the rise of fascism in Germany. Then on to the happy news for women, despite the knowledge that many then voted for Hitler.

Additional coverage of the much longer struggle for equal rights in Germany reveal that it’s not over yet. For instance, the number of women parliamentarians in the German Bundestag (Parliament) fell from 36.3% to 31% in last year’s elections.

I guess we can say that we are working on it in the US, where after this election the House of Representatives will increase its female membership from 104 (19.4%) to 126 (23.6%).

In the “Heart of Europe” As Things Heat Up

The situation at Katowice this year promises to be much different than last year’s Climate Change Conference, when it was held in Bonn. Thousands of people gathered before the COP 23 for meetings and demonstrations for climate action and justice. A short video of the situation then, still timely today, can be seen at the Traprock website (www.traprock.org).

The October 2018 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming has urged efforts to limit global warming to 1.5º C (2.7º Fahrenheit), rather than 2º C, to prevent major ecological damage.

Efforts in this direction must happen in Katowice.

However, legislation passed by the right-wing Polish government allows searches of activists’ personal data, and limits public demonstrations to those previously approved. (See Kate Aronoff’s article, “Poland’s New Surveillance Law Targets Personal Data of Environmental Advocates,” at theintercept.com/2018/07/02/cop24-poland-surveillance-law.)

Time is short, and change must come. I look forward to reporting on the chances of seeing positive action on both democracy and climate justice.

Getting to the roots of climate repair – even at a Garlic Festival

By ANNA GYORGY
Friday, October 05, 2018
(printed on Thursday: https://www.recorder.com/my-turn-gyorgy-GarlicFest9-29-20297770)

Hurricanes wreak destruction in the Carolinas, the Philippines and beyond. A season of out-of-control wildfires, drought in some areas, floods in others should have brought home to all the reality of climate change, and related disruption.

So what to do? Clearly action is needed on every level – to make the best of a changing climate and to prevent the worst that may come. Controlling greenhouse gas emissions by phasing out fossil fuels is important. But so is ecological and economic change, starting at home.

“Localization” can do a lot for our health and economy. Eating food grown and bought locally saves long-distance transport while providing jobs close to home and keeping area farmland in production. It tastes better too! Our communities can pollute less, localize more, and work on what is called eco-restoration. It’s all about regeneration, as opposed to loss and devastation.

We are lucky that engaged people in our area come together to showcase local agriculture and arts. This past weekend, the North Quabbin Garlic & Arts Festival celebrated 20 years of presenting the best in locally produced foods and crafts, entertainment on the main stage, spoken word presentations, children’s activities and much more.

The part of the festival that focuses most directly on ecology and regeneration could be found at the “Portal to the Future” section.

Now if a portal is a gateway and entrance, as the dictionary tells us, then why is the Festival’s “Portal to the Future” towards the back of the large festival grounds, behind the stage? Perhaps because this section — which expands a longer-running presence for presentations focusing on energy and ecology — is only in its third year. But in 2018 it is more necessary than ever, and here’s why.

Recently, I read an interesting article by journalist Dahr Jamail with both despair and hope in its title: “As the Biosphere Dies, So Do We: Using the Power of Nature to Heal the Planet.” In this review of the seriousness of the situation, there were useful links, including one to a website called Biodiversity for a Livable Climate (Bio4Climate).

There I read: “Global warming is a symptom of a much deeper problem, and to address the problem effectively we need to get to root causes: the human-caused degradation and desertification of lands worldwide. Regenerating healthy global ecosystems – and moving gigatons of carbon from the atmosphere back into the soils on billions acres of degraded land – is the answer. There is reason to believe that it’s possible to return to safe pre-industrial levels of atmospheric carbon in a matter of decades.”

What does that have to do with festivals and portals?

Well, the Garlic and Arts Festival’s Portal to the Future featured exhibits, information and talks on Renewable Energy & Local Living. In the sense of regeneration, a central exhibit will show how boring mowed lawns can be transformed into carbon catching pollinator heavens. There were free packets of Bee the Change pollinator seeds from American Meadows for every visitor.

Saturday’s talks in the Portal included presentations on solar cooperatives; renewable fuels for transportation; farm to garment bioregional clothing and textiles in Western Massachusetts; and urine diversion and use as fertilizer.

Sunday’s offerings continued with: ecological pollinator conservation from The Beecology Project; code compliant tiny homes; soil carbon sequestration in the garden & field; and green burials.

This is the kind of interesting and hands-on information and expertise we need as we imagine and work for a livable, enjoyable future on this unique planet. So I hope that many readers and their friends found their way behind the solar powered stage to the related portal exhibits and talks. And give thanks for the great work on and for regeneration being done in our area and beyond, in the face of great odds.

Anna Gyorgy is a member of the Wendell Energy Committee and lives and gardens in Wendell. A board member of the Traprock Center for Peace & Justice, she has focused on climate and peace issues. Her short video on the 2017 world climate conference in Bonn can be seen at traprock.org.

African Feminists Emphasize Key to Global Peace

Originally appearing at Truthdig.

Sept. 25, 2018  

https://www.truthdig.com/articles/nothing-without-women-african-feminists-raise-the-stakes-for-global-peace/

H. Patricia Hynes

A banner at the recent International Feminist Peace Congress in Ghana (Photo: H. Patricia Hynes)

 

“The days when one could claim that the situation of women had nothing to do with matters of national and international security are, frankly, over.” —Valerie M. Hudson

On the eve of World War II, the iconic writer Virginia Woolf responded to a male attorney’s question about how to prevent war. The key, she replied, is that women must be educated and able to earn a living. Only then, once they were not dependent on fathers and brothers, could women possess “disinterested influence” to exert against war. The man’s question, she continued, is “how to prevent war.” Ours is, as she put it in “Three Guineas,” “Why fight?”

Peace and the security of nations are powerfully linked with the equality of women, though it is the rare male power broker—whether a diplomat or military liaison—who acknowledges this. I traveled to Ghana recently to participate in the International Feminist Peace Congress, organized by the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). My interviews—with Western women prior to the congress and with African women and a few men during their sessions on feminist peace in Africa—reinforced the mounting conviction that the fate of nations is tied to the status of women.

WILPF members from the war-ridden Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) grasp the totality of this conviction. The congress pulsated with vibrant color and bold geometric designs woven into African clothing, wall hangings and tablecloths. Wearing traditional apparel mixing electrifying color and patterns and emblazoned with “Rien sans les femmes,” (“Nothing without women”), DRC members elaborated to me: “We mean everywhere throughout the world. If women are not involved, nothing of critical use to the world will happen.”

While preparing for the conference, two dichotomous realities claimed my thoughts. The first: Feminist revolutions to gain human rights and equality for women have freed and saved the lives of millions of women and girls—without weapons, without fists, without a drop of blood spilled.

Summit representatives from the Democratic Republic of Congo (Photo: H. Patricia Hynes)

 

The second: Hundreds of millions of women have been injured, harmed and killed by patriarchal institutions and by misogynist men. Why are they targets? Because they are women. How are they attacked? With weapons and rape in war, with fists and rape at home, through the commercial sex trade and through the slow, gendered violence of personal and public inequality.

Peace is quintessentially a woman’s issue, most clearly when the continuum of male violence against women in its private, social and structural dimensions is grasped. “That continuum of violence,” British author Cynthia Cockburn relayed to me by email, “persists along a scale of force (fist to nuclear bomb); space (the home, the street, the village, the city, the battlefield and the nation); and time (pre-war, wartime and post-war).”

“Here’s where gender comes in,” she continued. “There is no escaping the tendency of men and masculinity in most if not all cultures to feature as actors in violence, women as acted upon. And you can’t expect a government that promotes and pays for the shaping of men as war-fighters (often condoning rape as a weapon of war) to foster a civil culture in which male violence against women is noticed, deplored and punished as it should be.”

Recent, groundbreaking analysis validates these convictions.

A team of researchers, including security studies experts and statisticians, has created the largest global database on the status of women. Called WomanStats, the database enables researchers to compare the security and level of conflict within 175 countries to the overall security of women in those countries. Their findings are profoundly illuminating for global security and world peace. The degree of equality of women within countries predicts best—better than degree of democracy and better than level of wealth, income inequality or ethno-religious identity—how peaceful or conflict-ridden their countries are. Further, democracies with higher levels of violence against women are less stable and more likely to choose force rather than diplomacy to resolve conflict.

Violence against women is an invisible menace underlying local, national and international politics and security. It “has a causal impact on intra- and interstate conflict,” WomanStats researcher Mary Caprioli told me. Her colleague, Valerie Hudson, reframed the prospective central finding of their study: “Increasing gender equality is expected to have cascading effects on security, stability and resilience” within a country and internationally.

What are the universal indicators of equality and inequality of women in a country, as compiled in WomanStats? On a personal level, they compose the multifarious forms of violence against women, including sexual violence, sex trafficking and prostitution; genital mutilation; sex-selective abortion, female infanticide and neglect of girls because of son preference; and preventable maternal mortality.

Consider this staggering finding calculated by the creators of this comprehensive database: More lives were lost in the 20th century through violence against women in all its forms than during all 20th century wars and civil strife. Yet, while thousands of monuments throughout the United States honor those who gave their lives for their country in war, only one—the first of its kind—is currently being planned for women who lost their lives giving birth to the country’s children.

Personal and family status law further adds to female inequality and mortality when women cannot divorce, are impoverished by divorce or stay in stultifying and violent relationships to avoid destitution. When girls are forced into child marriage, they face the grave risk of complications from pregnancy and childbirth, which is the major cause of death globally for teenage girls aged 15 to 19.

Inheritance and property laws that deprive women of resources comparable to those inherited by their brothers and husbands ultimately impoverish women, which is a form of economic violence. Because women’s reproduction and care for children and extended family are not compensated, women are cheated of savings, pensions and Social Security. Consequently, the greatest risk factor for being poor in old age is having been a mother, according to WomanStats researchers.

Rampant discriminatory workplace policies that deny women equal pay for equal work and merited promotions are societal forms of economic violence against women. Worse for working mothers in many countries is the persistent “motherhood penalty”—whereby they are further set back financially by lack of paid parental leave and government-funded child care.

At the structural level of governance, the glaring absence of women in government as well as in international bodies such as the United Nations at every echelon, particularly the highest, robs women of power and, consequently, robs the world of security. Currently, only 20 women hold the office of head of state or head of government, a mere 6.3 percent versus 93.7 percent of male international leaders.

Ironically, the United States, touting itself as a beacon of democracy, required a quota of 25 percent women in the legislatures of countries in which it has waged war, Afghanistan and Iraq. Yet the U.S. languishes at just 20 percent in its own legislature. Worse, despite its narcissistic identity as “exceptional” and “necessary” for the world, it has never elected a female president. American political operatives were accused of deliberately undermining 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, for reasons that were in part misogynist. The paucity of women in U.S. governance no doubt correlates with the rate of maternal mortality (the highest among industrialized countries); with rampant sexual harassment exposed by the #MeToo movement; and with a dismal rating on the 2018 Global Peace index—121 out of 163 countries ranked.

What effects do women have on issues of power and national security? Nearly 200 women in politics surveyed in 65 countries agreed that “[w]omen’s presence in politics increases the amount of attention given to social welfare, legal protection, and transparency in government and business.” Four-fifths believed that the presence of women in governmental positions restores citizens’ trust in government.

Evelyn Murphy, former Massachusetts lieutenant governor and secretary of environment, concurs. “Women typically run for public office and accept high-appointed government positions because they see problems they want to fix,” she told me. “Men tend to run for the sheer competition of the campaign, as well as [the] perceived glamour of an office.”

“The women with whom I worked,” she said, “brought to public governance their experiences in their families and the community institutions that support their families. That experience is deeply rooted in inclusivity. They exercise their power with others rather than over others.” She cited recent advances in Massachusetts’ public policy for gender equity in salary and paid family and medical leave: “They were propelled by women in government. Men were involved. But women were the driving force.”

Studies of women in leadership in public and private sectors have concluded that women in high-level positions and on boards deal more effectively with risk, focus more strategically on long-term priorities and are more successful financially. Experimental studies of women and men negotiating post-conflict agreements have found that all-male groups take riskier, less empathic and more aggressive positions. They also break down more quickly than negotiations that include women. Further, men are more satisfied with decisions made with women involved than those made by all-male groups.

Given these factors, why aren’t women equally represented at every peace negotiation (as the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1325 calls for), from Afghanistan and Israel/Palestine to the Democratic Republic of Congo?

Lawyer and mediator Ayo Ayoola-Amale, one of the conveners of the Ghana peace conference, underscored the crucial potential and impact of women in peace negotiations. “The Liberian 2011 Nobel Prize laureate, Leymah Gbowee, together with Christian and Muslim women, pressured warring parties into the 2003 negotiations that eventually ended years of horrific war in Liberia,” she told me. Reinforcing Evelyn Murphy’s experience in government, she continued:

“Research has shown that where women’s inclusion is prioritized, peace is more probable, especially when women are in a position to influence decision-making. The reasons for this are not far-fetched: Women constantly bridge boundaries and build alliances for peace, they promote dialogue and build trust. … Women take an inclusive approach, whether it is [to] stopping conflict, contributing to peace processes or rebuilding their societies after conflict or war.”

Guy Blaise Feugap, director of WILPF Cameroon’s communications and disarmament programs, explained to me the root of his commitment to feminist peace. “In my family, there was much domestic violence. Since I was young, I wanted to work against violence against women and on behalf of peace,” he said. “Micro inequalities grow into macro inequalities, and I had the conviction that women are necessary for my country’s development and the construction of peace. Women are excluded from high-level decision-making, and I am committed to working for their inclusion.” A teacher of Spanish and English, Feugap has also written two novels with this core theme.

Nozizwe Madlala-Routledge, former member of parliament and assistant secretary of defense in the post-apartheid South African government, has turned the crucible of her experience into a lifelong commitment to equality for women in political decision-making. “The end of minority white rule,” she told me, “did not end patriarchal, militarized rule. You enter office to change government, and government changes you. Being elected to office is not enough; women and men of integrity must transform government.”

Madlala-Routledge, a seasoned veteran of male politics, laid out a strategic plan of action to the international conference audience. The components include building the progressive feminist movement, focusing particularly on young women; using our electoral power to elect “gender-sensitive women and men of integrity;” working to “transform political parties so they promote women and feminist leadership;” and “demanding greater transparency” in the financing of elections.

“Rien sans les femmes—Nothing without women” was a common thread throughout her stirring opening speech.

Peacemaking within and among nations needs strategic and strong allies, yet nearly half the human race is overlooked. “Enough of paper talk,” protested many African female speakers, exasperated by the exclusion of women from national peacekeeping and post-conflict resolution negotiations.

Having won gains for their equality and human rights without weaponizing their battles, women have a history of strategic intelligence that governments and international bodies, such as the U.N., urgently need, particularly given ominous current trends. Among these are the Trump administration’s goal of unleashing the U.S. global arms trade from policy restrictions; the decline in peace in this decade as measured by the Global Peace Index; the decline in democracy, with one-third of the world living in backsliding democracies in 2018; the stagnation of women and young people gaining high government positions; and crushing capitalist trends in income inequality.

Unless societies transform themselves with an analysis of the status of women’s equality and act decisively to empower women, they will persist as repositories of male ambition, male privilege and male power. This toxic mix—as women’s experience and empirical evidence support—dooms the future of national and international security.

Our conference opened with a few minutes of silence to honor the great Ghanaian statesman, peacemaker and former Secretary-General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, who had died that morning. His words from many years ago embody the core message of this momentous African women’s feminist peace conference: “There is no policy more effective in promoting development, health and education than the empowerment of women and girls … and no policy is more important in preventing conflict or in achieving reconciliation after a conflict has ended.”

In closing, traditional drumming and dancers drew many to their feet and into dance lines. “Arise women of Africa, women of the world,” intoned one speaker. “Let a few hours here in Ghana resonate through Africa and the world.” Feminist peace in Africa is on the move.

4-Day Hiroshima-Nagasaki Vigil Planned in Greenfield

Originally appearing in the Greenfield Recorder.

By RICHIE DAVIS
Staff Writer

Thursday, August 02, 2018

https://www.recorder.com/4-day-Hiroshima-Nagasaki-vigil-planned-in-Greenfield-19186122

GREENFIELD — The blinding light from the bombing of Hiroshima — and the bomb dropped on Nagasaki three days later — birthed the nuclear era.

More than seven decades later, the modern nuclear threat — at least 43,000 more powerful than the force of those two first atomic bombs — is so potentially destructive that “people’s eyes glaze over” thinking about it, in the words of filmmaker Helen Young, whose documentary, “The Nuns, The Priests and The Bombs” will be part of a four-day vigil in Greenfield next week.

The event commemorates the bombings with talks and films about the growing threat of nuclear annihilation, but also art, music, paper-crane making, puppet shows and activities to celebrate life. Organizers stress that our lives are threatened by nuclear proliferation and heightened potential for its use.

The event will include appearances by Young, Physicians for Social Responsibility co-founder Ira Helfand and, by pre-recorded video, Daniel Ellsberg, whose latest book is “The Doomsday Machine.”

The first-of its-kind program, marking the 73rd anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, comes as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists advanced its “doomsday clock” to 2 minutes before midnight — the most dangerous setting since the Cold War of the 1950s because of risks from North Korea’s nuclear escalation, U.S.-Russian discord, tensions in the South China Sea, the buildup of Pakistan’s and India’s nuclear arsenals and uncertainty over dismantling of the Iran nuclear deal.

For event co-organizer Sally Stuffin of Wendell, the idea struck in January after she heard via a news report President Donald Trump suggest that nuclear weapons be used to respond to non-nuclear threats.

“I still somehow believed we were building these things for deterrence, which I thought was the stupidest idea in the world: building bombs in order to not use them. Until there was even a stupider idea: to build them with the purpose of using them. I really went into physical shock, because all of a sudden I grasped what annihilation would be,” she remembered. But then after grasping what that meant for a minute or so, “that was gone and I was fine. That scared me more than anything else, and I couldn’t even access that feeling. I thought, ‘This is how we’re built to survive.’ And I thought, ‘Wait: I don’t want to get past this, this sense of this is usual.’”

So drawing on her experience with vigils, as well children’s programming as an art teacher and puppeteer, Stuffin — whose full name is Sally Alley Muffin Stuffin — decided to gather others for support, “to really peel away layers of protection, to build real understanding” through a multi-day event around the anniversary of the Aug. 6, 1945 bombings. The commemoration is a project of Franklin County Continuing the Political Revolution’s Peace Task Force.

And rather than “four days of death,” which Stuffin knew would be a hard sell for downtown Greenfield, she, together with co-organizer Rebecca Tippens of Colrain, began planning an event that also celebrates “what we value, what we want to protect, with a festival including fun activities for children and adults alike.”

The event begins Monday with drumming by the Buddhist monks of the Leverett Peace Pagoda from 8 a.m. until the ringing of Greenfield’s church bells at 8:15 and a moment of silence Stuffin hopes will be shared across the entire community. It will include sharing of poetry, music and a performance of her Oops, I Dropped My Wrench Kabloooee Theatre’s puppet show, “The Meek Shall Inherit The Earth,” geared toward an adult audience, with parental guidance recommended for children. All will be on the Greenfield Common, followed at noon by a talk by Eric Nakajima, whose family died in the May 1945 bombing of Tokyo.

A three-day Reconciliation Film and Conversation series at 1 p.m. at Greenfield Community College will be followed by a “visions of peace” art project from 2 to 4 p.m. on the Common and a showing of the post-apocalyptic film, “On the Beach” at 3 p.m. in Greenfield Public Library.

Range of programs

Young’s documentary, with the director herself discussing it, will be shown at 7 p.m. at the Episcopal Church to conclude Monday’s events.

“This is a very critical moment in the nuclear weapons debate,” she said. “We need to be talking about … these powerful, almost supernaturally destructive weapons. The issue is so scary, there’s a tendency to kind of avoid it and put our heads in the ground. But people respond to films and to personal stories. Humanity’s very fate is in jeopardy. There are 15,000 nuclear weapons,” and there’s such complexity involved, “your eyes glaze over.”

Young added, “It’s taken decades for (this issue) to rise to the surface, but I do feel there are far more young people on the climate issue, and I hope they can see the connection between climate and nuclear weapons,” with increasing political turmoil as places become uninhabitable. “If one of these weapons is used, we’re talking about not having a climate.”

Following a second day of workshops, stories and more on Tuesday, Helfand — who is co-president of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War — will speak at 7 p.m. at All Souls Church.

“We’re in very, very great danger of nuclear war,” said Helfand, citing multiplying geopolitical tensions and “an extraordinarily dangerous situation, totally unprecedented” of a U.S. president who he said lacks the judgment, temperament and knowledge base to control nuclear weapons.

Helfand, like many other presenters, will offer suggestions for what people can do to help the situation, pointing to his support for the grassroots Back From the Brink Campaign.

“We need to have a fundamental change in U.S. policy that focuses not on maintaining an arsenal for an indefinite future, but actively seeking the elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide. The U.S. may not be successful if it pursues that policy, but it’s never tried. It’s what it urgently needs to do.”

Wednesday’s 7 p.m. presentation — following a full day of events and a 6 p.m. “family night of peace” at Greenfield Public Library — will include a video presentation at the Episcopal Church by Ellsberg and “Atomic Diplomacy” author Gar Alperovitz. Randy Kehler, who directed the 1980s National Nuclear Freeze campaign, is scheduled to moderate the event.

“It’s always hard to face hard truths that have to do with threatening, dangerous situations,” Kehler said. “But because it’s hard, we easily latch onto any rationale, however flimsy, for thinking we don’t have to worry any more. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, there’s been the sense we don’t have to worry about nuclear war. North Korea and Trump really brought it back to life, but then people, I think, really put it in a box and said the only real problem is a possible confrontation between North Korea and the U.S., and once we had the summit, it’s been easy to put that out of mind, especially because there are many competing issues. People of conscience who are awake and aware are overwhelmed with what needs to be done.”

In addition to the planned events during the four days, Stuffin said, there are more events being added, along with an invitation for “grassroots creativity” on the Common.

An online schedule and other information is at: hn4vigil.org

Montague libraries receive $1K grant from Traprock Center

Montague libraries receive $1K grant from Traprock Center

A collection of books, which are available to the public, have been added to each of the Montague libraries surrounding themes of peace, social justice, compassion and others. These books were purchased through a grant from the Traprock Center in July. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/Angela Rovatti-Leonard

By MELINA BOURDEAU
Recorder Staff

Monday, July 23, 2018

https://www.recorder.com/Montague-libraries-receive-$1-000-grant-from-Traprock-Center-19009014

MONTAGUE — More than 70 books were added to the collection of the Montague Public Libraries, leading up to “an act of kindness” event at the Montague Center common today at 11 a.m.

Tuesday’s event kicks off the year-long program surrounding themes of peace, social justice, compassion, diversity, tolerance and others.

The event includes a reading of the book “Flowers for Sarajevo,” by John McCutcheon, a performance from local cellist and a paper flower bracelet craft.

As part of the grant — $1,000 from the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice — fiction and nonfiction books falling under these themes of peace and social justice were purchased and are available at each of the three library branches for children ranging from infants to young adults.

Angela Rovatti-Leonard, children’s librarian at Montague Public Libraries, said she’s worked to get “something for everybody,” and there are more books that will be purchased soon.

“I reached out to local organizations with an invitation to be a part of the grant. Some will participate by assisting me with choosing specific books, such as bilingual books, while others will host and/or help plan upcoming programs throughout the year,” Rovatti-Leonard said. “Partnerships include the Gill-Montague Community School Partnership, Great Falls Discovery Center, Turners Falls River Culture and the Montague Catholic Social Ministries.”

This is the third year of the children’s book collaboration, with both Greenfield and Orange Public Libraries recipients of the grant in the past.

Director of the Traprock Center, Pat Hynes, referenced a Frederick Douglass quote when asked why the center started the children’s book collaboration: “It is easier to raise a strong child than to reform a broken man.”

“We want to start with strong children, in terms of values, perspectives and understanding themselves — we are trying to prepare them for life,” Hynes said. “Many adults have told me about the impact of a book on their lives.”

Rovatti-Leonard said one of the goals of the program is to have the events not only impact those in attendance, but to have a ripple-effect on the community.

The second event this summer will be on Tuesday, Aug. 7, at 3 p.m. at the Carnegie Library in Turners Falls.

The library will host “Paving a Path for Peace: Paper Crane Project,” in remembrance of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, during which there will be a reading of an excerpt of “Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes” by Eleanor Coerr and “Peaceful Pieces: Poems and Quilts about Peace” by Anna Grossnickle Hines.

Origami expert, Mike Naughton, will instruct participants in how to make paper cranes and other designs as well.

The origami cranes will be attached to a quilt and displayed at each of the Montague Public Libraries in turn.

For those interested in reading books in the collection, there are displays at each of the Montague library buildings.

Rovatti-Leonard said she looks forward to the year-long series of programs.

“This is fun, it’s one of my favorite parts of the job — collection development and buying books,” she said. “It’s wonderful and amazing to be part of something like this.”

 

Two roads diverge; JFK’s less travelled

Posted Friday, June 8, 2018 2:06 pm

By Pat Hynes and Frances Crowe

GREENFIELD — Fifty-five years ago on June 10, President John F. Kennedy delivered a commencement address at American University that, in fewer than 30 minutes, turned traditional national security policy on its head. Kennedy proclaimed that world peace is “the most important topic on earth – not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women — not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.”

His speech was hailed by then Soviet Union premier Nikita Khrushchev as “the greatest speech by any American President since Roosevelt.”

Eight months earlier, both men had faced the terrifying possibility of nuclear holocaust in a showdown between the United States and the Soviet Union, remembered to history as the Cuban Missile Crisis. Shaken but emboldened by it, Kennedy laid out a principled, strategic and humanistic vision for ending the arms race and dissipating the hostile Cold War rhetoric and culture. He led by example in honoring the Russian people “for their many achievements — in science and space, in economic and industrial growth, in culture and in acts of courage” (alluding to 20 million Russians killed in World War II). And he announced a proposed direct line of communication between Moscow and Washington.

Path left uncompleted

Within two months of his commencement address, both former Cold War antagonists and Britain signed the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, prohibiting nuclear testing in the atmosphere, outer space and under water, resulting in substantial reduction of radioactive contamination. President Kennedy was assassinated before being able to construct a path toward complete and permanent disarmament.

Let us contrast Kennedy’s words and convictions expressed on June 10, 1963 with our government’s present-day national defense posture. These two diverging roads — Kennedy’s, the one less traveled by — lay before us.

JFK: “What kind of peace do we seek?” Not one “enforced on the world by American weapons of war…I am talking about…the kind of peace that enables people to hope and to build a better life for their children – not merely peace for Americans but peace for all men and women.”

Stockpiling weapons — nuclear and non-nuclear — “is not the only” nor the most efficient means of achieving peace, he continues. Both the United States and the Soviet Union “are devoting massive sums of money that could be better devoted to combatting ignorance, poverty and disease. New weapons beget new counterweapons.”

The Pentagon:2018 opened with a new National Defense Posture: The greatest threat to U.S national security and prosperity is now Russia and China, with terrorism relegated to a second tier. Elsewhere the Pentagon speaks of 4+1 threats: Russia, China, North Korea, Iran and terrorism. Their chief concern is that the 2018-19 defense budget — morbidly obese by comparison with the funds dedicated to diplomacy — is not large enough for conducting war on all these fronts.

President Trump’s proposed national defense budget for next fiscal year, recently passed overwhelmingly by House Republicans and Democrats, allocates 18 times more funding ($717 billion) to military defense than to his proposed budget for diplomacy ($39 billion).

China’s response to U.S. war talk? The U.S. has unparalleled military might, spending three times more on military than China, remarks Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang. Yet its sense of insecurity is “beyond comprehension.” He urged the U.S. to abandon its confrontation mindset and move with the trend of the times — multipolarity, that is, numerous power centers in the world. Bluntly put: get used to sharing power with other regions, alliances and countries.

JFK:”The pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of war but we have no more urgent task. Too many of us think it is impossible. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. Our problems are man-made — therefore, they can be solved by [us].”

Resolving to end war for good is not a perfect guarantee, he continues, but it does offer “far more security and far fewer risks than an unabated, uncontrolled, unpredictable arms race.”

” We can seek a relaxation of tensions without relaxing our guard.” What will this require, he asks. “Increased understanding” with our enemies, which requires “increased contact and communication.” The goal is complete disarmament achieved in stages while building “new institutions of peace which would take the place of arms.”

The Pentagon: Since 9/11 we have expended more than $250 billion on training soldiers and security officers from at least 150 countries in the name of combatting terrorism and promoting democracy, international peace and security. The results: no tangible national security benefit in Middle East and African countries; and no evidence of an increase in democratic values and civilian control of armed forces. If anything, the opposite: a doubling of military-backed coups in the home countries of militaries we have trained. The program, according to a former U.S. commanding officer for Africa, Carter Ham, succeeded in transmission of military skills, but failed to spend enough time on promoting good governance and democratic values.

Decades of costly wars

Vietnam veteran and foreign policy historian Andrew Bacevich asserts that the goal of the United States since the fall of the Soviet Union and end of the Cold War has been to remake the world in its own image: to “align everybody from A to Z — Afghanistan to Zimbabwe with American values and the American way of life.” With this goal, the U.S. embroiled itself for decades now in “a series of costly, senseless, unsuccessful and ultimately counterproductive wars.” Millions have been killed; countries, broken; trillions in U.S. war debt, accumulated; and terrorism abroad and at home, fueled.

JFK:If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can focus on our “common interests” and work to “make the world safe for diversity” of ideas, beliefs, forms of economy and government. “For in the final analysis, we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”

How far we have diverged as a country from this principled, strategic and humanistic vision for our national security toward one of moral collapse. The road taken by Trump and his administration — clutching to military superpower status, abandoning the multiparty nuclear agreement with Iran and the Paris climate agreement, threatening to use nuclear weapons, and eroding decades of environmental protection — leads only to hate, hostility and extreme peril.

Pat Hynes, a retired professor of environmental health, directs the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice in Western Massachusetts. Frances Crowe is a much-honored lifelong activist for peace and justice who lives in Western Massachusetts.

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My Turn: The ‘pipeline’ we do need

Posted
GREENFIELD — “8 Candidates, 8 Visions for 1st Franklin Seat,” announced the April 17 lead story of my county newspaper in Western Massachusetts. Most, if not all, of the basic needs for human security and well-being are there in the platforms of four women and four men who are Democratic candidates running for this seat in the Massachusetts Legislature. Their platforms mirror those of local candidates running in towns and cities throughout our state and across our country. What follows is a morality tale for the 99 percent of our nation.A short list of their issues includes strengthening local farms, businesses and jobs; a livable wage; care for the elderly; funding for schools and infrastructure; single-payer health care; affordable housing; debt-free college options; environmentally clean technology and combating climate change; and broadband. “Owning a home should not break the bank,” said one candidate. I would add, “nor should renting an apartment,” given the nation-wide crisis in evictions. Many families are living just a paycheck or two away from facing eviction because of stagnant wages, a lack of affordable housing, and rents rising faster than income.

But here is the dilemma that ensnares us all, as we work for true human security at the local level. The pipeline of funds for all of these human needs is shrinking. Federal monies largely raised by individual, payroll and corporate taxes are declining because of the new Republican tax plan, also supported by some Democrats. Consequently, the portion of tax monies that flows from the federal government to the states and local governments for education, transportation, environmental protection, health, affordable housing, violence prevention and so on, already sinfully small, is shrinking.

Tax day 2018 was a bonanza for giant corporations, which are saving billions of dollars in taxes with the new tax plan. Further, the 2018 and 2019 federal budgets are a windfall for the Department of Defense and its immense complex of weapons industries, already supersized with our tax dollars.

A few salient facts reveal who counts and who doesn’t in our federal system; and they signal the David and Goliath battle for basic human needs’ funding we are up against. Under the 2018 tax plan, the top 1 percent income bracket get a tax break of $33,000 per year while those living on less than $25,000 per year get a tax break of $40. The corporate tax rate declined from 50 percent in the 1950s, to 35 percent as of 2017, and to 21 percent with the new tax plan.

More like a garden hose.

While valuable for small companies that hire locally and whose tax savings can accrue to the local economy, the largest corporations have mainly chosen to reward stockholders by increasing their stock dividends and through stock buybacks to raise the price of stocks. Ultimately the rich and well to do, who own an ample 84 percent of stock, get richer. Fewer than 45 of the big companies of the S&P 500 Stock Index have shared their tax windfall with workers through cash bonuses, according to a recent Bank of America study. The vaunted pipeline of wealth from employers to employees is more like a garden hose.

The second reality that stymies our goal of basic human security for all citizens is federal budget priorities. Once mandatory spending programs — including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and interest on national debt — are funded, the remaining budget, called the discretionary budget, is divided up among all government agencies and programs.

Now, imagine $1 in change and let’s allocate it proportionately for all of the discretionary spending, according to Trump’s proposed 2019 federal budget. Nearly 74 cents of this dollar goes to a mother lode of defense spending, including the Department of Defense, weapons, wars, Homeland Security, 800 military bases in foreign countries, and needed veterans’ services.

The rest — 26 cents — must pay for all our remaining human and community security programs. One cent goes for food and agriculture; a few pennies each, for diplomacy, environment, education, energy and transportation; and roughly a nickel each for housing, health and education.

You get the picture: crumbs from the master’s table. No wonder the U.S. has the highest rate of maternal deaths of any industrial country and is the only one of these countries in which maternal deaths are rising. No wonder we are the “child poverty capital” of the industrial world: 1 in 5 American children is poor. And no wonder we lag behind other Western countries in high school graduation rates. Outspend the next highest 8-10 countries combined on military defense as we do, and, yes, you will underspend on your citizens’ needs and well being.

What can we do?

— Voice our opposition to the US re-entering war in Syria. (If our government truly cares about the Syrian people, why have we accepted only 11 refugees this year)?

— Voice our opposition to nuclear war against North Korea and war against Iran.

— Question those running for office at the state and federal levels — liberals and progressives equally with conservatives — about their position on the defense budget and their position on poverty, among other issues.

Poverty was mentioned only once in the 2016 primary and presidential debates. The defense budget was never brought up in these debates. It is a sacred cow to Democrats and Republicans alike.

We need a new breed of politicians in office — with many more women and people of color to truly represent the citizens of our country — politicians, who are unafraid to challenge the priorities in federal spending. So vote in 2018 to turn our swords into plowshares, to reverse our extreme economic injustice, and to build a new pipeline for our tax funds to support the basic human and community needs of all.

Pat Hynes, a retired environmental engineer and Professor of Environmental Health, directs the Traprock Center for Peace and Justice.

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