Friday, July 9, 2010

Being The Change Peace Conference: July 7-10, 2010

While standing in a crowd in the Citadel on Canada Day, I happened to realize that I was next to Alexa McDonough (Interesting Person #3). She informed me that she was currently organizing a peace conference at Mount St. Vincent University (where she is the interim president), and handed me a leaflet.

Normally I would have been intimidated by the thought of actually leaving my beloved Internet and actually attending a world class event in my own back yard. However, the main reason for having the dream of living in every province and territory in Canada, and even for having this blog, was to stop making these excuses, to stop wasting my time, and to start living and exploring Canada. When I got home later, I took a look at the pamphlet to see what exactly it was that was being planned.

While the conference itself cost more than my budget or schedule would allow, I noticed that there was a free public lecture scheduled for the evening of July 7 with keynote speaker Alyn Ware (Interesting Person #5). Determined that as an ea-pea, it was no longer acceptable to sit at home while world class events were being held in my own back yard, I attempted to de-wrinkle a shirt out of my laundry hamper, and tracked down a bus that would take me there.

Unbeknownst to me, the lecture also featured a special guest, Logan MacGillivray (Interesting Person #4). Before giving his own lecture, Alyn Ware interviewed him about his past work helping school children in Sierra Leone, and his upcoming projects. To honour Logan, and in and ancient Kiwi tradition, Alyn then sang a traditional native song from his home country of New Zealand about Logan's selfless generosity (below).

After the lecture, Alyn Ware informed me that I might be able to attend the rest of the conference for free if I agreed to volunteer. He tracked down Alexa McDonough, who was already impressed that I had shown up at all, and she officially extended to me the same offer.

Initially I was filled with apprehension (what if my couch got lonely? How would I watch YouTube videos all day? etc.), but I felt this was my chance to prove to myself that I could make it as an ea-pea, and I managed to rearrange my schedule on July 9th so that I could volunteer the whole day.

At the conference I really wanted to justify the faith Alexa had in me, and so I worked extra hard at the merchandise table selling specially labelled, $10 bags of organic Fair Trade coffee from the Nova Scotia coffee roasters co-op, Just Us! (Canada's first ever fair trade coffee roaster.) For my efforts, I was allowed to sneak in some delicious catered lunch, and even join some of the larger plenary sessions in the morning and afternoon.

Before I came to this conference, I had merely expected to listen to a number of speakers talk about the need for peace. That was not the case. The theme of this conference, evident in the lectures, sessions and overall structure of the event, was what we could do to bring about this peace.

At the end of the day on Friday there was a large session to come up with specific actions and plans that could be implemented to bring about change. Individual members of the audience were then challenged to take responsibility for ensuring that action was completed, by announcing their intention to do so in front of everyone.

The strongest impression I received from the conference was that even though the members in attendance were exceptional people, and definitely the elite in their fields, they were anything but elitist.

After the lecture on Wednesday (July 7th), I was offered a ride home by the Past-President of Physicians for Global Survival Dr. Nancy Convington and her husband, and at lunch on Friday (July 9th) I chatted with a Member of Parliament, and a former physicist turned film producer. It was obvious from talking with everyone at the conference, that they really were just just ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

We may all just be ordinary people, but too often we find an excuse to not even do ordinary things. I know how you feel, I was like that and still struggle with my own laziness every day. However, I for one hope to be part of he solution, and not part of the problem. I urge you to turn off your TV, get off your sofa, heck, even get out of your car and ride your bike to work one day. I challenge all of us to do something positive today, no matter how trivial it may seem, to make our world a better place.

While you, like me, may not be a Member of Parliament, or an Officer of the Order of Canada, that does not mean you cannot do some small act to prove that you care. You could send an e-mail to your MLA or MP, or even your local mayor, or you could plant a Peace Tree and register it as part of the UN's Billion Tree campaign. You could do any number of seemingly small things like going out for a hike and taking a bag along to pick up the garbage strewn along the trail. Truly, no act is too small, when done regularly, to make a difference.

Let's all make a difference; let's all be ea-peas. I leave you with the video below, a rendition of "Muriel's Song" written for the late Canadian peace activist, Muriel Duckworth's 100th birthday, sung by the Raging Grannies. I've taken the liberty to include the lyrics below the video, feel free to support peace by singing along.

Muriel's Song lyrics:

Voices calling, rising, falling,
And the earth is alive with your song.
Children dreaming, starlight streaming
And the earth is alive with your song.

We will stop these stupid wars, the hatred and the lies.
We will light this darkest hour and not be terrorized.

Fire burning, planets turning
And the earth is alive with your song.
Loving, growing, giving, knowing
That the earth is alive with your song.

We will stop these stupid wars, the hatred and the lies.
We will light this darkest hour and not be terrorized.

In your name, we'll carry on, speaking out for everyone
And honour all that you have done with passion and with grace.

Voices calling, rising falling
People dreaming, starlight streaming
And the earth is alive with your song. [x3]

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