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printable versionwar + peace news

Pumpkins for Peace? No! Pumpkins for Food! (Op-Ed)
by fnb-l Sunday October 27, 2002 at 10:08 AM

I've caught scent of a plan to encourage as many Canadians as possible to "carve pumpkins for peace."

Now, if you're talking about carving me a nice big piece of pumpkin pie,
I'm all for it. Carve away, comrade. Count me in on this revolution! But
pumpkins for peace?

Doesn't it strike you as a sad shame that while people are starving, the
affluent are throwing away vast quantities of perfectly good food? If
that's not odd enough in itself, we hear that everyone should take part in
this practice in order to promote peace.

The idea seems to have originated in the US, here's the weblink to the
"Peace Pumpkin Project."

I mean absolutely no disrespect for the good work of the Canadian Peace
Alliance, the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace and the Women's
International League for Peace and Freedom -- who are promoting this idea
in Canada -- but wouldn't a much better idea to have a campaign that
demands "Pumpkins for Food!"

I know it's a radical idea to use pumpkins in this highly unorthodox
manner, but that's my gut instinct on what they should be used for. It's a
tasteful idea that the more youthful types within "Food not Bombs" might
just cook up.

After all, why should we make a mere symbolic gesture when we have a golden
opportunity to make a real contribution? I'm not against symbolism, but we
have to be very careful about the symbols that we identify ourselves with.

Perhaps instead of aborting so many millions of pumpkin pies every
Halloween, North Americans could be encouraged to donate these delicious
fruits to their local food bank. What a novel concept! While dropping off
thios valuable produce at the food bank, pamphlets could be distributed to
the hungry about the rising cost of militarism and the huge waste of money
that is being thrown away by our government to prepare for war and to add
even more weapons technology to our arsenals. There is a growing call for
more money to go to the military. Even the NDP has joined the
chorus. People at soup kitchens across Canada might really appreciate a
little reading material to go with their tasty pumpkin soup.

The slogan could be: "People need food (like pumpkins) not war."

How about a take off on that old protest chant,
"A people, united, will never be defeated":

"A pumpkin, we bite it, it tastes real good when eaten!" (Hmmm... needs
some work.)
"A pumpkin, you bit it, should never be un-eated!"

Ok, ok, I'll keep my day job. Wait a minute, this IS my day job!

Back to pumpkins. Think how many people could be fed if we did this
instead of using them for lanterns. Sure, bringing pumpkins to your local
soup kitchen is still a symbolic gesture. A few pumpkins won't solve the
underlying causes of poverty, but they would helps to alleviate the
symptoms of hunger for a few hours.

However, distributing a brochure to the folks in the soup line is an
opportunity to give some some food for thought about the underlying causes
of poverty, war and environmental destruction. Here's my recipe for the
pamphlet -- make that and orange menu -- add two cups of data on military
spending, two PIE charts, stir in some graphics (maybe that one the
military generals cutting up a pie, that reads: "It'll be a happy day when
the military has to hold a bake sale to raise money." Then add a few
slogans like "Give social programs a bigger piece of the pie" and stir well
in a desk top publishing program. Voila!

Sorry, I'm getting carried away. I know it's always easier to cook up
ideas for campaigns than to actually make them a reality. God knows we all
have enough on our plates already. I'm not actually proposing these ideas
and expecting anyone to actually do any of them. (No one listens to me
anyhow.) I'm really only just throwing all this out there to feed folks
with the notion that the symbolism of our campaigns is really important and
it shouldn't contain contradictory messages. Our symbolism should
compliment not undermine the efforts of other movements. Our campaigns and
symbols should help people to make as many links as possible between peace,
the environment, social justice, economics, and whatever other areas of
discourse we can throw possibly through into the mix.

Aside: have you ever noticed how some people are determined to keep the
food on their plates in nice neat and separate piles? They won't let their
peas touch their other food. This is no less than culinary
apartheid! Personally, I like my food all mixed up together. Translation:
The most nutritious campaigns for the body politic are those that combine
peace (peas) with all the other social change issues.

While I've got your attention, I have another very related pet peeve that I
want to rant about. It has to do with so called "Christmas" trees. I
don't know if this still goes on anywhere but in the past there was a
"Peace Trees" fundraising campaign. I've always had my doubts about the
cultural phenomenon of sacrificing vast tracts of land for Christmas trees.
Besides the lost opportunity costs of keeping land from more practical
uses, like a natural forest for instance, there's also the proble of
burning the huge quantities of truck fuel that are required to get these
trees shipped to market, and the chainsaw fuel required to fell all those
millions of trees every year.

We probably all know that monoculture is a major world problem. It
impoverishes the environment, deprives animals of nice places to live and
stuff they like to eat, and well, it looks really boring too. Then, to top
it all off we go and waste the produce from these monoculture tree farms on
symbolic cultural symbols that have to be carted away once the sacred tree
has had a brief stint in the symbolism business. As soon as the season's
over, out come more trucks, burning even more fuel, carting off all that
dead wood and thereby causing even more eco-problems. It's a loose-loose
situation as far as I can tell. And through this inane process, we are
somehow supposed to think that we are showing the way to a better
world? Sure we can make a few bucks on the deal, but besides hurting the
environment, we may also be hurting our relationships with

I'm very sure that we can find better ways to promote our ideas for the
future than by piggybacking on the destructive practices of the past.

Sorry folks, but that's my politically correct rant for the day.

Happy Halloween!
Richard "Scrooge" Sanders

Coalition to Oppose the Arms Trade (COAT)
(A network of individuals and NGOs across Canada and around the world)
Email: ad207@ncf.ca Web: http://www.ncf.ca/coat

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