SfP Bulletin December 2008

Full text version of all articles from SfP Bulletin December 2008. A PDF edition is also available.

Note from the President of Science for Peace

The events at the end of 2008, leading to change of leadership in Canada and the United States, bring up thoughts and questions about the requirements of leadership itself. It is clear that the world needs excellent leadership at this point, with human-caused threats of mass extinction from nuclear weapons and climate change. Yet it is very difficult to recall any excellent leaders throughout history. There is the truism “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” There are many recent examples of wholly inadequate leaders, leaders who complied with power but who did not lead, who perhaps aim to undo their own lack of integrity by reversing position when they retire from office. Paul Martin is suddenly a friend of aboriginal peoples in Canada and is trying to save forests in Africa. Jimmy Carter now speaks out about apartheid Israel, enlightened public education, housing for the poor – but as president he devised the deplorable “Carter doctrine” justifying U.S. resource exploitation through military intervention. As Olmert leaves office after expanding settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, he now says that Israel should withdraw from the territories. The list goes on.

The question of leadership is broad, complex, and obviously important. Over the last two centuries, historiography moved from the simplistic “great man” theory to identify other determinants of historical change. These include ecological and economic factors, conflicting ideologies (e.g. capitalism vs communism, the clash of civilizations), technological shifts, character differences (e.g. matriarchy and patriarchy, shame vs guilt cultures). Still, the personal decisions of people in positions of responsibility do have a catalytic effect so it would seem important to explore the psychological characteristics that make for excellent (or inadequate) leadership.

There are many fine critiques of current leaders, and I refer to two recent articles concerning character flaws in powerful people. The first is George Monbiot’s angry article “Lest we Forget” (Weekly Guardian November 11, 2008), about the old men who were responsible for World War I: “Faced, earlier in the century, with the possibilities of peace, the old men of Europe had decided that they would rather kill their children than change their policies.” Monbiot calls it “ephebicide — the wanton mass slaughter of the young by the old.” Monbiot describes the smug and flagrant dishonesty of men who have no capacity for concern for others, but he does not explain it.

In another angry article called “Mandela’s Smile”, Breyten Breytenbach (Harper’s December 2008) writes of Mandela as failed father and grandfather figure and failed comrade.He describes the deplorable state of violence, fear, and extreme poverty in South Africa, the leftover class and economic system unchallenged by the post-apartheid ANC. He writes of Mandela’s kindness and integrity, yet his inability to distinguish between “comradeship and obsequiousness.” He credits Mandela with saving South Africa from civil war but also blames him for not ushering in fundamental change. He defends his own right to demand excellence. “I wish to express my deep affection for you. You are in so many ways like my late father – stubborn to the point of obstinacy, proud, upright, authoritarian, straight, but with deep resources of love and intense loyalty and probably with a sense of the absurd comedy of life as well….[yet] should one, for the sake of worldwide euphoria, because we need to believe in human greatness, avoid sharing one’s confusion and disappointments with you?”

These are but brief extrapolations from these articles but they indicate the psychological side. There is allusion to parenthood, to generational differences. In clinical work, the hallmark of being in the stage of parenthood is the capacity to bear usable guilt and shame – with unwavering constancy, the ability to take on realistic responsibility towards others and to repair mistakes. Breytenbach demands constancy from Mandela, meaning the unwavering attention to and concern for all the people. He is clear that truth and reconciliation are not enough, that it is necessary to not be seduced by power and authority. One must be truly responsible. “We need to remember that we are bastards and forget that we’re obedient citizens. Indeed, that our absolute loyalty lies in the disobedience to power and in our identification with the poor.” Breytenbach outlines the obligation of both citizen and leader to not identify with power. He believes that Mandela can understand his words: “With abiding respect, and because I believe that smile was also sometimes a mocking one….”

Roundtable on Freshwater

Emerging Threats and Urgent Priorities

Continuing program of the Global Issues Project of Science for Peace and Canadian Pugwash

Trinity College, University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
7-9 November 2008

Report by Cameron Harrington, PhD candidate, University of Western Ontario

1. Background

It is difficult to overstate the importance of water. The sustainability of the natural ecosystem and the progress of human civilization depend on proper water management. Natural ecosystems increasingly lack adequate water supplies and are at risk of deteriorating and dying. This lack in turn negatively impacts human populations, who rely on healthy ecosystems for adequate water supplies, food, and the functioning of industry. Billions of people lack access to adequate water and sanitation services. This lack poses serious ethical and political problems for Canada and the world. Freshwater issues cannot be confined to one segment of experience. Rather they should be seen as an integrated whole, impacting all humanity. Thus the participation of Science for Peace and the Canadian Pugwash Group is most apt. The roundtable was organized by a subcommittee of the Global Issues Project with the support of the Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation, Trinity College, University of Toronto, IHTEC, the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, and the Harbinger Foundation. It was also endorsed by the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, Council of Canadians, and Zerofootprint.

The Roundtable addressed contemporary threats and discussed emerging priorities related to a wide range of national and international water issues.

This report represents an attempt to separate the essential elements from the myriad ideas presented and discussed at the Roundtable on Freshwater.

Over 30 scholars, researchers, government officials, and policy analysts met for the Roundtable. The conference was a continuation of previous roundtables held by the Global Issues Project in recent years on forests, and on energy and climate change. It represents again the changing terrain we use to situate emerging global threats and ways to deal with them peacefully and sustainably. Thus, while water was the prevailing focus, issues as disparate as ecological governance, free trade, urbanization, the role of the state, human rights, aboriginal policy, geopolitics, spirituality, and U.S. Presidential politics were discussed. As you can see, and as many participants noted, water is life.

2. Aims and target group

The Eric Fawcett Public Forum on the first evening was the only public part of the whole event and drew public attention to pressing Canadian and international freshwater issues.

The overall aim of the Roundtable was to provide a forum for exchanging thoughts and ideas amongst an array of Canadian and international authorities on water issues. At the outset it was determined that a Freshwater Declaration be collaboratively produced such as could be accepted by the attendees. The Declaration would be circulated widely to policy makers at all levels of government in Canada.

3. Project results

  • The Eric Fawcett Public Forum was widely attended, both by Roundtable participants and the general public. Maude Barlow, President, Council of Canadians, Canada’s foremost water advocate and United Nations Senior Advisor on Water, Aharon Zohar from the Inter-Disciplinary Centre, Herzelia, Carmei Yosef, Israel, and Jennifer McKay, Director, Centre for Comparative Water Policies and Laws, University of South Australia, all gave wide-ranging presentations.

Ms Barlow spoke of water as a moral imperative and a gift that needs constant protection. She emphasized that water should be viewed as a commons and a public trust. Dr Zohar spoke on water problems of the Middle East, as exacerbated by population growth and rising demand per capita. He expressed hope in long-term solutions such as the efficient exploitation of solar energy to treat wastewater for re-use in irrigation, and desalination technologies to treat saltwater and brackish water. Finally, Dr McKay spoke on the danger of water markets as a source of distribution, referencing specifically experiences in Australia.

  • The closed discussions began on Saturday. In total 35 Canadian and international participants attended and provided unique commentary on a wide range of freshwater issues. Bob Sandford, Chair, Canadian Partnership United Nations Water for Life Decade, was unable to be present at the Friday Public Forum and was therefore invited to deliver his keynote address at the beginning of the first session. He warned that, as a consequence of growing populations and increased competition for land and water, humanity will need to make extremely difficult trade-offs on a global scale. The need to provide Nature with the water it needs to perpetuate our life-support system will be in competition with agricultural production. The Saturday sitting examined four broad sub-areas: water governance, water and peace, water security, and water and ecological governance. The sessions featured 16 substantive presentations by panelists. Debate was encouraged by scheduling half of each session for this purpose.
  • A software calculator for the water footprint of individual households was made available.
  • On the Sunday the Roundtable featured a quantitative/qualitative modeling workshop, and a workshop on Foresight, which is the name of an organization utilizing a method of projecting futures realistically by working back from an envisioned future to the present through practicable steps.
  • The next session examined water, energy and security, while the final two sessions of the Roundtable examined the rapporteur’s notes and included discussions on the follow-up proposals to be pursued.
  • The intended Freshwater Declaration was drafted and conditionally accepted by a majority of the participants, pending final drafting. The Freshwater Declaration will be widely disseminated to all parliamentarians in Canada, with the intention of leading to direct and concerted action on the myriad freshwater problems the country experiences.
  • The workshop facilitated new contacts. Many international linkages were established, and the strengthening of national ties between Canadian NGOs, academics, and government environmental scientists was evident.

4. Assessment of activities/programmes

There are no plans for an edited volume of presentations and papers. However, a CD of the sessions’ presentations was distributed to all Roundtable attendees. All papers, powerpoint presentations and background papers will appear on websites of one or more of the sponsors. Below are a few of the most significant substantive issues discussed and conclusions arrived at during the Roundtable:

1. The recognition of people vs. nature: In Australia, the Greater Middle East, Sri Lanka, or the western world, including Canada, humans are reaching the limits of old and current technologies and governance methods in being able to cope with pressing water needs.

(http://www.unesco.org/water/wwap/wwdr/wwdr2/) (http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar-wg2.htm)

2. The distinction between hard and soft paths to water: The soft path to water is defined by four principles:

a. Treat water as a service rather than an end in itself

b. Make ecological sustainability a fundamental criterion

c. Match the quality of water delivered to that needed by the end-use

d. Plan from the desired future back to the present

It was reiterated that water management policies must shift to multidisciplinary soft path approaches rather than continue to rely on unsustainable supply and demand management.

(http://www.waterdsm.org/dsm_sp.htm)

3. The recognition of the importance of water in important geostrategic regions: There was emphasis on Middle East problems, where population growth, growing demand per capita and unequal availability among and within countries lead to particular stresses that impact paths to peace. Solutions encouraged to alleviate these problems include the efficient exploitation of solar energy to treat wastewater, as well as the promise of saltwater desalination. . Sri Lanka provides an example where water was an important element in a situation of active conflict. Security of supply is important worldwide. The very serious water shortage in Australia was shown to be most equitably managed by effective governance. Various regulatory measures were explained.

(http://www.unisa.edu.au/waterpolicylaw/)

4. The recognition that current forms of governance might be self-terminating: It was agreed that unsustainable approaches to water and the environment are likely to lead to an exacerbation of societal stresses that may undo our trust in current forms of democracy.

5. The ongoing importance of the water-energy nexus: There was continued discussion throughout the Roundtable of the intimate link between water use and energy use. It was asserted that a successful and sustainable approach to freshwater must adopt an integrated water-energy management strategy ****

In particular, the B.C. Energy Plan has generally been seen as progressive, though the return of a reliance on hydropower is an important development that needed to be scrutinized. It was suggested that those concerned with water should become more actively involved in energy circles as the two issues seem increasingly tied. (http://www.powi.ca/index_nexus.php)

6. The current status of water as a human right: It was suggested that water for life (i.e. drinking, cleaning) is beyond debate as a fundamental human right; but that not all uses of water should be entrenched in rights. In fact, certain uses of water might best be commodified (for example, industrial cooling), so long as it is not privately priced. In summary, the Roundtable concluded that the terminology public trust was the most appropriate representation.

(http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/rightowater/en/)

7. The recognition of the inherent linkages between the three major contemporary crises – energy, financial, and climate: All three are dependent on governance. We must aim for more than market efficiency and require a new Canadian water ethic that recognizes limits, as well as seeks to reconnect community to nature. This new ethic would also recognize that “governance” extends beyond government and includes new stakeholders such as universities, civil society, and business. The group assembled for the Roundtable is a perfect example. Finally, the extension of governance necessitates the building of a bridge between science and policy. Water can be viewed as the conduit through which we see the integrated natural and social ecosystem.

(http://www.ecojustice.ca/clean-water)

8. Progress on a new Canadian National Water Strategy must be pursued: Doing so will help clarify roles, address gaps in capacity and provide consistency, and ensure effective responses. The CNWS should be built upon principles of integrated watershed management. We should consider the potential for a CNWS to be seen as a model for other countries. There is a need to extend the principles of IWM (Integrated Water Management), which are very strong at the local level, to the provincial and federal levels. It was debated whether IWM can be relied on, as there are examples where it failed (e.g. Israel). (http://www.cwra.org/ResourceDiscussion.aspx#CNWS)

9. Water holds an important spiritual place for humanity: There was wide agreement on this fact; though questions of appropriate water management are not so widely agreed upon. In particular, the role of the aboriginal community’s understanding of water was discussed. A conception of “water custodianship” over “water ownership” was emphasized.

(http://www.cier.ca/protecting-lands-and-water)

10. Qualitative and quantitative modeling systems can play a unique and important role: Different modeling systems provide water advocates and policy makers particular insight into the complex world of water management. Foresight technology may help us and others prepare for the future and interpret the present in ways that create a coherent and functional forward view. Furthermore, these systems may help simplify complex scientific and engineering processes so as to engender understanding among government representatives who lack scientific backgrounds.

(http://zerofootprint.net/)
(http://www.whatiftechnologies.com/)
(http://www.foresightcanada.ca/)

11. There is a pressing requirement that we recognize nature’s water needs: Canadians have tended to undervalue or underestimate instream flows. This tendency has led to many areas of neglect including overallocation, the resurgence of hydropower, and in the realm of watershed equity.

Strategies to rectify this might include greater scientific participation, inside and outside government, the establishment of proactive limits, the creation of flexible institutionalization, and an emphasis on observable progress on the ground. (www.polisproject.org)

12. The 1992 Dublin Principles are an important benchmark in sustainable water management: The Dublin Principles state that

a. Freshwater is a finite and vulnerable resource, essential to life, development and the environment;

b. Water development and management should be based on a participatory approach, involving users, planners, and policy makers at all levels;

c. Women play a central part in the provision, management, and safeguarding of water;

d. Water has an economic value in all its competing uses, and should be recognized as an economic good.

(http://www.inpim.org/files/Documents/DublinStatmt.pdf)

Future work:

  1. Improvements to the draft Freshwater Declaration must be pursued. Unanimous acceptance of this statement is sought from all those who attended the roundtable.
  2. It is urged that this statement be circulated not simply to Federal MPs and Senators but to elected members at all levels of government in Canada, and perhaps to other organizations, and the media — a “blanket approach.”
  3. The creation of a follow-up committee was advocated, and a media coordination strategy to better circulate the ideas presented at the Roundtable to the general public.

5. Conclusion

The project was carried out according to the plans presented by the organizing committee. Feedback from many participants indicates that the expected results were exceeded and were greatly valued because of the new insights gained and establishment of new contacts that would assist and enhance ongoing work of individual participants. [Editor’s note: the follow-up team has now achieved a final version of the Freshwater Declaration that has the approval of all participants.]

Can we create a low-carbon world?

Ed Milliband, Britain’s Minister of Climate Change, said:

“We know we need to act on climate change, but how? As the science becomes clearer, as we increasingly see its effects, not in the future but around us right now, as global emissions continue to rise, countries around the world are looking for new approaches. Each of us can learn from others.

“In Britain we (have) committed ourselves to a low-carbon future. A Climate Change Act, the first of its kind, means that the greenhouse gas emissions must legally be cut by 80 per cent by the middle of the century.

“Because there will always be short-term pressures facing politicians of the day, the Act included a specific recommendation to be guided by the evidence. An independent Committee on Climate change advised us on the 80 percent target using the latest science, UN reports and conversations with experts here at home. It will continue to give advice on each carbon budget on the path to 2050, and do it publicly so governments in the future will have to explain why any recommendations are not accepted.

“But we know governments alone cannot bring about this shift. For companies cutting carbon emissions must become a necessary part of doing business. Reporting on their carbon impact is a start and for large companies we plan to make it mandatory from 2012, but continued improvements will also take pressure. For communities, green groups and faith groups, there is still a need to press for change.

“We know as well that although determination to change must start at home, it cannot end there: we need a global deal.

“The world meets (this month) in Poland and next year in Copenhagen. With countries sharing ideas and inspiration, with governments and communities spurring each other on, I believe we can get a deal, and we can create a low-carbon world.”
(The Star Nov. 27).

Only in Britain, you say? Pity.

Resolutions for the Canadian Peace Alliance AGM

Resolution on Canada’s Membership in NATO:

“Whereas NATO has expanded its original purpose of militarily defending countries in the North Atlantic to the more aggressive ambition of advancing their imperial interests, and principally those of the United States, globally;

Whereas its participation in NATO implicates Canada in military activities that undermine Canada’s role to be seen and to act as a peace-making nation;

Whereas the NATO commitment to the occupation of Afghanistan hampers Canada from extricating itself from a venture which is opposed by most Canadians;

Whereas the proposed expansion of NATO membership to the Ukraine, Georgia, etc increases the danger that Canada will be involved in other NATO conflicts;

Whereas NATO is refusing to abandon its nuclear weapons first-strike policy, thereby threatening a nuclear holocaust, and NATO’s expansion to Russia’s borders is causing Russia to develop new nuclear weapons;

Therefore, be it resolved that the Canadian Peace Alliance petition the Government of Canada to withdraw its membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.”

Resolution Endorsing the Nuclear weapons Convention:

CONCERNED about the rising threats from the proliferation of nuclear weapons to new countries, the potential for terrorists to acquire or produce nuclear weapons, and the maintenance of nuclear weapons and policies to use them by States currently possessing such weapons;

BELIEVING that only way to ensure the prevention of nuclear proliferation and the achievement of global security is to move resolutely towards the complete prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons;

TAKING SERIOUSLY the universal obligation, affirmed by the International Court of Justice, to achieve nuclear disarmament in good faith in all its aspects under strict and effective international control;

In solidarity with members of the Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, we therefore call on the Government of Canada to:

1. Call for multilateral negotiations that would prevent proliferation and achieve nuclear disarmament through a global non-discriminatory treaty – a Nuclear Weapons Convention;

2. Endorse the Model Nuclear Weapons Convention as a guide to the achievement of an actual treaty, and as an exploration of the legal, technical, institutional and political measures that would make possible the abolition of nuclear weapons.”

In Memoriam: Ross Wilcock

Ross was a long time active member of Science for Peace; he had a talent to find those spots on Earth where injustice was done. He was deeply involved in getting first hand information from the conflict in Chechnya to us. The radioactive pollution in Port Hope was the last issue he dealt with before he moved out West to join his family there.

I met Ross for the first time in the 1980s at a Science for Peace Retreat in a resort north of Toronto. At the very beginning we had an in-depth dialogue on fundamental issues facing humanity. These Marathon conversations later happened frequently. The last one went way beyond the closing hours of the public transportation system of the University of British Columbia during the World Peace Forum in 2006. Together with some other night owls we hired a taxi to get Ross into town.

Dr. Arthur Ross Wilcock was born 1940 in Sheffield, England. He died September 25, 2008 in Duncan, British Columbia. A memorial service celebrating his life was held on November 15, 2008 at the Salvation Army Community Church in Woodstock, Ontario. Science for Peace members Phyllis Creighton and Helmut Burkhardt attended.

Dr. Alison Wilcock, his wife spoke a word of welcome, and read from Tolstoy, Ross’ favourite author. His sons Oliver, Rupert, and Duncan told stories, showed slides, and sang songs about Ross the sailor, the musician, the family man, the farmer, and the peace activist.

Announcements

Announcements

The annual meeting of the Canadian Peace Alliance will consider the following resolutions:

The mayors of the Czech Republic and peace activists urge governments to end the nuclear missile defence program in Europe.

Canada abstained from a United Nations vote that passed on de-alerting nuclear weapons.

On December 1 an agreement was signed to stop the use of cluster munitions.

EditorĀ“s Note

The editor reserves the right to choose articles and edit them. Information from the website is not usually repeated as most members keep in contact with:

sfp@physics.utoronto.ca

A sample of our new pamphlet is enclosed. Carry it with you so that you can quickly inform prospective members about our work.

Shirley Farlinger – shrf@sympatico.ca

Book Nook

Saul, John Ralston. A Fair Country: Telling Truths About Canada Viking Canada 2008

Wright, Ronald. What is America? A Short History of the New World Order Alfred A. Knopf 2008

Mazigh, Monia. Hope and Despair: My Struggle to Free my Husband (Maher Arar)

Kempf, Herve. How the Rich are Destroying the Earth

Books recommended by the David Suzuki Foundation:

Glave, James. Almost Green Greystone Books

Nikiforuk, Andrew. Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent Greystone Books

Woody, John G. and Hoffman, Andrew J. Climate Change: What’s Your Business Strategy? McGraw Hill Ryerson.

Managing Without Growth

Peter Victor, Managing Without Growth: Slower by design, Not Disaster (Edward Elgar Publishing, UK 2008)

On 18 November, a remarkable book launch took place in the distillery district of Toronto. The event was very well attended and there were three excellent, informative and inspirational speeches: by Toronto’s Mayor, David Miller, by David Suzuki, and by the author. Peter Victor is Professor of Economics, within Environmental Studies at York University, and is well known to some members of Science for Peace. The publication of this work will vindicate the increasing number of our members who have been voicing the opinion that it is essential we learn to live without economic growth, that is, without increasing throughput of planetary resources. The book is of the greatest importance, because it takes nothing for granted, and proves its case stage by stage, so that the conservatives within the profession of economics will be left no credible escape routes backward into their mythical and self-serving belief in the necessity of growth.

Derek Paul

Science for Peace Bulletin | ISSN 1925-170X (Print) | ISSN 1925-1718 (Online)