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Science for Peace and Justice: SPJ-Brazil

This new organization, was launched, following a public meeting, in São Carlos, São Paulo State, Brazil, on Friday, June 9, 1989, appropriately during United Nations Environment Week. Participants in the meeting were:

  1. José Albertino R. Rodriguez, Professor of Sociology in both the Universidade Federal de Brasilia e de São Carlos; Vice-President of the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science (SBPC);

  2. Eric Fawcett, Professor of Physics, University of Toronto, Canada (who was visiting Professor Paulo Césaro de Camargo in the Department of Physics, Universidade Federal de São Carlos — UFSCAR);

  3. Dietrich Schiel, Associate Professor of Physics, Coordinator of Scientific and Cultural Dissemination, Instituto de Física e Qímica de São Carlos, Universidade de São Paulo — USP–SCAR;

  4. José G. Tundisi, Professor in the School of Engineering, Universidade de São Carlos; Director of the Centre for Water Research and Applied Ecology.

São Carlos is a small town (150,000 population) about 300 km west of São Paulo (15 million population) that houses two universities, UF-SCAR and USP–SCAR. By New World standards, São Carlos has a long scientific and cultural tradition. A branch of Ciencia Hoje (Science Today) has an office there in the elegant building where the public meeting was held. The building houses the Centre for the Dissemination of Science and Culture, operated by USPSCAR, and is alive with eager schoolchildren every weekday.

Ciencia Hoje is an excellent monthly publication, which might be described as a cross between Scientific American and Science, but which carries articles of more general appeal than either. It is an organ of SBPC, the Brazilian Society for the Progress of Science, which also edits a review, Ciencia e Cultura (Science and Culture). SBPC is an important organization, which, with about 20,000 members, has considerable influence in Brazilian scientific affairs. It holds an annual meeting in July, which is comparable in scope with that of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Science for Peace and Justice has not yet been formally constituted, but it is significant that the Vice-President of SBPC, Professor Jose Albertino R. Rodriguez, was a participant in the public meeting in São Carlos, where he spoke on science policy in Brazil relating especially to appropriate development, without destruction of the environment. The new organization will be a member of the Science for Peace International Network (SPIN), and thus will regularly receive Bulletins and Newsletters from other leading members, as well as Reports from several resource organizations, and will have the possibility for joint initiatives with the 40 or so members of SPIN in almost as many countries. Professor Rodriguez told us that this material would be a valuable resource for the publications of SBPC, as well as for the members of Science for Peace and Justice.

The inclusion of the word “Justice” in the name of the new organization implies social and economic justice, as well as justice to Mother Earth, i.e., preservation, and/or development without destruction, of the environment. This new emphasis should not be seen as detracting from the primary concern for Peace, but is entirely appropriate for a country which has never fought a major war, its only military adventure being the shameful participation with Argentina and Chile in the dismemberment of a large part of Paraguay over a century ago.

Brazil furthermore is still almost immune from involvement in wars in the various troubled regions of the world, though in a desperate effort to keep up interest payments on the massive external debt, the country unfortunately has become a major arms producer, and thus exacerbates these troubles. Brazil also shares of course in the global vulnerability to nuclear winter, in the event of a major nuclear war, even if it were confined to the nuclear powers in the northern hemisphere.

The term “social justice” has resonance in a country with 36 million abandoned children (half the population under 18), with 30 million illiterates (28% of the population over 5) and with an infant mortality rate of 68 (all government estimates for 1984); “economic justice” means in Brazil, as in every other South American country, first of all release from the bondage of external debt, which clearly can never be paid off and is widely seen to be a levy imposed by the developed countries in a latter-day model of imperialism; “justice to the earth” means an end to environmental destruction and to maniacal megaprojects (many of which are inflicted on the country by transnationals, with the sole outcome of further increase in the external debt), and the beginning of appropriate and sustainable development.

This extension of the mandate from “Peace” to “Peace and Justice” is consonant with the vision of Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, when they founded the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs in 1957. The new emphasis on “Justice” resonates with the Dagomys Declaration of the Pugwash Council, proclaimed in September 1988, on “Ensuring the Survival of Civilisation”. The Latin-American Pugwash Group, which is coordinated by Professor Ubiritan d’Ambrosio, Pro-Rector of UNICAMP–USP, is fully cognizant of the foundation of Science for Peace and Justice, and will coordinate Pugwash activities in Brazil with those of the new organization. We look forward to the day when Brazil, with its 150 million population, and other major underdeveloped (or distortedly-developed) countries in South America, Africa and Asia, take their proper place in the community of nations. These countries are represented in the United Nations, but they are incapable of proper development under the present international economic regime. Developed and underdeveloped countries alike may collapse and die in the 21st century, if we fail to hobble the Four Horses of the Apocalypse: War, Plague, Hunger, and Death. The main purpose of Science for Peace and Justice, like the other member organizations of the Science for Peace International Network, is to abolish War, the most dangerous, since it causes the others, of these terrible afflictions on humanity.

Eric Fawcett, Coordinator of the Science for Peace International Network

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