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Group in Paso Robles dedicated to peacemaking 

Hart Junge and Lee Van Ham

Hart Junge and Lee Van Ham.

–By Ruth Ann Angus

–Did you know there was a group dedicated to peace in Paso Robles? Perhaps it is one of the city’s best-kept secrets, however, a stalwart group of concerned citizens meet once a month to participate in educational pursuits aimed at fostering peace and nonviolence in the community. Speakers on a wide variety of subjects give presentations and the group disseminates information on subjects such as the threats to our environment, economic inequity, living a nonviolent life and more.

The Paso Peace Community began in late 2015 thanks to two gentlemen from town who thought there was a need for people to gather to discuss the challenging issues our country was facing. Dick Blomquist, who at the time was turning 100 years of age and his old friend Hart Junge both had personal memories of living through World War II. Junge had been a boy living in Germany at that time while Blomquist served in the military. Their memories recalled many of the steps that led up to the horrors of that conflict and they both felt that they were seeing similar issues arising here in the United States. With the contentious elections of 2016, many people were energized to come together to learn and discuss issues such as climate change, homelessness, poverty, racial and gender bias, police actions, and the continuous weapons buildup that proliferated in the country.

Richard Blomquist

Richard Blomquist, who is going on 104 years of age, has retired from the group and moved to Seattle, Washington near his children. However, he keeps in touch with the group and is still dedicated to the principles of nonviolence.

Five years have passed and Dick Blomquist, who is going on 104 years of age, has retired from the group and moved to Seattle, Washington near his children. However, he keeps in touch with the group and his cheery Christmas letter this past December showed that he is still as keen and alert and dedicated to the principles of nonviolence and the march for peace in the world.

One of the projects the Paso Peace Community is working on is an effort to have the city of Paso Robles support the idea of a Workers’ Cooperative. Cooperatives are employee-owned businesses outright or businesses that include the decision-making component of how the business is run to be decided cooperatively by the employees.

Active member Gerry Iversen heads up the Simple Living Works educational organization in conjunction with the Paso Peace Community. This organization promotes living within our means, living justly, celebrating responsibly, and challenging over-consumerism. It is also collaborative with One Earth Jubilee and the One Earth Project.

Recently the Paso Peace Community invited Lee Van Ham, Author and Director of Jubilee Economics and the One Earth Project to come and speak on climate change. Van Ham, who was once a Presbyterian minister, had a spiritual and practical viewpoint on this issue and gave the audience four concrete actions that they could do to make a difference with this environmental problem.

Van Ham spoke about banking, investments, farming, and calculating one’s carbon footprint. Van Ham mentioned that large financial institutions are prone to invest in and financially support the oil and gas industry. He suggested that banking with smaller community banks and credit unions would be beneficial because these institutions are less likely to support those industries and at this critical time, we should be looking to support other energy forms such as wind power and solar. He said that people should look at their investment portfolios to see exactly where their funds are being used and if they are primarily supporting industries involved with the earth’s limited resources. If so, they might decide to make changes.

He spoke about the difference between “One Earth” and the “Multi-Earth” situation we live with now. One Earth living supports sustainability in practice. It hopes to reverse global warming and stabilize climate change through permaculture, organic farming, and green energy. The “One Earth” philosophy means limiting society to using only the resources of this planet. “Multi-Earth” means using more resources than one planet supplies, fueling aggressive behaviors everywhere and generating conflicts in pursuit of more than our share of our planet.

These two terms contain different ecological footprints and two opposite ways of viewing reality, two contrasting ways of thinking and acting, and two different ways of organizing businesses, governments, congregations, schools, and households. Van Ham says all of creation depends on our species maturing into “One Earth” consciousness from which our love for all species and Earth move us to do what “Multi-Earth” consciousness can’t.