Nettie Wiebe has been in Regina this week, speaking at various events. Today she was one of the guest speakers at Making Peace With Earth, a conference linking peace and environmental issues. Nettie took an interesting approach, being a farmer. She spoke about peace and ecology in terms of human security. And she focused on food as a key component of that human security. This woman is our new Tommy Douglas. She gets it. She gets social justice. She gets environmental issues. She gets women’s issues, agricultural issues, peace issues. She just gets it all.
Notes from Nettie’s Speech
Food is about human security; we cannot live without it. Food is also about community. Yet, we rarely hear a word about it in our news of war, devastation, and destruction.
To feel secure as a human we need to be able to go to bed at night knowing that when we rise in the morning our basic needs will be met. We need also to feel safe in our environment. And, we need to be able to participate, in a meaningful way, in the shaping of our future.
In Palestine, however, people have been separated from not only the olive trees, but also from their water systems, by the building of the wall. Trees have been uprooted, water systems have been destroyed, cisterns have been dug up. This kind of destruction is just as lethal as property destruction.
Peace in the Middle East will not happen unless food, water and land are returned to proper production and people can return to it and live securely.
In Afghanistan, many have always been poor. The land doesn’t look farmable. However, there are fertile river valleys. In fact, pre-conflict (1970s) Afghanistan was the world’s major exporter of dried fruits and nuts. And they also exported olives and dates and were near self-sufficiency in grains.
All that was destroyed by war. When war came, poppy production grew in leaps and bounds until the Taliban took over, turning the land back to grains.
The huge anti-drug initiative spearheaded by the USA is supported by Canada. However, the government in Afghanistan and Afghan soldiers ar actively supporting poppy growing. And, there are now rumours that the Taliban are telling farmers to grow poppies in protest to the invasion.
The area in which Canadian troops are active in Afghanistan is the area in which “reconstruction” is occurring. Canadian soldiers are guarding the building of a 100 meter wide and 4 kilometer long stretch of road in a fertile valley. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated from this farming area in the middle of the growing season!
When they came home, they returned to complete destruction. Crops were devastated, animals were gone or dead and, worst of all, the road permanently cut off the water supply. The road that Canadians are helping to reconstruct has devastated farming and the security of the people living their. Some engineer gave no thought to human security when designing the road, focussed instead on how to move military equipment from point A to point B.
The Canadian government has promised grain to help the people of the region, but food aid is not a long-term solution. And since when has the Canadian military become an expert on building roads? Incidently, the area is full of roads. But the roads are winding roads and not suitable for the transport of military equipment.
This is not the road to peace.
The Road to Peace
The new highway in the fertile Afghan valley is not the road to peace. The road to peace is stopping the destruction, is negotiating, not handing out candy. The road to peace is rebuilding imaginations so that dreams can live, grow and thrive. The road to peace is in coming to sit at the table — not in a drive-by, fast food agenda. The road to peace is a long, winding, and uncertain road that runs through all those Afghan villages. It is not a road we can rebuild and run.
We have a responsibility in Afghanistan, but it’s not a military one. We have a responsibility here, at our own tables, to remember that what we do in the world gathers around other tables; it reflects us. As such, we should gather humbly, thoughtfully and ask for peace.