All posts by Rob Fairmichael

Nonviolent News, NN 288

St Patrick makes Belfast appearance to drive out military drones

St Patrick put in a personal appearance in Belfast on 17th March when he sought to drive out military drones and missiles; this was at Spirit AeroSystems (formerly Bombardier) in the harbour estate. Spirit AeroSystems are developing the ‘Loyal Wingman’ military drone there though St Patrick also specifically mentioned Thales’ production of missiles. See for photo and St Patrick’s full statement.

The new network on the arms trade in Ireland meets remotely with the next meeting being Tuesday 27th April at 7.30pm. Contact INNATE to be put on the network mailing list and receive the meeting link.

Chernobyl Walk of Hope

To commemorate ‘UN Chernobyl Remembrance Day‘ and the 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, Chernobyl Children’s International are encouraging people to walk 35km throughout April (they say “Clock up 35km throughout April in whatever way you can.”) It is a kilometre to mark each that year that has passed since the Chernobyl tragedy.  This virtual fundraiser will help support the 3rd generation of victims of Chernobyl. Register at #35kmForChernobyl Donations can also be made on the website

VSI: Inclusive community workshop

On 2nd March VSI/Voluntary Service International, in collaboration with SCI Hellas in Greece and Liberties College in Dublin, facilitated an online workshop called ‘Online Youth Voices: How inclusive is your community?’ The workshop was designed to create an intercultural exchange for young people in Ireland and in Greece to come together as an online community of learners and learn about inclusion, solidarity and intercultural understanding and build upon their intercultural competencies with people from different regions of the world. It included a Padlet Silent Exhibition and a Jamboard poster-making session. See more info at This workshop was included in Service Civil International’s visibility campaign ‘100 Actions for Peace’ that celebrates its 100th anniversary by gathering different actions that work towards peace. VSI’s website is at

AVP continue work and preparation

The Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) is delivering a six weeks postal course in 9 prisons currently using AVP Britain materials and are in the process of training 17 assessors. The first feedback is very positive: for people who are incarcerated it is an opportunity to build meaningful skills such as communication, assertiveness, problem solving and conflict resolution, while enhancing self esteem, self awareness and sense of own values. In some prisons, participants manage to share a time together while completing the course when restrictions allow. AVP are also running run a monthly remotely facilitated workshop in Limerick prison and it’s working as well as possible, despite the technical challenges and the safety restrictions. They also produce a newsletter circulated in prison but are not currently recruiting volunteers because of uncertainties about when in person work will recommence. See where you can subscribe to receive regular updates.

CAJ response to UK Human Right Act review

CAJ, the Committee on the Administration of Justice in Northern Ireland, has issued a 20-page response to the UK’s Independent Human Rights Act Review which was set up by the UK government to ‘consider how the Human Rights Act (HRA) is working in practice and whether any change is needed’. CAJ believes it is important to see this review in the context of a long list of attempts by the Conservative government to weaken or entirely scrap the HRA. They state the incorporation of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) through the HRA has been a central tenet of the NI peace settlement and weakening of these protections to be in breach of the Good Friday Agreement. See which has a link to the CAJ response.

CGE: Policy and Practice, 15th anniversary edition

The Centre for Global Education has produced a special fifteenth anniversary collection of their bi-annual, peer reviewed and open access journal Policy and Practice: A Development Education ReviewIt weighs in at 400 pages and costs £14; it carries articles by scholars in the field who debate issues on the cutting edge of development education practice and the policy environment in which it is delivered. See

CRC Good Relations award, NI centenary

The 2021 Good Relations Award from the Community Relations Council, announced at the end of March, has gone to May Blood. A special award was made to Trademark Belfast for the work of Mel Corry who died this year. Previous winners of the Good Relations Award, stretching back to 2006, are Paddy White, Marion Jamison and Charmain Jones (joint winners 2019), Eamonn Deane, Derrick Wilson, Anne Carr, Renee Crawford and Jean Brown, David Stevens, Mary Kelly, Rab McCallum and Michael Acheson, Chris O’Halloran, Maureen Hetherington, Paul McCrory, Fr Gary Donegan, and Eileen Weir.

l While marking the 100th anniversary of Northern Ireland is controversial, a new website for the Decade of Centenaries has been launched, developed by the Nerve Centre. See and link there.

ICCL: Film award and more

The Dissident, a documentary film following the shocking murder of Jamal Khashoggi, journalist and critic of the Saudi Arabian government, has won the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) Human Rights Film Award 2021 as part of the Dublin International Film Festival.  It was directed by Bryan Fogel. Recent statements by ICCL on different issues including online safety legislation, protest in the current era, vaccine passports, mother and baby homes, Direct Provision etc can be found on their website at

War Resisters’ International marking centenary, exhibition

2021 is the centenary of the establishment of the War Resisters’ International (WRI). One of the features of the centenary is an online exhibition of textiles (arpilleras, quilts and wall hangings) on the theme Nonviolence in Action: Antimilitarism in the 21st Century’, curated by Roberta Bacic, assisted by Breege Doherty. It comprises 28 pieces. See or full details at The latter includes a link for the exhibition launch webinar. The exhibition will be online to the end of 2021.

INNATE hopes to mark the WRI centenary with a seminar later in the year on Irish peace movement history – though not exclusively on groups linked with WRI (which have included the Irish Pacifist Movement, Dawn, and currently INNATE); anyone interested in contributing please get in touch.

ICHR Summer School on International Criminal Court

The Irish Centre for Human Rights’ annual Summer School on the International Criminal Court/ICC will take place online from 8th – 11th June. Fee €75. Further details on this in depth event at

Feasta: Banking on the community, investing locally

Banking on the community, investing locally for resilience’ takes place on 14th April. 10.00 – 11.30 am, and is the first of two events on finance, particularly relevant in the era of bank and bank branch closures. It is organised by Feasta and Cork Environmental Forum. Speakers are Caroline Whyte, Seamus Maye, Bridget Meehan and Neasa Hourigan. See for info and booking link.

Amnesty welcomes Council of Europe move on Finucane case

Amnesty International has welcomed the decision of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers to re-open its scrutiny of UK government failures to order a public inquiry into the 1989 murder of lawyer Patrick Finucane. The European Court of Human Rights had previously ruled that the UK authorities had violated Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights by not properly investigating the murder. and

Irish School of Ecumenics (ISE) at 50

ISE was founded in 1970, by Fr Michael Hurley SJ, and the anniversary is being marked by different events over the next period. See

Stop Fuelling War

Paris-based group Stop Fuelling War works to raise awareness about the French arms trade, and to campaign against its existence with the goal to enable a transformation of the arms industry by redirecting resources focussed on producing weapons towards peacebuilding and conflict transformation. There is very useful material on their website at – include a look at ‘Resources’ both ‘Internal’ and ‘External’ in the menu panel.

Church and Peace conferences

Material from the March Britain and Ireland regional day on ‘Building peace from the ground up’ is available at Meanwhile they have an upcoming conference on 19th April on UK ‘Politics of division’.

Revamped INNATE website

The INNATE website at is about to have changes – it won’t look very different but new content will be input through WordPress and material up to the end of 2020 will be an ‘archive’ which you can access by a click on the home page. While the new and some of the old material will be directly available on the top menu bar, if you are word searching you may need to search both the WordPress site and in the old archive one. However in the long term it is hoped the changes will make the INNATE news output speedier and more flexible. All the resources – news since 1992, editorials, columnists Larry Speight and Billy King, Readings in Nonviolence, pamphlets, posters, information on peace trails, workshop material etc – will still be there. INNATE’s photo site meanwhile, at now has over 2,000 entries.

–  INNATE would like to offer a big thank you to Mark McCann who has been its webmaster since INNATE went online in 1998 and has done wonders for the INNATE online presence; 23 years, phew!

Editorials, NN 288

So what is democracy?

While we cannot realistically expect to have one agreed definition of democracy in societies which call themselves ‘democratic’, or indeed in any one of those societies, the concept of democracy is woefully ill-defined in general. It can thus be used by autocrats and dictators, by rabble rousers and crooks as they see fit. However this relates closely to nonviolence since meaningful inclusion in society, and in society’s decision making, is not only an important part of democracy but also an important part of arriving at a nonviolent society; without such inclusion there is exclusion, and exclusion breeds ill feeling and violence even if such violence is not directly undertaken or sought by those in power.

The first thing to say is that democracy is not just about voting, though voting and how voting takes place may be an essential part of it. Participation by citizens can take many different forms, not least campaigning and organising on particular issues, and this is an important part of it; the freedom to organise and campaign. Without the latter, aimed at influencing other citizens and the government, anything else is a sham. ‘Participative’ democracy is not an option, it is of the essence.

If the term ‘democracy’ breaks down to the Greek for ‘rule by the people’ there is still the question or questions – what sort of rule? And which people? Some definitions do include freedom and equality in their definition – e.g. “the belief in freedom and equality between people, or a system of government based on this belief, in which power is either held by elected representatives or directly by the people themselves” (Cambridge Dictionary, online). When you look at one definition, you then need more; what do ‘freedom’ and ‘equality’ mean? ‘Equality’ is not currently understood as economic equality, that is for certain, in a world which has become much more unequal – and where the rich can use their money to influence decisions for good or ill.

However some definitions also include the concept of ‘majority’ rule, even ‘rule by the majority’. And what does this mean? That a majority can ride rough shod over the wishes of a minority? Or that the arithmetic majority political elite are the only ones to count and be counted, certainly between elections? Any definition of democracy which simply defines it as majority rule is asking for problems since it justifies a multitude of sins, even what is taking place to Uighurs in Xinjiang in China, perpetrated by the majority Han Chinese government (though the one party system in China does not fit at all with free democracy).

This leads us on to the problem of defining, and working, democracy in deeply divided societies – whether that be in the USA in relation to Trumpism or in the UK in relation to Brexit. These are ‘current’ divisions which have links to longer term political divisions. Then there are societies where there are historical ethnic-political divisions, such as Northern Ireland, where democracy is taken to mean whatever suits someone’s particular interests at any time. And in the latter, even armed struggle can be engaged in pursuit of their understanding of ‘democracy’ by different sides.

As is well known, there has been a resurgence of right wing politics in many ‘western’ and other societies in the recent past. Governments in these societies not only wrap the flag around themselves and adopt an authoritarian approach to people and issues. Can there be a ‘democracy’ where the government acts in an undemocratic way? Of course; democracy is not something given – it is something achieved and vulnerable. There are many different ways of assessing the level of democracy existing in society; these include not just regular free elections but ease of access to these elections (e.g. this makes the USA less ‘democratic’ because of the enormous practical and financial barriers to participating in federal elections). Other factors include the freedom to organise (in political parties, pressure groups and free trade unions), an independent judiciary, and a government which is at least somewhat responsive to popular will, subject to human rights concerns.

The last phase ‘subject to human rights concerns’ is necessary because ‘responding to the people’, if the demand is for xenophobic petty nationalist policies, can be totally antidemocratic in regard to others in the country, citizens and migrants, who may then have basic human rights ignored. So adherence to international human rights standards is also a key aspect of democracy.

All of this might seem to make democracy very complicated and difficult. It can be if you let it. But there are innovative methodologies which are a significant help. The use of the citizens’ assembly model in the Republic, trusting a random selection of citizens to thrash out issues, has been very useful to setting an agenda for politicians to then take forward. The similar-but-different Civic Forum in Northern Ireland, arising from the Good Friday Agreement, was not entrusted with similar faith by political parties there and bit the dust as a result; this was a mistake. Political parties can be very jealous of others engaging in democratic debate and this is particularly true in Northern Ireland.

Voting methodologies are also an important aspect of democracy. The British first-past-the-post voting methodology, used in Westminster elections including in Northern Ireland, is the antithesis of a fair or representative system. PR-STV (Proportional Representation – Single transferable Vote), as used in Dáil and NI Assembly elections, is a much fairer system though it still allows parties with significant support to appeal only to their own converted, especially in a consociational system like the North (where power-sharing across the divide is obligatory).

And in referendums, simple binary, yes or no, voting can be both divisive and inefficient in arriving at a truly democratic result. The obvious example of this is Brexit in the UK where a simplistic and ill-defined choice led to a narrow majority for one option; this was then held (by the supporters of that option) to be sacrosanct, and taken on to deliver a result which was not what an arithmetic majority of people would have chosen had they been given full information on consequences.

There are however pluralist decision making mechanisms, such as those espoused by the de Borda Institute which can be used to not only engage in a full and proper debate on issues but which give a much more representative, and nuanced, picture of the view of all voters on a matter. The Modified Borda Count (MBC) is one way forward in societal decision making, and one which is unlikely to have a polarising effect.

The de Borda institute states thatA decision-making procedure can be described as democratic if, from a range of usually 4 – 6 options independently chosen to fairly represent the debate, it identifies the option(s) which gain(s) the highest average preference score(s)… and an average, of course, involves all of the voters, not just a majority of them.” We are unaware of any better operational method to arrive at a decision which best represents ‘the will of the people’; portraying the ‘will of the people’ as 50% + 1 in a two-choice vote is or can be a travesty.

It is a cliche to say that Ireland is at a crossroads. Societies are always at crossroads, with various directions possible, at any time. However in Northern Ireland there is the prospect of a border poll ‘some time’ in the next couple of decades, and the outcome of that cannot be assumed one way or another. In both jurisdictions on the island, the disenchantment with politics and politicians needs addressed, and not just by having citizens’ assemblies on important issues (though that is welcome). In the Republic there is the concomitant question to the border poll in the North – what kind of society and political entity would a united Ireland be? And in the mean time there is the question of decentralising state functions and decision making so the state is closer to citizens and not in an authoritarian way.

The way forward for both the Republic and Northern Ireland, and indeed in relation to the possibility of a united Ireland, would be made easier and more progressive by meaningful thought and debate on the nature of democracy. As stated at the beginning, it is unlikely and indeed impossible for everyone to agree on one definition. But building awareness of democracy’s essentials, and ways to deliver those essentials, would be of great service in defining where ‘we’ go in future. Our peace and wellbeing may depend upon it.


The elephant in the room reappears

We have said before that masculinity and particularly macho type masculinity is the elephant in the room when it comes to violence, and violence against women. [See and go to “Masculinity, violence, men…”] The #MeToo movement has focused on male sexual violence. The killing of Sarah Everard in Britain recently, with a serving police officer charged with her murder, has raised further questions – and so it should.

Things are no different in Ireland where fear of male violence by women is a stark reality. And fear of violence prevents women going about as they would wish. A survey by Transport Infrastructure Ireland, launched in a report in March, showed that over half, 55%, of women would not use public transport after dark and just over a third stated that feelings of insecurity prevented them from travelling alone (and this research was conducted before Covid when more people would have been out and about and streets less deserted). While the actual figures for those who have suffered violence are considerably smaller, the violence that exists has a severe knock on effect on women’s lives, wellbeing and freedom.

In addition there is the issue of male-on-male violence which sometimes is ignored or taken for granted. This also takes many forms, unfortunately some ending up in the courts with manslaughter or murder charges. And the number of male-on-female rapes which are reported, prosecuted, or result in a conviction is woefully small, in some cases in low single figures for conviction. So even when severe violence takes place, the perpetrators face a low risk of consequences.

The task is certainly not just one of better and more comprehensive relationship education in school, though that should be a very definite part of the package. There are many challenges in growing up today and in some ways expectations and pressures of many different kinds can be a powder keg for individuals. Relationship education should be a key part of schooling – we would also argue that education in mediative techniques (including the practice of peer mediation in schools) should be an essential part of civic education. And education in mediation has an important connection with nonviolence; listening, and being able to listen (which militates against violence which is the pinnacle of not-listening).

Riaising the issue of male violence is understood by some men as being ‘anti-men’. It is nothing of the sort. It is pro-men, for a healthy definition and understanding of what manhood should entail. Male violence is also a fact of life. It is certainly not about ignoring female violence, or support for violence, or pushing it under any carpet but it is a matter of reflecting on, and dealing with, the fact that the vast majority of a wide variety of different forms of violence are directly inflicted by men. Asking ‘Why?’ is a good starting point.

There are deep cultural questions to be asked about the nature and source of violence, and where it relates to our being as humans. One thing is sure; we are not necessarily a violent species, nor are males necessarily violent or more violent than females (as anthropology shows us). It would be fascinating to go back 5,000 years to the Céide Fields in north Mayo to see what their concepts were, and how they lived their lives; it is accepted that this was a peaceful, settled, cooperative society with evidently no enemies. Whether it was a pre-patriararchal, matriarchal or gender-balanced society we do not know, but we do know it was relatively non-hierarchal (all the houses were the same size). But it is one example on our island of a society which was certainly relatively non-violent and which challenges concepts such as ‘violence has always been with us’. How far have we travelled backwards in 5,000 years?

We also live in a culture which still glorifies violence in conflict and war if not in interpersonal relations. While warrior-hero models may be disputed as a cause of intra-societal or interpersonal violence, we are not so sure. If the image of the ‘brave’ ‘strong’ man in warfare is still inculcated by both the state and some parts of civil society, and certainly in films and media, who can say this does not carry over into civil society concepts, especially for men? And men who feel they are lacking in self image and self awareness may translate that into a desire to exercise violence, in a twisted way, towards having a ‘positive’ self image.

Some pschological studies have shown that playing violent video games does not make young men more violent in their behaviour. Again there are questions here. While this judgement may or may not be true on an individual level, there is also the societal level where even the tolerance for violent, clearly fantasy, games carries over to the real world. Why do the militaries of armies who use drone warfare recruit young men who are good at computer games? Because a) they have directly transferrable skills and b) they may be already inured, through violent games, to ‘remote’ killing and real life, remote killing may just seem another game to them.

Masculinist’ movements (for “men’s rights”) which protest that women now have the upper hand in some battle between the sexes are barking up the totally wrong tree. Equality of any kind has not been achieved by women although vast progress has been made. Statistics regarding violence show a much truer picture of where things are at, and the Irish figures quoted earlier show just how women are affected.

It is also totalling misplaced to depict such issues as a battle between the sexes. Going forward is not a zero sum game, it is defintely a question of achieving win-win. Being violent in any way is not a good place to be in, and while it may be infinitely worse to be on the receiving end, being violent is not good for the body or the soul (in a secular sense – as figures for PTSD among soldiers can attest).

There are new, positive images of masculinity which can be inculcated. These also are a win for men in potentially having more satisying and fulfilling lives, in sharing burdens, and in better relationships with their partners and children. There is thus a carrot for men to redefine what it means to be a man and this is important because wielding a big stick and saying sternly ‘you need to change’ may not communicate what is necessary – it might raise the issue but be seen as a threat rather than an opportunity.

It is long past time that society asked some of these questions, and more, about male violence. The women’s movement has tried hard to raise some of the issues, and deal with some of the consequences, e.g. of interpersonal violence in so-called ‘domestic’ violence. The issue of gender is often falsely throught to be an issue for women. (See “Gender, meaning of the word…” poster at ) Men need to realise they are indubitably also a gender (without here going into the reality of issues of non-binary identity) and have a gendered identity. Society as a whole, and especially men who are by far the most violent gender, need to deal with these issues through becoming informed, discussion, debate and then action and implementation; however the discussion needs to take place fully involving women or it would be men ‘again’ making decisions by themselves. But as the more violent gender the onus is on men.

Without such action we will continue with where we are at the moment – masculinity affecting individuals and wider society, particularly women, in a really toxic way. Europeans sometimes laugh at the ridiculous stupidity of the lack of gun control laws in the USA and the resultant carnage. We are equally lacking in insight if we allow macho masculinity to be unchecked. Saying male violence is ‘the elephant in the room’ is a metaphor indicating the size of the problem and its reality as an issue; the very first stage is to recognise this. At the moment there are many who ignore that elephant.

Eco-Awareness, NN 288

Larry Speight brings us his monthly column –

The Jevons Paradox

Technical innovations that have the capacity to reduce global warming emissions to 1.5C by 2050, as stipulated by the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement, won’t accomplish this in the absence of a cultural change in favour of people actually caring for nonhuman nature. The reason is due to what is called the Jevons paradox. This was conceived by the economist William Stanley Jevons (1835-1882) when he observed that an increase in the efficient use of coal lead to an increase in the demand for coal. In his book The Coal Question (1865) he wrote:

It is a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuel is equivalent to diminishing consumption. The very contrary is the truth.”

Research presented in New Scientist, 6 March 2021, gives credence to this through showing that the more energy efficient a device becomes the more people are inclined to use it resulting in an increase in the emission of global warming gases relative to the less energy efficient version of the device. Another aspect of the Jevons paradox that hinders the achievement of global warming goals is the rebound phenomenon. This occurs when the money saved through greater energy efficiency is spent on another energy consuming device or service. An example is when the money saved in the course of a year through running a zero-emissions home is spent on an overseas holiday which would not have been taken but for the savings.

The Jevons paradox means that technological innovations that have the ability to radically reduce the emission of global warming gasses and the consumption of raw materials could in practice increase both. This makes achieving net-zero global warming emissions a behavioural problem that should include the input of anthropologists, sociologists and psychologists in the formulation of government policy rather than, as is mostly the case at present, people in the technical sciences. This point is made by Hatan Shah, head of the British Academy, in the journal Nature, 23 March 2021. He writes in regard to Covid-19 that:

Governments have sought expert advice from the beginning of the pandemic, but that expertise tended to come from people in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) – despite it being clear from the beginning that human behaviour, motivation and culture were key to an effective response.”

The case study from India mentioned below illustrates how even the most worthy of aspirations supported by adequate funding and field tested technology can be foiled in achieving widespread application through cultural blindness.

The Clean India Mission, 2014 – 2019, implemented by the Indian government with the support of NGOs provided rural communities with public toilets and household latrines. In the course of the programme $20 billion was spent building 110 million toilets for 600 million people. Follow-up surveys showed that the toilets are not as widely used as initially expected. In part this was because rural culture perceives open defecation as more wholesome, natural and convenient than using a household or public toilet. Another reason is open defecation gives women the highly valued opportunity to socialize with each other out of sight and sound of the men of their family. There is also volatile issue of caste and who cleans and maintains the toilets. (*1)

This lesson on the importance of cultural awareness and critique needs to be applied to the effort by the international community to achieve net-zero global warming emissions by 2050. One overlooked area that should be considered in this regard is the linear economy in which raw materials are extracted from the ground and after a short life as a manufactured good or unwanted food item are dumped in the ground. The examples of e-waste, clothing, plastic bottles and food give a sense of the magnitude of this, which if it were not to take place, would go a long way towards healing the biosphere. Less waste translates into less emission of global warming gases and more CO2 absorbing forests, peatlands, soil and sea grasses. It results in cleaner air, waterways, an increase in biodiversity and less persecution of indigenous peoples.

With regard to food the UNEP Food Waste Index Report 2021 estimates that 931 million tonnes of food waste was generated worldwide in 2019. According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation recovering just half of the food that is lost or wasted could feed the world. Producing this food involves the emission of greenhouse gases as does the decomposition process. The latter emits methane which has a global warming potential 25 times that of CO2.

The Times, 17 March 2021, reports that over 100 billion garments are produced annually from virgin materials and that 87 percent of clothing material is incinerated, sent to landfill or dumped every year. Another ubiquitous waste are plastic bottles. The City to Sea campaigning group estimate that in the UK alone 7.7 billion plastic bottles go unrecycled every day. Based on this figure the global number must be in the trillions.

An almost unseen waste, or you might say misuse of resources, are the array of electronic devices including smart phones and computers that together are called e-waste. The UN Global E-waste Monitor 2020 reports that in 2019 we created 53.6 million metric tons of electronic waste of which only 17.4 percent was recycled. The report states that:

This means that gold, silver, copper, platinum and other high-value, recoverable materials conservatively valued at US $57 billion – a sum greater than the Gross Domestic Product of most countries – were mostly dumped or burned rather than being collected for treatment and reuse.”

Without a radical change on many fronts e-waste will reach 74 million metric tons by 2030. On top of this will be the hard to recycle hundreds of millions of batteries from electric vehicles. The Republic of Ireland for example aims to have a million electric vehicles on the road within nine years. (*2)

The widespread, even universal use, of energy efficient technologies won’t, in the absence of regarding nonhuman nature as having intrinsic value, release us from the Jevons paradox, which if they did, might avoid the collapse of the ecosphere as it has evolved since the last ice-age 11,500 years ago. Voicing the link between valuing something and protecting it the palaeontologist and science writer S.J. Gould (1941-2002) said “we will not fight to save what we do not love.”

On the basis of this understanding social scientists studying environmental change encourage education authorities to put the study of nature, learning to appreciate and love it, at the heart of curricula from nursery school to university. Intrigued by the possible outcome of this Matthew Adams, principle lecturer in psychology at the University of Brighton, recently said:

Who knows how powerful the collective nurturing of a childhood sense of awe and wonder, and a deep attachment to nature, might be were it allowed to blossom and flourish?” (*3)

Such an education might be powerful enough to completely change how we interact with nonhuman nature and therein nullify the Jevons paradox.

(*1) Sarita Panchang, A Year On, the Clean India Mission Falls Short,, 8 October 2020.

(*2) Pat Leahy, The Irish Times, 27 March 2021.

(*3) Matthew Adams, I, 23 March 2021.

Readings in Nonviolence, NN 288

“Advancing Nonviolence and Just Peace in the Church and the World”

Pax Christi International, 322 pages,

Edited by: Rose Marie Berger, Ken Butigan, Judy Coode and Marie Dennis

A review by Sylvia Thompson

This is a timely and comprehensive text or guide book on nonviolence that should fall into the hands of many, from practitioner to academic. I read it alone and straight through…not the best idea even with various breaks.

The title itself ‘advancing’ tells us that this is not a primer text though a student of nonviolence could start here and follow it through.

The text has a Preface, Acknowledgements and four Parts I) Returning to Nonviolence, II) Foundations of Nonviolence, III) The Practice and Power of Nonviolence, IV) Embracing Nonviolence, the list of Contributors and 3 Appendices, but regrettably no Bibliography or Index.

Reading the contents alone gives the sense of its amazingly broad scope and depth and if you peep to the list of the contributors you will understand how this came about. I counted 120 and it states that they came from nearly all corners of our troubled world (but possibly not Northern Ireland…see later).

The title sub heading is “Biblical, Theological, Ethical, Pastoral and Strategic Dimensions of Nonviolence”, which means it will be of equal interest to theologians and those on the ground working in conflict resolution in their local communities and everyone in between.

It is the work Pax Christi International and more specifically a particular project, ‘The Catholic Nonviolence Initiative’ which was initiated in 2016 to affirm the vision and practice of active nonviolence at the heart of the Catholic Church.

There are frequent references to Pope Francis’ World Peace Day message of 2017 entitled “Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace” but the call is to go further for the Catholic Church to re-commit to the centrality of Gospel nonviolence. Appendix 1 (and elsewhere, see ‘Integrating Nonviolence Throughout the Catholic Church’, p.284).

With regard to the appendices, the impatient reader could go straight to them #1 (above) #2 Nonviolence nurtures hope, can renew the Church and #3 Ten elements of nonviolence.

How to describe this book in a simple way is perhaps to say that it answers these questions about nonviolence: What is it? Where has it come from? Why and Why not? Where? and How? There are clear signposts to further reading and excellent footnotes. It takes the reader to El Salvador, Central African Republic, Mexico, Sudan, to name just some countries.

What is it? It offers many wonderful and inspirational quotes and definitions, e.g.

Nonviolence denotes a paradigm of the fullness of life at the heart of reality”. p.152

but read this comprehensive one on p.59

Nonviolence is a force that resists injustice and violence, a spiritual discipline and a powerful strategy that challenges violence without using violence, transforms conflict, fosters just, peaceful, effective and sustainable resolutions to conflict and seeks the well-being of creation and community.”

and it continues

It promotes human dignity; teaches self-respect and healthy communication; initiates processes of restorative justice to address interpersonal, communal and systematic injustices; and facilitates trauma healing. Its byproducts are creativity, joy, virtue, deeply held relationships and a shared hope for the future.”

It addresses of course, and I am just mentioning some topics, the Spirituality of nonviolence, violence against women and climate and ecological violence (read ‘Hearing the Song of the Earth’ p.245 and other references to Laudato Si’) and pastoral implications p.287 families and parishes p.292 but also addresses, what it terms ‘Sensitive concerns’ towards the end of the book on p.303 looking at the Internal Life of the Universal Church).

This section ‘Glimpsing the Church’s history of nonviolence’ pages 203-218 provides snippets from various corners of the world, so I was curious to read the following about Northern Ireland: “Followers of Jesus in Northern Ireland, including Nobel Peace Prize laureates Mairead Corrigan Maguire and Betty Williams, finally brought the troubles to an end.’ p.213. It certainly was a glimpse, but for me a disappointing one with regard to its brevity and, possibly, its accuracy.

Advancing Nonviolence’ can act as a guide, lead you to further study and most importantly to action or to evaluate your existing action. You may want more and I can see it becoming the perfect text for a study/reading group. Some recent good news is that study/reading notes to go with the book may become available.

Though a serious academic text as outlined in Part (II), Foundations of Nonviolence, I found it to be a very spiritually nourishing and indeed challenging one too. (Ref. ‘Seeing with New Eyes’, Joanna Macy).

Pax Christi International is to be congratulated on this publication, ‘the fruit of a global, participatory process facilitated by the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative to deepen Catholic understanding of and commitment to Gospel nonviolence.’ (from the Preface).

And I close with the closing words:” Faced with the challenges of this age, let us be transformed…. dedicated to faithfully healing our planet, and honouring the infinite worth of every being”.

To order individual or bulk copies, visit

I bought it from Paperback £25.45stg (€30.84 incl P&P). Now also available as an E-book EPUB (575KB) for €16 excl VAT from

See also:

– Sylvia Thompson now lives in Co Kerry, but lived and worked in Belfast where she was actively involved in Pax Christi Ireland & International. Still a member of Pax Christi, she is now a member of the Diocese of Kerry JPIC (Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation) Committee, the Laudato Si’ Working Group (Irish Bishops). and local ecological & sustainable initiatives.

Billy King


Billy King shares his monthly thoughts [and the worst puns in town – Ed]

Well hello again, and welcome to you, April is usually the driest month in Ireland so it is (I hope this year too) a great time to be out and about. And if you are out and about, literally or metaphorically, I do hope you understand that the shortest distance between two points is the way that you want to go – and not a straight line, unless of course you decide that a straight line is the way you want to go. Going in a straight line, on anything, can be tedious; going in the way you want to go can be effortless and joyful. May a thousand crooked lines blossom.

Once upon a time

Once upon a time there was a country, part of an island, that was divided. And in the smaller part of that country there was further division between people. They could not agree and they could not agree to disagree, so they often killed each other, or forced people to flee from their homes, or did other horrible things to each other. Even when the killing stopped there was still pain and disagreement, and the people suffered because no way forward could be agreed on many things which needed agreement to proceed. The people In Control, at the top, added to the problems and indeed some had been involved in the fighting and killing.

When the killing had stopped inside this place, weapons of war were still made, and some of the people In Control gave more money to build new and more efficient weapons of war so other people could be killed elsewhere in the world, and so those In Control could go to war when they wanted. They called this peace. It was not peace. It was a shocking insult to anyone who respects peace and what has to be done for peace. It was really war. But, as we all know, war is peace, and money and jobs, no matter how terrible their product, are all that matters. This is what is positive in life. We should roll over and accept it.

Weapons of mass distraction

Things have certainly changed massively in a few decades in how news and views are disseminated. Social media means you can get news ‘out there’ even when the established ‘mass’ media ignore you – though the concomitant danger is when people only pay attention to the social media they agree with and ignore everything else. In this latter situation we arrive, as in the USA, at people in the same place living in parallel universes. [Sure Norn Iron has had parallel galaxies for hundreds of years – Ed]

However my comments on social media are a preface to asking some questions about the mass media in relation to a couple of recent peace actions in Belfast. The mass media still have inordinate influence. Both actions, deliberately (because of Covid), were small actions by a few people. The first took place at PSNI headquarters in Belfast on 22nd January 2021 when the TPNW/Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons kicked in to international law; see The second was St Patrick protesting about military drone production at Spirit AeroSystems on 17th March 2021 (as mentioned in a news items in this issue); see

Press releases went out to ‘all’ the media, including broadcast. Five photographers turned up at the nuclear disarmament event. News items subsequently appeared in “The Irish News” and the “Andersonstown News”; this seemed to fit the Norn Iron stereotype of criticism of the British state only appearing in CNR/Catholic, Nationalist, Republican outlets but you would think that an issue of such political import as the UK acting illegally in international law (and totally ignoring said law) would be newsworthy for ‘everyone’ irrespective of national allegiance [What would make you think that? – Ed]. Obviously there was a good bit of theatricality in both, as in street theatre, particularly in the event with St Patrick – though St Patrick did issue a statement partly based or modelled on his ‘Confession’.

In the case of St Patrick making an appearance to drive out military drones and missiles, two photographers appeared (it was St Patrick’s Day) but we are not aware of any mass media coverage. The lack of coverage of the latter is particularly interesting as a) With Covid there were no other St Patricks about, b) Ditto Covid, the only ‘St Patrick’s Day issue’ in Norn Iron really around was whether there would be wild Covid-regulation-ignoring parties and rioting in the student Holyland(s) area of Belfast, c) Given the transferred imagery of St Patrick driving out drones rather than snakes, it did seem visually interesting. (and both events got a fair bit of social media attention, the first one ‘going almost viral’ in a couple of countries far from here).

So why did the mass media not bite? Was it they considered that a) Neither issue was of any importance or interest to readers/viewers/listeners and/or it just slipped through the net (which is the same thing), b) It was only a few peaceniks doing their thing harmlessly and they could be ignored – there was no drama and no violence involved, or c) In relation to Spirit AeroSystems (and Thales missile production which was also mentioned) there were jobs involved (550 at Thales) and ‘East Belfast’ jobs at that so that could not be questioned or raised as an issue, or d) Some unknown reason(s) understood only by the media workers concerned.

Answers on a postcard please, or an e-mail will do (seriously, comments to if you feel like speculating). If I was choosing, my money would be on the jobs but I be wary of conspiracy theories – though, as they say, just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they are not out to get you.

Near death can make you value life for everyone

Near death experiences can make you value life – not just your own life but others as well. There is a brief reference to this in an article looking at one man’s attempts to grapple with the phenomenon of near death experiences: Psychiatrist Bruce Greyson said that after their experience ““They see a purpose in life they didn’t see before. I don’t know of anything else that powerful.” When the writer of the article, Alex Moshakis, asked for an example, Greyson said “ “I’ve spoken to people who were policemen,” he says, “or career military officers, who couldn’t go back to their jobs, couldn’t stand the idea of violence.” I ask why. He says, “The idea of hurting someone becomes abhorrent to them.” He shrugs. “They end up going into helping professions. They become teachers, or healthcare workers, or social workers.” “

Very interesting. Near death experiences can of course be explained in a number of different ways, and the release of endorphins as we go on the voyage and passage to death may explain a lot and I am not going to get into possible spiritual ramifications of it all in this space. And I’m afraid it is highly unlikely I will be able to comment to you when I eventually get there. However, if the near death experience gets at the core of our being in some way, stripping away all the other layers of socialisation and environment, Greyson’s description actually puts nonviolence at the centre of our existence. In other words, nonviolence is deeply, deeply innate in us. And that is also pretty good when you are involved with an organisation named INNATE. See

The current Norn Iron situation in one sentence

A friend in another country, extremely well up on conflict, international affairs and nonviolence, asked me for my take on the current situation in Northern Ireland. I wrote over a page and a half or so in response. After he had come back again, saying he was always amazed at the complexity of conflicts, I wrote back with my partial summary of a summary, referring to Brexit: “Most Prods/unionists backed/bet on the wrong horse and are now complaining about the result – but they don’t deserve to lose their shirts”.

So there you have it. I hope you understand that this is not a nuanced (!) summary but a serious light-hearted attempt to put the current situation in Northern Ireland into a metaphorical one-sentence nutshell.

Spell chuck

The perils of the spell check going unchecked is something I detailed quite some time ago when I mentioned how, in an official Catholic Church press release, the now retired archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin (a lovely man incidentally, may he have a long and happy working retirement) became Dairymaid Martin and bishop Colm O’Reilly became Calm O’Reilly. It got a bit more unintentionally derogatory and political recently when my spell check questioned ‘Irishness’ and gave the following alternatives for it; bearishness, whorishness and feverishness. ‘Britishness’ brought up no question and no alternatives offered whatsoever, and ‘Frenchness’ gave just ‘Frenchless’ and ‘Frenchisms’. Yes, I know we live on a small island but that spiel cheek could do batter.

Cy-CLING etiquette

The legal requirement to have a bell on your bicycle presumably dates back to the era before motor traffic was as dense as it is today. These days, in busy traffic, a bicycle bell is about as much use as an umbrella in a strong storm. Unless you are going to, as the British investigative journalist Duncan Campbell did years ago, instal a transatlantic yacht fog horn on your bike, you couldn’t make a sound impression on someone enveloped in what amounts to a big and insulated tin box (be that car or lorry). Maybe there is a gap in the commercial market to be filled here.

But in the era of lockdown and cycling along greenways and through parks, what about bells this weather? What bellwether indication could be given? Well, in such situations a bell is a necessary piece of equipment ar an rothar; for safety’s sake you may need to quickly advise a pedestrian or cyclist that you are behind them.

But is it considerate or inconsiderate to do this routinely where the passing space is limited? Because there is as yet no established common practice, different pedestrians, or indeed cyclists, may take it differently; some will appreciate the warning that there is something coming up and past them, while others may feel, “there go those arrogant cyclists again, ringing their bells as if they own the place”. You can startle people by ringing the bell and you can startle people by not ringing it.

A judgement is necessary and it is difficult to get it right all the time. If I ring a bell and someone then moves over, or, if it is a dog owner and they make an effort to control their dog, I will certainly bid them a greeting and thank you – they deserve it, and it also indicates that the bell ringing was not a hostile act but a friendly notice or warning.

Perhaps as cycling continues to grow in popularity, the ringing of a bike bell will become, as maybe it once was, a routine act of giving notice of your presence. However I have written before about practising considerate cycling which means making allowances for sudden movements by pedestrians, or others, and taking care not to frighten anyone, as much as possible. And ringing a bicycle bell still doesn’t give you ‘right of way’, care is still needed, and some pedestrians may be deaf or with earphones installed (not always a wise move, if you are going to use headphones out and about I suggest you make it singular – one ear in and one ear out, for safety’s sake) and not hear even the loudest and most persistent bell.

But, if you haven’t had your bike out over the winter then it’s time to give it a check and have it back on the road. You don’t need to give us a bell when you do.

Showering the frog

Showering the frog’ sounds like it might be a euphemism for some aspect of personal care and cleanliness, but recently I did, deliberately, shower ‘our’ frog. When I say ‘our’ frog, I am not claiming proprietary rights, it is a frog which happens to be resident in our suburban garden and it is very much its own being. And I was mentioning it rather recently [You must have a frog stuck in your throat, it was only last issue – Ed], I am not sure it is the only frog around as I saw a smaller, juvenile, one last autumn.

Anyway, I was working away on the back of our house, repairing a concrete plinth or trim which exists at the bottom of the brick wall of the house, going down to the ground. At one point where there is a vent to provide underfloor ventilation there was a part of this which was ‘boast’, loose, so I had to take the whole vent off. As I did so there was a small flurry of building dust and dirt, some of it extending over the thick clump of montbretia beside it (Montbretia – the late summer, orange flowering plant which has indigenised itself in Ireland’s ditches). Then I noticed something very dusty and dirty, around 10 cm long, moving. It took a few seconds to realise it was ‘our’ frog which presumably had been in the montbretia. Worried that it might attempt to jump into the hole where the vent had been and be stuck in there, I replaced the vent as best I could.

I know frog’s skin can be sensitive and I thought anyway it might not take to a covering of building dust. So I ran off to get the watering can and it was still there when I returned half a minute later: I gave the frog a shower to clean off the dirt. Maybe it felt better for the shower, I don’t know, but it soon hopped into the nearby sage bush and I didn’t attempt to follow it after that – I still had a wall and vent to repair.

However I can now add ‘showering a frog’ to my list of life experiences. It beats washing your hare any day, and more appropriate.

Well, here we are in April and hoping for to an easing in Covid controls when and as that proves possible – and brighter days, literally and metaphorically. It will be holidaying ‘at home’ again this year but there is still plenty to choose from, and remember Ireland has an interior as well as lots of coastal places worth exploring. Not that we should not celebrate our coastline, and this is a small enough island that you can combine coast and inland activities if you want. Everyone has their favourite spot or spots, and even somewhere like Dingle and Kerry, following the departure of a certain dolphin to the Great Seabed or Beyond, still has lots of non-Fungieable assets. [It’s Easter time and I am getting hot and cross about your puns – Ed]

Wherever you go, when you can go, just take care – of yourself and others. Until I see you again, Billy.

Eco-Awareness, NN 287

Larry Speight brings us his monthly column –

The Greenwash of Green Technologies

Compared to ten years ago when the media, governments, corporations, organized religions and educational institutions largely endorsed and actively supported the fossil fuel based economic paradigm there has, it would seem, been a radical shift in thinking in regard to our relationship with nonhuman nature. This change is underscored by the UK’s most trusted public person Sir David Attenborough coming out of the closet and declaring himself an environmentalist. During his long career in broadcasting he studiously avoided drawing the public’s attention to the dire state the biosphere is in. More recently Bill Gates, with a private fortune of £165 billion, has made his concerns known about climate breakdown through the publication of his book ‘How To Avoid A Climate Disaster’.

Galvanised by environmentally-minded celebrities, who have enormous persuasive power, a more pro-environmental stance on the part of the mass media, (*1) and a more vocal public an increasing number of governments and corporations acknowledge that the biosphere is critically ill and vow to do something about one of its main aliments, global warming. The formula, which the public whole-heartily welcome, is a techno-fix in the form of electric vehicles, wind farms, solar panels, smart grids and increased digitalisation. It is hoped that these technologies will enable the global economy to become carbon-neutral by 2050.

The evidence suggests that this hope is a case of mass delusion. A case of wanting an equitable, ecologically sustainable society with the comforts, conveniences and recreational opportunities the wealthy world is accustomed to without anyone having to change a single iota of how they live. The aim of the EU, UK and the USA to replace petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035 with electric ones as an illustrative example. Every announcement by vehicle manufacturers to produce electric-only by a near-future date is widely applauded as a long stride taken towards meeting the aim of carbon neutrality b mid-century. The scrutiny applied to new medicines and building proposals is largely absent from the plan to replace the estimated one billion fleet of fossil driven vehicles with electric ones.

One reason why people welcome electric vehicles is because they are thought to cause no air pollution. What is over-looked is the case that whether a vehicle is electric or not braking and the friction of tyres on roads creates toxic dust. In 2019 the UK government’s Air Quality Expert Group warned that breaking and tyre wear contribute to more than half of the particle pollution from road transport.

Many other negative environmental factors of fossil driven vehicles apply to electric ones including the material and organizational infrastructure needed to support them. Thus paving over precious habitat and agricultural land will continue apace. There will still be traffic congestion and fatal road collisions. In fact the latter might rise as those on foot and bicycle are likely be less aware of the presence of electric vehicles as they emit little noise. This will especially be the case is residential areas and rural settings. Mass recharging parks might be required taking up more precious land.

A critical factor in regard to ecological sustainability of electric vehicles in that the materials required to manufacture them leave an ecological footprint equal to if not exceeding that required to manufacture petrol and diesel vehicles. Cuillaume Pitron in his book The Rare Metals War (2020) writes:

The 2016 report by the French Environment & Management Agency finds: ‘the energy consumption of an electric vehicle (EV) over its entire lifecycle is, on the whole, similar to that of a diesel vehicle.’ The report also finds that its environmental impact is ‘on par with (that of) the petrol car’. In fact, an EV might even emit more carbon dioxide than it consumes if the electricity it uses comes predominantly from coal –fired plants, as is the case in countries such as China, Australia, India, Taiwan and South Africa.” (*2).

Electric vehicles use a host of rare metals that are mined and refined at great cost to the environment and in the case of cobalt, an essential component of their batteries, more than 60 percent of which comes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo where it is mined using slave labour. (*3) The vehicles use alloys which at present cannot easily be recycled and nor can the batteries which have a relatively short life span. It is feared that the latter will create a ‘waste’ disposal problem no Local Council’ will be able to deal with which means they could end up in illegal dumps polluting soil and above and underground bodies of water.

When one looks at the evidence of the ecological impact of electric vehicles in the course of their lifecycle, the health and human rights issues, one can only but conclude that society has either been duped by the politicians and the vehicle manufacturers, or is happy to collude with the pretence that electric vehicles are considerably better for the environment than diesel and petrol ones.

In spite of the difficulty in recycling rare metals, especially when combined to form alloys, and the absence of any intention to curtail economic growth, which would be an anathema to the dominant economic paradigm, the assumption is that rare metals can be mined indefinably and are not what their name proclaims them to be. Their rarity is revealed by the figures provided by Pitron.

Eight and a half tonnes of rock need to be purified to produce a kilogram of vanadium; sixteen tonnes for a kilogram of cerium; fifty tonnes for the equivalent in gallium; and a staggering 1,200 tonnes for one miserable kilogram of the rarest of rare metals; lutecium.” (*4)

The ecological calamity that will be caused in meeting the insatiable demand for the rare metals used in electric vehicles will likely be as bad as that caused by the fossil fuel industry. The same ecological hazards and human suffering incurred by the manufacture of electric vehicles pertains to all so-called green technologies including wind turbines, solar panels, smart phones, home computers and the entire infrastructure of the internet all of which require rare metals, substantive amounts of energy and vast supplies of water to manufacture and maintain.

Given the historical lack of honesty of governments and corporations – we might recall their stoic reluctance to tighten the laws on the sale of tobacco and the use of lead – it is astounding that society passively accepts the idea that so called green technology will result in a global green nirvana. It seems that belief in green technology based on rare metals is akin to the belief in diet pills which can make people who want to lose weight to do so without them having to change their diet or lifestyle in any way. What society does not want to change is the paradigm of unlimited economic growth and the power structures and behaviour patterns that are an integral part of it.

(*1) Ian Burrell, Media on Monday, i newspaper, 22 February 2021.

(*2) The Rare Metals War: The dark side of clean energy and digital technologies, Guillaume Pitron, 2020, p. 38.

(*3) From Stone to Phone: Modern Day Cobalt Slavery In Congo,, 10 December 2020.

(*4) The Rare Metals War: The dark side of clean energy and digital technologies, Guillaume Pitron, 2020, p. 3 & 4.