Feb 18, 2016

Sustainable Peace and Widening the Self

Edward J. Brantmeier, Ph. D., Assistant Director, Center for Faculty Innovation and Associate Professor in the Learning, Technology, and Leadership Education Department in the College of Education

Sustainable peace requires serious work on wicked problems such as  climate change, environmental degradation, human population growth, poverty, and cultural and structural violence. Sustainable peace requires moving toward conditions of social justice and ecological justice where both fair and just relationships (micro) and structures (macro) are the norm rather than the exception.  In this blog entry, I'd like to share a recent book chapter of mine. It was a creative attempt at blending and gleaning the work of Mahatma Gandhi and the work of Arne Naess (“father” of the deep ecology movement) toward a praxis (practical application) approach of "self re-education" in teacher education.  In essence, the chapter argues that to achieve a sustainable peace (one characterized by social and ecological justice), much work has to be done in multiple professions and institutions of higher learning.  Self-re-education for teachers, educational leaders, and citizens of all sorts, if we follow the logic and life of Arne Naess and Mahatma Gandhi, involves "widening the self” so that moral inclusion, rather than moral exclusion, is extended to all sentient beings on this beautiful planet we ride.  In other words, we need to extend our identities to include butterflies and beavers, our neighbors across borders and their children.  From this  inclusive standpoint, we act in the world through what Gandhi described as "boundless, selfless service to others.”  The beauty of the work of deep ecologist Arne Naess is rooted in his phrase, “widening the self.” He argues we must widen the self to move beyond anthropocentric concerns to include ecological systems and the plants and animals that comprise those complex wonders of the planet.  Yet biodiversity and diversity affirmation is pivotal to the thriving of ecological systems.  A tension arises, that is explored in this chapter, between recognition of unity and the inherent benefits of diversity; the chapter explores the “insight into the complexity of unity and diversity and the concept of interdependence,” yet much more work needs to be done on this topic. This chapter is just the first step of a book I am writing on self re-education that involves a complex, but simple model for human development—the LAMPS model where one would cultivate the Limited Self, Adaptive Self, Meaningful Self, Peacebuilding Self, and Sustainable Self in efforts to create change agents dedicated to a more peaceful and just world.  The ideas  in the LAMPS Model emerge out of 15 years of work with teachers, educational leaders, and university faculty on issues of diversity, peace, and sustainability.  I wish I had more time to complete this book project—maybe someday.  Until then, every moment provides all of us the opportunity to widen the self and to see and experience how we are all connected—how we are all in it together.  Connection, care, and love flow from this realization.   Widening the self and diversity affirmation are but one step, among many, needed to achieve a vibrant, sustainable peace.