Update on Our Saving the World Project

Since you’re reading Peace Magazine, it’s safe to assume that you’re trying to save the world from something: war or global warming, say, or famine, pandemics, radiation exposure from a reactor explosion, or maybe even cyberwar. So, how’s it going for you? We’re partners, you know.

By Metta Spencer | 2018-01-01 11:00:00

In the preceding issue of Peace, we suggested that it would help if some of these movements to save the world recognized that they were working on the same agendas. That is the aim of an ongoing Science for Peace project: to show how several separate problems are interdependent as a single system.

Lots of readers agreed and wanted to be kept up-to-date on that Science for Peace project. This time, therefore, let’s explore the connections among these six global threats to humanity. We need to work together because the various disasters we’re addressing often are causally linked. The graphic below shows some of those connections.

This time, therefore, let’s explore the connections among these six global threats to humanity. We need to work together because the various disasters we’re addressing often are causally linked. The graphic below shows some of those connections.

Some of the Causal Connections

  1. War and weapons can cause global warming.
    (a) Weapons and armies emit a lot of CO2.
    (b) The huge expense of weaponry diverts money from changing to carbon-negative technologies.
  2. Global warming can cause wars. Farmers who can no longer produce crops may be recruited as warriors.
  3. War and weapons can cause famine.
    (a) Wars keep farmers from producing or marketing food.
    (b) Nuclear war will cause global famine when soot in stratosphere from burning cities blot out sunshine, turning summer into fall or winter, preventing crops from growing.
  4. War and weapons can cause pandemics.
    (a) Soldiers travel, and have always spread infectious diseases.
    (b) Pathogens can be deliberately developed for use as weapons against an enemy.
  5. War and weapons can cause radiation exposure. Miners, workers, and soldiers come into contact with fissile material, weapons, and depleted uranium.
  6. Cyber attacks can cause war and weapons. Future wars will be fought by soldiers sitting at computers, controlling weapons at a distance. Even now it may be possible for a distant hacker to gain control of nuclear missiles and launch them, provoking the attacked country to retaliate.
  7. War and weapons can cause cyber threats. One country may prefer to knock out his enemy’s electric grid than to bomb his cities.
  8. Global warming can cause famine. Doughts, floods, desertification will make it harder to grow crops or transport food to markets and will create climate refugees living in camps.
  9. Cyber threats can exacerbate global warming. Already cyber attacks against banks are claiming about 10% of the profits and interfering with industrial and agricultural supply chains. On a larger scale, such attacks can have catastrophic effects, e.g. if a continent’s electric grid is destroyed.
  10. Global warming can cause pandemics.
    (a) Mosquitoes are now spreading to temperate climates, bringing new diseases such as Zika.
    (b) People in hot countries are living in closer proximity to wild animals, from whom they acquire new diseases.
  11. Pandemics can cause famine. In a pandemic, quarantines are necessary, keeping people from their normal activities, including the production and marketing of food.
  12. Cyber attacks can cause famine. Farmers’ planting schedules are based on centrally held metrics such as soil fertility. Hackers entering fake, incorrect data could lead to failed crops or even famine.

Seeing the Bigger Picture

Most NGOs define their mandates rather narrowly. We say we’re a peace group, for example, or a climate change organization, as if it were that simple. But if we just work to encourage activities that look peaceable, and oppose activities that look violent, we are being naive. Peace work involves addressing the causes and effects of war, which include famines, internet threats, radiation exposure, diseases, and global warming. Those problems are all part of peace work. And war is a problem for the people working against those disasters too.

That does not mean that we need to form some huge organization that tries to do everything. Peace workers need to specialize, just as experts working in any other field need to specialize, even when they see their colleagues as partners. In fact, big “umbrella” organizations do not necesssarily help their member organizations accomplish more than they would separately; sometimes they seem to drain more resources away from those member organizations than they add. Grassroots organizations have some real advantages.

Then in what sense would it be useful for activists in these six different fields to see themselves as partners in solving a single pernicious societal system? In what sense do we need to “work together”?

Answer: We need to discover ourselves as moral and political allies. Our purposes are aligned inevitably as we fight against the same enemy, so our policies fit together more coherently than we had previously noticed. We are conscious of ourselves as a social movement of social movements. There is power in that consciousness! I support your top policies and you support mine for the whole list is now “our” agenda.

That is what it means to share a common “Platform for Survival.”

But such a platform must not be an ideology — a package of doctrines that we adopt holus bolus without thinking them through. As rational people should, we’ll consider each policy proposal and anticipate its potential consequences. What may happen twenty years from now if this policy is enacted? What might go wrong?? And if it all goes right, what would it look like? Is that what we really want?

Yes, we remain specialists, performing our own unique roles, but we should take a moment sometimes to imagine the bigger picture, envisionthe tomorrow that we are creating now.

In practical terms, this means that we should meet our partners occasionally and think through their policies and priorities, as they should consider ours. Then, if we find them compatible, we should adopt each others’ political purposes as a common platform, a checklist of purposes that we all are pursuing together, in our separate organizations and localities.

Today we’re compiling a list, and we want your policy proposals to be on it. Tell us: What are the best things that can be done to keep this world safe from the existential threat that is your specialty? Please enter it on the list we’re making, and come to Toronto on May 30 and 31 to discuss the whole set of proposals. We’ll pick the best 25 and make them into a comprehensive agenda to save the world.

How to discuss these proposals

Every day lately we’re receiving at least one suggestion for the Platform for Survival. We add them onto a database and about once a week update the complete version that’s on our website: ToSaveTheWorld.ca . You may want to look at that web site to see the videos and bibliography that we’re compiling there about the six global threats. We also have a series of columns where the policies can be discussed and new information posted.

However, there are other ways you can participate. If you want your proposals listed, you can email them to me and I will add them to the list. (My email is mspencer@web.net.)

But the best way is on Facebook. If you have a Facebook account, look at our six pages there, discuss the ideas online, and add your comments and proposals. Those proposals and comments will be automatically copied over to the corresponding pages on our website, where the people without Facebook accounts can read and discuss them.

On Facebook, look at these pages:

On the web, look for this site: ToSaveTheWorld.ca

Metta Spencer is editor of Peace. How to Save the World is a project of Science for Peace in cooperation with other civil society groups.

Peace Magazine Jan-Mar 2018

Peace Magazine Jan-Mar 2018, page 24. Some rights reserved.

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