What does peace have to do with the Well-being of Future Generations Act?
What do we mean, when we talk about Wales and peace and what does peace have to do with the Well-being of Future Generations Act?
Last year, I was fortunate enough last year to meet Satish Kumar, long-time peace activist and former editor of Resurgence magazine.
Satish and his friend embarked on an 8000-mile peace pilgrimage in the 1960’s, walking from India to the nuclear capitals of the world: London, Paris, Washington and Moscow to deliver a humble cup of peace tea. He believed that before pressing the nuclear button, world leaders should first sit down with each other over a cup of tea.
For Satish, the journey for him became as important as the destination, because the miles and miles they walked led him to think long and hard about the connection that people had with the planet and how reliant on each other they were. About the connection between our ecology and economy.
In his magazine Resurgence he has written extensively about how we’ve lost our way and how we’ve allowed economy to take precedence over ecology. He points out, that the words ‘ecology’ and ‘economy’ derives from the same Greek root, ‘oikos’. Which means home.
Interestingly, ‘logos’ in ecology, means knowledge, and ‘nomos’, from economy, means management of the home. So: knowledge of our home and management of our home – quite a way away from what we think of now when we talk ecology and economy.
Thinking about the origins of these words and their interconnections, how have we slipped so far from these meanings? That inherent link between knowing what makes us happy and healthy human beings, and that knowledge of the home – the planet that we live on.
We only have to look at the rising wealth gap between the world’s richest billionaires and some of those we all passed on the streets outside here in Cardiff today, to recognise that economy within our current 21st century discourse could not be further from that intrinsic relationship between us as humans and the world around us.
And the things that we perhaps don’t even recognise – that if you live in a more impoverished area you are more likely to also be living with unacceptable levels of air pollution and have less access to nature and quality fresh food.
Satish argues, that without a thorough knowledge of our home, we simply cannot manage it –ecology must come first, before the economy. Knowledge, before management.
We know that the way we’ve always done things, and the way our society has valued prosperity has not gone hand in hand with peace. The same values driving this ideal are the same values fuelling our climate crisis, a mental health epidemic and disconnected fragments of society unable to connect with each other.
We see here, how our unsustainable, insatiable appetite for growth is at odds with everything Satish talks about in his pilgrimage for peace. It is against everything that we’re trying to do here in Wales, with the Well-being of Future Generations Act.
We see that sustainable development and peace are inherently linked. The UN have said that climate change is likely to be the biggest displacer of people over the next few decades. Natural resources will be what wars are fought over as they deplete further.
Whilst we may not have a goal of a ‘more peaceful Wales’, within the seven well-being goals of the legislation. If we do not achieve the seven goals, we will inevitably be without peace.
Without: a more prosperous Wales, a resilient Wales, a healthier Wales, a more equal Wales, a Wales of cohesive communities, a Wales of vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language, and a Wales which is globally responsible, peace for Wales and the rest of the world is out of the question.
That is what I believe is a strength of the Well-being of Future Generations Act. The recognition that all aspects of our life are integrated and inter-related.
Without a stable, safe and secure household, a child cannot fully feel at peace. Wales might be considered a peaceful nation, but unfortunately, we know that incidence of domestic violence, child abuse and neglect can be all too common. For some of our most vulnerable children and young people, growing up in a peaceful home will never be their reality.
Work done by Public Health Wales show that those who grow up in households where there is domestic abuse, drug-use, or incarceration, incidents known as ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences’ or ACEs, are more likely to develop health-harming behaviours. These patterns of behaviour become cyclical. The cycles of violence become intergenerational.
Peace isn’t just about the all-consuming, war and nuclear disarmament. It’s about all aspects of our lives. To bring about peace, as many of the greatest advocates for anti-violence have written, one must start with the self.
Those able to make peace with themselves are more likely to inspire peace between others; and the more people make those connections, the more we are likely to improve all aspects of our well-being here in Wales; economically, environmentally, culturally and socially.
What we’re doing with the Well-being of Future Generations Act is calling on our public sector to make those connections. To realise that a child missing school, acting out, or getting into trouble with the police, is likely to have issues at home. And if that’s the case, we must be intervening and preventing earlier.
The more that we’re able to make those connections, drive public services that respond to the needs of people and strive to improve their well-being, the more we can achieve those seven well-being goals, and act as a beacon of inspiration for other countries.
Because what you see with peace movements; with people who make a stand, to do something different, is that if enough people do it, it becomes a movement.
And that is what I think the Well-being of Future Generations Act can inspire, a movement of change. A movement towards kindness, empathy, and well-being. A movement towards peace.