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We’ve Moved!

March 18, 2011

Thanks for your interest in the blog of FCNL’s interns!  FCNL has recently redone its website (www.fcnl.org) and were able to incorporate this blog into the new site.  Find us here.

If you’d like to subscribe to the RSS feed of the blog in its new location, click here.

Connecting the BP Oil Spill and Japan’s Nuclear Crisis

March 15, 2011

On April 20th 2010, 41 miles of the Louisiana coast an explosion rocked the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, subsequently spilling over 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

On March 12th, an earthquake 100 miles offshore triggered a tsunami that hit the northeast coast of Japan, severely damaging the cooling systems of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.  As of today workers are trying to prevent a full meltdown from occurring, and stop storage ponds loaded with spent uranium fuel from bursting into flames.

These two disasters may not seem to have much in common.  The BP spill is attributed to negligence by the companies who operated the rig, while the Fukushima Daiichi disaster was caused by unpredictable weather-related events.

Yet, both “accidents” should be a wakeup call to the environmental and health dangers present in the extraction and generation of our energy sources.  Our continued search for more energy leads us to dig deeper and increase the use of highly radioactive elements, which goes hand-in-hand with higher risks.

The only way to fully protect against these types of disasters in the future is through a switch to green energy.  Yes, better regulation, safety measures, and contingency plans can reduce the likelihood of accidents, but at the same time we are taking more and more risks to meet energy demand.

Green energy is a sustainable, healthy, and safer way to meet our energy needs.

“The Mighty, Mighty Union”

March 14, 2011

Photo: AFL-CIO

Every morning for the past month, my commute to FCNL brings me close by a group of men and women wearing big red signs and pacing in a circle in front of the Madison Hotel on 15th street.  Their shouts and chants, amplified by megaphones, echo off of the tall buildings, and sometimes a giant, inflated rat grins menacingly over his fancy business suit at my fellow commuters. The rat hasn’t been there for several mornings, though.

“Yeah, we’re waiting for another replacement rat.  One we had got stabbed, but the last one just deflated from all the holes that were created from pebbles and glass hitting it from the cars in the street.”

This morning, as curiosity finally got the better of me, I stopped to talk to the people on strike.  I talked to Jason, who told me about the rat, about the new management of the Madison, and about why he and the other workers have been picketing outside the hotel from 6:30 in the morning until 7 or 8 at night, starting on January 30th and going strong when I passed this morning.

Read more…

Clinton’s Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

March 10, 2011

Last Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. After the 16% cut to the State Department budget included in the House’s Continuing Resolution last month, Clinton hoped to convince the Committee of the need for greater financial support Senate-side.

 During her testimony, Clinton stressed the necessity of a strong civilian response to national security concerns. Focusing largely on Iraq and Afghanistan (and understandably so), she discussed diplomacy’s role in providing a platform for stability and civil society. In discussing Libya, she emphasized the importance of support given to refugees in neighboring nations. And when it came to preventing the conflicts of tomorrow, Clinton described countless State Department efforts in the way of food security, global health, economic development, and peacebuilding. From initiatives in Haiti to initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region, she assured the Committee of the need to use “all the tools” available to our government in addressing international challenges.

 But while it was encouraging to hear Clinton’s enumeration of vital civilian contributions to US foreign policy, it was equally disappointing to hear references to a more military-centric approach. The dominant rhetoric of the testimony was undoubtedly one of security over peace, and I, being the new arrival to the Peaceful Prevention of Deadly Conflict Program that I am, would have loved to hear more acknowledgment of the latter’s necessity to the former.

 A primary example was that of Clinton’s statement on the importance of the Global Security Contingency Fund – a proposed opportunity to “pool resources and expertise with the Defense Department” – accompanied by no mention of the Complex Crises Fund. While the GSCF ties State Department funding for global crises to that of the Pentagon, the CCF establishes funding specifically for civilian response to conflict. As pragmatic as it seems to emphasize collaboration with the military given our nation’s current occupations (and, as stated by Clinton, current “bureaucratic jurisdictional obstacles”), I can’t help but sigh while wondering at what cost this collaboration comes. Considering how many dollars are already designated for the Pentagon, would pooled funding truly provide further space and capacity for the peaceful prevention of deadly conflict? If the Senate is willing to provide funding for the CCF in its Continuing Resolution (which it thankfully did last week), why wouldn’t the Secretary of State take the opportunity to plug and protect this civilian funding?

 It was thrilling to hear Clinton provide compelling testimony for the State Department’s programs, as well as to hear her emphasize the need for long-term investment beyond emergency relief. And in light of the season’s fiscal focus, it was thrilling to hear her state that “shifting responsibilities from soldiers to civilians actually saves taxpayers a great deal of money.” But as someone who feels that civilian approaches provide a true alternative to military ones, I hope that future testimonies will include an even greater emphasis on the efficacy of civilian peacebuilding and conflict prevention initiatives in their own right.

Libyan no-fly zone would worsen, not improve humanitarian crisis

March 9, 2011

Libya’s humanitarian crisis is of great concern. However, as with Afghanistan and so many other conflicts in the world, there is no military solution. The humanitarian crisis should be handled through aid and relief by expert humanitarian organizations, not with bullets and bombs by military intervention.

Moreover, a n0-fly zone in Libya—whether by the U.N. or U.S.—would not improve the growing humanitarian crisis in the country, nor would it ensure the removal of President Muamar Qaddafi from power.

The U.S. should not intervene militarily for several reasons:

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Hydraulic Fracturing: Making the Headlines in 2011

March 8, 2011

The issue of Hydraulic Fracturing has been quickly gaining attention this year.  A series published last week in the New York Times investigated federal regulation along with the environmental and health risks associated with the controversial practice that has opened up massive reserves of natural gas.  The Times series found that drillers have disposed of waste-water from Hydraulic Fracturing at municipal waste-water plants which are not equipped to filter for radioactive byproducts, such as radium, which have been found to greatly exceed the levels allowed for safe drinking water.

Much of the focus on Fracking, and the recent Times series, could be attributed to the Oscar nomination of Gasland , which documented the effects of natural gas drilling on local residents across the country.  This film has helped raise the profile of the issue, bringing the controversy over Hydraulic Fracturing into the homes of many people who otherwise would not have been exposed. Read more…

FCNL and FMW Welcome Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf

March 1, 2011
DSC_9458

When the proposed Islamic cultural center at Park 51 became the center of a media firestorm this fall, project leader Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf’s faith was tested as never before. In response he chose to wage peace by promoting inter-faith understanding throughout America and the world.

On Sunday David Etheridge, clerk of the Friends Meeting of Washington, and Joe Volk, now the former Executive Secretary of FCNL, welcomed the imam and over sixty individuals of many faiths to the Friends Meeting of Washington (FMW). Quakers from Sandy Spring, Adelphi, Bethesda, Alexandria, Langley Hill, and Stony Run Friends Meetings joined Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Methodists, Unitarian Universalists and others in silent worship.

Imam Feisal spoke out of the silence, and sparked a conversation that gets to the heart of the matter—that our greatest challenge is to bridge the gaps between the peace-loving moderates of all countries and faiths, and the radicals that threaten to divide us.

Read more…