To Heal, We Must Cultivate Hope, Not Evil – OpEd – Eurasia Review
“No War 2022, July 8-10”, organized by World BEYOND War, will examine the major and growing threats facing the world today. Focusing on “Resistance and Regeneration,” the conference will feature permaculture practitioners working to heal scarred lands as well as abolish all war.
As we listened to various friends talk about the environmental impact of war, we recalled the testimony of survivors of a Nazi concentration camp on the outskirts of Berlin, Sachsenhausen, where more than 200,000 prisoners were interned from 1936 to 1945.
As a result of starvation, disease, forced labor, medical experiments and systematic extermination operations by the SS, tens of thousands of internees died at Sachsenhausen.
Researchers there were tasked with developing sturdy shoes and boots that soldiers at war could wear, year-round, while trudging through war zones. As part of a duty of punishment, emaciated and weakened prisoners were forced to walk or run back and forth along the “shoe path”, carrying heavy bags, to demonstrate the wear and tear on the soles of shoes. The constant weight of tortured prisoners crossing “the shoe path” made the soil, to this day, unusable for planting grass, flowers or crops.
The bruised and crumbling ground illustrates the colossal waste, murder and futility of militarism.
Recently, Ali, a young Afghan friend of ours, wrote to ask how he could help comfort the families who had lost loved ones in the massacre of school children in Uvalde, Texas. He struggles to console his own mother, whose eldest son, forced by poverty to enlist in the army, was killed during the war in Afghanistan. We thanked our friend for his kindness and reminded him of a project he helped start, in Kabul, a few years ago, when a group of young idealistic activists invited children to collect so many toy guns that they could find. Then they dug a big hole and buried the assembled toy guns. After heaping dirt on the “gun grave”, they planted a tree at the top. Inspired by what they were doing, a spectator rushed down the road. She came with her shovel, eager to help.
Tragically, real weapons, in the form of mines, cluster bombs and unexploded ordnance, remain buried underground throughout Afghanistan. UNAMA, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, regrets that many of the 116,076 Afghan civilians who died in the war have been killed or injured by explosive devices.
The Emergency Surgical Centers for War Victims report that victims of explosions continue to fill their hospitals, since September 2021. Every day, nearly 3 patients during this period were admitted to emergency hospitals due to injuries caused by explosive violence.
Yet the manufacture, sale and transport of weapons continue, all over the world.
The New York Times recently reported on the role of Scott Air Force Base near St. Louis, MO, where military logisticians transport billions of dollars worth of weapons to the Ukrainian government and other parts of the world. Money spent on the manufacture, storage, sale, shipment and use of these weapons could reduce poverty around the world. It would only cost $10 billion a year to eradicate homelessness in the United States through the expansion of existing housing programs, but this, on an ongoing basis, is considered prohibitively expensive. As our national priorities are sadly twisted as investments in weapons are more acceptable than investments in the future. The decision to build bombs instead of affordable housing is binary, simple, cruel and painful.
On the final day of the World BEYOND War conference, renowned permaculture practitioners Eunice Neves and Rosemary Morrow will describe recent efforts by Afghan refugees to help regenerate the arid farmlands of the small Portuguese town of Mértola. The townspeople have welcomed young Afghans, forced to flee their land, to help cultivate gardens in a region quite vulnerable to desertification and climate change. Aiming to break “the vicious circle of resource degradation and depopulation”, the Terra Sintropica the association promotes resilience and creativity. Through daily healing work in the greenhouse and garden, young Afghans displaced by war gradually decide to restore hope rather than seek evil. They tell us, in their words and actions, that the healing of our battered Earth and the people it supports is both urgent and achieved only through painstaking effort.
The persistence of militarism is promoted by the so-called “realists”. Opponents with nuclear weapons are pushing the world ever closer to annihilation. Sooner or later, these weapons will inevitably be used. Anti-war and permaculture activists are often portrayed as delusional idealists. Yet cooperation is the only way forward. The “realistic” option leads to collective suicide.
*About the authors:
- Matt Ganon ([email protected]) is a student filmmaker whose multimedia advocacy has focused on abolishing prisons and ending homelessness.
- Kathy Kelly’s peace activism has sometimes taken her to war zones and prisons.([email protected]) She is Chairman of the Board of Directors of World BEYOND War and coordinates BanKillerDrones.org