Guest Post by Abbie Jenks
Abbie Jenks is the creator of the Peace, Justice and Environmental Studies options at Greenfield Community College in Greenfield, MA. As part of this option, students can take courses in Peace Studies, Conflict Resolution and Mediation, Psychology of Peace. Jenks is a grassroots peace activist with a long history of community engagement. You can read more about the author’s work here.
I attended the Climate Emergency & Green Forum hosted by the Students for a Just and Stable Future/Climate Summer at the Greenfield Public Library. I was very impressed by the presentation, primarily due to the enthusiasm and collaborative manner in which the young folks gave their presentation. As the creator and advisor of the Peace, Justice and Environmental Studies options at Greenfield Community College in Greenfield, MA, I witnessed how they exemplified and modeled the values and ethics I hope to inspire in my students to create a better world. Katie, Caroline, Kara, Tali and Eric spoke from the heart, were informed on the issues and practiced what they were advocating by riding bicycles across our state of Massachusetts. They help to create community as they go and model collaboration as they gave their presentation. They are true leaders and I see them as hope for our future, manifesting the purpose of the PJE option at GCC.
The Peace, Justice and Environmental Studies Liberal Arts option at GCC offers our students a way to understand the social and cultural forces that work in conjunction with science and technology to create an integrated and holistic way to manifest a better world. It brings together values and learned practices that will create positive social change through nonviolent means, as defined in the theories of active nonviolence. As our world has become more interconnected through technology and the increased ability to travel to far away places, we are more aware of our interdependence, as well as our impact on our environment. Yet we have much to consider and learn as we manage the ensuing conflicts, problems and predicaments. With so much ambiguity, anxiety and denial about our future, we must engage in fundamental change, change that will create sustainable systems to meet our collective needs, without causing harm. We must learn that no one or no living thing has more value than another. We must learn how to share power to solve our problems. Without learning these fundamental skills, we will continue to fight among ourselves and continue a cycle of violence, creating trauma to the Earth and ourselves.
My experience in studying peace and nonviolence has been profound. I am a changed person and can truly say that nonviolence has become a practice. When we are facing such challenges as global climate change, environmental degradation due to wars, corporate practice, personal consumer habits, and resource depletion, we must learn how to work together collaboratively instead of competitively. As a former social worker, I learned to adopt a systems perspective on my work. This has been transposed to all that I do and I firmly believe that until we see ourselves as fully interconnected, we will continue to cause harm. Our world and our people are traumatized and we need heal and consider how to prevent the damage done through violence towards others, the Earth, and ourselves. Peace research has demonstrated that we are not biologically wired to kill, nor is our primary instinct to be aggressive. Most of our conflicts are, in fact, solved nonviolently and we have great capacity for compassion and forgiveness. If we understand that what we do effects everyone, and nurture an ecological perspective we will be able to create a just and stable world.