Power, Missiles and Peace

So many things going on.    Reading about Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, then the continuing concerns about nuclear contamination.  It has helped to have relatives in the nuclear safety field who are sharing stats and scientific snippets that help put, however scary, the reality into perspective regarding the scope of the impact and long term widespread effects.   As with every tragedy, there comes the opportunity to reflect and learn.   The events in Japan can spark a discussion on how we use energy, ways of getting it, conserving it, alternative ways not yet tapped into and safety and environmental issues related to all forms of energy.  The events in Japan can prompt introspection into our own capabilities to handle widespread disaster.  I think about just two months ago when a snow storm basically threw our local power company into a tailspin.  We were without power for four days and they were ill-equipped to handle it, whereas neighboring power companies were much better prepared.   The events in Japan can also help us to look at our own fears and our reactions to fear.  I read an interesting article about how the post traumatic stress and anxiety-related illnesses from a past nuclear accident were directly detrimental to the long term health of the affected community and, in some cases, more widespread than the harm directly caused from the radiation.

On top of this, we have changes sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.  Just two days ago, we had the UN security council resolution related to Libya and the air and missile strikes that started yesterday.  We are not sure where all that will lead.    It would be easy to find ourselves spiraling into a cycle of anxiety and fear and withdrawing into our own insecurities.  However, ideally, it would be seen as an opportunity to reconnect to our core, our families, friends and communities.  Connect to what is most important to each of us.  At the same time, an opportunity to connect to those in Japan and Libya and elsewhere, even if only by thought and reflection, to open up our hearts to them and sharing compassion.

On a front closer to home, the peace institute where I work, continues to be up in the air as to whether it will survive the current budget battles playing out in Congress.   Today I was perusing Twitter and following the posts of a military guy in Afghanistan who tweeted that the peace institute’s budget is less than two of the Tomahawk missiles that hit Libya yesterday.   It has been very interesting to me that some of the biggest and earliest supporters of the peace institute have been active military officers.   No sooner had the amendment to zero out the budget been passed in the House, had very senior officers come out in support of the peace institute.   It seems the military gets the critical importance of “soft power.”   We need to have Tomahawk missiles.  But for just about every solider I know, the hope is that we don’t have to use them.  The hope is that soft power will help prevent conflicts before military intervention is required.  Or if military intervention is required, that civilians and soft power can step in and help build peace.   I have spent over a decade of my life actively working for peace.  I have worked proudly with all groups:  our military, other countries militaries, rebel groups, human rights advocates, police, judiciary, war widows, and civil society groups.   They all see the possibilities of peace when a neutral institution, such as the peace institute, can quietly and effectively bridge the divides and find common ground.  I just hope that in a moment of political gaming, the bridges that have been built are not left in ruin.


Pausing for Peace

I watched some of the video coming out of Japan.  One was of the tsunami “slowly” overtaking a town.  It was surreal as the water, over a period of minutes, crept across the landscape, showing up first on the streets, then the floors of stores and then creeping up and up until the buildings were floating.  It was so strange because I had envisioned that a tsunami would be quick, powerful and immediate, like a flash wall of water taking seconds to wipe out all in its path.   It was six minutes long.  Yet it seemed like it took an hour.  There were people walking up the path as the water rose and they continued watching it.  What struck me was the calmness that they exhibited as they witnessed so many  lives and livelihoods wash away before their eyes.   Then I read an article today about a shelter where the people are cultivating a sense of calm in the face of the utter devastation and scarcity that is facing Japan and its people.  I think about that and how fear and panic can overtake us all.  Especially in the aftermath of an earthquake, tsunami, more earthquakes, nuclear threats and on and on.  Yet I am awestruck by the grace of those in Japan.

I again open my hear to everyone affected.  I hope that each and every person in Japan can take comfort in knowing that they are role models for all of us for handling such adversity.   I only hope that we can draw upon their strength should such calamity strike us.

It’s all about nature

It has been a time of turbulence.   Not sure where to begin.  So I suppose I will begin with the turbulence of greatest magnitude:  the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.    The power of nature to create and destroy is phenomenal.   I think about the seeds that I plant in soil, add water and the amazing plants that sprout, grow and produce fruit.  Then I watch the magnitude of destruction wrought by the natural shifting of the earth’s plates when humans live nearby.  The sheer power of nature.  Just when we all think that we can control and tame nature, we are rudely reminded that nature is a force of its own and we are simply part of its cycle, neither above it or below it, just simply part of its chain.   When the images from Japan became too much for me, I took to the garden.  I worked to connect with the same life force that ended so many.  I worked to clean out the cold frame where I over wintered my herbs, clearing out debris and leaves and cutting back dead twigs.  I planted lettuce seedlings and planted lettuce seeds in pots.   After Hagrid from Hell wiped out my pots (for the second time!!) from Calvin’s room, I came up with a THIRD option:  encasing the pots in an enclosed cage to prevent Hagrid from getting to them (see the photos) and replanted the pots that Hagrid had upended and figured three time is a charm.  Then I put those that would not fit in the enclosure high on top of my cabinets.  I am considering the need to put a heating pad underneath them for germination to occur as it is still a bit too chilly in the house.   Anyway, I open my heart to everyone in Japan who is dealing with the aftermath of nature’s cycles…….

As I was talking about the subject of this blog to Calvin, my seven year son, and the issue of nature,  he offered these words of wisdom:

“Some of the worst earthquakes are the one’s we make. Sometimes you can make a big earthquake for yourself.  Like war and bad habits.  These are the world’s hardest earthquakes in themselves.”

So in a future blog, I will turn to the issues of peace and war, things the making of man, not nature.