By Cassidy Fix/Western Sun news editor
The word “peace” has a number of definitions, but each walks along the same line. Typically, peace is thought of as an inner harmony one can have within and in personal relationships, or on a much grander scale between countries.
On Earth Day, the 10th Annual Peace Conference Golden West College took the word and utilized it to its fullest potential, not only speaking on what peace means amid people, but also the relationship between inhabitants of the earth and the earth itself.
Themed “Regenerative Peace: Sustaining Our Work, Communities, Environment and Selves in Service,” people of the Orange County communities and on touched on topics including farming, sustainability of resources, regenerative economies, Syria’s climate and refugee crisis, mental wellness, women participation in peace, space technology, human trafficking, climate change, food ethics and democracy and more.
Key speaker of the Peace Conference was Gene Baur, who is co-founder and president of the Farm Sanctuary-America’s leading farm animal protection organization.
Given “the conscience of the food movement” by Time Magazine, Baur discussed with attendees his latest book titled “Living the Farm Sanctuary Life: The Ultimate Guide to Eating Mindfully, Living Longer, and Feeling Better Every Day.”
The book title is self-explanatory for his cause. Baur is president of Farm Sanctuary, which protects animals from factory farming. He delivered the advice that every day people can make the conscious choice to refrain from eating meat which would benefit their bodies, the animals, as well as the planet.
Baur emphasized that animal agriculture is a leading contributor to global warming, adding the fact that half of the water used in the country is used for raising animals for food consumption.
Garden Grove Mayor Bao Nguyen made an appearance speaking on the water issues in Orange County, but expressed a different issue: the lack of water in California and large corporations attempting to get ahold of what’s left of it.
“We have to stand up to corporations that are trying to privatize our water,” Nguyen said, “It’s happening across the globe. We can’t let something like what happened in Flint, Michigan happen in Orange County.”
Addressing the importance of humans’ and animals’ well-being was Jessica Due, the Co-Founder and Animal Care Director for Kindred Spirits Care Farm.
Kindred Spirits Care Farm works with at risk students and individuals who struggle with emotional instability and teaches them how to tend to the farm land and the dwelling farm animals. Due explained the benefits that stem from working with agriculture are not only experienced internally but externally as well.
“People feel needed and they can learn about permaculture, farming, teamwork, etc.,” Due said, “Compassion is something we can give so freely… When you give compassion, you earn peace within yourself.”
Visions of peace stretched from the agricultural, personal health, and climatic standpoints, but speaker Sama Wareh shared her story of how she has spread peace to refugees fleeing Syria.
The California State University Fullerton graduate and receiver of OCMETRO “40 under 40” award for humanitarian work, took a trip to Syria and witnessed the devastation of the locals lives. According to European University Institute’s website on Syrian Refugees, the Syrian uprisings have birthed over 9 million refugees and a vast majority is seeking refuge in Lebanon.
“Syria is in the worst condition it has ever been in,” Wareh said.
Acting upon what she saw, Wareh traveled unaccompanied to surrounding areas of Syria to help refugees purchase groceries, pay their rent, and reach safe environments where they can live a life as normal as possible in the chaos. She went further and opened an Art Therapy school in Lebanon for refugee children to continue pursuing an education.
“There’s something to do in this world and it starts with us,” she said.
Also initiating action are David McGill, Deputy Chief of Newport Beach Police Department, and Elisabeth Gegner, founder and director of Freedom Ride Project. The two have teamed up to raise awareness of the “fastest growing illegal enterprise in the world”: human trafficking.
Gegner is hosting The Freedom Ride, beginning on September 10, which is a 15-day bikeride covering around 1500 miles from Bend, Oregon to Los Angeles, California in hopes to shed light on sex trafficking and “move people into action within communities.”
As Deputy Chief, McGill explained that he has been teaching other police officers in the area a new method of communication and interaction with prostitutes and those who might be involved in sex trafficking.
“We used to throw them [prostitutes] in jail when we’d find them on the streets. Now we see the bigger picture,” he says, “We try to talk with them and let them know that they can create a new, safer life. We know that they’re being controlled so we have to speak to them very carefully.”
Along with things of this earth, the Peace Conference also shared a take on space activity, literally. Attendees were able to see live video footage from space as a shuttle went over Saudi Arabia.
Liam Kennedy created I.S.S.-Above, a small electronic device that brings views from the Space Station to people’s television sets, all through connection to a router.
Kennedy explained that he wants I.S.S.-Above to remind people that there are astronauts that pass by in the sky five to eight times a day.
He originally made this device for his grandchildren to feel closer to their dreams of being in space. But with the success and inspiration that has come from the creation of I.S.S.-Above, Kennedy now has them in many schools, colleges, restaurants, and even homes across the United State. Kennedy has a goal to have one in every school in the nation.
“One of my biggest supporters is Bill Nye the Science Guy. He bought one from me.”
An astronaut bought one for his family so that when he was in space so that his children and wife would know when he was traveling over.
“This is what astronauts see,” said Kennedy.