by Joanna Santa Barbara  (bio)

(Brief statement for forum 2 at Peace Education Conference, McMaster University , Nov. 8-10, 2002 )

Humans have several interesting characteristics as a species:

  1. They are extremely social (hypersocial, in the terminology of some biologists)
  2. They have enormous learning and intellectual capacity, enabling them to adapt to a great range of circumstances

Like most other species, they have the capacity for aggression. This is highly modifiable, in both directions, by learning.

Like most other primates, they have a tendency to form dominance hierarchies, probably less steep hierarchies than other primates. This again is highly modifiable behaviour, but may account for obedience to authority.

Human sociality, developed in an era of face to face interaction with relatively small groups, tends to lead to identification with a certain group, and regard of other groups as ďOtherĒ and outside the circle of moral responsibility  or empathic identification. This too is highly modifiable.

Due to human mastery of food and other basic needs production, our species has proliferated enormously over the face of the earth. We jostle against each other, competing for land and resources and for dominance of other groups which will secure our access. Our increasing mastery of killing technology has made this a steadily more deadly process. For the last 57 years, an eyeblink in species evolution, humans have had the capacity, with large arsenals of nuclear weapons, to destroy a large proportion of the planetís species, including humans, and perhaps all of the interwoven structure of amazing artifacts we know as civilization.

It becomes a matter of evolutionary urgency to develop ways of living together on the planet without harming each other or the earth.

I define PEACE as a relationship of mutual benefit to the parties, in which conflicts are dealt with nonviolently.

PEACE EDUCATION then is the development and transmission of knowledge and skills to transform unpeaceful to peaceful relationships, and to sustain peaceful relationships.

In all Iíve said, there may be little new. A point I do want to make is that peace education needs to be an ongoing and sustained activity. Just as we teach each developing human being basic principles of personal hygiene, and those rules of interpersonal interaction which will make them an acceptable member of their cultural group, we must, in an ongoing way, teach the young in each society the principles of global peace between humans and with Nature.


(If I have any time left, Iíll talk about peace education in Afghanistan , from which I returned last week.)