by Mary Popeo
English Programs & Public Relations Director
Greetings, all you conscious activists!
My name is Mary and I am honored to have the opportunity to correspond with you all.
A Boston native with a background in anti-nuclear activism, I am now working at Peace Culture Village (PCV), a non-profit organization (NPO), international eco-village and peace training camp in rural Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan. The diverse and committed group of people living on PCV campus run an organic farm, strive to be completely self sufficient in energy and food, and facilitate monthly workshops in conflict resolution, sustainable living, organic agriculture, permaculture, and more.
PCV is the vision of Steven Leeper, the former chairman of the Hiroshima Peace Culture Foundation, which runs the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and is the peace and international relations arm of Hiroshima City. Although the devastating consequences of war are visible around the world, there is little discussion (even in Hiroshima) of how human hearts, minds, conversations, and social/economic/political systems have to change if we hope to create a culture of peace. PCV is working to fill this gap by providing hands-on, skills-based training to promote peace with others, peace with nature, and peace with self.
When I lived in Boston, I volunteered as an Action Corps leader for Global Zero, an international youth led movement to abolish nuclear weapons. As an Action Corps leader, I led demonstrations, collected petitions, lobbied Congress and UN Missions, and participated in guerilla art stunts. What an incredible experience it was!
However, I soon found myself at a crossroads. I am not a convincing person. In fact, I am easily convinced. When attempting to convince others of the illegality or inhumanity of nuclear weapons, I would instead find myself listening to, and finally being tempted by nuanced views that complicated my narrative. In the end, I decided I was more suited for a style of peace activism focusing on mutual understanding and conflict resolution. PCV was my opportunity to explore this route.
At PCV, we have people of all types: rich and poor, religious and atheist, liberal and conservative. Although we certainly have conflicts amongst ourselves, because we are all committed to realizing peace culture, we don’t give up and continue to work together. In fact, I’ve found living with people I don’t like to be the most valuable and illuminating part of my peace culture training.
Working with others and the earth to produce food and energy is an important component of peace culture. Farming gives us ample opportunity to struggle with problems and figure out, as a group, how to solve them. When we work together to grow food, keep warm, and stay entertained, we realize our reliance on one another and, despite seemingly insurmountable differences and conflicts, are forced to cooperate. At PCV, farming is itself a conflict resolution method.
Don’t get me wrong – living sustainably is HARD! I live in a traditional Japanese farmhouse, where there is no insulation and our main source of heat is one wood-burning stove. Our shower is heated with solar power, and our bathtub with wood. We use only organic bath products, since the water we shower with goes directly into our fields. Compared to life in Boston, PCV life can often be difficult, inconvenient and uncomfortable.
However, all of these things are outweighed by the immense fulfillment that comes with making my own food, living in a community that grows together and relies on each other, getting my hands dirty in the soil, and rediscovering my connection to the Earth.
Well, I have rambled on for long enough. If you ever find yourself in Hiroshima, please do stop by! You can stay updated on the goings-on at PCV by following our Facebook page or stopping by our website:
Sending good brainwaves your way from Hiroshima!