I’ve had, I confess, only a tangential connection with Science for Peace over the years but it has been a fruitful one. Early on, Terry Gardner, who was my colleague at University College, University of Toronto, persuaded me, as an economist, to become conversant with the issue of economic conversion. That whetted a continuing interest: two years ago I filed a brief on behalf of the Innu with an environmental assessment panel looking at the impact of low-level flying in Labrador; the case was made that the cancellation of these flights did not have to result in the closing down of the base at Goose Bay if planning for conversion began now, and citing examples of how this had been done successfully in the United States.
I was frankly surprised when I was asked to become President, but I certainly felt most complimented and, after a decent interval, accepted. I am what the media likes to call a “veteran” political activist who just recently retired from formal university duties, and Science for Peace is veteran-friendly while manifestly dealing with issues that cry out for political activism.
I knew that Science for Peace had become more involved of late in issues of “globalization” such as MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investment) and I could be useful there. However, testing of the Bomb in the Indian sub-continent (in the week after our AGM) has returned the issue of nuclear disarmament, the abolition of nuclear weapons, to the centre of the political stage.
I find I have an anxious feeling in my gut that I have not experienced since Ronald Reagan was elected to the American presidency for the first time, and I am full of fury against those who imagine that escalating terror is a secure basis for peace. It has certainly got my term as your president off to a fast start.
Some of our members are already talking about the need for something like the international teach-ins of the 1960s to involve today’s young people in the dominant “anti-war” issue of these times. That would be no easy matter; still, Canada may be the country best situated to take an initiative. We are part of the G- 8; we are a non-nuclear weapons state; we have just been part of a successful initiative against landmines; we appear to have a Minister of Foreign Affairs who knows that to preach non- proliferation without preaching nuclear disarmament is almost surely to be ineffectual. Our campus base makes Science for Peace a logical candidate to take a leadership role, while we ourselves are urgently in need of an infusion of youthful energy.
Much is being made these days of the economic depression (no other word will do) sweeping Asia and threatening to spill around the world. But there is a second “Asian crisis” and it is yet more grave. For every commentator who sees the India-Pakistan feud-plus- the-Bomb as signalling a new Cold War — which is bad enough — there are two who tell us that it feels more like the lead-up to World War I with nuclear weapons tossed in.
A global impact is inevitable: if nuclear war is avoided now, as we must surely hope, we are still left with the awful alternative that further proliferation is legitimized and nuclear holocaust — somewhere, sometime — merely delayed. We are back to where, as Science for Peace, we started: insisting on the necessity for abolition.
This job of mine is turning out to be even more relevant and preoccupying than I’d imagined. I’m sufficiently long in the tooth to remember vividly the radio announcement of the dropping of the Bomb on Hiroshima and the horror I felt. I want that feeling to go away.