Almost everyone in the international development field, particularly in preparation of the Rio 2012 Earth Summit, has pointed to the need for integrating the social, economic and environmental dimension of sustainable development. Not that many observers have pointed to the need of including the changed climate dimension into an integrated approach to development of sustainable communities in the global North and South.
It was in the fall of 2008 at the height of the financial crisis that I asked the question how development, climate and the financial crisis can be integrated conceptually, institutionally and strategically. The outcome of this important query after 4 years of research and reflection is presented in the 2012 book The Tierra Solution: Resolving the Climate Crisis through Monetary Transformation. It argues for the transformation of the international monetary system by basing it on a carbon standard of a specific tonnage CO2e per person, so that the climate crisis is also being fought on a global systemic level while at the same time low carbon and climate-resilient development can be pursued in nations of the global North and South. It goes without saying that such global transformation is an enormous social, economic, ecological and spiritual challenge for humankind. The more the climate crisis worsens and the global economic prospects dim, concerned citizens may become ready to discuss a transformational proposal such as the Tierra Solution.
Questions being explored in this course are the following. What does monetary justice mean on the national, regional and global levels? Is it different from economic and financial justice? What are the monetary injustices, particularly on the global level? What can be done not only in reforming, but especially in transforming the international monetary system to achieve social and ecological justice leading to social and ecological peace? Could basing the international monetary system on a carbon standard to combat the climate crisis and advance low carbon and climate-resilient development be a realistic means to achieve the purpose of monetary justice and peace? Can monetary justice be the guiding principle of integrated global governance?
The answer to that last question is fully discussed in chapter 6 of the earlier mentioned Tierra Solution book, a book talk taking place September 26, 2012 as part of the NPA “Peacebuilder Teleconference Dialogue Series.”
When I was asked to write for the NPA faculty blog, I was excited by the opportunity to share about peace education – and then I stumbled upon a huge case of writer’s block. Peace education is so vast, and I could write about anything. So what on earth am I going to write about? I pondered, with Tony’s words about the faculty blog being a “dynamic, learning resource” ringing in my mind.
Peace education takes many forms. It can be formal, such as through schools and universities. It can be nonformal, such as through community-based or nonprofit education. It can also be informal, such as through the media – even a blog. A blog can be peace education. How can a blog be peace education?
In 2005, when I returned from the Peace Corps, I didn’t even know what a blog was. I had been serving as a volunteer from 2002-2005, in a small rural village in Niger, far from electricity and running water let alone an internet connection. When I returned, I heard people using this “blog” word. I thought it was a pretty funny word and had no idea what they were talking about. Technology had changed in the time I’d been away, from blogs to digital cameras to iPods, and I had some catching up to do.
Eventually I caught on, even reluctantly joining Facebook after I realized its potential to keep me connected to friends and family across the world. Over the past few years, however, I’ve realized the potential goes way beyond this. At our fingertips we have a multitude of tools, such as blogs, social media, and online learning platforms, to help promote peace, and you don’t need to be a techie to take full advantage of them. At our fingertips, we have the power to educate.
I firmly believe that we all have the power to be peace educators in every aspect of our lives, from simply modeling peaceful behaviors and values, to stimulating peace-related dialogues within our circles of friends, family, and community, to the more formal actions of peace-related projects and initiatives. You have the power to live your life as a peaceful example, and every action you take and every word you speak (or type) has the power to promote peace. As social media users – on blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms – we have the power to be peace educators through these platforms. With technology becoming omnipresent in our lives, it becomes an increasingly important tool for peace education, with potential to reach thousands, even millions of people with one post. How can we use these tools to promote peace? How can we use these tools to educate for peace?
A number of organizations are working at the intersection of technology and peace. NPA’s partner TechChange is offering courses on this topic exactly, providing interactive technology training for social change. Recently the Peace and Collaborative Development Network put together a resource on Tweeting For Peace and Social Change, which provides tips and tools for using Twitter as a force for these purposes. Facebook even has its very own Peace on Facebook site, which aims to enable people with diverse backgrounds to easily connect ideas to promote understanding. There are a myriad of efforts to harness the power of technology and social media to promote peace.
Returning to the original question – how can a blog, specifically, be peace education? How can we, dear reader, use the tools that we’re already using every day as a way to promote peace?
In peace education we talk about education for and about peace – education about peace being the more content-based aspects, answering the question “What is peace?”, learning key knowledge that is necessary to dismantle the culture of violence and promote peace. Education for peace is at times more subtle, as it involves the skills and values necessary to promote peace. In my experience, a lot of educators are educating for peace – promoting critical thinking, good communication skills, sustainability, and values like compassion and equality – without necessarily calling it peace education. A blog could be both education for and about peace.
For example, I could tell you what others think about peace education and how they define it, such as the responses Teachers Without Borders (TWB) gathered when we asked “What is peace education?” through social media.
(If you want to learn more, sign up for the Introduction to Peace Education course that I teach which starts next week (click here to register!).
A blog could go beyond just talking about it by engaging its readers in an exercise about peace (as we engaged readers to create the video above). Actually, I’m asking you! Take a moment, and write the first 5 words that come to your mind when you hear the word “peace”. No editing. Go!!!
What did you come up with? You can share your ideas in the comments section below.
This is something you can easily do through a blog or other social media, with any peace-related question, and the word cloud provides an interesting visual display of the findings, as the larger words represent the frequency with which they were applied. (Stay tuned for a PeaceMeal online course, coming to National Peace Academy in August!)
But then, how can a blog go beyond just talking about peace education? I don’t want to lecture you. I want to stimulate dialogue, thought, interaction – action.
Dialogue is a key component of peace education. Blogs have the capacity to enable discussion through the comments section. We could take the video or the word cloud above and have a discussion: Do you agree? What are your thoughts on these definitions and words? You can also go a step further and invite blog readers to a live chat, through Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or other services, to talk in real time about a blog’s topics.
The goal of peace education is always action – action to eradicate violence and to promote peace. We can learn all we want about peace, but if we don’t take this action into the world and transform it, what is the point? So how can a blog inspire others to take action?
Here, dear reader, are some actions I’d invite you to take from reading this blog:
Create your own blog entry to promote peace – and share it with us in the comment section below!
Share your “first 5 words” about peace in the comments section below. Or share your thoughts on the video or word cloud above.
Do you have other ideas for using blogs and social media for promoting peace education? Share your ideas below!
Take your peacemaking off your computer and into your community.
Finally, all of this dialogue and action requires community – other people to engage with, a context for the action, this vast web of life of which we are a part. One of my favorite bloggers and authors, Chris Guillebeau, wrote today that “It all comes down to relationships. Understand that technology and online networks can be great, but in the end they are just tools or forms of communication.” We can blog, we can tweet, we can use Facebook – but we can’t just stop there. Building peace requires building relationships, it requires stepping out of the virtual community and into our neighborhood.
So, peacemakers, peacebuilders, peacelearners, I encourage you to take the social media world by storm today by spreading messages of peace, questioning the status quo, uncovering roots of violence, and stimulating dialogue. And don’t forget to take it offline to your home, school, or street corner, too!