In 1958, an intrepid crew of (mainly) Quakers attempted to sail the small ship the “Golden Rule” to the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific, to try to “get in the way” of massive nuclear tests the United States was planning there. They were arrested in Honolulu, but they left a lasting legacy connecting peace and environmental justice concerns. Now, a new crew from Veterans for Peace is using the same ship to campaign against the MAD-ness [Mutually Assured Destruction] of nuclear weapons. Read more about the campaign in the Global Nonviolent Action Database at Swarthmore College.
The Golden Rule, a 34-foot wooden ketch, will visit the Delaware Valley May 9-14, 2023 as part of a 15-month voyage around the eastern half of the USA, making 100 ports-of-call.
Growing up in rural Kansas, Martin Tomlinson ’23 experienced the effects of the climate crisis firsthand.
“I saw my neighbors’ crops failing and the water in the creek behind my house beginning to dry out,” says Tomlinson, a double major in Peace & Conflict Studies and Religion with a minor in Environmental Studies. “As my town became more and more abandoned, I began to realize that this was the death of a way of life and of a community.”
Such evidence of the existential threat posed by the climate crisis continues: this summer alone, the United States experienced heat waves, droughts, wildfires, and floods that claimed hundreds of lives. A recent report authored by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that global climate change is accelerating due to insufficient reduction of human-caused greenhouse gas emissions. Described by U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres as a “code red for humanity,” the report suggests that limiting global warming to below 1.5 degrees Celsius, a tipping point for increased risk of irreversible climate disaster, is no longer possible and that further warming can only be avoided by rapid and large-scale reductions of all greenhouse gases.
Faced with the enormity of the crisis, many students, including Tomlinson, feel overwhelmed and paralyzed by the seeming inevitability that things will only get worse.
Social isolation caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has also done little to alleviate the fear that the time for decisive, collective action has passed.
In this reality, it is critical to have a space for discussing the climate crisis and formulating action at both the individual and community level. At Swarthmore, a student-led workshop series, Climate Essentials, aims to fill this role by encouraging participants to “critically engage with the climate crisis in its many dimensions.”
The series of lectures and virtual meetings works to draw participants into community and build on an awareness that actions can be taken to combat climate anxiety.
Climate Essentials began in 2020 as a five-session pilot program under the direction of Atticus Maloney ’22 and Declan Murphy ’21, students in the President’s Sustainability Research Fellowship (PSRF) who developed a syllabus with guest speakers and recommended readings related to the climate crisis.
“Many of us at Swarthmore are grappling with the same concerns and questions about the climate crisis,” says Murphy. “We wanted to create opportunities for community members to talk about these things, hear other thoughts, and then work to translate conversations into action.”
This year, Tomlinson and fellow PSRF participant Maya Tipton ’23 took the reins of the now-virtual Climate Essentials course with help from Murphy and Terrence Xiao ’20, a sustainability and engaged scholarship fellow in the Office of Sustainability.
Although the move to Zoom initially presented challenges, the virtual format allowed for double the number of participants of the pilot program; this year’s series had more than 100 registrants, consisting of students, staff, faculty, community members, and alumni.
“The virtual environment actually helped create a strong sense of community because it made the course accessible to people who normally wouldn’t be able to join,” says Tomlinson. “We had alumni from all over the country calling in and students in different parts of the world participating as well.”
Over six sessions, the workshop covered topics such as “Indigenous Environmental Justice,” “Climate Science and Policy,” and “Planning for the Future,” and featured such speakers as Indigenous activist Enei Begaye Peter of the Diné and Tohono O’odham nations. The broad range of topics was designed to help participants understand the all-encompassing nature of the climate crisis and intersectionality within.
A spring course is planned. “It’s important to continually emphasize the interconnectedness of environmental, social, and racial justice,” says Drake, one of the project’s mentors. “If you care about social justice issues, you also need to care about the climate crisis because they are one and the same in many ways.”
“Ultimately, the goal is to build a critical mass of community members who understand the crisis and its urgency,” Drake adds. “Hopefully, that awareness will influence the way they approach their lives and there will be many impacts, however small, that result.”
Translating knowledge into action was the focus of the final session, which provided participants with an opportunity to reflect on their own impacts. For example, climate activist Fran Putnam ’69 planned to educate herself further on environmental issues faced by Indigenous people, while others planned to get involved with local organizations such as Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living.
Holding Climate Essentials during this unique time led several of its organizers to reflect on the similarities between COVID-19 and the climate emergency, and what can be achieved through collective responsibility.
“I believe both crises result in part from a widely held belief that we exploit the planet, animals, and others without significant consequences,” says Tipton. “Climate change and COVID show us that we are not separate from our environment and other people — in fact, we are all deeply interconnected.”
“Gone are the days where we imagine we cannot sacrifice some aspect of our daily lives for the good of the whole,” adds Maloney. “Hopefully, we can channel this energy to make similar sacrifices for the survival of the human species in the face of climate catastrophe.”
This semester, professors Gardner and Crossan have been teaching a new course offering that lies at the intersection of Peace and Conflict Studies, Environmental Science, and Japanese history. From nuclear fallouts to natural disasters and the respective social movements they spawned, the class provides a comprehensive overview of the past and present traumas grappled with in Japanese society as well as avenues towards social change. Students will collaborate virtually with local community partners and peace activists on projects related to the studied topics. For students interested in taking this course, it is listed also for the Spring 2023 semester. The complete course description is quoted below:
“This course will explore the history, contemporary situation, and future possibilities regarding the interlinked realms of the environment, historical trauma, and social movements in Japan. Topics will include the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings and the subsequent peace and anti-nuclear movements, the environmental movement in Japan, and the “triple disaster” earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant disaster in Fukushima and Northeastern Japan. We will also discuss how environmental issues intersect with other current social issues such as rural depopulation, an aging population, and gender and economic inequality, and study a variety of contemporary approaches to addressing these issues. Under the guidance of Lang Professor for Social Change Denise Crossan, we will study the theory and practice of social entrepreneurship as a vehicle for social change and explore applications of this model in Japan. In addition, throughout the semester we will engage with community partners in Japan, particularly in the Hiroshima area, through online exchanges and collaborative projects related to contemporary environmental and peace activism.”
Twenty-five students from the Peace and Conflict Studies / Environmental Studies course “Climate Disruption, Conflict, and Peacemaking” toured the route of the Mariner East 2 pipeline (ME2) construction that runs near Swarthmore College.
The ME2, a Sunoco project, runs through highly populated neighborhoods in Delaware and Chester counties and beyond. It will carry compressed propane, ethane, and butane from fracking operations in the Marcellus shale fields of western Pennsylvania to the port of Marcus Hook, for shipping, mostly to Europe for the production of plastics (enough to produce 1 billion single-use bottles every day).
The ME2 pipeline carries highly flammable liquefied gases under pressure through populated suburban neighborhoods, often only feet from homes, schools, residential facilities, detention facilities, and businesses. The gases are odorless, invisible, and heavier than air, raising concerns about the possibility of evacuation in the event of a leak. The pipeline has generated significant and growing local opposition and has raised questions about risk and regulatory processes.
Our tour took us to Marcus Hook and its refineries, Hershey’s Mill Village, a large retirement community in the potential blast zone of the pipeline, and an elementary school near a valve station, where we met with a local resident and activist. We are immensely grateful to our guide, George Alexander, author of the Dragonpipe Diary, where you can find more investigative work on the pipeline and local campaigns to stop or regulate the pipeline.
Please join the students in Climate Disruption, Conflict, and Peacemaking (PEAC 055 / ENVS 031) for an infographic session (similar to a poster session) on Monday morning December 10 at 10:30 a.m. in Shane Student Lounge.
Refreshments provided. This is a zero waste event.
With thanks for support from the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility
No Empires, No Dust Bowls: Lessons from the First Global Environmental Crisis
Dr. Hannah Holleman
Assistant Professor of Sociology at Amherst College
Monday, December 3, 2018 from 4:15 pm – 5:30 pm in the Scheuer Room, Kohlberg Hall, Swarthmore College
This event is free and open to the public. (Campus map)
The 1930s Dust Bowl has become one of the most prominent historical referents of the climate change era amongst scientists and writers. This lecture offers a significant reinterpretation of the disaster with implications for our understanding of contemporary environmental problems and politics. Based on award-winning research and theoretical development, Prof. Holleman reinterprets the Dust Bowl on the U.S. southern Plains as one dramatic and foreseeable regional manifestation of a global socio-ecological crisis generated by the political economy and ecology of settler colonialism and the new imperialism.
She establishes key antecedents to present-day ecological developments and brings the narrative forward to today, explaining the persistent consequences and important lessons of this era for our current struggles to address the planetary challenges of climate change, environmental injustice, and new threats of dust-bowlification.
Hosted by Peace and Conflict Studies with Co-Sponsorship from the Lang Center for Civic Engagement and Social Responsibility, Environmental Studies, and Sociology and Anthropology
Contact: Molly Lawrence at firstname.lastname@example.org, 610-328-7750
Please mark your calendar for an exciting event serving as the capstone for Black History Month and the opening for Women’s History Month:
March 2, 2018
“Climate Justice and Civil Rights”
1:30-2:30pm: Swarthmore Meeting House
Reception and Gathering
3:30-5:00pm: Black Cultural Center
You are invited to a public lecture and conversation with Jacqueline Patterson, the Director of the NAACP’s Environmental and Climate Justice Program.
A national leader who bridges civil rights and environmental justice, Patterson heads the NAACP’s initiatives to advance an inclusive, “just transition” to a renewable, green economy. At the heart of this initiative is Patterson’s commitment to ensuring that communities of color and those who are the most impacted by the harmful effects of climate change are at the center of the movement to create an equitable and sustainable future. Patterson’s long history of leadership has led her to serve as coordinator and co-founder of Women of Color United, and to advocate for the intersection of issues relating to women‘s rights, violence against women, HIV&AIDS, racial justice, economic justice, and environmental and climate justice.
This event is co-sponsored by: Environmental Studies, Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility, Black Studies, Black Cultural Center, Gender & Sexuality Studies, Diversity, Inclusion & Community Development, Religious Studies, Peace & Conflict Studies, Political Science, Philosophy, Sociology & Anthropology, Office of the President, Health & Societies Initiative, and the Sustainability Office.
Whether it is a pipeline, a fracked gas well, or an incinerator, there are countless examples of corporations moving projects forward despite community resistance and environmental impact. Why? How has law evolved to protect corporate interests and what are a community’s options? What is a Home Rule campaign and why is it necessary? Explore these questions and more with a weekend with front-line organizers from across Pennsylvania. This is a workshop for those engaged in protecting their community from environmental threats for education and strategic planning.
On Sunday, December 3 at 11:45 AM in Whittier Room, George Alexander will speak on The Mariner East 2 pipeline: how it came to be, why it is so bad, and what we can do about it.
Perhaps you have heard about the Mariner East 2 pipeline, which is under construction in Delaware and Chester Counties. In full operation, this would be by far the most dangerous pipeline in the state of Pennsylvania. A rupture and explosion would destroy structures thousands of feet away and, depending on where it happened, could kill hundreds of people. How was this permitted to happen, and what can we do about it now? George Alexander will present background on the pipeline and outline what can be done. Rich and Claudia Aldred will speak about their experience as homeowners in the “blast zone” of the pipeline.
On Thursday, November 2, Peace and Conflict Studies will welcome the authors of From Enemies to Partners- Vietnam, the U.S. and Agent Orange. The lecture will take place at 4:15 PM in the Scheuer Room of Kohlberg Hall.
Dr. Charles Bailey (Swarthmore ’67) is Director Emeritus of the the Aspen Institute Agent Orange in Vietnam program. Dr. Bailey was the Ford Foundation representative in Vietnam from 1997-2007.
Dr. Le Ke Son is the former Vice Director-General of the Vietnam Environmental Administration. He is also a medical doctor with a PhD in toxicology and served as a medic in the Peoples Army for 25 years.
The authors will cover a range of topics, most notably the great power of technology and military hubris to alter the environment and impact humans even decades later.
This event is cosponsored by Asian Studies, Sociology and Anthropology, the Office of Alumni and Parent Engagement, Environmental Studies, and the Global Affairs Program at the Lang Center for Civic and Social Responsibility.