Academic symposia are usually perceived as informed discussion of timely issues. With luck and planning, symposia provide audiences with richly informed expert opinions, and sometimes, mind-blowing insights.
Symposia are lesser known as a call to action. For University of Idaho student Austin Warren, the 2009 Borah Symposium was just that.
“The Borah Symposium opened my eyes to the fact that peace can be promoted through numerous different avenues,” says Warren. “Our subject, ‘Building Health, Building Peace,’ taught me the lesson that proper health care, and healthy populations, are necessary conditions for peace.”
Warren served as a moderator for the symposium’s panel discussion, where he moved among distinguished scholars Marie-Therese Neuilly, Jose R. Teruel and John Hassel.
He thoroughly researched his role beforehand and concluded, “the best discussions provoke deep thinking by examining their subject from many perspectives, and by striking a balance between different experts’ opinions.”
As a moderator, Warren learned the importance of creating the civil atmosphere that fosters thoughtful debate – another skill vital to achieving peace.
He also retained the lessons Borah speaker taught: that maintaining the health of the planet, and the people who live on it, is essential to achieving peace. He soon found an opportunity to promote peace by promoting health.
In 2010, during a semester abroad in Germany, Warren connected with the NGO, Plant-for-the-Planet. PFTP is supported by the U.N. Environmental Programme and by Nobel Peace Laureate Wangari Maathai. It is a movement by young people around the globe to promote awareness about climate change, and its impact on environmental and human health.
In May 2010, Warren began translating the PFTP’s declaration of principles, a book titled, “Tree by Tree,” from German to English. Through the translation, he hopes to help spread PFTP’s message globally. One PFTP goal is to plant at least 1 million trees in every country on earth. In Germany, that goal already has been achieved.
“The book’s aim is to inspire and empower an entire generation to halt global climate change,” says Warren. “It was the most challenging and fulfilling piece of writing I have ever put on paper.”
A work in progress, the translation is Warren’s own peace initiative.
“I truly believe the 21st century will be defined by how we as a global society adapt to our environment,” Warren says. “And I believe that if we adapt quickly and sustainably enough, the 21st century will be much more peaceful than the one that came before it.”