Seeing Systems: Peace, Justice and Sustainability Resources
(Updated April 2017)
Session One: It’s All Connected
Systems thinking is a way of approaching problems that asks how various elements within a system — which could be an ecosystem, an organization, or something more dispersed such as a supply chain — influence one another. Rather than reacting to individual problems that arise, a systems thinker will ask about relationships to other activities within the system, look for patterns over time, and seek root causes. One systems thinking model that is helpful for understanding global issues is the iceberg model. Use this exercise to analyze local or global events from a systems thinking framework, as well as to develop multi-level solutions.
Global Peace System Study Guide by the War Prevention Initiative
Using systems thinking, the War Prevention Initiative supports, collaborates with and advances peace building efforts. The study guide challenges the perception that war is inevitable and introduces readers to the Global Peace System and tools for pursuing peace.
From War to Peace: A Guide to the Next Hundred Years by Kent D. Shifferd (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2011)
From War to Peace presents a realistic analysis of the extent to which the war system has infiltrated all aspects of Western culture and how it works to perpetuate war rather than promote peace. Additionally, the text describes the historically recent and still evolving parallel system of peace institutions. The values and ideas that have grown out of peace activism offer a very real opportunity to outlaw war in the coming century just as slavery was abolished in the nineteenth century.
Authentic Hope: It’s the End of the World as We Know It but Soft Landings Are Possible by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2012)
The future won’t look like the present: in light of global climate change and the radically disruptive changes that it will bring to our way of life, what we understand to be “normal life” will come to an end. Authentic Hope builds on a more positive premise: that we have both an opportunity and a responsibility to shape the quality of our future.
Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace by Vandana Shiva (Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2005)
In Earth Democracy, Shiva updates the struggles she helped bring to international attention—against genetic food engineering, culture theft, and natural resource privatization—uncovering their links to the rising tide of fundamentalism, violence against women, and planetary death. As our ecological sustainability and cultural diversity erode, so too is human life rendered disposable. Find out more about Vandana Shiva’s work at http://www.navdanya.org.
Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril, edited by Kathleen Dean Moore and Michael P. Nelson (San Antonio, TX: Trinity University Press, 2011)
In the face of environmental degradation and global climate change, scientific knowledge alone does not tell us what we ought to do. This collection of essays centers on the missing premise of the argument and much-needed centerpiece in the debate to date — the need for ethical values, moral guidance, and principled reasons for doing the right thing for our planet, its animals, its plants, and its people.
“The Gift,” a video by Jean-Marc Abela
The Gift is a portrait of Dan Jason, a pioneer in seed farming who has gone against the grain of industrial agriculture. He shares with us an alternate vision of the bounty nature provides.
The Donella Meadows Institute promotes sustainability thinking and training. The institute is dedicated to two primary goals. The first is to preserve Donella Meadows’s enormous legacy as an inspiring leader, scholar, writer, and teacher. The second goal is to use northern New England as a learning laboratory where we can test and apply the tools and processes of systems thinking to move the world closer to sustainability.
Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things by Michael Braungart and William McDonough (New York: North Point Press, 2002)
Cradle to Cradle is a manifesto for a radically different philosophy and practice of manufacture and environmentalism. Challenging the nearly universal “cradle to grave” model of manufacturing that produces enormous waste and environmental degradation, Cradle to Cradle argues for a model where products are designed to safely reenter the environment or be remade into a new product after their useful life.
Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq by Stephen Kinzer (New York: Times Books, 2007)
In Overthrow, Stephen Kinzer tells the stories of the audacious politicians, spies, military commanders, and business executives who took it upon themselves to depose foreign regimes. Kinzer explains why the U.S. government has pursued these operations and why so many of them have had disastrous long-term consequences, making Overthrow a cautionary tale that serves as an urgent warning as the United States seeks to define its role in the modern world.
Two Options, The Perennial Plate
We hear a lot about Monsanto these days, and about GMO foods. In this video, Vandava Shiva highlights how GMO seeds are not just a health concern or an environmental concern, but above all a social justice concern. All these, of course, are always connected concepts.
Peace Tales: World Folktales to Talk About by Margaret Read MacDonald (North Haven, CT: Linnet Books, 1992)
Peace Tales is a collection of folktales from cultures around the world, reflecting different aspects of war and peace. The stories teach children and adults about actions that lead to peaceful consequences and how some lead to conflict, and the value of patience and dialogue.
Session Two: Peace Talks
Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In by Roger Fisher and William Ury (New York: Penguin Books, 2011)
Getting to Yes offers a proven, step-by-step strategy for coming to mutually acceptable agreements in every sort of conflict. It offers readers a straight-forward, universally applicable method for negotiating personal and professional disputes without getting angry — or getting taken.
Getting to Peace: Transforming Conflict at Home, at Work, and in the World by William Ury (New York: Viking Adult, 1999)
A followup to Getting to Yes, Getting to Peace is a manifesto for achieving peace at home, at work, in the community, and in the world. Ury suggests a powerful new approach for turning conflict into cooperation which he calls the “Third Side.” Ury argues that in every dispute, there are not just two sides, but a silent third side that can help bring about agreement.
Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall B. Rosenberg (Encinitas, CA: Puddledancer Press, 2003)
Marshall Rosenberg offers stories, anecdotes, practical exercises, and role-plays that will change your approach to communication for the better. Discover how the language you use can strengthen your relationships, build trust, prevent conflicts and heal pain.
Cultivating Peace: Becoming a 21st-Century Peace Ambassador by James O’Dea (Chicago: Shift Books, 2012)
O’Dea keeps the dream of peace alive by teaching us how to dissolve old wounds and reconcile our differences. He strikes deep chords of optimism even as he shows us how to face the heart of darkness in conflict situations. O’Dea is unique in his ability to integrate personal experience in the world’s violent conflict zones with insights gathered from decades of work in social healing, human rights advocacy, and consciousness studies.
The Center for Nonviolent Communication is a global organization that supports the learning and sharing of Nonviolent Communication. With NVC we learn to hear our own deeper needs and those of others. Through its emphasis on deep listening—to ourselves as well as others—NVC helps us discover the depth of our own compassion. This language reveals the awareness that all human beings are only trying to honor universal values and needs, every minute, every day.
Session Three: Justice for the Whole Community
National Geographic’s report on water: our relationship to, use and pollution of, and the diminishing habitat of the rivers, lakes, and oceans that are central to our ecosystem.
In this excellent and thorough article from Scientific American, Syrian farmers who have escaped the battle-torn nation explain how drought and government abuse have driven social violence.
Securing water in Pakistan (photos)
Besides grappling with insurgents, suicide bombers and deep poverty, Pakistan is facing a severe crisis as a ballooning population and inefficient farming combine to reduce the availability of water. Up to a third of Pakistan’s 175 million people lack safe drinking water and nearly 630 children die each day from diarrhea, according to a study done last year by the U.S.-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
High Tech Trash Ends Up Overseas (photos)
A National Geographic photo essay that illustrates the problems that e-waste is causing to the environment and communities all over the world.
Fair Trade USA enables sustainable development and community empowerment by cultivating a more equitable global trade model that benefits farmers, workers, consumers, industry and the earth. We achieve our mission by certifying and promoting Fair Trade products.
Green America is a non-profit whose mission is to harness economic power—the strength of consumers, investors, businesses, and the marketplace—to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society. Check out their publications.
The True Cost of Stuff: Externalized Costs and the $4.99 Radio by Annie Leonard
Leonard walks us through the various costs associated with a “low cost” radio: while a $4.99 radio may represent a low cost to the end consumer, producing it comes at a high environmental and human cost.
“The Story of Bottled Water” presented by The Story of Stuff Project
Americans buy more than half a billion bottles of water every week when it already flows from the tap. Over five minutes, the film explores the bottled water industrys attacks on tap water and its use of seductive, environmental-themed advertising to cover up the mountains of plastic waste it produces.
Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) created this high impact video that describes the Our Power Campaign: Communities United for a Just Transition. The video was shot during the 2013 CJA “Our Power” camp and action, hosted by the Black Mesa Water Coalition, which organizes Navajo communities in Arizona. The gathering brought together communities impacted by coal – as well as by the false solutions to coal – to share stories and lessons from local struggles, begin developing shared strategies, and take collective action.
Mindfully Green: A Personal and Spiritual Guide to Whole Earth Thinking by Stephanie Kaza (Shambhala, 2008)
Stephanie Kaza leads us in discovering a personal connection with green living that will sustain us on our green path. She offers a simple, Buddhist-inspired philosophy for taking up environmental action in real, practical, and effective ways.
Session Four: Peace and Sustainability in the Midst of Conflict
“Rainforest for Sale,” National Geographic Magazine (January, 2013)
The world demand for oil is threatening what may be the most biodiverse spot on Earth, Yasuní National Park, a sliver of rain forest at the intersection of the Andes, the Equator, and the Amazon region.
“Should We Try to Keep Nature Natural?” Ensia (January 30, 2013)
Author Greg Breining asks, “Does it make sense for ecologists and conservation biologists to talk about pristine nature when humans have changed everything?”
“What’s Your Consumption Factor?” New York Times (January 2, 2008)
Jared Diamond calls our attention to the number 32, specifically to the consequences that “the average rates at which people consume resources like oil and metals, and produce wastes like plastics and greenhouse gases, are about 32 times higher in North America, Western Europe, Japan and Australia than they are in the developing world.”
“The Next Wireless Revolution, in Electricity” New York Times (September 11, 2013)
Off-grid power aligns what’s good for the poor with what’s good for the planet.
“Considering the Humanity of Nonhumans” New York Times (December 9, 2013)
James Gordon writes about some efforts to consider and legally account for the rights of non-human agents and entities.
“Ecuador to World: Pay Up to Save the Rainforest. World to Ecuador: Meh.” NPR (September 2, 2013)
David Kestenbaum discusses an unusual initiative to prevent drilling for oil in Yasuní National Park: Ecuador was promising to keep the oil in the ground, but it wanted to be paid for doing so. The plan was ultimately dropped.
Taking Root: The Vision of Wangari Maathai. A movie directed by Lisa Merton and Alan Dater (Marlboro Productions, 2008)
Gaviotas website (In Spanish), with extensive photo archive, under the menu heading ”Fotos”
Gaviotas: A Village to Reinvent the World by Alan Weisman (Chelsea Green Publishing,1998, reissued 2008)
Los Llanos—the rain-leached, eastern savannas of war-ravaged Colombia—are among the most brutal environments on Earth and an unlikely setting for one of the most hopeful environmental stories ever told. Here, in the late 1960s, a young Colombian development worker named Paolo Lugari wondered if the nearly uninhabited, infertile llanos could be made livable for his country’s growing population. He had no idea that nearly four decades later, his experiment would be one of the world’s most celebrated examples of sustainable living: a permanent village called Gaviotas.
Radical Simplicity by Jim Merkel (New Society Publishers, 2003)
In the face of looming ecological disaster, many people feel the need to change their own lifestyles as a tangible way of transforming our unsustainable culture. Radical Simplicity guides the reader to a personal sustainability goal, then offers a process to monitor progress to a lifestyle that is equitable amongst all people, species, and generations.
The Green Belt Movement: Sharing the Approach and the Experience by Wangari Maathai (New York: Lantern Books, 2003)
In The Green Belt Movement, founder Wangari Maathai tells its story: why it started, how it operates, and where it is going. The Green Belt Movement is the inspiring story of people working at the grassroots level to improve their environment and their country. Their story offers ideas about a new and hopeful future for Africa and the rest of the world.
Unbowed: A Memoir by Wangari Maathai (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2006. Vintage/Anchor, 2008)
In Unbowed, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai recounts her extraordinary journey from her childhood in rural Kenya to the world stage. When Maathai founded the Green Belt Movement in 1977, she began a vital poor people’s environmental movement, focused on the empowerment of women, that soon spread across Africa.
Replenishing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World by Wangari Maathai (Doubleday Image, New York, 2010)
With their hands in the dirt, the women of the Green Belt Movement often find themselves empowered and “at home” in a way they never did before. Maathai wants to impart that feeling to everyone, and believes that the key lies in traditional spiritual values: love for the environment, self-betterment, gratitude and respect, and a commitment to service.
Flight of the Hummingbird: A Parable for the Environment by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas (Greystone, 2008)
In this charming story, a hummingbird makes a valiant effort to put out a raging fire that threatens her forest home — trip after trip, her beak is filled each time with just a drop of water. Her efforts show her woodland companions that doing something — anything — is better than doing nothing at all.
Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola (Farrar, Straus, 2008)
When Wangari returned home from college in America, she found the village gardens dry, the people malnourished, and the trees gone. How could she alone bring back the trees and restore the gardens and the people? With glowing watercolor illustrations and lyrical prose, Claire Nivola tells the remarkable story of one woman’s effort to change the fate of her land by teaching many to care for it.
Session Five: Responding to Structural Violence
In this exercise, participants will explore the positive and negative impacts of our product choices on themselves, other people, animals and the earth by examining a product they are considering purchasing.
The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
Legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control—relegating millions to a permanent second-class status—even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness.
Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea by Mark Kurlansky
A sweeping yet concise history that moves from ancient Hindu times to present-day conflicts raging in the Middle East and elsewhere. Kurlansky also brings into focus just why nonviolence is a “dangerous” idea, and asks such provocative questions as: Is there such a thing as a “just war”? Could nonviolence have worked against even the most evil regimes in history?
In this interview by Grist, NAACP leader Kathy Egland explains how Hurricane Katrina made her into a climate activist and what that has meant for her career.
“Moyers and Company” is a weekly series of smart talk and new ideas aimed at helping viewers make sense of our tumultuous times through the insight of America’s strongest thinkers. Airing on public television and radio stations across the country, the series continues Moyers’ long-running conversation with the American public by offering a forum to poets, writers, artists, journalists, scientists, philosophers, and leading scholars. It also features Moyers’ hallmark essays on democracy. Watch video and read articles at http://billmoyers.com/.
The Food Chain Worker’s Alliance works together to build a more sustainable food system that respects workers’ rights, based on the principles of social, environmental and racial justice, in which everyone has access to healthy and affordable food.
What happens when the warm connection between a black woman and a white woman is broken by insensitivity and unconscious white privilege? Are courage, honesty, forgiveness and hope enough to heal the separation? This true story is based on the chapter “The Promise” in the book Longing: Stories of Racial Healing by Phyllis and Eugene Unterschuetz.
A short video on the history of white privilege, racism, and oppression in America
Inequality for All (film)
A documentary that looks at income inequality and approaches the problem of widening income inequality from 6 different directions. The trick is to understand how they all fit together while choosing manageable actions that make sense to who you are. We may not be able to do everything at once but think of each action you take as an incremental step towards the structural change our economy needs.
Session Six: Now What? Co-Creating Living Peace
Peace is a nuanced idea and can be difficult to conceptualize or envision. In this activity, participants will envision and articulate what peace means to them by writing a peace poem.
Made In a Free World has created a slavery footprint to help people learn more about supply chains and the people who are enslaved to provide the materials we use everyday. Their site is simple, easy-to-use, and helps people consider actions they can take to make a difference.
The Institute for Humane Education’s blog features a wonderful list of books about war and peace for children of different ages. While you’re there, check out many of the other excellent and relevant resources IHE offers as well.