Sunday, December 19, 2004

Bomb sniffing dogs, violent conflict and terrorism

On Thursday night, I attended a meeting of the Serindipity Group, a small, aging network of Americans who have lived in Sri Lanka and Sri Lankan expatriates living in Washington. The group has raised money to sponsor a bomb sniffing dog, to help clear the thousands of land mines that have been strewn throughout Sri Lanka’s northern regions by both sides during the island’s more-than-twenty-year civil war. Dogs typically work in teams of six. It costs about $100,000 to put a single dog and its handler on the ground in Sri Lanka. Dogs train for a year. Private donors provide $20,000, which is matched by the US State Department, three to one. This is an example of a small, tangible program, with demonstrable results. It is making it possible for displaced farmers to begin using their land again, without fear of losing a foot, a leg, or their lives.
· But how sad that resources must be expended for this purpose in a poor country – or in any country. Reflecting on this program reminded me, once again about why I stopped focusing on global environmental programs, to devote my attention to conflict prevention and conflict development linkages. It is so much easier and cheaper to destroy than to build up. A few thousand dollars to strew farmland with land mines; hundreds of thousands to train the dogs that can remove them. Millions to create a power grid, bringing electricity to rural areas, a few thousand to blast the power pylons that can destroy it. Countless hours of a loving family to nurture, raise and educate a young man. A few blasts of an automatic weapon (wielded by another young man) or the explosion of a suicide bomb (placed and detonated by another young may) to destroy him or both of them.
· It just breaks my heart….

But the failings don’t eliminate the possibilities
For moments of depression like this, I have taped on the walls of my study, bathroom and kitchen, passages that are sustaining and hopeful. Many are from my friend and soul mate, Donella Meadows, who was either a Saint or human being who was closest to Sainthood that I will probably every know personally. Here is one of her writings (which I may have quoted before):

I know the examples of our failings surround us. Our mistakes and missteps are so many and so clear that they don’t need mentioning. But the failings merely coexist with the possibilities, just as a two year old’s fib or a fifteen-year old’s recklessness co-exists with the possibility of the woman she could become. Factory farms don’t diminish the possibility displayed in a lush diverse, organic farm. The existence of bigots and haters doesn’t erase the example of lives lived in peace for the common good. The failings don’t eliminate the possibilities. Only ignoring the possibilities or deciding they are beyond our reach can do that.

For AU Students - Don't forget that study break hours will continue tonight throught Tuesday night. Good luck on your finals and end-of-semester projects and papers!


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