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How to Save the World in a Hurry

Science for Peace Forum: “How to Save the World in a Hurry” 9:00am, May 30 – 5:00pm, May 31, 2018 Room 140, University College, 15 King’s College Circle, Toronto, ON M5S 3H7

Conference report


The concept behind the How to Save the World conference was first sketched out by Metta Spencer in fall 2017. The idea was to initiate discussion around ways to prevent or minimize existential threats to humankind and the biosphere, and to eventually take these findings to a conference, which would then choose the 25 actions deemed most likely to succeed.

After some discussion, six threats were named: war and weapons (especially nuclear); global warming; cyber attacks; massive radiation exposure; pandemic disease; and famine. Most or all of these threats interact with most or all of the others; for instance, militarism exacerbates climate change, while climate change contributes to resource-driven wars.

In addition, there is a seventh category — enabling measures, which was intended to create the conditions in which the named threats could be addressed.

In the run-up to the forum, people were invited to add their suggestions to the draft Platform for Survival on the project’s website There were certain rules: the prescribed action should be global in nature; a named regulatory body (eg UN agencies, national governments, corporations) should be held responsible; and the complete proposal should be only 15 words long. About 100 suggested actions were added to the website before May 30th, with several more added during the forum.

Science for Peace’s winter lecture series was largely focused on the global threat structure (see, and was a major means of spreading interest in the conference. Since then, a weekly livestream named “Talk about the Saving the World” has been appearing on the Peace Magazine Facebook page. See


About 95-100 people attended the conference, including 36 speakers and facilitators (8 participated by Zoom, indicated by * below). The first day was held in plenary, with short talks by two or more experts and/or activists, followed by a Q&A session. Speakers included Sorpong Peou, John Polanyi, Douglas Roche, Peggy Mason*, Gordon Edwards*, Angela Bischoff, Evan Fraser, David Harries, Catherine Abreu*, Mark Jacobson*, Danny Harvey, Sandra Leigh Lester, Ronald St John, Christopher Anderson, Paul Meyer*, Joy Kennedy, Michael Marien, Fergus Watt*, Peter Hajnal, Toby Heaps, Peter Langille, and Paul Antze.

During the second day, most participants met in breakout groups, with the goal of winnowing out the existing proposals in advance of the final plenary. War and weapons had by far the largest number of participants, followed by global warming. Famine and pandemics continued to be the weakest of the named categories, with very few non-specialists joining the breakouts.

A 25-item Platform for Survival was printed out in time for the final plenary; 21 items were settled by consensus, sometimes with minor changes. The final four items were conditionally approved later.


Videos will be added to the Science for Peace YouTube page over the coming weeks; John Polanyi’s speech is already online, while others require additional editing.

People interested in continuing this work are invited to visit, where they may also read the Platform for Survival in its final, agreed version. The site is being retooled and enhanced to act as a resource base for individuals and groups interested in continuing the project.

Conference materials


There are 8 video recordings in all, covering most of the first day and some of the second day of the forum. Please click or tap the small ‘hamburger’ icon on the top left of the video window if you wish to select individual videos from the playlist.


Please click the solid arrow to play the slideshow automatically (or click the < and > signs to move backward or forward at your own speed.)

Foresight for 30 May: David Harries’ slide stack

Evan Fraser’s slideshow on famine and its contributing factors


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