A Candle in the Dark

By: Sarah Inskeep

One of the biggest challenges for me in thinking about the work I want to take part in as a peacebuilder is figuring out what my long-term goals are. I tend to seek to a broad conceptual understanding of things before diving into the details, and I like to have a clear idea of what it is I’m working toward, with points marked to measure my progress. In working for peace, however, it’s difficult to determine conceptually what a peaceful world would look like because peace could never be a static state. That being the case, it’s difficult to know what kinds of goals are realistic to strive for in a single lifetime.

The ultimate goal, of course, is a peaceful world. By that, I don’t mean a world without conflict — for, as a friend always says, “Conflict is an invitation to start a conversation, and that’s a beautiful thing.” What I mean, what I seek, is a nonkilling world, a nonviolent world. Yes, life requires life, but it does not require the extent of preventable sufferings that exist in the way we presently live. Surely, something better is possible.

It’s strange to think that this world I seek is one I will probably never see. Knowing this, it’s difficult for me to say exactly what I want to accomplish while I am here. What is reasonable? Is reasonable even the right word? I do not want to end up settling for something less than I might be capable of and yet, at once, worry that I will never feel I’ve done enough.

These are the thoughts on my mind as I reflect on our closing discussion this evening, about the future of our field. It’s easy, thinking about these things, to drift into a very solemn state. This time, though, I find I am reminded of a gift from one of my professors last semester: a single candle.

Why am I thinking of that candle now? Because it seems to me that so many of the stories I’ve heard these past few weeks – from our visitors, from my fellow students, from Pushpa – were stories that exhibit the ability of a even a single candle to illuminate the darkness. They were stories that remind me of the preciousness of the the time we have to share with those around us, and of the courage it takes to live in an honest way.

Often in the past I have felt shy to talk about peace for fear of being called an idealist, and shy to talk about conflict issues for fear of accidentally angering someone. Now, though? Now, I want to try to do differently. Though I still value careful consideration, I want to ensure I am no longer just waiting for someone else to give the signal. I don’t know for sure how it’ll all turn out, and there are still so very many uncertainties, but I no longer want to shy away from them. Instead, I want to stay with them as long as I can, to use my time here to shine what light I can on the world around me, because I have seen what things have been done and created by others who decided to do the same.

“All you can do is your best,” another friend once told me. Whenever I feel like it’s impossible for me to do enough, I remember those words. Then, I look around at all of those who are doing their best, too — and suddenly, the darkness does not seem so vast.

The delight of building peace?
Like fishing, it is the pursuit of what is elusive,
but attainable,
a perpetual series of occasions for hope.

– From John Paul Lederach’s ‘Building Peace’ –

Connecting the World

By: Sarah Inskeep

A visual depiction of ‘The Cloud’. The server farms that make it up are far from cloud-like, but the countless connections created by it among people around the world are a rather cloud-like network.

I’m always interested to see how different people in our field think about the role of technology in the world – both in the world today, and in the world that is coming to be. I’ve heard a variety of perspectives. For some, development of new technology is thought to be the answer to most of our present dilemmas. For others, technology is thought to be a part of the problem. Our visitor today, Madhawa, shared a different perspective.

“Technology is neither positive nor negative,” he said. “It’s a tool. It’s how you use it that matters.”

This is the view I’ve come to hold as well, both in regard to technology and in regard to my research in physics and ecology. Over the past few days, I’ve been very excited by the possibilities of positive uses for technology. Ushahidi, for example, is a program that allows crowdsourcing and mapping of information. It has been used for tracking information about violent crimes, for monitoring elections, and for coordinating emergency responses to natural disasters. Frontline SMS, a similar crowdsourcing platform, has been used to collect information for research projects, medical surveys, and community projects.

Another emerging example of the use of mathematics and technology in our field is in conflict early warning systems. They allow us to understand cycles of violence, to learn how to spot indicators so that we can better understand how and when to intervene to prevent mass violence.

As was pointed out in class, no matter how accurately we can predict these things, the human side of conflict remains. We may see signals that indicate a certain country is headed toward genocide, but must then decide how the international community will act. We’ve seen the complexity of this stage numerous times in the past decade alone – in the occupation of Tibet, in the ongoing conflict in Syria, in the case of the Rohingya in Myanmar. It’s frustrating that, even though we know, there is sometimes so little we can do. I make no claims to have any better solutions, but there must be more that can be done. If governments cannot, or will not, act, what other options do we have?

Perhaps technology could play a role to play here, too? I’m hesitant to support the use of social media to spread news of the tragedies taking place because it’s too easy to become jaded to the reality of the traumas people are facing. Nevertheless, as Madhawa shared with us, social media has the potential to allow people from even the most remote areas to connect and share their cause with others around the world. Can we find a way to share their stories as a means of empowerment, to demand change from wherever we are in the world? To organize action that forces governments to step up?

In my sociology class last semester, we studied the abolition of the British slave trade. That, too, once seemed intractable, something beyond the reach of any person or government to destabilize, let alone end. Yet, with time and the persistent work of determined people, things changed. Similarly, boycotts in the United States of South African goods played a major role in the end of Apartheid.

People, I think, have more power now to use their knowledge and their access to the world than they ever have before. Why, then, do we wait for our governments to change their minds? Why, especially in the United States, do we not use the power we have as we could, as we have in the past? What would it take for us to again take a stand?

In the so-called ‘Cloud’, among the pictures of friends and school projects – among the numerous cat videos – there is a treasury of stories about the world. Stories from refugees and minorities, from villagers and marginalized peoples. They have been silenced, but their words transcend walls and borders. Their words are here, in the palms of our hands, waiting to be given a voice.  

The Seeds We Choose to Water

By: Sarah Inskeep

In the United States, the majority of history books take as milestones speific wars or conflicts – the Civil War, the World Wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the War on Terror. That these events have irreversably shaped our country and our lives is unquestionable, and it is important that we learn about the role we played in them. It’s also, however, unquestionable that these conflicts do not represent completely the time periods in which they occurred. During each, there were also poets and painters, scientists and social activisits. There were philosophers and artists and musicians. Are these not equally a part of our history? Does it matter that we emphasize war and violent conflict over all of the other things?

After today’s session with Qamar Huda about peace education, I think that yes, it does matter. When all we see in our past is war and the use of violence when conflicts arise, it’s all too easy to think that humans are, by nature, violent. How might we see the world differently if we understood that these wars as only pieces of what we are?

The concept of peace-focused cirriculums may seem a bit idealisitic at first, given the challenges already present in our schools regarding funding and fulfilling requirements for standardized tests. These things are certainly challenges to changing our schools, but they are not, by any means, totally inhibiting.

During Qamar’s class, we split into groups to design a peacebuilding cirriculum for a high school in a community of our choice. Though it was a fairly short exercise, the outcome was surprising to me. Oftentimes I’m overwhelmed by the immensity of the challenges that stand between us and the kind of world we’d like to see, as well as by the time it takes for our work to show real effects. Yet, as I talked with my group members to develop our ideas, and later listened to my classmates share theirs, I started to feel a quiet sort of happiness. All of the things we’ve learned in the past few weeks, and the unique skills we each brought with us to the SPP, were beginning to come together.

What does this have to do with peace education being possible? It’s proof, I think, that these skills of conflict resolution and peacebuilding are not so foreign to our species after all. As a scientist, I am thoroughly familiar with arguments that aggression and killing are biologically innate. I am also, however, very familiar with research about our biological need for connection and community. Thinking on that, and on the fact that in less than three weeks we have been able to adopt and begin to practice these skills, I begin to think we are not so far from the word we want after all. If we, as adults, can pick up on these things so quickly and learn to see through a lense of peace instead of a lens of violence, how much more quickly might kids pick up on them, given the chance to learn? How might the world be, if all of our schools taught basic skills in negotiation, nonviolent communication, and conflict resolution?

It needn’t be an entirely different cirriculum. It needn’t come from sweeping education reform. We could begin simply, with a core course in peacebuilding skills and values, with scenarios and role-plays and games that teach kids how to negotiate and talk through difficult topics. We could begin to teach more than what is in the standard history textbooks – to teach, and remember that we are capable of, more than war.

It’s the seeds we choose to water that will grow. If wars and violence are our milestones in history and in the media, those are the things we’ll know. If, instead, we mark our days by ideas and debates, by poems and discoveries and intellectuals…?

Imagine that world. Then, let us make it reality.

Building for Peace

By Sarah Inskeep

One of the most interesting talks last week was on the geography of peacebuilding. What is the role of place in the perpetuation or resolution of conflict? Certainly, it’s important to try to establish ‘neutral’ spaces where all parties involved feel safe in order for negotiation to occur. In mediation classes, teachers will sometimes talk about the importance of making a room comfortable and welcoming — maybe having a vase of flowers, and windows with a good amount of light. How, though, do these ideas extend to the bigger scale?

After our session with Guntram Herb, I found myself thinking that maybe in our effort to understand societal structures of violence and conflict, we might sometimes overlook how physical structures play a role in our communities. I’m not necessarily referring to the presence or absence of certain facilities, though that certainly plays a part. What interests me more is how the way things are built and designed can change the way people feel about a space.

It’s worth noting that I’m writing this from Mount Madonna Conference Center. Upon arriving here, I took a walk quietly around the property and found a spot to sit for a while beneath a large tree on a hill, overlooking the shop and the cafe. After a short while, a woman walked up the hill to join me. We smiled to one another.

“It’s so peaceful, isn’t it?” she said quietly, sitting on the bench across from me. We enjoyed the silence there together for a while, and I wondered how valuable it might be to have more peaceful places that are accessible to people of all backgrounds. I have been lucky to live in several such places, and have found that they serve as excellent catalysts for processing difficult emotions! In contrast to our daily lives, there is time to step back from the fray and ask oneself what is really going on. There’s time to prioritize, and also time to simply be.

A key part of these places, for me at least, is their closeness to some aspect of nature, be it a forest or mountains or open prairies or seas. This isn’t to say, though, that such places can’t be created in our cities. Projects like green roofs and community urban gardening lead me to think that, with a bit of creativity, we could find ways to create cities that are more sustainable and feel more peaceful. Not only that, we could create cities with spaces for healing, for celebration, for remembering those who have passed away.

I know there are many challenges to changing everything, but don’t think it’s such a far fetched goal. Change will happen, as always, piece by piece. In the meantime, I think it’s important to think of what could be, instead of worrying all the time about potential disasters. We need to imagine good things, too, for we are equally as capable of creation as we are of destruction.

Emotional Intelligence

By Sarah Inskeep

A picture is in front of us. In it there is a street, full of people as far as the eye can see. There are men and women of varying ages. The buildings they walk between have been mostly destroyed — only their fragmented structures remain, a jagged outline against the sky. What colors exist are muted by the gray clouds. Looking more closely, then, we can see a woman’s face, held impassive, and an older man whose lips are turned downward, eyes solemn but focused on whatever is ahead. 

Now, look with your heart, we are instructed. Though I have never experienced anything like what I see in the photo, and surely cannot feel exactly as they feel, I find there are yet certain human emotions that we all might understand. Determination. Grief. An anxious sort of hope. More than the observation of details, these emotions serve as an invisible thread, connecting us to what we see and, more importantly, humanizing it. 

So often in the day-to-day, I try to process things analytically. This exercise, however, reminded me that especially in the work of peacebuilding, what’s seen with the head is not enough. More often than not, the things one can see are not really the ones the conflict is about (as the canonical iceberg example makes clear!). As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote in his classic book, The Little Prince:

“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

It’s not enough to just think about what other people need in an analytic way – we must be willing to open our hearts to try to understand their emotions, too. Even if we cannot change the circumstances, there is solace in knowing one is not alone.

This does not mean, of course, that we should abandon rational decision-making processes. The two ways of thinking and seeing are not dichotomous. The tricky thing, I think, is learning to use both. If someone is very angry or very afraid, responding with similarly high emotions will probably not help to calm them. At the same time, however, what they are feeling (and what they are perceiving to be true because of it) cannot be totally ignored. I think, in most cases, a mix of empathy and rationality is needed to move forward with conflict resolution.

Our visitor, Jerome, suggested that one of the ways we can become better at using both empathy and rationality together effectively is to develop our emotional intelligence (EQ). The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.”

What does it take to develop that? For starters, perceiving and identifying emotions is incredibly useful. Understanding why those emotions are there, and learning how they make you act and respond to situations is usually the next step. Then, once one knows oneself, one can begin to use those emotions productively.

Emotional Intelligence mind map.

Once familiar with this process, it becomes easier to understand not only ourselves, but also others. Again, I don’t think this means we can feel exactly as another person feels, or even that we understand them as a person completely. It means, more so, that we can use EQ to diminish the space between ‘us’ and ‘them’, and to enable us to communicate about the issues that really matter.

From Hurt to Healing

By Sarah Inskeep

When I was in fourth grade, one of my best friends was hit by a car. The day before, we had played together at recess, talking about plans for spring break, saying we’d see each other in a week or so — but we never did. The driver of the car, we heard, was a young man. A lot of anger and blame was directed at him by the community. At first there were rumors that he had been drinking, but police reports revealed he hadn’t been. Then, after a couple of weeks, I heard someone talking about how badly he was taking having caused the death of a young girl, and realized that his life was changed just as irrevocably as mine.

Like the memories of my friend, that man’s story has never left me. To see that it’s not only the blame others place on the person, but the blame the person places on themselves — it’s part of the reason that, from an early age, I sought to understand what alternatives there may be to retributive justice. I began to suspect that the people who were hurting others were most often hurt themselves.

On Monday, a man named Lou Hammond shared his story with us. He spent twenty-one years in prison and was involved in gangs from early childhood. Like the man I heard about as a kid, he was overwhelmed by guilt after an accident — and, like that man, he helped me to understand myself and others in a more compassionate way.

“Hurt people hurt people,” Lou said, speaking of himself and of others he knew in prison. Of the men who are thought to be the biggest and the baddest, he added, “I know you. I know you, because I was you. You’re not the baddest guy in here – you’re the most hurt.”

So many of the people I’ve known who’ve been troublemakers, who’ve been deemed aggressive or rude, exemplify the truth of that statement. Yes, there are cases in which a crime is committed, purposefully, without a history of trauma. As one of our other visitors said, however, that is by far the exception to the rule. Knowing this, it seems all the more clear to me that to end violence, we need to support people in facing their trauma and in healing. We need to help people understand that, after all of the mistakes, after all of the terrible things that happen which are out of their control, it is still possible to grow, to live, to love and to be loved again. It’s true that one may never be the same as one was before, but that doesn’t mean what one becomes is necessarily less good or less beautiful. As Julia Hill wrote, it is like the process of metamorphosis. Facing the darkness does not always mean an end. Sometimes, it is the way the most magnificent transformations can occur.

Once healing begins for one person, it spreads. For, when one is ready, one can then share the story of the journey from hurt to healing, and in doing so help others begin to heal as well. The process may start small, but in time the cycle of hurt will fade, and a cycle of healing will take its place.

“Hurt people hurt people,” Lou said again as he finished his story. That time, though, he included a little more.

“…and healed people heal people.”

Knowing Where to Stand

By Sarah Inskeep

“You must know your values in this work, and you must know when to say enough is enough.”

One of my favorite sessions from our first week was about conflict sensitivity and systems mapping. We talked about how, before stepping into a system, it’s important to understand how it works as it is. We cannot simply implement a ‘solution’ and expect it to turn out as we’d like if we have not developed that solution in concert with a thorough grasp on how the system functions already. 

This idea is not new to me, but thinking on it together with some of our other sessions did lead me to consider how it might apply to our work as peacebuilders on structures of violence. How long do we spend waiting to understand things as they are, when things as they are costs lives? It’s tricky. If we act quickly in an effort to help, we may temporarily make things better. We may also, however, end up contributing to further frustrations between conflicting groups that cause more problems later. 

Though primarily applied in the context of work with different cultures, one of the ways I’ve been thinking about this idea is in the context of the global economic structure. Looking at the Sustainable Development Goals, at reports from the IPCC and IPBES, there’s little room to deny that our current economic structure will have to change if we are to have a chance at averting further, and more serious, climate-induced crises. Present trends of fast-fashion and products with a short lifespan are not compatible with a finite amount of resources, or with goals of ensuring better standards of living for those who work in manufacturing industries. Knowing, then, that change is necessary, to what extent do we work in the system as opposed to on the system? Though economists often view conflicts through a very specific lens–one which omits many of the complexities of human needs, values, and interests–is it necessary, in some ways, to understand those views in order to understand how we can change?

On such a big scale, it’s difficult for me to know exactly how far to go to understand why something is the way it is. On a smaller scale, however, I think of the times I’ve been able to talk with someone about a sensitive topic, or about views we do not agree on. Inevitably, the conversation is made possible by a willingness to listen and a lack of judgement. I do not mean a lack of judgement in the sense of condoning things which are contrary to my own values, but in the sense of realizing that people, most often, are capable of change if they are given the space to do so. While on the big scale with structures there is no single person to work with who can change the entire system, I do think we need to be careful of what we condemn. If we condemn an entire government, organization, or field of study, then there is no need for its members to listen or consider alternatives to their current practices. Condemning actions, behaviors, or words is one thing, but condemning a whole only makes it more difficult to see another way. 

As I write this, I know it is vastly simplified. We cannot always wait sweetly and patiently for perpetrators of violence to change their minds. In reality, there are times in which we must take a stand. I think, though, the important thing is that whether we are listening and seeking to understand, or stepping forward to oppose something more directly, we do so with our core values intact, and that the means we choose are in alignment with the end we seek.

Levels of Identity

By: Sarah Inskeep

At my university in Kansas, a friend once shared the following anecdote while teaching about identity in a class on culture and conflict resolution:

If you get into an elevator in Ohio, with some others from Kansas and some others from Boston, you might notice how loud the Boston people are and think or say, “Oh, we’re from Kansas, we’re not like that.” If, on the other hand, you get into an elevator in Moscow with the same people, you might instead be inclined to think or say, “We’re all American.” 

Reviewing my notes from our first week and contemplating the idea of a global sense of belonging, this story came to mind again. In several of our discussions, questions of identity and global citizenship arose, and I was glad to hear the perspectives and concerns of my classmates about those ideas. One question was of what global citizenship, or development of a global culture, means for diversity. This has been a lingering concern for me, too. It’s unsettling to think that, in order to have some sense of global belonging, we might need to sacrifice our sense of belonging to a community, a culture, or a nation. Though I always preferred to believe such sacrifice wasn’t necessary, it wasn’t a belief I could easily justify. 

Over the course of the week, I continued to think about global belonging. It wasn’t until recalling the simple elevator example, however, that I found a way to articulate more clearly what I thought. Just as an individual does not belong to a single culture, an individual does not have to have a single level of identity. When things are familiar, we tend to differentiate more. When things are unfamiliar, we tend to be more broadly inclusive. When I say I am from the United States, it doesn’t negate the fact that I am also from Kansas — which, in turn, doesn’t negate the fact that I am from the Flint Hills, one of the last remaining stands of tallgrass prairie in the world. Just as a body is made up of organs, which are made up of tissues, which are made up of cells, our identities are composed on many different levels. Perhaps it is not a matter of choosing one part over the other; perhaps it’s a matter of scale. 

Of course, if this is the case, the question then becomes one of how we learn to see the scale at which we can identify together. Intriguingly to me as a young physicist, that could be the scale of the very big or the scale of the very small. Neither are scales we’ve any finesse at understanding intuitively at this point, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to develop such understanding with time and effort. To identify together as a result of understanding on the quantum scale seems a difficult feat to me, but to identify together on the planetary scale? It doesn’t seem so far-fetched, especially when I consider what is necessary to meet the challenges of climate change. Admittedly, when I look at all that is happening–our slowness to change our ways, and how far we still are from many of the goals set by the international community–I tend to get a little bit overwhelmed by those challenges. At the same time, however, the part of me who has been practicing seeing conflict as an opportunity wonders if we might use these global challenges as catalysts for change — for the realization of another level of identity, and of a broader definition of ‘we’.

Measuring Peace

By: Sarah Inskeep

On my way to Monterey last Sunday, I shared the shuttle from San Francisco with a diverse array of people, among them a musical group who spent most of the trip singing in Spanish. 

“May we sing a song?” a woman had asked the driver.

“No,” he replied solemnly, then smiled and added, “you must sing many songs!”

And they did. Listening to them harmonizing with each other, I found myself thinking of how grateful I was that it was possible to spend a Sunday afternoon in that way.

It’s strange to think of other events that happened that Sunday, particularly the shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, because it was not far from the route of our happy shuttle. The contrast has lingered in my mind throughout the week, leading me to wonder how our work of, and ideas about, peacebuilding apply in the context of the United States. For me, thinking of peacebuilding has often meant thinking of other countries, discussing what to do about structural violence in places far away. Yet, as a U.S. citizen, I find myself thinking often these days of how much work there is yet to do here. 

During one of our sessions on Wednesday, we saw a bar graph of the most violent countries in the world. The United States did not come close to making the list. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the U.S. ranks 88th in rate of intentional homicides per 1000 people. It was this graph that made me question how we measure the peacefulness of a society or nation. Turning to the Global Peace Index, I found the following map:

Global Peace Index 2018 (countries appearing with a deeper shade of green are ranked as more peaceful, countries appearing more red are ranked as less peaceful). Source.

Reading about the methodology, I was intrigued. I was also, of course, immediately full of more questions and uncertainties. One uncertainty arose from thoughts of U.S. involvement in numerous international conflicts, directly through military action or indirectly through funding and provision of weapons or other resources. I know much is done to provide aid of non-violent forms as well, and do not at all mean to overlook that. Nevertheless, I wonder about how we can better understand the impact of different forms of intervention, for although the Global Peace Index accounts for immediate effects it’s difficult to discern and quantify longer-term consequences.

Another uncertainty arises from thoughts of the interconnected nature of the global economy and the global climate – from knowing that many conflicts arise as a result of the demand by developed countries like the United States for certain resources. This leads to thoughts of how many of the things we use and purchase day-to-day – food, clothes, electronics – are the result of long chains of production that, more often than not, are difficult to trace. Climate change and its effects are similarly intricate processes, in which the actions of any nation may affect numerous others around the world. 

This web of connections has been a source of good things, but it has also resulted in systematic exploitation and dehumanization about which we often know quite little. Even when we do know, it’s another challenge to figure out what to do to make it better. So I wonder, if one nation’s progress toward peace in this interdependent system comes at such a cost, can we really call it progress? 

I do not intend to be overly critical of my own country, or of the work that is being and has been done thus far. I am simply trying to understand how things fit together because, more and more, I find myself wondering if perhaps the only way for any country to be truly ‘green’ on the map is for all the others to be so, too. 

Peace and Physics

By: Sarah Inskeep

If my experience thus far is anything to go by, I imagine there are some questions lingering about what physics has to do with peace. The simplest answer I can give echoes something written here previously by Kim Chham: that peace is a goal toward which contributions can be made from all fields. Though academically physics and peacebuilding seem quite different, in many ways the subjects they work with are intertwined.

For me, the conceptual connection is that both are about problem solving – about understanding the dynamics of complex systems and seeing how each part relates to the whole. In a more concrete way, however, the connection may be most evident in the various applications of physics research. Oftentimes a discovery has the potential to be both very good for humanity, and also very tragic. So, while I am fascinated by the study of the universe for its own sake, when I look at the things happening in the world I cannot help but feel that in our quest for understanding in the universal scale, we’ve overlooked some very important things on the human scale.

It’s understandable, in a way. Though physics is known for its ability to explain many things, and for the sometimes counter-intuitive truths it reveals to us about the world we live in, most physicists I’ve talked with will candidly admit that the human side of things is the much more difficult. Nevertheless, a significant number of renowned physicists and mathematicians – perhaps most notably, Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer – have called for a greater understanding of our relations with each other, and for an end to the use of violence as a means of addressing our problems.

Professor Albert Einstein giving an anti-hydrogen bomb speech for NBC at Princeton University in 1950.

I’ve so often heard it said that peace is an idealistic aim, a dream that is not aligned with the way the world really is. Though I spent much of my childhood thinking of what a more peaceful world would look like – both on the small scale, in my own divided family, and on the big scale, in the stories I heard from veterans returning from deployment – I came to a point where I wondered if those things I heard were true. This, in part, was why I turned to physics. I wanted a more concrete way of understanding. Finding, then, that those who dedicated their lives to studying the world ‘the way it really is’ also called for and believed in peace has inspired me to return to the questions I always asked growing up: what would a peaceful world look like, and what can I do to help make it a reality?

The search for answers to those two questions lead me to join the Summer Peacebuilding Program. During the academic year most of my time is dedicated to physics – in addition to classes, I work as a teaching assistant for the university’s descriptive astronomy class and as a research assistant in a plant ecophysiology lab contributing to the Long Term Ecological Research Network (LTER). While I have taken a number of classes for my minor, conflict analysis and trauma studies, that relate to the field of peacebuilding, I have had little chance thus far to see how the concepts I study apply to the world in a more concrete way. Thus, I am very much looking forward to the experiential aspects of the SPP, and to learning from those who have dedicated their lives to this work.