Peace, Justice and Environmental Action Alliance: aka The Peace Club
From one of our members, Madeleine List. We cherish her.
In today’s world, it is hard to picture peace as a reality. With so much violence, atrocity and injustice all around us, we often feel helpless. It is important to remember that when people come together, change is possible. It all starts with one idea and a couple of passionate people to help spread it. The peace club at GCC is never lacking in passion. We are group that truly cares about the world and about each other.
There are so many issues that we are passionate about, worldwide, national and local. This semester we focused mainly on the Occupy movement that began on September 17 on Wall Street to protest corruption and financial greed in America. It is an incredible demonstration of peaceful protest and civil disobedience that has grown into a massive worldwide movement. We worked to stay updated on the different encampments around the country as well as events happening locally. Our members attended Occupy Amherst, Occupy Greenfield and Occupy Franklin County meetings and reported back to the group on what they learned. We also set up a table on campus where we passed out flyers, collected donations for Occupy Boston and raised awareness about the movement. Issues of police brutality and abuse of protesters’ rights were always hot topics in our meetings. By the end of the semester we raised $217, collected a box of winter supplies for the Occupy Boston protesters and inspired a lot of great discussions on campus.
Also this semester we began a campaign to get Coca-Cola products out of vending machines and off campus completely because of the corporation’s negative effects on the world. I was astounded to learn about the horrible atrocities committed by the Coca-Cola company everyday in order to manufacture their product. In India alone the corporation has illegally extracted 1.5 million liters of clean water from the ground. In Guatemala, Coca-Cola is being sued for violence against union leaders and their families with charges of rape, murder and attempted murder. These are just two examples of Coca-Cola’s countless abuses of social and environmental justice. We have been working to spread awareness about these little known facts and teach students about the positive impacts of buying local products. A few of our members have already met with the president of the college to talk about making a contract with a local vending company for next year.
Recently, we have turned a lot of our attention to the Tar Sands Action. This movement was started by Bill McKibben to protest the implementation of a keystone XL pipeline that would run underground from Canada to the Gulf Coast of the United States. If installed, the pipeline would be detrimental to the environment. Not only would the pipeline emit the same amount of greenhouse gases as 4 coal-fired power plants, but it is also predicted that the pipeline would have at least one leak within the first 7 years of use. One of our members attended a rally in Washington D.C. where protesters came together, held hands and encircled the White House three times. She has also signed a petition saying that if legislation for the pipeline passes, she will physically lay at the construction site so machines cannot get through the build the pipe. That’s commitment.
These are just a few of the issues we’ve been focusing on this semester. Next semester we plan to work on shutting down the Vermont Yankee nuclear power plant as well as combining with the ACLU to host rallies and teach-ins about non-violent protest. We meet Wednesdays at noon on campus and Tuesday evenings at 5 in downtown Greenfield. We are always looking for new members to help us work for peace.
It isn’t necessary to tackle an international issue in order to make a difference in the world; helping out one person is all it takes. When I was going through a extremely difficult time in my life, the members of the peace club were all there to support me and help me through it. Their kindness made such a difference to me and made me realize that if people treated each other with such kindness and compassion, a lot of the issues we are faced with today simply wouldn’t exist.
I think our group does more than advocate for peace; we set an example for what a peaceful world should look like. We speak out against the injustices of the world, but we also understand the importance of small acts of kindness. Caring about one another is the first step on the road to peace. There is no issue in the world that cannot be solved when people come together.