Category SfP Bulletin April 1994

President's Report on 5 March Meeting

The 5 March has come and gone. Forty participants came and lent their ideas to this fascinating meeting. The open space session disclosed at least fifteen different foci of interest across the widest range of topics; these led to about fifteen workshops spread throughout the day — three consecutive sets of five in parallel.

We emerged from these with the new knowledge that we have four active working groups, only one of which is listed in our current brochure. The groups now active are on Ethical Considerations in Science and Scholarship; United Nations Reform; the Ozone Layer and Global Climate; and Scientific Cooperation with Cuba. In addition the former Superordinate Project is still active in the sense that funds are still being sought for the LET System study. Also, Eric Fawcett is since reactivating the working group on Militarism and the Environment. A clear outcome of the meeting on 5 March is that Science for Peace has shifted its interest very largely from the narrower arms control focus that it had in the 1980s to broader concerns; peace, as most of us have now realized, includes justice and the environment

The meeting also confirmed the interest of many members in continuing to publish in Peace Magazine. General satisfaction has been expressed by some members of SIP with the quality of the magazine and the eight pages per issue allocated to Science for Peace. However, there is room for more feedback here.

The 5 March workshop on finances and modus operandi led to no consensus, but a fundraising campaign is underway right now. If you receive the appeal to contribute monthly to Science for Peace you may rest assured that the funds really are necessary. If you do not receive the appeal, contribute anyway. The other workshop reports have been edited by Margot Mandy and are available from the SIP office on request, and by email.

Science for Peace as a continuing influence

It was stated very strongly by Dominick Jenkins at the 5 March meeting that Science for Peace has a unique university role in remembering Hiroshima and keeping the nuclear arms race in focus, thus underscoring fundamental problems of science and society — most recently the globalization of the economy and with attendant marginalization of people. The future of SIP depends on its being able to relay -a critical awareness of those fundamental problems to a new generation of scientists. Failure to address and oppose the latest forces, particularly those of fear induced by the current market forces — that lead to student and faculty preoccupation with grades and career — will doom SIP to decline by attrition. The full version of Dominick’s statement is available from the Science for Peace office in the workshop reports. It should be discussed widely, across the campuses of Canada, and elsewhere!

Change of name

Three workshops discussed a change of name for SfP. The fact that this subject came up so often in a single day prompted a discussion at the 19 March Board meeting and a decision to bring it up again at the Annual General Meeting. Against changing our name are those who think of Peace as a highly appropriate word and those who feel we have so long been known by that name it might be unwise to change. In favour of changing are numerous of the younger members who feel that Peace is often a misunderstood word, one that to many people means less than the portmanteau of meanings understood within the peace movement itself; to attract new blood SfP would have to change its name.

From the Editor

When Science for Peace was founded in 1981 the threat of a general nuclear war seemed very real. This threat has now receded, but it would be foolish to suppose that it has disappeared. The disintegration of the Soviet Union has actually increased the number of sovereign states in possession of nuclear weapons, and several other countries now possess the technology to produce these weapons, some of whom will probably do so. At the same time the seemingly endless tragedy in the Balkans, and the horrible events occurring in Rwanda even as I write, make it abundantly clear that war is a hideous business even when waged with the simplest weapons.

Furthermore most people would consider peace in the truest sense to be not simply the absence of war but a state of security, prosperity and happiness throughout the world. If this is ever to be attained it will be necessary to take into account many aspects of the relationships between nations, not simply armed conflict. It will also require careful consideration of a wide range of economic, social and environmental questions both within individual counties and on a global scale. We believe that Science for Peace has a very significant role to play in this. Our membership includes specialists in a wide range of scientific disciplines so we are in a position to provide expert opinion and informed advice to the public and the government on many of the urgent questions of our time.

Unfortunately our resources are meagre. By the end of last year our liquid assets were exhausted. Contributions from members are absolutely vital if we are even to maintain an office, let alone support the various projects that we would like undertake. If you have not yet paid your membership dues, we implore you to do so without further delay. It would also help us a great deal if you could bring Science for Peace to the attention of your friends, colleagues and students and suggest that they might like to join us.

May spring be a time of hope for us all.

New Publications Director

It gives us the utmost pleasure to announce the appointment of Veronica Dahl as Publications Director. Veronica brings appropriate and useful skills and experience to the job. We wish her well and offer our support.

Enquiries, and typescripts and diskettes of new books submitted for publication should be sent to Veronica at:

Computer Science Department
Simon Fraser University
Burnaby, BC V5A 1S6
tel (604) 291-3372
fax (604) 291-3045

Working Group on Cooperation with Cuban Science

Science for Peace has established a Working Group on cooperation with Cuban Science. A noticeable amount of cooperative activity between Canadian and Cuban scientists already exists, so far on an ad hoc basis. Cuban scientists and students of science have visited and worked in Canada, chiefly in biological and medical sciences (so far as Science for Peace knows), but also in several other fields of the natural and social sciences. Canadian counterparts have done the same in Cuba and attended professional conferences there. The Royal Society of Canada sent an official delegate to the recent celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Cuban Academy of Sciences.

Science for Peace believes that cooperation among scientists and their students benefits both the growth of science and the cause of peace.

Continuing intense US efforts to isolate Cuba extend to science. E.g., the US forbade its mathematicians to participate in internationally sponsored conferences held in Havana in 1987 and 1993, except for a few “fully hosted”. Only recently, the US refused or delayed visas to internationally employed Cuban scientists invited to conferences in the US.

The (US) National Academy of Sciences, the American Mathematical Society and the relevant committees of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the Royal Society of Canada, along with various international bodies, appealed unsuccessfully to the US authorities to comply with the policy of free circulation of scientists. They are continuing their efforts to have the US implement this policy, as formulated by the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU) to which both the US and Canada adhere.

Science for Peace regards efforts to isolate the Cuban scientific community as damaging to science, both in spirit and practice, and dangerous to peace.

Consequently it has established this Working Group whose initial members are Lee Lorch (coordinator), Bob Baxter and Derek Paul. They ask you to send your comments, suggestions — and offers to help — to the Science for Peace Office.

Membership Secretary

We issue yet another call for a volunteer, preferably in the Toronto area, to serve as membership secretary. This not too onerous task is one of the absolutely vital ones that keeps Science for Peace afloat, and which does not require you to be a scientist. So why not volunteer now, before someone else beats you to it?

Agreement with Dundurn Press

We have just concluded an agreement with Dundurn Press to produce books for publication by Science for Peace. Under the agreement Dundurn will promote and market all of our previous titles in print that were co-published with Samuel Stevens as well as new books produced by Dundurn for us. The new arrangement will provide the essential promotion that our publications committee was never able to provide.

Working Group on Ozone and Climate Change (WGOCC)

It was proposed at the March 5 meeting that SfP start a working-group on these issues. SfP invites you to join this group.

Most people believe that government and industry have responded adequately to the problem of ozone depletion. However, what has actually happened is that industry has co-opted governments in both regulatory policy, and more recently in scientific research. While the media does not report on the issue because of its complexity, such groups as Greenpeace International and Friends of the Earth have been producing extremely sophisticated critiques and alternatives for several years.

In the atmosphere society has found, quite accidentally, what a Wall Street takeover specialist would call a “highly leveraged situation”. The temperature of the earth’s surface is determined by the composition of the air, but the parts that make the greatest difference are not the major components, but rather a few “trace” constituents. Due to the ozone hole, we have already lost 12% of Antarctic phytoplankton (Weathernetwork, mid-March 1994) which act as a major carbon sink and cloud-cover source. The Arctic tundra has recently changed from being a net carbon sink, to being a source estimated with one and a half the value of Canada’s anthropogenic CO2 emissions. (Nature 361, 520-523).

And all models show that while the surface temperature of the earth will rise, the stratosphere will get much colder. Lower stratospheric temperatures are important to accelerated ozone depletion. Ozone depletion and green-house warming are now tightly coupled, and we must search for realistic courses of action that will avoid pushing us into a far less than desirable future.

Most recent CFC consumption figures show Article 5 (third-world) countries of the Montreal Protocol averaging a 54% increase over 1986 baseline rates. In 1993/1994, Canadians spent $440 per capita on the military and 50 cents per capita on all ozone-layer research and regulation at home and abroad.

Science for Peace is in a unique position to analyze and disseminate a better alternative vision. If the Working Group can recruit members more broadly from universities and the Canadian Stratospheric ozone research community, then we may play a significant role in public policy-making.

Anyone interested in joining WGOCC may contact Peter Shepherd through the Science for Peace office.

World Security: the New Challenge

This book by members of the Canadian Pugwash group will appear in a few weeks. It is a second collaboration between SW and Pugwash. It brings together major concerns for the future of planet Earth between now and the year 2030, from traditional security to economic justice and environmental sustainability. It is also the first title in our new Dundurn series — in collaboration with Dundurn Press.

The World Court Project on the legality of use of nuclear weapons.

The International Court of Justice has invited the Canadian Government to submit a brief on the subject of the legality of nuclear weapons, by 10 June 1994.

Canadian Physicians against Nuclear War, Lawyers for Social Responsibility and six other Canadian nongovernmental groups including Science for Peace, have *been supporting this international project to bring the matter of legality of use of nuclear weapons before the International Court. The objective, to establish that use of nuclear weapons would be illegal under existing treaties and conventions that govern the conduct of war, should set the stage for a reduction in the proliferation of nuclear weapon states, and will help greatly, it is felt, in applying pressure to the nuclear states to reduce and eliminate their nuclear arms. In particular, the air could be cleared for a better understanding of the goals of the Non-Proliferation Treaty which comes up for renewal in 1995. Needed are: A commitment on the part of nuclear weapon states to eliminate their nuclear arms according to a reasonable timetable; firm plans for the disposal of weapons-grade materials; and the placement of all such materials under international control.

None of this is new. In the 1940s already, plans to place fissile materials under international control were put forward, notwithstanding the hopelessness of the situation at that time, and the weaknesses of the proposals themselves. Today however the World Court Project, by examining the legality of use of nuclear weapons, may assist in by putting another nail in the coffin of these monstrous weapons of death.

Alan Phillips of CPPNW, and board members of Science for Peace, would have you write your Member of Parliament in Ottawa asking his or her support. What our MPs need to do is to have the Government go ahead with the requested Brief.

Here is a sample letter which Dr. Phillips has written to his member. We need scarcely say that this is a example, not a model to be slavishly followed.

Ms. Beth Phinnie, M.P. House of Commons Ottawa, ON. K1A 0A6

As a member of Parliamentarians for Global Action, I am sure you have been kept up to date on developments in the World Court Project.

I am writing to ask you to use your influence in the House of Commons and the Liberal Party, to urge the Government to accept the invitation of the Court to submit a Brief before 10 June. Naturally we hope the Canadian Brief will argue that any use of nuclear weapons is illegal under the existing treaties and Conventions that govern the conduct of war. A point I would emphasize is that a judgement by the Court that nuclear weapons could ever be leaal would make it most unlikely that the present non-nuclear nations of the world could agree to extend the Non-Proliferation Treaty when it comes up for review next year. If Canada does not submit a brief, it will appear that the Canadian Government does not care.

If you would like me to clarify any matter concerning the progress of the World Court Project to date, I shall be glad to do so.

Yours sincerely,

Alan Phillips, M.D.

Letter to the Editor

As a concerned member of Science for Peace I am writing to provoke some (more) thought about our “association with one another.” I have chosen these words as it has been of growing concern to me that in recent months we may have forgotten some meaning in the word peace when we talk about Science for Peace.

In recent meetings of the Board and at the March 5th meeting there has been some discussion about the future of SfP. It is my observation that there are two main areas of thought about what areas of focus our organization should have: to remain strictly dedicated to the goal of disarmament or to expand into such areas as human rights, the environment and development. My personal views are mixed. I have seen through my limited exposure at the U.N. that those NGOs that are the most successful are the ones who limit their attention to a restricted set Jot. goals. On the other hand, I feel that the members of this organization should feel free to pursue their personal interests, related to peace, as is done in the Working Groups. Regardless of what the final outcome will be I would hope that we will set a range of short, medium and long range goals and work towards them. One of those goals should be restoring financial health to the organization. However, in addition to these goals, I think we need to think about our working relationships with each other.

How much recognition do we give to each other? In the past few years I have seen many people working long hours to contribute to our organization without much in the way of recognition. This year I have watched Derek put in many, many hours as our President and I’m afraid that the only appreciation that he will get is to be asked to work many more in the future. As a peace organization I think that we must place more emphasis on our fellow members.

It strikes me, in a time when there is just as much concern about the state of the world’s affairs as during the-cold war, that peace organizations are having such a difficult time. Perhaps, part of the reason is that the government and the media only talk about the negatives. In the last election I heard much talk of the poor shape of our economy, rather than praising the fact that we are a well-educated, rich society drawing strengths from many different cultures. I know that I would be much more inclined to go out and part with my money, thus stimulating the economy, if I were feeling good about my life and those around me than if I’m convinced that the economy, is about to collapse and the country about to break up.

What does this have to do with Science for Peace? I believe it is time for us to recognize our accomplishments, and our friendships, and not just the perceived confusion about our future. I think that we must make it a priority to take a minute and call those members that you haven’t spoken to in a while: to ask how they are doing and let them know what you’ve been up to. I believe that a peace organization should be concerned about its members and its relationships, otherwise it doesn’t understand the whole meaning of peace.

In the last two and a half years I have had the privilege to work with many individuals: Derek, Eric, Susan, Phyllis, John, Jim, Walter, Alan, Bobbie, Terry, Jean, …. I want to extend my appreciation for the work that you’ve done and for your friendship.

Tom Davis

“I believe, with Simone Weil, that the true definition of science is the study of the beauty of the world. The results of science are in fact the great art forms of this century.”

G. Evelyn Hutchinson

Toronto Chapter News

The Toronto Chapter, as part of our attempt to redesign our programme of activities to match the changed realities of the ´90s and the interests of the current generation, has had two meetings involving both members and other interested persons. The first of these took place on 8 February. The following are notes on the 12 April 1994 meeting at which 21 people attended.

The previous meeting, 8 February, saw Science for Peace’s directions being characterized by:

  • The environment is a peace issue.
  • Science for Peace should be stimulating the public to think about the role of science in society — how do we do that?
  • The Science for Peace document “Taking Stock” filled a gap — what more can we produce of this sort of document?
  • We should raise our profile on campus.
  • How do we organize ourselves to be effective?

The meeting proposed a number of ideas around which to develop programmes. These included:

  • Artificial intelligence — critical work investigating and explaining to the public the social dangers inherent in the computerization of human activity. (8)
  • Economic self-reliance — a direction towards peace — a thrust- to stop the destructiveness of large central economies by the empowerment from self-reliance. (7)
  • Environmental issues.
  • “Taking Stock” — Militarism and the environment. (7)
  • Local Toronto issues such as military industries, gun laws. (6)
  • An exploration of the acceptance of violence in our society. (12)
  • Creating public awareness through press releases, maintaining a media list and using contact people, a speaker’s bureau. (4)
  • Public lectures. (5)
  • Internal activities and organization — reading groups, working groups. (3)
  • Focus on raising our profile on campus — including book sales. (3)
  • A look at the University and “The System”. (5)
  • A viewpoint of the current era considering ideological issues. (14)

These were discussed in the context of what activities can and should we take on. It was noted that the items listed imply a variety of different categories — some are programmes, some are viewpoints of other programmes in the list, some are general directions. However, it was pointed out that we should use these merely as guidelines as to our directions. As an indication of available energies, a show of hands asking who would be interested in participating in the activities in the list. The numbers of persons responding is indicated in parentheses.

A format for meetings involving a number of members was proposed. There would be sessions discussing pre-set topics with invited speakers and participation by those at the meeting. Prepared reading lists would precede the meetings. Three topics were suggested:

  • Economic self-sufficiency — local economies
  • Acceptance of violence in our society
  • Ideological issues

It was suggested that the new Executive of the Chapter, which will be elected in May, use the discussion as a guide for next year’s programme. It is hoped that a number of the people at the meeting will be part of next year’s Executive.

Full text version of all articles from SfP Bulletin April 1994. A PDF edition is also available.

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