How to Save the World

How to Save the World is a major Science for Peace conference planned to take place at the University of Toronto in May 2018 (with a smaller prep meeting in February).

Introduction

INVITATION TO A SOCIAL MOVEMENT OF SOCIAL MOVEMENTS

You may already be trying to save the world from something—or at least to reduce its risk to humanity. Maybe you’re working against war and weapons. Or global warming. Or famine. Or pandemics. Or exposure to radiation from reactor explosions. Or cyber attacks. You’re probably doing your part.

Since these risks are all connected causally, whenever you work on one of them, you’re actually working on the whole system. However, that’s not always apparent. We’d be more effective if everyone saw how all six global threats fit together as a system and how countless civil society organizations are working together to save the world. That’s the goal of this project.

Let’s list several potential ways of reducing each of these six global risks to make a single comprehensive checklist of policy proposals. As we go along, let’s discuss the likely effectiveness of each policy — pro or con. When we have a sizeable list, let’s hold a public forum for the experts and organizations who are trying to prevent these catastrophes. That meeting (which can be livestreamed to participants all over the world) will narrow down the proposals to three or four best ones for each threat. All the groups that attend will vote for or against this shorter list of, say, 25 proposals. If they adopt it, they will all have a common “Platform for Survival.” Afterward, each group will continue its own work agenda, conscious of being part of the larger project: to save the world.

IF you wish to participate, please suggest one or more proposals for the list. Then in May 2018 you’ll be invited to the forum in Toronto where we’ll compile the final Platform for Survival.

Preparing for the conference on Facebook

We encourage supporters to participate actively in the planning for this conference. We’ve created seven Facebook discussion pages for this purpose.

NB: While you do not have to be a Facebook member to view these pages, Facebook members may also join the discussion with (substantive) comments and recommendations.

A prototype “Platform for Survival” outline

(Draft: The final version adopted by the forum may barely resemble this list of proposals.)

Humankind’s future is at serious risk of six main catastrophes: Global Warming; Wars and Weapons (Especially Nuclear); Pandemics, Famines, Mass Radiation Exposure; and Cyber Attacks (criminal, military, or propaganda). In order to vastly reduce the likelihood of these disasters, we the people of this planet demand prompt compliance with all the following preventive measures, plus some actions required to enable the attainment of those proposals.

Global Warming

  • The UNFCCC shall establish an agency for safe disposal of greenhouse gas refrigerator coolants.
  • The UNFCCC shall establish an agency for forest management and plant X billion trees.
  • All states shall ensure full female access to education and access to family planning.
  • The FAO shall promote and fund expansion of “climate smart agriculture,” including biochar.
  • All national armed forces shall be reduced by at least 80%, including equipment emitting CO2.
  • A global authority must implement 2 children per person, health care and old age security for all humans.
  • A global authority must punish through heavy taxes energy consumption in excess of 3.5 kw per person.
  • A global authority must speed up the transition to sustainable technology in all nations.
  • A global authority must prevent land-based energy farming for producing biofuels.
  • A global authority must outlaw nuclear fission reactors for energy production.

War and Weapons

  • All national armed forces shall be reduced by at least 80%, including equipment emitting CO2.
  • All states shall sign, ratify, and within 10 years comply with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
  • All nuclear weapons states shall immediately de-alert nuclear weapons and commit to no-first use.
  • To protect human rights the UN shall send peacekeepers and mediators as needed to resolve conflicts.
  • All military alliances shall immediately and verifiably end any policy to threaten with or use nuclear weapons.
  • All states: Sign, ratify, strengthen and promote the ICC, especially jurisdiction over the crime of aggression.
  • All states donate _% of the savings from military cutbacks to fund a UN Peace Studies curriculum for K-12.

Pandemics

  • The WHO shall expand means of early detection, early response to prevent disease pandemics.
  • All states with above-average GDP shall fund R&D of vaccines & treatments against resistant microbes.
  • The WHO shall explore and publicize research on the use of ultra-violet radiation to fight “superbugs.”
  • The WHO shall explore and publicize reseach on the use of phages against human infections.

Radiation exposure

  • All states shall undergo and publicize IAEA safety reviews of existing and planned nuclear reactors.
  • Within two years all states shall plan to secure and phase out nuclear power plants.
  • All states shall transition to distributed electricity, efficiently using local, renewable energy sources.
  • All states shall make publicly available the inventory of all radioactive materials, fuel & wastes.
  • All states shall halt transfers of radioactive fuel and wastes across international borders.
  • All states shall plan, with public review, the long term control and safe storage of radioactive wastes.
  • All states shall maintain proximity, reversibility & retrievability in long plans for radioactive wastes.
  • The IAEA shall increase transparency and include civil society and stakeholders in making decisions.
  • UN Environment Program shall provide objective information on radiation safety to all upon request.
  • All states with nuclear reactors must update their emergency preparedness plans every three years.

Famine

  • Except in urgent cases, donors shall send funds, not food, to areas of shortage and connect farmers to markets.
  • FAO: Advance reduction of wasted food.
  • FAO: Support improvements of soil health for resilient food production, carbon sequestration.

Cyber Attacks

  • All Internet companies and states shall expand law enforcement efforts over cyber crime.
  • All states shall implement the 2015 UN consensus report of governmental experts on IT and Communications.
  • All states shall adopt decentralization plans for their electricity grids to inhibit cyber war.
  • All states shall enable NGOs and specialists to expose Internet disinformation campaigns.
  • All devices controlled through the Internet (IOT) shall be designed to obviate destructive hacking.
  • All stakeholders: Reduce society’s vulnerability to malicious cyber activity by practicing effective cyber defence.
  • All stakeholders: Promote international cooperation to preserve cyberspace for exclusively peaceful purposes.
  • UN: Promote dialogue and multilateral agreement on cybersecurity.

Enabling measures

  • The UN shall create a parliamentary assembly which can override any Security Council veto.
  • A UN Emergency Peace Service shall be created and deployed to any area where war seems likely.
  • The World Bank, IMF, and WTO shall be held more accountable, responsive to human needs.
  • All states shall donate 60% of their savings from military cutbacks to UN-related agencies.
  • A significant Tobin tax shall be collected for the UN to spend on programs prescribed herein.
  • All UN agencies and large corporations shall appoint 10% of their directors from UN-accredited NGOs.
  • All states shall guarantee subsistence income to their citizens, to be funded from taxing wealth.
  • All states donate _% of the savings from military cutbacks to fund a UN Peace Studies curriculum for K-12.

Some rules

Every game, every language, and every bookkeeping system has rules which, even if arbitrary, are necessary. You will study a variety of possible changes to the Platform and show your thinking in a format that others can see. Unless the organizing committee changes them, please observe the following guidelines when choosing your list of policies:

  1. The Platform Must Be Short. Each prep group may have 10 to 15 policies ready for its corresponding breakout group when the conference begins. However, by the end, the length of the Platform for Survival will be determined by the size of a sheet of paper! Using 12-point type, we can only list about 25 items on a sheet, so each group can eventually list only about five policy recommendations on the Platform. Like a treaty, the final text will probably the result of negotiations. You can make it easier if your group is selective throughout the preparatory phase, keeping your list fairly short.
  2. The Categories Must Stay Fixed. Each group will presumably change most or all of the policies on the original “prototype platform” but should not add, subtract, combine, or redefine the categories themselves. No single platform can possibly address all the urgent threats to humankind and your own selection of problems might indeed be better than mine, but please stay with these categories anyway.
  3. Only Catastrophic Risks Can Be Addressed. Each of these existential threats can potentially kill billions of human beings in a single catastrophic event, such as a pandemic like the bubonic plague or the Spanish flu; a nuclear war or meltdown; the release of methane from melting permafrost; or the destruction of a continent-wide electricity grid.
    Many, many grave threats must be left for other campaigns to tackle, which may leave us uncertain about what should count as “existential” and what not. Cyber attacks, for example, range from the teenaged hacker who merely vandalizes your web page to, say, the military experts who can destroy every satellite in outer space. We will address the latter risk but not the former. But how about intermediate-level risks, such as helping Trump defeat Hillary Clinton for the presidency? I’m inclined to count that as serious enough to warrant our attention, though your group or the conference may decide otherwise. Anyway, the plan is to list on the Platform only policies for preventing catastrophic dangers. (There is one exception: If yours is the group that works on “enabling measures,” you must appraise policies for their indirect effects. See below.)
  4. The Platform for Survival Must Apply Universally for all Humankind. Every policy that your group chooses should be valid in all societies, so you may need to modify the phraseology to make certain items suitable. For example, the policy to “educate girls” is an excellent means of reducing global warming, but Canadian girls already have full access to education, so it would be irrelevant here. However, if you rephrase the policy as, “All rich countries shall devote X percent of their income to funding education for girls in poor countries,” it will be universally applicable.
  5. Choose Policies that Need to Be Promoted. If an extremely valuable policy is already being adopted widely, it does not need our help, so please pick a different policy instead. For example, wind turbines are one of the most promising solutions to global warming, but wind farms are sprouting up all over the world anyway. Since you can only propose about five policies, please choose effective ones whose value might otherwise be overlooked.
  6. Choose Collective— Not Personal—Policies. The policies on the Platform for Survival should be enacted on a large-scale, rather than individually. To be sure, it is important for individuals to ride bikes instead of fly; switch off lights when leaving home; eat mostly plants; and change their passwords often, but such personal habits are not items for this platform. Please propose major institutional innovations instead.