The idea of a Peace Island conference came to me, whole, in the middle of a meal. Shortly after the announcement of Saint Paul as the location of the Republican National Convention (RNC), September 1-4, I wrote “peace island” on a napkin scrap, and lost it. But the idea festered—an undeclared recession, war without end, and 15,000 media people coming to town looking for a story.
Opinion: Peace Island
Peace Island aims to be completely unlike the Washington regime: nonpartisan, with a commitment to dialogue, green, future-looking, thoughtful and affordable. No public official or candidate for office is invited among the 25-plus speakers. The format for each session is a keynote speech (35-minute limit), followed by several 10-minute presentations by expert thinkers and doers who will head hour-long breakout meetings.
Information: Peace Island Conference, Tue.-Wed. Sept. 2-3, 2008; Concordia University, Saint Paul; www.PeaceIsland.us
Hope in a Time of Crisis—PEACE ISLAND—A Solutions-Driven Conference is the name and philosophy of the gathering. Concordia University, off I-94 in Saint Paul, is the place, although the metaphoric Peace Island is a center, intended to broadcast ideas about living in peace with the earth and each other.
For two days, Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 2-3, we will focus on Energy and the Environment, Global Peace and Nonviolence, and Justice and Human Rights. People recognize the problems. It’s the solutions we want to hear more about. Consider a 30-70-split—30 percent framing the problem, 70 percent serving up answers. Solutions exist already—everything from light bulbs to negotiation, recycling, international law, eating with an eye on your food footprint.
Retrofitting homes and businesses for energy efficiency would save money and fuel and our disastrous energy-war policies in the short run, and provide employment at home. In the long run, energy efficiency would improve health and the environment, and keep those jobs, since there is no end of infrastructure to upgrade, as we learned from the Mississippi bridge collapse.
Why are we paying for both the war and the oil, for both medical insurance and medical services? We pay double!
Inaction is no longer an option. Millions of people stopped smoking cigarettes, so stop buying (usually tap) water in toxic plastic bottles. How about charging for waste removal by volume and weight?
Hope in a Time of Crisis
Here is a sample of the menu of solutions Peace Island is offering: Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy; Micro-Finance: Empowering Individuals to Make a Difference; Remaking Our Food System; Restoring Ethical Decision-Making in Government; Sustainability: The New Business Model. Peace Island speakers actually have practical ways to move our constipated system into peaceful sustainability.
Ah, the sustainability threat, the threat to the model of constant, cancer-like growth.
You gotta wonder why the RNC would pick Saint Paul, a small city, with little public space. The Xcel convention site is halfway down the Mississippi bluff, the steep bluff that was a waterfall 10,000 years ago. Saint Paul is “not near anything in the United States except Canada.” The city received $50 million for “security” for the delegates and non-delegates.
In November 2006 when the Peace Island planners started meeting we were told to “Go to Minneapolis” by a representative of the Saint Paul mayor’s office. The RNC has reserved 45,000 hotel rooms and the entire Science Museum. We’re talking big business, big media, big “security” and the bars open until 4 a.m., homeless out—hookers in.
Twin Cities churches have denied space to peace groups during the RNC because it’s “too political” (read: we-might-lose-our-tax-status). It’s that “peace threat” aggravated by media hype about Republicans versus protesters. If everybody is on one side or the other then we’re screaming at each other from the sidelines with nobody on the field. Peace Island is about confronting problems, not people.
Mainstream media are already pitting Peace Island against the Grand Old Party. Let me be absolutely clear since the Peace Island idea started with me. My father was a Republican Congressman who was a main author of the G.I. Bill of Rights (1944). I would organize the same conference if the Democratic Party were coming to town.
Susu Jeffrey is one of a committee of eight planning the Peace Island Conference, sponsored by the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers, a nonpartisan coalition of 73 peace, justice, environmental and UN-advocacy organizations.