When Wim invited board members to guest edit upcoming Peace Chronicle issues, and that the theme of the next one would focus on “Climate,” I jumped at the chance, probably to process my own anxiety on the subject. That this Spring issue is coming out in the latter half of the season, probably when most are breaking for summer, reflects my own underestimation of the work and time that goes into a project like this. Still, the words you’ll find in these articles reflect some of the most important and timely perspectives I’ve had the privilege of reading in my life.
This issue goes beyond the truism that the problem we face today is the prioritization of profit over people. That much is clear, but many of the voices identify the banality of the infrastructures underlying our lives as the crux of our dis-ease today. Here, the articles articulate the unconscious dynamics of the daily violences we are subject to. In doing so, the authors contribute to what scholar Sarah Ahmed might describe as “the feminist life,” raising to consciousness the inequities and oppressions concealed under the language of civility most take for granted. Martin Luther King Jr., in his Letter From Birmingham City Jail, famously puts the task this way:
“Like a boil that can never be cured as long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its pus-flowing ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must likewise be exposed, with all of the tension its exposing creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.”
The articles in this issue take this responsibility seriously, deepening our analysis of the climate in ways that go beyond typical fields of meteorology, oceanography, physics, and chemistry, centering peace and justice as a critical frame to converge on.
Gabriel Ertsgaard’s essay “Percival and Climate Crisis” links the political and ecological climate crises while introducing readers to several themes pervading our response to date, namely the importance of leadership, skillfully asking the right questions, and the necessity of empathy, all of which demand sustained action. These themes – leadership, asking the right questions, compassion, and activism – are further developed in the next four essays.
In her interview, Laurel Kearns gives readers insight into her advisory work with religious environmental groups in crafting responses to climate change, as well as the changing nature of institutional and academic leadership. In doing so, she reminds us of those common traditions that see the earth as a gift, pointing as well to the increased focus on animals in what may become a new phase of religious environmentalism, along with our moral obligations to both in these unprecedented times.
Ruth E. McKie, in her article, “Climate Change Obstruction,” not only questions the dominant narratives of political and economic actors, demonstrating the varied ways in which neutralization techniques are employed and operationalized against the climate movement, but draws attention to a legal framework ill-equipped to even conceptualize ecological harm (ecocide) as criminal. In this sense the purposive delaying and obstruction of critical action by elites the world over is identified as reckless and negligent responses that risk the lives of billions of citizens. Ultimately, McKie writes, they will need to be held to account for the consequences of their actions.
Shanna N. McClain and Carl Bruch together highlight the migration life cycle of climate refugees in their article “Migration with Dignity.” Providing a conceptual framework and analytical tool guided by dignity, empathy, and compassion, the authors guide readers through the difficult terrain increasingly fraught with new barriers and obstacles that hundreds of millions of people will need to contend with and overcome as they are forced into increasingly dire circumstances in the upcoming years and decades.
Wrapping up this section, Gillian Hart-O’Brien, our youngest contributor, speaks to her experience participating in the establishment of the first Legacy Forest, a department-led initiative seeking not only to offset student emissions by designing forests able to sequester carbon, but also to anchor memories of accomplishment in a replicable model program able to inspire the collective shift exemplified by youth activism today.
The next essays are tied together in their solidarity and resistance with those working against the onslaught of extractive industry and the destruction of land, life, and culture alike. Chantal Noa Forbes’ film review of “The Last Ice” opens our eyes to the very real threat faced by Inuit communities forced to defend traditional lifeways in the Arctic against economic opportunities and conditions that threaten to erase them. In doing so, the film’s focus on reconnection and commitment to each next generation offers lessons and hope for cultural survivance into the future, beyond the all-too real legacy of colonialism.
Lauren Finley Jacobs, in “From Waterfalls to Walls,” next walks us through the effects that industrial plantations in Hawaii have had in disrupting the water cycle, focusing on the ‘O’opu as a representative species quite literally boiling to death in the environment we’ve created. Here, the island community’s struggle against the structural forces generating climate change not only serves as a microcosm for the wider global-historical conflict, but also invites us to consider again the wisdom of traditional relations wherein water flow can become a pathway toward peace and justice once more.
Sharing his experience at the Thacker Pass resistance site set up to protest the environmental destruction of land and life in the name of electric cars and “green industry,” Max Wilbert offers us a kin-based life-place ethic driving the current land defense against bipartisan devastation. Here, Max, and presumably the rest of the camp, invites the reader to sink into the memory of the Nevada site and contribute to the lived struggle against the mining boom being pushed on behalf of superficial climate solutions with seemingly little regard for wildlife or the integrity of intact ecosystems.
Alexander Dunlap extends this critique of greenwashed industry in his article “The War of Progress,” providing a comprehensive assessment of the real costs of renewable energy and its worrisome trends, including the long-term perpetuation of injustice and capitalist exploitation at the expense of local autonomy and ecological longevity. In doing so, he addresses five aspects of renewable energy that will need to be accounted for to ensure peace and justice is not sacrificed for corporate profit: raw material extraction, land contracting, operational impacts, energy use, and decommissioning. The depth of this article is especially welcome, and Dunlap maps the landscape in exacting detail, concluding with a call for building truly nourishing socio-ecological infrastructures and community ecologies that reconsider energy justice and degrowth strategies from the bottom up.
Antonio Lopez next offers his article “Decolonizing Media Ecology” as a critically relevant pedagogical tool, providing easy and insightful avenues for students to begin developing their own ecological mindprint by analyzing the invisible costs of their devices and gadgets, and through them, coming to recognize that the causes of climate change are closer than we might believe. Lopez ends his article by offering seven ways in which ecomedia literacy supports learners to develop eco-citizenship skills that will become increasingly important in the years and decades to come.
“A Climate of Political Turmoil,” written by Peace Chronicle Editor-in-Chief Wim Laven, asks the essential question: how can we help the people of Myanmar? He offers his past experience teaching a workshop designing peace and social justice in the country, the lessons his students offer, and his own reflections on the promise of democracy in a climate of escalating violence and disappearing freedoms. Wim’s work points similarly to the wider phenomenon of the silencing, criminalizing, and killing of protesters across the world who are standing up for the right to be heard and against the violations of human rights today and years past, as well as the possibility of reclaiming power through popular creativity and resourcefulness in order to disrupt the illegitimate and unjust activities of abusive regimes and restore democracy.
Finally, “How to Build an Ecological Culture,” composed by members of the Bioregional Congress of North America and inspired by the Syracuse Cultural Workers, uses poetry in its original sense – poiesis – bringing something into being that does not yet exist — to suggest directions in self-organization, reminding us we are perhaps better served by listening to the world around us than speaking for it. Indeed, the voices of the non-human world may be the most important asset for any climate mitigation or adaptation strategy moving forward. If we lose the animals, we lose the ecosystems, we lose the climate. Yet as these articles point out, losing the climate may reflect the very serious prospect we have already lost something of ourselves somewhere along the way. In poetry we might begin to find ourselves again, enhancing peace and justice by sequestering carbon, protecting fresh water and clean air, building soil, and living up to the scientific reality and ethical responsibilities of our time, in conviviality.
This issue ends with the letters from the PJSA Board, Membership, and Publication updates for a simple reason: the future of peace and justice is determined in large part by those who study it, those who enact it, and those who are able to invite opportunities for practicing it with others. These last articles speak to the range of programs the Peace and Justice Studies Association has set up over the years to these ends. We invite you to look over the website and check out the opportunities for micro grants, to share your voice in publications like the journals or upcoming conferences, and to invite your departments or any groups to join the PJSA membership. In turbulent times we cannot be sure what the future will hold, but we can be certain we will fare much better together, organizing around values we share.
The articles included offer insights on climate in fields as diverse as mythology, criminology, public policy, environmental science, film, women’s spirituality, land defense, anthropology, media studies, international relations, and poetry, not to mention the leadership of the PJSA itself. This will offer, I hope, a transdisciplinary lens with which to better comprehend the climate issue.
When faced with such stark realities, and an impoverishment of real solutions, there is a real concern that any praxis will be paralyzed by what is increasingly recognized as climate anxiety, leading to a willingness to implement “solutions” that are anything but. Sisters Aph and Syl Ko offer guidance when it comes to the collapse of dominant cognitive frames and the search for alternative approaches. From their book, Aphro-ism:
“Part of activism is finding yourself in a new space of confusion, allowing yourself to step into new conceptual terrain. When you abandon commonly held oppressive beliefs, you might not exactly know what to do afterward, and that’s where more activists need to be. Confusion is usually a symptom of decolonizing yourself from the mainstream system. Answers aren’t easily laid out in front of you since you’re now forced to think critically.”
They further speak to an unsettling and disturbing reality embedded in the structures and institutions we find ourselves dependent on to solve the very problems these structures perpetuate. That is, in a colonial settler society rooted in slavery, genocide, oppression, and exploitation, not only do some lives not matter, not only is it critical for those lives not to matter if certain privileges are to be maintained, but those lives can never matter until the systems of white supremacy, colonialism, war-production, and heteropatriarchy are dismantled. It is my earnest hope that these writings, and this issue as a whole, can be counted as a contribution toward this end.
There is much that is missing from this issue – too much. This includes certain voices, certain stories, certain places, certain responses, certain fields that are critical to the wider project this issue seeks to develop. In a sense, this issue remains incomplete for that reason, and I must apologize for my own shortcomings in this regard. I welcome any letters, comments, questions, clarifications, refutations, stories, follow-ups and/or new articles to rectify this oversight on my part.
I would like to end with a final reflection on the first essay, Percival and the Climate Crisis, to suggest a point of departure moving forward. We are here and now faced with a central question: what happens when we live in a world that is barren and broken, and the King is dead? What is our responsibility to pull it together, knowing it will never be what it was?
The ability to grasp the meaning of our life-situation and the behaviors it calls for is the central challenge for every life-form. Yet this requires something more than becoming conscious of the difficulties we face, or even recognizing what is most valuable for each of us. The climate movement seems to be searching for its own Holy Grail, with perhaps no better symbol for eternal life than the prospect of renewable energy. Here, we are presented with a vessel for the future, at the intersection of life and death, a catalyst to help us become our best selves should we choose to do so. Such a prospect requires us to act on behalf of that value, with it in mind, and in doing so, realize the outer object of our quest for relief mirrors an inner longing for what we deeply believe will make us whole, able to heal ourselves and the land once more.
May the reader find in these articles the next steps on such a journey, and one another along its many paths.
Matt Thierry, M.A.
PJSA Liaison to Activists
Written on traditional lands of the Ramaytush (Chiguan) Ohlone — people of the west.