By Metta Spencer
The past year has been full and mostly gratifying. But before we consider the details, we should pause for a moment to remember five beloved allies who have left us this year. Some of you may have known them all, but I’ll say a bit about each one.
David Bell was a political scientist and environmentalist. He was dean of the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York until he retired. He served on the National Round Table on Environment and Economy and, when it was abolished, became chair of an umbrella organization, Learning for a Sustainable Future. He had intended to initiate and co-chair our working group on climate change education but died prematurely a few months ago.
Robert Campbell was a lawyer in Toronto for 45 years. A kindly, quiet man of short stature, he had served as chair of the Civil Justice Sub-Section of the Canadian Bar Association. He had served on our board of directors in 2006-7. He died at the age of 100 in the Sunnybrook Veterans retirement home.
Ursula Franklin was well-known as metallurgist and Quaker pacifist. Her book, The Real World of Technology, was based on her Massey Lectures. She was a professor at U of T for more than 40 years and she kept an office at Massey College after retiring. She and her husband Fred lived at Christie Gardens, where it seems that most old Toronto peaceniks go to spend their last years together.
Calvin Gotlieb. Kelly, as he was known, was also sometimes called the “father of Canadian computing.” He was a professor in the department of computer science and lived to be 96. Just four or five years ago I heard him deliver an extremely effective lecture at Senior College. He had been active in the committee that developed the Toronto Resolution, an ethical code for scientists. After a lapse of some years, he re-joined Science for Peace a couple of years ago when I was hoping to re-establish an ethics committee. That did not happen but he enjoyed his renewed contact with us.
Douglas Scott was a lawyer in Hamilton who founded an organization called the Markland Group to study nuclear weapons-related issues. Until a couple of years ago he enjoyed coming to Toronto to plays. I’d pick him up at the Go bus and we’d have dinner and go to the theatre. He never married but after his death I learned that he had been active in Big Brothers, and had served as a dear surrogate father for the man who wrote his obituary in the Globe and Mail.
These five people were devoted to repairing the world, and they went about their tasks faithfully. Can we please stand for a moment of silent remembrance of their lives.
Now let’s get down to our own tasks and review our accomplishment and our prospects for the future. Although in numbers we have continued to diminish, we have greatly expanded the number and range of our activities. We now have twelve working groups, about half of which have developed a core of reliable and willing members.
The biggest news of our year was that we received a generous bequest from the estate of Edith Fowke, a Toronto broadcaster and folklorist who left a considerable amount of money to be divided among ten Canadian peace groups, which were chosen by Hanna Newcombe before her own death. We have received $150,000 of that money so far and expect to receive several thousand more after the legal proceedings are completed. The board of directors has decided never to spend the capital, but only the annual interest, which may come to about $10,000 per year.
We should subdue our fantasies, since, although the wonderful gift will help pay for our lively program, it will not go very far, as our treasurer will explain. We must undertake a fundraising campaign and a drive to revive our lagging levels of membership.
|Climate Change Education||Jose Etcheverry|
|Cold War II?||Leon Kosals|
|Community Sustainability||Lloyd Helferty|
|Cyber Security||Jack Gemmell|
|Freedom for Research||Chandler Davis|
|Good Global Governance||Helmut Burkhardt|
|Middle East||Mohamad Tavakoli|
|Nonviolence and Civil Society||Ellie Kirzner|
|Nuclear Weapons||Rob Acheson|
You can read the individual reports submitted by these groups, but I’ll offer my impressions too. I think seven have taken root and are functioning well, while five have not met regularly or attracted a consistent group of active participants, so we’ll need to build them up or else decide to let them go. These five less developed ones are:
Climate Change Education, which José took on single-handedly after David Bell’s passing. It has not attracted enough members yet, but we surely don’t want to let it go. Climate change is one of the two key issues that SfP must address, so we must find ways to make it succeed.
Cold War II? Leon Kosals chairs this group but he lives about half the year in Moscow, where he is a professor of economic sociology. The purpose of the group is to hold a video-conferencing conversation at each meeting with a well-informed person in Russia. We have to hold the meetings during our noon hour because of the eight- or nine-hour time difference. Sometimes there is good attendance but much can be improved if we find a co-chair and set a specific day of each month to meet. Regularity and predictability make a huge difference, and no single chairperson can always be present.
Cyber Security is a new working group that we will also need to maintain in response to the growing threat of computer hacking for seriously malevolent purposes. If we all pitch in, we can surely recruit some people who are interested in this problem. Fortunately, we have one distant but regular member: Paul Meyer, the former disarmament ambassador, who joins us by videoconferencing from Vancouver.
Drones is chaired by Michel Duguay and meets entirely by videoconferencing. I don’t think it has met regularly this year. Today Michel can outline his plans for the group’s future.
Middle East is chaired by Mohamad Tavakoli. Although it has met a couple of times during the noon hour, attendance has been sparse, which is surprising in view of the amount of public controversy about that region.
The remaining seven working groups seem to be functioning well. They are: Community Sustainability; Freedom for Research; Good Global Governance; Militarism: Nonviolence and Civil Society; Nuclear Weapons; and Ocean Frontiers.
Unfortunately, Chandler Davis will not be able to continue chairing the Freedom for Research Group. Let’s thank him for his successful work in building that working group. I suggest that we ask Margrit Eichler succeed him. She founded a separate, non-charitable organization, Our Right to Know, during the Harper years, while there was risk of our losing charitable status if we engaged in political activism. The two groups have worked closely together and can hold most of their meetings jointly. Our Right to Know is incorporated and must maintain its own board and separate funds, but we think that most projects and meetings can be done together.
I want to congratulate Helmut Burkhardt for forming a working partnership with the new Toronto chapter of the World Federalists. The cooperation seems to be fruitful, as the two groups are meeting and working together.
Energizing working groups. Here are some practices that make working groups effective:
This year Tom Davis and Mila Shutova were co-editors of our newsletter. However, both of them took new and demanding jobs, so there was only one issue of the Bulletin this year. Mila has found it necessary to give up her role, but Tom will continue as sole editor. However, he will certainly welcome any SfP member who wishes to assist him. Check the Members’ Directory for his coordinates and phone him to discuss it.
The lecture series this year (almost all are available as videos on YouTube and Facebook):
Our practice is for the working groups chairs and the working group manager to participate in choosing an initial list of potential speakers. The weekly lecture manager then spends the summer contacting them and lining up dates. Unfortunately, we haven’t lately been assigned our preferred room at University College, but we manage. We videotape the lectures unless the speaker objects, and post them onto our web site and onto Facebook. We had fallen behind in editing and posting the videos, but we area almost caught up now. (Facebook users actually like to watch videos, offering us a fine way to spread the word about peace. Please share them onto your own newsfeed and the groups to which you belong. And post them to Twitter too.) We take each speaker out to supper in a pub after our Wednesday evening meetings and encourage people in the audience to join us. Usually four or five do so.
I wish the weekly lectures were popular occasions for SfP members to get together and share ideas. Regrettably, that is not the case. Many attendees are strangers who never become regular. Please bring a friend to at least one or two of the talks each term. Most of the talks are really excellent.
Lately we have been offering certificates to people who attend and participate in the discussions of eight of the 12 lectures per term. It seems that students love to collect certificates, so that is the main way we attract young people to the lectures. If you’re a professor, please announce to your students that they can receive certificates for attending.
About once a month, on the average, SfP has held an additional public event of some kind. Here are the ones for which we engaged this year:
|15-Jun-16||Drones and Killer Robots: a panel organized by the Drones working group. Video available|
|27-Jun-16||Maciej Bartkowski and David Last discussed the possibility of fighting ISIS with nonviolence. This was an after-dinner talk for about 50 persons at the Hot House Cafe Restaurant.|
|06-Aug-16||Hiroshima Day. Nathan Phillips Square. We distributed maybe 100,000 paper cranes that had been sent from Japan. (People there seem to spend all their spare time folding paper.)|
|10-Sep-16||Sustainable Development Day. We organized a day-long public event at the Bahen Center. Over 100 persons attended – many of them students. The Campus SfP Group managed the event and held their annual elections there.|
|24-Oct-16||Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons held its annual meeting in Ottawa and two SfP members attended: Rob Acheson and Metta Spencer, who delivered an invited talk there.|
|27-Oct-16||Eric Fawcett Day Lecture by Ambassador Paul Meyer on “Cyber Peace.” This event is produced on alternate years by Pugwash but it was our turn. We held a reception afterward, then took Meyer and his wife to dinner in a restaurant.|
|22-Apr-17||March for Science. We joined the demonstration at Nathan Phillips Square and marched to Queens Park with our new banner.|
|29-Mar-17||Screening of a film about Syrian refugees, organized with Professor Mustafa Koc of Ryerson University.|
|18-May-17||Five SfP members participated in a colloquium on nuclear weapons organized by Senior College|
|28-Apr-17||The Ocean Frontiers WG co-sponsored a one-day workshop on Oceans at York University, with support of a York Institute. About 20 participants were present.|
|24-May-17||Ocean Frontiers working group organized a panel at OISE that about 30 scholars attended.|
|11-Jun-17||The Militarism working groups held a public meeting at Friends House to plan a public vigil protesting Canada’s absence from the UN conference to develop a convention banning nuclear weapons.|
|17-Jun-17||The Militarism and Nuclear Weapons working groups, along with VOW organized a vigil outside the Foreign Minister’s riding office.|
|19-Jun-17||The Nonviolence WG hosts a potluck supper and panel discussion at OISE with four visiting Gandhian leaders from India.|
International Peace Bureau. As always, SfP has worked this year with a number of partner organizations. For example, we remain a member of the International Peace Bureau, and are represented there by Steven Staples.
Science for Peace Campus Group. Our affiliate organization, the Science for Peace Campus group, includes not only students but people from the community. Indeed, our position as a University of Toronto organization depends on our relationship to this Campus Group, which participated in sponsoring the Sustainable Development Day in September of 2016. The Campus Group’s AGM was held there and the current president, Kiruba Krishnaswamy, was elected. Later, Kiruba worked with a team of people from other campus groups who were planning to screen a film about the Congo on campus during April. In the end, they decided to delay that screening until next fall, since it will entail some significant expenditures. Kiruba also organized a poster-making party in preparation for our March for Science. She went out to the street and corralled passing students to come inside and make colorful posters.
Canadian Network to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. This is an umbrella organization of Canadian organizations that work toward nuclear disarmament. There is normally at least one meeting per year for a day or two, and Rob Acheson and I have been attending it. This year has been exceptional, in that everyone has worked hard to persuade the Canadian government to attend and support the UN conferences where a legally binding treaty is being negotiated that will ban nuclear weapons from the planet permanently. We engaged in a letter-writing campaign to urge Prime Minister Trudeau to send a delegation to promote this effort; I personally spent about five hours almost every day throughout the summer, and I think we got 3,000 or more letters directed to the Prime Minister’s office, but he forwarded them all to Minister Dion and later Minister Chrystia Freeland, who both insisted incorrectly that, as a member of NATO, Canada cannot take a stand against those weapons. Our campaign on this matter will be a large part of SfP’s agenda next year and probably beyond.
Hiroshima Day Coalition. As usual, Science for Peace participated in the Hiroshima Day observances at Nathan Phillips Square, staffing a table there and speaking on the program. The coalition is now planning to lobby the Toronto City Councillors who are responsible for maintaining the public health of this city, and we will be represented in that delegation.
For several years I have been teaching a fourth year undergraduate course called “Public Health in a Nuclear Age” at University College. Usually my 15 or 16 students say they had known almost nothing about nuclear weapons until taking the course. At the end, they all are aware of the problem facing humankind. Their comments about the course are generally favorable.This year, after I had completed the winter-term course, I was informed that I will not be permitted to offer it again because the undergraduate faculty has decided not to allow anyone to teach a course without stipend henceforth. I don’t want to be paid. What disturbs me most is that I have not found any other course on nuclear weapons being offered at the University of Toronto. A graduate course at the Munk Centre on “Security” gives two or three lectures on nuclear weapons, but surely students should have access to this information in many different formats. Principal Ainslie suggests that I offer to give guest lectures in many different courses, but one lecture per course is inadequate. I have numerous Power Point documents, DVDs, and lecture notes for the course and gladly will share them with any Science for Peace member who has a good use for them.
We have several new online tools that can make it easier for members and officers to perform well. I urge you all to try them out.
Our Email Listservs: Science for Peace maintains several listservs for specific purposes. We have recently re-named two listservs (“notices,” and “members” ) which were misleading titles. You can no longer use those. The new listservs are:
email@example.com (Use this for sharing any information or opinions with others.) But do not use:
firstname.lastname@example.org] , which is for the office to use.
On our website: There are two ways to access the tools that are on the website. If you just want to read one of those documents, you can go to our web site
(If you need to *write to one of these documents, you will need access to it through Google Drive. If you have a Google account (e.g. gmail) you can open Google Drive. On the left side you will see a list of files. Open the one called “Shared with me” to see most of these documents and alter them. Working Group Chairs will need to write things, but most other members and directors will not, so you can just go to the “members” section instead.)
Having opened the members’ section of our website, you will find the following documents:
Science for Peace is accomplishing more work, but too much of it is done by a few people. With your consent, we intend to assign more duties.
As our by-laws prescribe, we will continue to have a president, a vice president, a secretary, a treasurer, and three members-at-large. However, several of these roles will be defined and given appropriate titles.
The president will be responsible for seeing “the big picture,” and for representing and steering our organization vis a vis the wider world.
The vice-president will be responsible for supervising the internal functioning of our organization.
The secretary and treasurer will continue in their customary roles.
One member-at-large will be the “working group manager,” supervising the functioning of all the working groups.
One member-at-large will be the “Academic peace research liaison,” keeping us in contact with scholars and academic organizations.
One member at large will be the “Events manager” who will chair the organizing committees formed to produce any special events. She will also liaise with most of our partner peace organizations.
In addition, there will be a “weekly lectures manager” who will not officially be a member of the executive committee and who will not vote, but who will attend meetings and help provide continuity, at least for a while. (With your consent I will continue performing that role.)
We already have several committees, but these will be expanded. During the AGM every board member will be expected (or at least urged) to sign onto either a committee or one of the working groups, if they have not already done so. Most committees probably will require about 3-5 hours a month of their members’ time — though the amount will vary and is not very predictable. The Executive Committee will appoint chairpersons.
|Blumenfeld||Advertises grant possibilities, appraises and awards|
|Bulletin||Assists the editor in preparing our newsletter|
|Endorsements||Responds to requests for endorsements by other organizations|
|Events||Works with Events Manager to produce special events.|
|Fundraising||Applies for grants, organizes appeal for donations|
|Internships||Determines useful roles for interns, hires, supervises them.|
|Investment||Manages our funds|
|Membership||Conducts annual membership drive to double our numbers|
|Nominations||Seeks nominees for directors and officers, holds poll and election|
|Publication||Arranges publication of papers and books, possibly in digital form|
|Publicity||Informs public about SfP events, mainly through social media|
I am grateful for the opportunity to have served as your president and I’m delighted to pass my responsibilities on to outstanding successors. I expect to continue serving as weekly lecture manager, though I don’t want to hold any voting position on the Executive Committee.
During my lengthy two terms as president, I have learned a few things that I want to share as advice now. (Humor me, please!)
Isaiah Berlin famously described two types of persons – foxes and hedgehogs: “A fox knows many things, but a hedgehog one big thing.” There has often been a debate in Science for Peace as to whether we ought to be a hedgehog-type or a fox-type organization. I personally am a fox, knowing a little about a lot of topics. Science for Peace has the same tendency. Newcomers who advise us to focus exclusively on one big thing always are defeated. Although our members do focus on matters of existential importance to humankind, there are several such issues and as an organization we try to cover them all. That’s great!
Because our members have such a diversity of expertise, we are uniquely suited to develop a comprehensive platform of action involving all existential threats to human survival. And someone needs to do this. Others have compiled general and broad lists, such as the Sustainable Development Goals, which consist of 17 different vague but admirable goals, or the “Leap Manifesto,” ;which is not enumerated at all.
What would be more useful is a list of the absolutely essential challenges—of which there are about five, with global warming and nuclear weapons as the top two. For each one we should compile a “to-do” list of concrete, practical interventions that, if all performed adequately, may save humankind.
I hope our conference will consider the whole array of problems that have to be solved to save the world—but none other than the existential problems. Here are the five:
I suggest that we assign some of our working groups the task of appraising potential practical interventions to solve these problems. For this we need to team up with other groups and experts to prepare a major conference, which will produce a comprehensive “platform for survival.” Thereafter, we’ll need a strategy for promoting it to other civil society organizations, as well as political groups. Quite a project!
I expect this idea will be considered by our new Executive and, no doubt, amended. This was just your first peek at it.
Thanks for letting me be your president. I’ve loved every minute of it.