Saturday, February 18, 2012

Visualizing the Effects of Peace

Source: Vision of Humanity
If we ask the question, “Which has more of an impact on society, peace or conflict, greed or giving, or hope or fear?”, we would no doubt see philosophical discussions on both sides of the debate. No matter which side of the argument, continual disruptions have taken a toll on the overall felling of peacefulness around the world. So much so, that the Protester was chosen as Time magazine's person of the year 2011. With the current state of world affairs, including the violence surrounding protests to topple governments, riots over economic austerity measures, and demands by occupiers on Wall Street, the constant global turmoil brings the need for peace front and center as something we should talk about with our students.

Conflict costs in human relations and taxes the economy at all levels. Infographic videos like the ones in this post from the Vision of Humanity can be used with students to emphasize the causes of conflict and their financial impact on the global marketplace. Numbers talk, and the costs to people, communities, and governments is enormous. The mission of the Vision of Humanity is to raise "the world’s attention and awareness around the importance of peace to humanity’s survival in the 21st century."

The 2011 Global Peace Index by the Vision of Humanity provides an overview of the impact of violence and how it ultimately takes a toll on the overall well-being of society, impeding economic growth.

Last year, the Vision of Humanity also launched its inaugural study, called the United States Peace Index, created with the Institute for Economics and Peace. This was the first time a ranking was used to gauge each state based on its level of peace. It used five key indicators, including homicides, violent crimes, people in prisons, number of police officers, and access to small arms, to see how each state fared based on these criteria. The resulting data was reproduced in the U.S. Peace Index: Changes in Peacefulness 1991-2009 and the U.S. Peace Index - 2011 charts. Each of these downloadable maps would help students visualize the changes in peacefulness across the United States. Pair this with current events and the economic downturn by region to open discussions about unemployment in America as it relates to geographic location.

Source: United States Peace Index
Source: United States Peace Index
Peacefulness has a direct impact on the economy on multiple levels. This is a powerful teaching point. If we want the world to be a better place, we need to help students see the full impact of how unrest, violence, and instability affect it. In our history curricula from the ancient world to modern day, we talk about the "golden age" of civilizations. It takes peace and prosperity to achieve cultural achievements. Without the stability of governments and the economics of good trade, few advances can be made in other areas. The United States Peace Index video brings home this point using visuals, typography, and music to present a picture of how peacefulness and economic growth go hand-in-hand.

What tips the scale toward peacefulness depends on education, health and economic opportunity. The more effective our delivery in conveying the message of peace with our students, the better chance of helping them understand the long term costs of conflict. The positive approach to talking about the issues in the video, as well as its clear message, make it a good instructional tool to use, especially with younger students.

Source: Vision of Humanity
The Vision of Humanity's newest report for 20ll measures Peace in the Media.  It looks at how conflicts drive media coverage and how media coverage shapes conflicts. The report compares data from the Global Peace Index from the Institute for Economics & Peace with the database of global media from Media Tenor. The report looked at multiple variables, including media coverage of peace and conflict, or the lack of it. Perhaps the most important finding was that events that help promote peace and stability were deficient in countries suffering the most from conflict. To the contrary, countries with the most strife received far more coverage than those that achieved greater peacefulness. So what lessons can we glean from this? For one, the opportunistic need for media to make headlines and improve ratings is a perfect segue way into integrating media literacy and whether there is a balance in news coverage.

Students need to look closely at media reports surrounding peace and conflict. We need to provide a venue for an open dialogue for discussing the impact of peacefulness using engaging visualizations. Both the Vision of Humanity and Institute for Economics and Peace offer a wealth of information for teachers to make students better informed about the global impact on society if we continue in a world too focused on conflict.

Source: Institute for Economics & Peace


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