What are the local and global challenges and obstacles to ecological peace – and how are these obstacles nurtured and sustained?
What opportunities exist locally and globally to nurture ecological peace?
What strategies can we use to nurture ecological peace, both locally and globally?
These are questions that participants discussed at the opening World Café event of the National Peace Academy Peacelearning Conference last weekend in Boulder, Colorado. Throughout the conference, participants explored the challenges and opportunities relating to peace and the environment, and planned strategies that we as individuals can take to foster sustainable peace in our communities and beyond.
The National Peace Academy turns three years old this year, and this was the first official NPA conference. According to its web site,
The National Peace Academy supports, advances and nurtures cultures of peace by conducting research and facilitating learning toward the development of peace systems – local to global – and the development of the full spectrum of the peacebuilder – inner and outer, personal and professional. In all its operations, internal and external, the National Peace Academy strives to embody and reflect the principles and processes of peace.
Indeed, principles of peace — such as dialogue, community building, respect, and empowerment — were present in every aspect of the conference. This was not your average conference, where you sit and listen to a lecture and drink coffee. Yes, there was coffee on hand, and yes, there were a few lectures – but the conference was centered on dialogue, engagement, discussion, framed in such a way as to encourage and empower participants to develop plans of action for ecological peace.
What is ecological peace? The National Peace Academy defines peace according to the Earth Charter, which says that ““peace is the wholeness created by right relationships with oneself, other persons, other cultures, other life, Earth, and the larger whole of which all are a part.”
Five spheres of peace are defined: inner, social, political, institutional, and ecological. Ecological peace, the focus of this conference, “requires establishing right relationships with Earth and the ecosystems of which we are a part and on which our survival and quality of life depend.” Participant-led workshops included topics such as mindfulness, building peace through food, sustainability in education, nuclear issues, encompassing the full spectrum of inner and outer peace.
Why is this important? If we want to live in a peaceful world, we need to not only foster peace in ourselves, but to learn about peace and learn the skills needed to make peace a reality. This is really what National Peace Academy is all about – creating lifelong peacelearning opportunities to foster inner and outer peace. In the opening session, the NPA team discussed how initially the NPA was conceived to be “like a West Point for Peace” – a training academy for peacemakers.
In visioning and brainstorming, however, the founding partners realized that the shape and form of the institution would have to be significantly different in order to align with peaceful principles, more bottom-up than top-down. As such, the NPA has worked to partner with educational institutions and nonprofits around the country who offer peace-related courses, both offline and in-person, for the NPA Peacebuilding and Peacelearning Certificate Program. In this way, a wide variety of peace-related courses are offered by those who are experts in the particular areas.
Meanwhile, these organizations and institutions benefit from being a part of a greater movement. Prior to the NPA’s certificate program, these partners had surely been doing the same work in their corner of the globe. Now, they are part of something greater, and part of a cohesive movement to cultivate a culture of peace both nationally and globally.
As a participant in this conference, I highly valued the opportunity to be engaged in dialogue and discussion with others working in the peace field. I also appreciated being able to learn from my peers through engaging workshops and activities. As a facilitator, I relished the opportunity to launch a new project, PeaceMeal, and share it with my peers. I now have the confidence to take this project into my home community and beyond.
Imagine a world in which everyone learned about peace, and all learning was directed towards creating a peaceful world. This is the world I want to live in, and the world NPA is striving to create. I hope you’ll join us!
For more information on upcoming NPA courses, click here.