Mon, Sep 24, 2012: Potluck supper / discussion on the future of Science for Peace

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By Metta Spencer, President of Science for Peace 1 September 2012

Whether you are a member or not, if you are interested in solving the world’s looming problems I invite you to a meeting on September 23, 2012 to consider how Science for Peace can best work on them. Our discussions will begin at 2:00 pm and continue through the evening, with a potluck supper at about 7:00 pm. I’ll give details below. Read on!

Where We’ve Been

Science for Peace was founded 31 years ago by University of Toronto physical and natural scientists in their urgent concern to prevent nuclear war. It was conceived as an interface between the university’s scientific community and the wider public, both generating new knowledge and spreading it into public discourses on policy issues. Immediately the organization became a prominent part of the world-wide disarmament movement and began broadening in several ways:

• It began promoting peace research and peace education at the university level, working to create the undergraduate program that is known today as the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.

• Its membership became more inclusive, accepting first academics in disciplines other than the physical sciences and then the general public. As the proportion of members who were scholars or scientists declined, they were less often called upon to apply their expertise by studying particular issues or lecturing about them in public fora. This discouraged some from participating.

• As other serious threats to human survival became more salient, the group’s initial focus on weapons of mass destruction widened to include additional concerns—notably about environmental sustainability, climate change, human population growth, and the extinction of other species. Some of these new topics involve social research, yet few social scientists have been recruited to lead the work on these problems.

• The founders of Science for Peace are old now or have died. If the organization is to continue it must attract a new generation of scientists and professionals, especially those in such fields as demography, economic development, peacebuilding, and humanitarian law. To do so will require us to discuss current global problems and plan our future work. It may require us to re-invent Science for Peace.

What Should We Address Next?

So let’s take stock of our strengths and weaknesses and review our goals. What issues should we address next? Can we form working groups to deal with these topics? How can we attract a new generation of scholars with the imagination and expertise to contribute solutions? How can we most effectively communicate with other citizens and with key decision-makers in government, in civil society, and in the economy?

The world presents us with wonderful problems too numerous to contemplate. If we tackle too many projects, we may fail to do any of them well. We must focus—but not too much. New ideas are best generated when people interact who share common concerns but diverse backgrounds and attitudes. Science for Peace should stimulate and encourage innovation, and that requires a single-minded focus, but also its opposite. Science for Peace should be pluralistic and politically inclusive, but many values should be shared and many conversations purposeful. There should be roles and tasks for every member to choose among—a dozen possible ways of contributing the time or energy that she can spare. Let’s invent some jobs! Let’s get acquainted and create some projects to work on together.

Working groups are an important aspect of Science for Peace. If you and a few other people share an interest in a particular issue and want to work on it together, just get together and create your own working group on that issue. The Executive Committee will probably authorize it if you ask. Come to the meeting on September 23. If you don’t meet anyone who wants to be part of your working group, recruit some of your colleagues to do so. If they all join Science for Peace together, bingo!—you will come in with your ready-made working group! That does happen.

What about restricting our focus? Well, it’s not for me to decide—it’s for the whole membership—but I think our working groups shouldn’t take on these topics, among others: Spiritual, inner peace. Labor relations. Local disputes about, say, bike lanes or air pollution. Interpersonal conflict resolution. Campaigning for a political candidate or party. Obviously, these are all important matters, but we cannot do everything well and I believe we should limit ourselves to societal- or global-level structural issues that threaten the long-term survival of humankind.

Here’s Your Invitation

If you want to participate, Science for Peace, come to the open house on Sunday, September 23, and bring a friend. This will take place in the party room of my condo from 2:00 pm through the evening.

Party Room, 155 Marlee Ave., Toronto M6B 4B5 (party room door code 370) Facing the elevators on the main floor, turn left, walk toward the noise.

My phone numbers: (home) 416-789-2294 and (cell, for use during the open house): 416-994-4149.

Please RSVP by email to: mspencer@web.net .

If coming by car from downtown, drive north on Bathurst about 6 blocks above Eglinton. Turn left on Ridelle (just as you pass a Catholic church), come almost to the first signal light and turn right into the underground parking for visitors. Buzz 370. Come up the elevator to the main floor.

If by car from the north, drive south on the Allen Road from Highway 401, exit going west on Lawrence but immediately get into the left lane and turn onto Marlee. South to Ridelle. Left and immediately left again into the underground parking. There are two entrances side by side; if you go into the farther one, you’ll wind up in the wrong building. Buzz 370. Come up the elevator to the main floor. Turn right and follow the noise.

If by TTC, take the subway north on the west line and get off at Glencairn. Walk out the south (Viewmount) exit, then right to Marlee. Walk south to the first high-rise. Buzz 370. On the main floor, facing the elevator, turn left, walk down the hall toward the noise.

Most of you will not want to spend your whole day and evening together. Moreover, if everyone were present at the same time there would be quite a crowd, so you’re welcome to come for just an hour or two (or 8 or 10 hours if you want). Here’s the game plan:

There will be a few tables set up for 6 or 8 people at each one. If you arrive between 2 pm and 6 pm, take a seat at one of the tables and share your ideas about what Science for Peace should do over the next few years. Someone at your table will take notes for me to compile later for a report. Cookies and coffee will be available. If you decide to join SFP, you can sign up on the spot or just leave an email address and be contacted with news of future events. If you want to wander around and chat with others, that’s fine too. Or join a different table. Leave whenever you like.

If you arrive after 6 pm, you’ll be coming to a potluck supper, so please bring enough food or wine for yourself and your own guests, to share with others. We will eat at about 7 pm. We won’t do any visioning exercises after 5 pm, but will just talk, eat, and drink. And maybe sing too, if anyone gets into that mood, so feel free to bring your zither or harmonica.

  1. Sergy

    Hi Metta,

    I’d like to join your activities.
    Please RSVP.

    Thank you,

    Sergy Kasyanov, PhD&MPA

  2. Tom Davis

    Hi Metta,
    I have just read about the meeting now (9:35pm Sunday evening). Sorry I missed it. I think it was a good initiative and hope it created some new ideas.
    Thanks,
    Tom Davis

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