Eco-Peace: Reimagining the Possibility

Part of our work as peace­mak­ers is to prop­er­ly sit­u­ate our­selves in a web of life. We are crea­tures in a vast, bril­liant and com­plex ecosys­tem called not to dom­i­nate, but to live with in har­mo­nious rela­tion­ship. Chil­dren often seem nat­u­ral­ly drawn to ani­mals and nature, with an inher­ent abil­i­ty to walk gen­tly on the green earth. As they grow, there are many won­der­ful books to nur­ture their instincts toward eco­log­i­cal peace. One of these books is Ada’s Vio­lin.

Ada's Violin

Ada is a small girl who loves the sound of the vio­lin. She lives in a town in Paraguay that hous­es a large land­fill. Her grand­moth­er is a recy­cler who digs through the garbage look­ing for card­board and alu­minum to turn in for mon­ey. Ada’s music teacher, Señor Chavez, teach­es the kids of the town to turn dis­card­ed items into instru­ments. Water pipes become flutes and pack­ing crates become gui­tars. Ada’s vio­lin is made out of an old paint can, an alu­minum back­ing tray, a fork and pieces of wood­en crates. Worth­less items to some become invalu­able to her.

Ada’s music class prac­tices out­side and after months of rehearsal, they become the recy­cled orches­tra. Their music lifts the spir­its of the folks in the town. Ada becomes first vio­lin at age twelve, and even­tu­al­ly they trav­el to oth­er cities and coun­tries to per­form. Ada learns to look at trash and hear music. In reimag­in­ing dis­card­ed items as tools to cre­ate beau­ty, she finds dig­ni­ty in herself.

Recycling as an Act of Peace

Ellie: My five-year-old son told us he want­ed to play the vio­lin when he was three. He’d sit and lis­ten to clas­si­cal music and could pick the sound of the vio­lin out at that ten­der age. When he was still ask­ing to start vio­lin lessons at age four, we said yes. Some­times the instru­ment choos­es you. Thanks to books like Ada’s Vio­lin, he is also very con­cerned about the envi­ron­ment. The oth­er day he told me he loves the world and wants to help heal it. He went on, “I know I can do a lot as a kid to be eco, but when I am an adult, I think I want to be gov­er­nor so I can make sure our rules pro­tect Earth.”

When we are out, my son picks up any trash he sees and brings it home. Although it would be easy for me to recy­cle or prop­er­ly dis­pose of these items and com­mend him for pick­ing up lit­ter, I encour­age him to imag­ine how we can use them for some­thing else. Look­ing at an object a sec­ond time with fresh eyes sup­ports the envi­ron­ment. As crea­tures, learn­ing to live in peace with nature is para­mount. The reimag­in­ing also engages a mus­cle nec­es­sary for oth­er peace work. To build a more beau­ti­ful soci­ety, we have to be able to imag­ine things not as they are, but as they could be. Chil­dren like Ada inspire us to look again. Where some see trash there is music if we choose to look and lis­ten with our hearts wide open.

Digging Deeper

If you’d like to learn more about Ada and her vio­lin, watch the 60 Min­utes bit on Ada’s Recy­cled Orches­tra.

One Plastic BagOne Plas­tic Bag: Isatou Ceesay and The Recy­cling Women of the Gam­bia by Miran­da Paul and illus­trat­ed by Eliz­a­beth Zunon is anoth­er inspir­ing pic­ture book that can spark the imag­i­na­tions of young peo­ple who want to heal the earth. In Isatou’s town, the goats were start­ing to eat the lit­tered plas­tic bags and get sick. She col­lect­ed and cleaned plas­tic bags, cut them into strips, turned them into yarn, and made purs­es out of them to sell in the vil­lage. It is anoth­er exam­ple of turn­ing dan­ger­ous trash into some­thing use­ful, so every­one wins! With old­er kids, try it your­self! Col­lect plas­tic bags and watch this video to learn how to turn plas­tic bags into bed mats! Make bed mats out of used plas­tic bags.

When was a time you reimag­ined trash as trea­sure? Some­times it just takes a lit­tle prac­tice to look at thing with new eyes. Try a few of these with your fam­i­ly or stu­dents: “20 Ideas to Turn Trash into Trea­sure.”

Lingering Question

When you think of the world not as it is but as it could be, what do you see? Ask the chil­dren in your life what their vision for a peace­ful world is and help them take steps toward ush­er­ing their re-imag­ined world into reality.


For each Peace-olo­gy post, Caren and Ellie part­ner to learn and explore the mean­ing of peace by talk­ing and lis­ten­ing with each oth­er. If you’d like to share your ideas about peace, books, and chil­dren, please share your com­ments here, or vis­it our websites.

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