"We prepare students to engage in the world that is and to help bring about a world that ought to be."

Peace Week 2020

15th Annual Exploration of Peace Celebrated

On Monday, February 3, Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson visited Friends as a special speaker for Peace Week 2020. Dr. Johnson is a marine biologist and founder/CEO of Ocean Collectiv, a strategy consulting firm for conservation solutions grounded in social justice, and founder of Urban Ocean Lab, a think tank for the future of coastal cities. The established think tank is rooted in creativity, collaboration, and seeks voices from a “diversity of experts,” from scientists, policy makers and those in the arts and real estate.

She was introduced to Grades 7-12 by (Elena ‘20) and (Isabel ‘20). Dr. Johnson kicked off her presentation with an overview of the factors fueling climate change, particularly marginalized people and those living in low income housing. She then went on to explain how climate change impacts food supply and security for the greater population — not just fisherman and blue collar business.

Dr. Johnson also questioned rebuilding the same areas that are continuously affected by disasters and sea level rises. In addition, the restoration and protection of the ecosystems on the coastline are often overlooked. Repetitive rebuilding alone is not enough, and she emphasized the need for preparation and a new vision for coastal cities and counties. She also touched on the gaps in the current Green New Deal with respect to protection of the ocean, citing a desire for a “blue new deal,” and a future that includes everyone. 

The presentation concluded with an appeal to “not just think about the problem, but the role each of us can play.” The conversation should progress beyond just the risks of climate change and focus on real solutions, our collective wisdom, and working with people in the communities who are affected the most.

Later that day, Bram Hubbell and students from his Earth & Humanity course hosted a lunch discussion to dig deeper into the points of  Dr. Johnson’s talk.

On Tuesday, February 4, Ariana ‘20, Elena ‘20, and Malik ‘20 hosted a News-Decoder Live Webinar with African Leadership Academythat focused on individual and collective efforts in bringing about systemic change, including efforts to further climate regulation, injustice around identity, and sexual assault. Students conducted research over the past month and shared their key take-aways with one another before engaging in a peer discussion with each other and took online questions.

Elena ‘20 focused on sexual assault in the New York Transit System. She opened her discussion with a disturbing fact: there were 1,024 sexual assaults in NYC subways in 2017, up 10 percent from the year before. Her reporting focused on the correlation of subway delays and overcrowding to reports of assault, discovering that the vast majority occurred during rush hour. She also gave creative examples of what other countries are doing to combat sexual violence for women during their daily commutes and ideas the city could adopt.

Malik ‘20 spoke to the injustices around identity and echoed Vic Barrett’s recent visit to the School, addressing the Global Kids organization, which “educates, activates and inspires youth from underserved communities to take action on critical issues facing our world.” Malik drew comparisons from his research to the Friends curriculum and faculty stories. He spoke to mandating climate change in school curriculums and discussing the “intersectional issues of climate change and identity.” 

Ariana ‘20 researched the role of individuals in society in regards to Quaker values and “giving shelter.” She focused her reporting on the Friends Shelter, which is jointly supported by the Fifteenth Street Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends and Friends Seminary. She interviewed the Shelter’s management, analyzed the history of public housing, and explored the role of policy and mental health — particularly in the Reagan administration — and the subsequent burdens it had on religious organizations. She emphasised that while public housing is in crisis, there is also a critical need to augment our mental health facilities and outreach to alleviate it.

The students ended the webinar by personally addressing questions from their peers at the African Leadership Academy on the #metoo movement, emerging tech and social disobedience, and the impact of climate change from a geological perspective. This peer-to-peer exchange across geographic divides supports strategic goals in the development of students’ global competencies, as well as efforts to further peace, equity and justice in our world.

On Thursday, February 6, the School hosted David Wallace-Wells, deputy editor and climate columnist for New York Magazine and the author of the #1 New York Times bestseller The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, which examines the many ways climate change promises to transform the way we live on the planet. His talk served as both a travelogue of the near future and a meditation on how that future will look to those living through it. 

He opened with a declaration that like many of his peers, he was once “diluted and complacent” about climate change. He stated that we “looked the other way for so long,” and need to make a global commitment to change the way we perceive it. Wallace-Wells highlighted critical details of the Australian wildfires, uncommon flooding in the midwest and impact on farming, record-setting heatwaves in Europe and Houston’s fifth ‘500-year’ storm.

The truths he spoke to were bleak, explaining that while society is adaptable, at the pace we are going, we would be adapting to unprecedented suffering. Though as terrifying as some of the potential outcomes from climate change are, they are a sign of our power over the climate, and we can choose to make alternative choices to help preserve the environment. It’s time to focus on “not what’s possible, but what’s necessary.”

He spoke of the need for a new politics that is willing and courageous enough to take the steps necessary to begin to undo the damage done, and he pointed to the activism of teenagers today as evidence that this is possible.

Grade 4 students kicked off Peace Week in the Science Lab with a discussion around Climate Change. They generated their own questions and reflections, and then used their iPads to explore NASA’s Climate Kids site to further their research. Posters will be displayed in the hallway on the third floor for the community to view.

Click here to view the Peace Week Photo Gallery.

Previous Peace Week Themes and Speakers

Justice and Mercy: Transforming Conflict into Connection | Bryan Stevenson, speaker

Seeking Refuge: the Ethics and Politics of Migration and Immigration | Sonia Nazzario, speaker

The New America: Listening Across the Divides | George Packer

Let Your Life Speak | Chelsea Clinton

A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunities | Nicholas Kristof and Maro Chermayeff

Legacies of Peace: Choosing to Use the Gift of our Lives to Make the World a Better Place | Maggie Doyne, Neil Blumenthal ‘98 and Dr. Oliver Rothschild ‘98
Building Bridges: Peace Through Understanding | Teri McLuhan
Peace Like a River: Water as Matter and Metaphor | Michael Arad
Educating for Peace: Friends Seminary and 225 Years of Quaker Education | Steve Emerson Irene McHenry Bruce Stewart
Beyond the Numbers: The Economics of Peace | Jeffrey Sachs
In the Presence of Justice: The Politics of Peace | Mary Robinson
War Letters: Both Said and Sung | Ethan Hawke, Julianne Moore, Elizabeth Palmedo and Crystal Sikora

Environmental Stewardship – A Pathway to Peace | James Turrell

Nonviolence in the Age of Terrorism | Arun Gandhi
The Diplomat, the Activist and the Academic | Pierre Schori, Susan Sarandon and  Jessica Tuchman Mathews
Friends Seminary — the oldest continuously operated, coeducational school in NYC — serves college-bound day students in Kindergarten-Grade 12.

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