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Peace & Environmental Security

What makes us feel secure? What makes us feel afraid? Are we more motivated by hope, or by fear? We know all too well that our lives are always changing, at an alarming rate sometimes, and so on one level we know that there really is no security, nothing we can really hang onto except the fact of change. But there are things that we can do personally, and that our government can do, to bring basic security into our lives such as adequate food, shelter, clothing, health services, employment, education. Every person on the planet is entitled to that level of security. Every person should and could have it.

A big concern when we talk about security is terrorism. All people are clearly at risk, and some things have been done to protect us. But have we sufficiently addressed the root causes of terrorism? What causes people to commit acts of violence? What makes terrorism necessary as a political strategy?

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And what of the violent forces of Nature? We have seen recently that the environment is not only unstable, but increasingly destructive. Are we doing all we can to increase environmental security? Obviously not. Our leaders are doing frighteningly little to address the question of ecological stability, refusing to cooperate with the Kyoto Accord on climate change, and undermining regulations that curb carbon emissions. Financial profitability is a higher priority. But isn't it obvious that an unstable environment is also bad for business? Witness the destruction of business in the Gulf after hurricane season, and the enormous cost to repair the damage. Some of the destruction could have been avoided if existing coastal wetlands had been preserved as the buffer to the city. Our environmental security is also increasingly eroded by toxic pollution.

Environmental health is also a basic security issue. Many people are now realizing that our global economic system is causing much of the insecurity we are seeing both environmentally and socially. It is a system that creates gross inequity, over-consumption, waste, environmental degradation, health problems, exploitation and terrible insecurity for us all. We have created a disposable rather than a sustainable civilization, a dead-end system of production and consumption that is clearly, absolutely degrading and destroying people's lives and the ecosystems on which we depend. The current bottom line establishes the supremacy of money and power, materialism and selfishness, over taking care of our human and natural resources.

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We will have no security without peace, and no peace without security. Do we feel more or less secure as a result of going to war with Iraq or Afghanistan? Has war ever brought us lasting peace? We hear our leaders talk about peace but don't see a great deal of effort toward that end. We continue to have an astronomical military budget and continue to build more nuclear weapons. At the same time, we say other countries can't have them. Why are we not working toward nuclear nonproliferation instead of violating those treaties? Why don't we have a Department of Peace as a counterpart to the Dept. of Defense as proposed several years ago by Rep. Dennis Kucinic? Peace is something we have to work at all the time. A Dept. of Peace would acknowledge that peace is a full-time job. We could also divert a fraction of our military budget to measures to increase peoples' basic level of security. (If we were impoverished with no education or opportunity to better our lives, and saw the wealth that is so prevalent in industrialized countries, we might turn to violence too.)

We also tend to forget that global peace can only be achieved when we bring peace into our own lives, into our relations with family, co-workers, and community. As the prayer song goes, "Let peace begin with me; let this be the moment now."

Now What? Use these resources to learn more and work for change: