Saturday, December 05, 2015

Sustainability Needs Wichita- a middle sized city- the Peace & Social Justice Center Annual Meeting

By SJ Otto
Wichita has its place in the struggle for becoming a sustainable community in the US, according to Dr. Russell Arden Fox, the speaker at the Peace & Social Justice Center Annual Dinner & Meeting this last Friday night. Fox spoke to more than 60 people at the event, which included a vegetarian dinner and a business meeting.
"Sustainability needs places in the middle," Fox said. "As you see of New York City we are not them. We are in the middle."
The basic theme of Fox's speech was that Wichita, as a middle sized city, gives it some advantages over both small towns and mega cities such as New York.
"If you ask people how they see Wichita they like to tell you it is like a small town," Fox said. "But it is a large city of about 400,000 in the city limits."
Fox also said there are a lot of small farms that can produce food locally. He said that the local production of food here contribute to a more sustainable economy. New York and larger cities don't have the advantage of small farm production and most agriculture is too far away from the urban centers to be as accessible as they are in Wichita and similar sized cities.
He pointed out that we have farmers markets and people can get directly involved in the local food economy. He said there is a huge amount of urban farming in and around Wichita.
Fox discussed the negative views people have of Wichita here. They see the town as conservative, and place were people avoid risks. He added there is a fear of change here. He also noted that people want the advantages the bigger cities can provide that we can't get here.
"Why doesn't Beyoncé play here," Fox said, as an example of such disadvantages.
Other issues he brought up were the attempts by people to move away to the suburbs to create nature and space for them to live in, but the homes are too expensive for most people and the distance people move to avoid the urban environment puts a strain on city services.
During the meeting, Peace & Social Justice Center President Pat Cameron listed some of the major accomplishments of the center this year. They include;

  • Actions taken against gun violence. This includes efforts to stop the Republican efforts to liberalize gun laws. The center has had a group of people trying to push for restrictions on the sales and use of guns in Kansas
  • Programs to highlight the struggles of the Palestinian people. This has included discussions, films and speakers.
  • Taking part in protesting the US Army School of the Americas, in Fort Benning, near Columbus, Georgia. This school has been a training ground for Latin American military suppression against popular political movements in that part of the world. The school is known by some of us as "the School of Assassins."
  • The center has been involved in efforts to stop the privatization of Wichita's water system. Kansas Politicians have pushed for privatization of many of the state's services. The results have not been good and they tend to strip citizens of their control over our public programs and utilities. An example is KanCare, the privatization of Kansas Medicaid. The three private insurance companies that administer the Kansas Medicaid program under KanCare lost $72.6 million in the first half of 2014, after losing $110 million in 2013. 
About 60 people attended the Peace & Social Justice Center - Annual meeting.

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