Published by Quaker Council for European Affairs
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Review by Steven Waling
One thing that is necessary for anyone involved in peace work, in resistance to militarism and in response to climate change, is facts. We have to be as accurate as we possibly can, and to not simply make unprovable assertions about those facts. Lots of people are tirelessly working on all fronts to make this possible.
But a list of dry facts and statistics is not the only way to get across what is happening, and what is needed, in the world. We also need stories. True stories, real stories, of people who are the most impacted by the presence of militarism and the impact of climate change. This new publication from the Quaker Council for European Affairs, begins to do this. Here are six examples of what happens to local communities impacted by militarism and climate change, told by people from those communities.
So we have, for instance, a collective of voices who are seeking legal compensation in French courts for the devastating effects of Agent Orange in Vietnam from companies such as Monsanto. This chemical weapon has led to birth defects, to poisoned land, and other environmental effects that carry on across generations. Their stories are moving and meaningful and deserve to be heard. Tran Ta Nga says: “I always see hope in victims’ eyes. So, my duty is to move on and accomplish my mission. I do not have the right to be discouraged.”
Another example is from the island of Guam, with its enormous dependence on the US Military base and its enormous carbon footprint. People there are trying to resist climate change against a backdrop of the reliance on the US military economically. From Algeria comes the story of a man who has found a way to recycle plastic bottle into housing for the refugees from the interminable conflict in the Southern Sahara, a story which is so far off most peoples’ radar that probably not many are even aware of Morocco’s annexation and exploitation of that part of North Africa.
Throughout, there is an emphasis on solidarity, on joining with other struggles across borders and continents. A scheme to grow food organically in Palestine can become aware of what is happening in South America, or an island in the South Pacific, and join hands with each other, create networks and help each other. But only if they know they are not alone. Like union organisers have always told us, we’re better together than apart.
The importance of these stories is that they make us aware of the human and environmental costs of militarism and our society’s constant drive for more and more power. They come from the frontline, and they make the facts and statistics that we do need more than just dry, rationalistic and easily dismissible. When you know somebody’s name, when you see their struggle, it’s harder to say they don’t matter, that what matters is the profits of this or that company, the ‘security’ of this or that country. Whether the men in big suits will take any notice is another matter, but hopefully a book like this will lead some to begin to find alternative ways of protest and action to help to reverse the will to power that keeps the machine going.
Storytelling matters, and this collection of stories from all around the globe, this raising of voices coming from below the usual eye-level of our attention, will hopefully make more people aware of the real impact of militarism and climate change on communities who have to actually live through it. Throughout the book are suggestions for further reading and reflection.