Democracy Convention Recap

By Nancy Price, Earth Democracy Issue Group Member and Emily Busam, WILPF US and Earth Democracy Summer Intern 

WILPF US co-convened the Earth Democracy Conference at the Democracy Convention, Madison, WI, Aug. 7-11. The major theme was that we need to urgently collaborate nationally and internationally to build a global movement for People, Peace and the Planet, based on the principle of Guardianship for Future Generations and on human, civil, labor and earth rights not corporate rights that will lead to green economic transformation. The Earth Democracy session videos are available to watch here. You can also view videos from the conference on the Alliance for Democracy YouTube channel.


Young Poets and their Teachers at an afternoon Earth Democracy Conference Session

By Emily Busam

At the Convention, WILPF members had the honor of meeting young poets and their teachers at the afternoon session titled “When Inquiry & Collaboration Take On Earth Justice in Elementary and High School Classrooms,” organized by Susan Freiss, Madison WILPF, with two teacher colleagues. These third graders channeled their creativity and enthusiasm for the oceans into a book of poetry entitled A New Thought on Blue: An Ocean Poem Anthology.  This work emerged from a shared reading of Life in the Ocean:The Story of Oceanographer Sylvia Earle and expanded to organizing a community drive to ban plastic bags, writing and publishing the book of poetry, and collaborating with a high school media class to make a movie on the topic. The students talk about this project and read their poems here.

The students’ teacher, Erica Krug, said that the project helped students connect their actions to the health and vitality of the oceans, a lesson of which we could all be reminded. In fact, a short report this week served as a reminder of how our reliance on fossil fuels threatens life underwater as well.  The Turtle Island Restoration Network (TIRN) and The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) are warning of the destructive effects of the massive fracking gas, coal and other industrial projects planned for Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The industrialization of the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area will destroy and degrade critical nesting, feeding or migration habitat for six marine turtle species of international value.

These little poets have an intuitive sense of the consequences of human action on our ecosystems. One child, 9-year-old Margot, wrote a poem entitled “Extinction”, which illuminates children’s capacity to think and feel deeply. The poem goes as follows:

Pollution killing,

Plastic bags destroying,

Extinction will come.

We can’t do it alone.

We need help. 

If you are interested in reading more poems included in this anthology, the book is available to purchase online (search by Title).  All proceeds go to Sylvie Earle’s organization called Mission Blue, which is working to protect areas of the ocean called “hope spots”. 


Summer Reflections

By Emily Busam

I am ending my summer internship at WILPF, during which I worked with the Earth Democracy Issue Group and assisted Ria in the national office. I learned about this internship by happenstance.  I was researching water issues for a university project and was put in contact with Nancy Price, whom I had never met before. I felt very engaged by my conversations with Nancy and wanted to learn more about WILPF and the Earth Democracy Issue Group.  I applied for an Earth Democracy/Administrative Assistant Internship, and months later, here I am, sitting at the WILPF office in Boston, writing to you about my experiences as an intern for that very same position for which I applied.    

The highlight of my internship was attending the Democracy Convention in Madison, WI, for which WILPF was a national sponsor. The convention included nine conferences: Earth Democracy, Race & Democracy, Constitutional Reform, Democratizing Defense, Economic Defense, Media Democracy, Education for Democracy, Local Democracy, and Representative Democracy. I had the opportunity to attend sessions for these conferences and to share my thoughts, reactions and newly acquired knowledge on the WILPF blog.  I was blown away by the high-caliber group of speakers and inspired by the enthusiasm and commitment of conference participants. 

I also enjoyed attending the Wing Farm Gathering in Vermont, where I met some of the brilliant and dynamic women of WILPF. Members gave presentations on their areas of work and knowledge, which provoked stimulating thought and discussion.  

My days in the office have been equally enriching and informative.  Ria has been a wonderful resource and has patiently taught me the ins-and-outs of the office. I have learned how stressful it can sometimes be to successfully operate a national, membership-based organization. I have also learned the necessity of completing routine tasks in a timely fashion for an organization’s smooth functioning.  Finally, I learned the importance of balancing a business mentality with personal concerns for fellow WILPF members, which can sometimes be a tricky dance.

Some of what I learned was difficult to confront, but it challenged me to think critically about social and environmental issues and to deeply consider my place within the realm of peace work.  As I read and worked during my internship, I more clearly understood the intractable cycles that create suffering. While my realizations grew, I experienced a classic struggle between idealism and pragmatism. My ideals were continually put in check, which is necessary and positive, because idealism quickly leads to burnout.

Inspired by my insights from this summer, I’m taking some time off from school and work with the intention of self-reflecting and self-educating. I’ve traveled extensively during the past few years, going from place to place, and regularly transitioning.  I’m realizing that I need to make some space to fully absorb and analyze my experiences.  I’m planning on educating myself on topics that I would not have the opportunity to explore within the constraints of my studies at school.  I also need to reflect on how I can create a lifestyle that does not compromise my beliefs and values.  Although my idealism has been put in check, I’d like to believe that humans have enormous capacity for good, and I’d like to create meaningful work that realizes humanity’s potential.

Top photo: A heartwarming session about one classroom project to engage youth in environmental activism. These little girls and their teacher, along with their entire third grade class, wrote and published a book of poetry that expresses their passionate interest in the health of our water and oceans. The book, titled 'A New Thought On Blue: An Ocean Poem Anthology', is available for purchase online.

Bottom Photo: Emily Busam with Medea Benjamin, Robin Lloyd and Ellen Thomas, WILPF Peace and Freedom Dinner, Aug. 8 at the Democracy Convention


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