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SfP looks to the future

George Spiegelman

Here are several of the thoughts I have on entering the new year.

First, we are faced with having many people believe that disarmament is happening. While I believe this is a delusion, it would probably be unwise to plan a massive street demonstration. More pertinently, even membership drives may have little chance of success. On the other hand, this time may give us some breathing room to take care of some business. In a recent meeting we had with Ernie Regher he suggested that now might be the time to do homework. This suggestion much merit since it would solidify the active members we currently have doing useful and satisfying tasks.

In doing homework one area we might consider is the question of a National SfP policy I have been very impressed by the Veterans Against Nuclear Arms white paper on defense and by its use both as an organizing tool and as a means to push one’s point of view Creating policy would not be easy for us, but it seems to me to be important. A key feature of the importance of policy is as a concrete alternative to more conventional viewpoints (of which the Government’s White Paper on defense is an example). It seems to me that we need to have a Unified Theory of Peace-or at least parts of one (a key element of such a theory would be the Canadian perspective). Balance for the proliferating being created by “right wing think tanks” is desperately required.

A second question we might take more time to consider is what is going on with Canadian universities. A nationwide campaign for courses for science students dealing with disarmament might be interesting. This is a complex issue: are these peace studies? are these ethics courses? are these history courses? (Herbert York, whom I met last year in California, favored the latter). I might note that there is a lot going on in the field of Peace Education in Canada, much with which we could be more involved.

Thirdly, we have the problem that what appears to be progress, is not. The ‘good will’ surrounding the INF treaty is not going to slow the arms race and issues such as the Third World development; whether Gorbachev can pull it off in the Soviet Union; the dramatic restructuring of international economic communities, and the environment, each have the capability of making,the next 5-15 years dangerous. Should we diversify our concerns? Is there an over-riding problem other than nuclear arms, or another way to approach the issue of nuclear arms? Is there a way to reinvigorate popular concern about the issue of nuclear weapons? I sometimes think we should simply try to re-run the early literature all over again. I would certainly like to get the cruise testing agreement canceled.

Fourthly, we should examine the structure of SfP. The realization that in most chapters there are fewer than 10 really active members brings to mind two alternatives. We could be like the Union of Concerned Scientists, which is highly centralized (we could have a few centers) with small cadres and larger group who participate through donations. Alternatively we could be a group of groups—sort of like the way we operate now. The decentralized format should lead to more direct involvement. However in many places there is not a critical mass of active people for a group and this may not be the time to try to build these groups. Nationally directed ideas and plans might have more impact and be able to attract more casual members. The question of whether we want to create policy is clearly bound up in this.

Finally, there is the question of research. How much should we get into “original” research? We might view our role as publicists for research. CUPS is currently publishing good background papers and reports. Should we try to compete with them, or should we contribute through them? I would prefer the latter using study groups to prepare summary reports. What are important topics, particularly ones directly involving Canada? We need to capitalize on the Conference with an active study group. The issue of the submarines ranks high.

As one of my resolutions, I’ll promise a rapid reply to any response to any of the above thoughts.

Tony Arrott

What can we as an organization do to increase the level of responsibility of scientists?

To what extent can we influence scientists who have already embarked on a career in which the military-industrial-educational complex is the main source of their livelihood?

To what extent can we influence a future generation of scientists not to follow the bad examples of the past?

Some have suggested courses in ethics for scientists and engineers. In many cases the engineering professions have insisted on some response from the engineering school. Ursula Franklin has argued for required courses at the first year level for all entering students in science and engineering.

Herbert York looked into introducing concern for responsibility into the curricula of the University of California system. He has concluded that teaching of ethics by philosophers is not the answer He has argued that students need to know history in particular history from the 1930’s on, taught by scientists with a knowledge of that era.

I would like to see a such a history course required in every science faculty in Canada. That course would put the atomic age in perspective with regard to the social and political conditions from 1914 on. The course text should be written by scientists for scientists. The text might be called The Atomic Age.

We all agree that the energy of the atom has changed the world. We have the possibility of ending life. We have possibilities for enhancing life. We recognize our fundamental dependence on hydrogen to helium conversion for sustaining life. We have atomic power. The only argument is the proper location of the hydrogen reactor. Many would keep it 150 million kilometres away. All agree that we should maintain the ozone shield from that reactor.

Sustaining life, access to power sources, and the preservation of the environment are all important issues of the atomic age about which each generation should form informed opinions. The availability of cheap energy can led to the emancipation of mankind, we have the societal structures that channel that energy or the benefit of all. Enhancing the quality of life through the abundance of energy can be termed economic justice.

Derek Paul

We seem to be in an age where three concerns are paramount: ecology, ending the arms race, and economic justice within countries and between countries. Ecology is starting to attract much appropriate attention; ending the arms race has been the prime concern such as ours all along but economic justice, despite decades of foreign aid, not all of it unsuccessful, needs much more attention. Women have for decades regarded it as a necessary condition for peace. There is much to learn and basic work to do on economic justice.

Sally Curry:

Sally Curry wrote from Geneva where she serves as secretary of the World Information Clearing Centre for Peace, Arms Race, Disarmament and Other Global Problems giving her thoughts on the Eve of the New Year. She said in part:

From my experience and a wide range of international contacts in my work! submit the following: if the masses of the people, everywhere in the world, are so little aware of the basic problems concerning their common future, this situation sterns primarily from the fact that neither governments, nor non-governmental organizations (NGOs) (such as trade unions, religious organizations, physicians, peace, environment and human rights organizations, women, youth and others), nor scientists (whose major role in helping humanity resolve its crucial problems is widely recognized) have so far utilized their enormous potential to inform the people and to coordinate their support for the solution of vital problems.

Looking back on the past year’s activity of the World Information Centre, I have arrived at two conclusions. Firstly, for reasons referred to above, the Centre—the main purpose of which is the development of a New World Information System—has not been able to fulfill effectively the tasks with which it had been entrusted by some particularly motivated NGOs. Secondly, the people in all parts of the world need regular and understandable information !elating directly and concretely to their present life, but also to their expectations for their future and that of their children.

To launch a universal crusade to save the planet? Yes! Indeed who could object to this idea? But does a “crusade” not imply full involvement of the masses of the people? In this respect how can people come to realize consciously the terrible dangers surrounding the very survival of their children? How can they have a clear vision of a safe, clean and peaceful planet if this image is not consistently and dynamically conveyed to them, through any channels of communications, by governments, non-governmental organizations and scientists?

Paul LeBlond

In the past year or so, and mostly because of Mr Gorbachev’s initiatives in the wake of the INF agreement, international tension between the US and the USSR has decreased considerably. The great fear of a nuclear holocaust has nearly vanished from public discussion. One of the consequences has been a waning of interest in peace activities.

I think that Science for Peace should welcome this new situation. There is something much more fundamental in our purpose than reacting to a panic situation. I suggest that Science for Peace expand its scope of activities to include concerns other than the technological and scientific aspects of military confrontation. There are many other aspects of human activity wbeze science impacts on peace: the environment, communications, etc.. If we are to have a lasting effect on our profession through our colleagues and our students, we must go beyond being another “peace group” lobbying the government about arms control. We must inculcate in scientists a social conscience! Our social responsibility in Science for Peace might be framed in terms of training scientists to think of the downstream consequences of their work with respect to peace via a wide variety of applications.

May I suggest that Science for Peace take the lead in setting up discussions in Canadian scientific and technical associations on the consequences of scientific progress for human society. We would join forces with groups already active in science and society concerns to whom we could bring considerable strength; this collaboration would also enhance our effectiveness.

These thoughts are off the cuff and may be overly provocative because they take no account of work already underway and ideas expressed by many of our colleagues. My intention is to stoke discussion, not to criticize anyone. Perhaps a series of workshops within Science for Peace on how we should (if at all) expend our scope and what measures we should take to be more effective…?

Mike Pearson

I agree with you that the threat of nuclear war is receding, and that as it does so other problems, notably environmental, are becoming more conspicuous. Perhaps it might be true to say that the world’s nuclear arsenal is itself becoming recognized as just one facet of an overall global problem.

Nevertheless, I feel that there is still a grave danger that the entire-process of moving towards nuclear sanity could unravel. Specifically, I am afraid that the West might still undermine Gorbachev by letting too many of the opportunities that he is presenting us with slip. Threatening gestures such as a unilateral breach of the AB Treaty through deployment of even a rudimentary SDI could be equally disastrous.

Thus I feel that the need for vigilance on the part of people with some degree of expertise is as great as ever. Even in a specifically Canadian context there is much to be done. One particular example that comes to mind is the issue of Cruise testing in Canada. Another concerns tritium exports (I must confess that I have lost track of what is going on here).

Personally, I believe that projects of this sort could easily absorb all our limited resources. Thus I am opposed to any immediate broadening of our range of activities to include environmental concerns, the more so since there already exist several highly competent Canadian organizations active in this field. On the other hand, there is no other organization that could handle specifically peace-related issues.

Nevertheless, I would whole-heartedly support merging with environmental bodies to form some umbrella organization on the lines of UCS. Maybe we could simply consider setting up a branch plant of UCS, since that is going to be the trend. But in the meantime we should not spread ourselves too thinly.

Lynn Trainor

While we are still not out of the woods on the possible use of weapons of mass destruction and the creation of “enemies” by the large weapons manufacturing establishments, I do sense that a turnaround is taking place. I was impressed by a recent video hookup of two classrooms, one in the US and one in the USSR, which were a joint effort of CBS (I believe) and the USSR television networks. The goodwill between students and teachers on both sides seemed to me powerful influences pitted against the arms trade.

To some extent I believe there is something like an “Earth Intelligence” that is too big for any one of us to see clearly, but which influences us all as we are part of it. There is a growing awareness that some really big problems are common problems, like overpopulation, resource depletion, global pollution and inequity among the world populations. Now an important question is whether the solutions must in large part be scientific solutions, which we rather defensively him to believe, or whether it is inherent in science to contain the seeds of our destruction.

There was an impelling book written in the early fifties by the French philosopher Jacques Ellul called The Technological Society, which argues that in whatever field technique takes over and drives events inevitably in certain directions—an evolutionary landscape from whose valleys one cannot escape. His solution to turn to God is not my personal piece of cake, and I am not sure what God is supposed to do in any case. But aside from a rather last minute appeal to God, the rest of the book is brilliant analysis, is somewhat sobering.

Perhaps one direction for Science for Peace is to examine the questions raised by Ellul, which oversimplified might read, “Is science ultimately a hope or a despair?” I know I am naughty to raise this issue at all, but our lives may depend on it!

On this happy note let me return to my usual optimistic stance and wish you and the Vancouver Executive a good festive season and a successful new year in working for the broad issues of peace, including inner peace!

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