Save the Planet!

Save the Planet!

New networking by NGOs and individuals

By Gunnar Westberg, TFF Board member

January 2, 2019

Three main challenges to humanity’s survival

We are handing to the new generations three overriding dangers to the health and maybe survival of the entire human population:

1. Nuclear war.

2. Climate changes, and

3. Increasing class differences.

This last danger, the consequences of the increasing economic differences, is a subject too political for this presentation, but I am of the opinion that if we do not stop the increasing social injustice it will be even more difficult to save the planet.

Working against nuclear war

“Nuclear war is the greatest danger to the health and survival of mankind”, according to the World Health Organization. Since 1981 I have worked with the organization International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, IPPNW.

We believed that if we could just make people understand the consequences of nuclear war, understand that nuclear war might be the end of the human civilization, maybe of the human race, people would demand that nukes should be abolished.

Actually, we had considerable success. “We” in this case means several cooperating peace organizations.

In Europe, especially in Germany, the public opinion was very active against nuclear weapons and succeeded to stop the deployment of the intermediary range nuclear missiles, the INF weapons. A whole class of weapons was scrapped, more than 2,000 bombs.

This very important agreement is now being abandoned by the US President. The neutron bomb was also cancelled. We have not heard from Mr Trump regarding neutron weapons, not yet. Further, the number of nuclear weapons were reduced from 65,000 to, at present, 14,000, following the START agreement.

However, with time we learnt that the nuclear weapon states do not want to abolish their nuclear weapons, not ever.

We tried to convince these states that they would be much safer in a world without atom bombs. We showed how verification of nuclear disarmament could be carried out. We emphasized that if nuclear weapons were allowed to exist, they would eventually be used, through mistakes and misunderstanding, destroying a large part of the human civilization – or all of it.

However, rational arguments were without effect. The power emanating from nuclear weapons seem to have a strong addictive quality. The nuclear weapon states had agreed, already in 1968 in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, NPT, to negotiate the abolition of all their nuclear weapons.

Fifty years later, they have not yet started, and they have no intention to do so.

New methods

Ten years ago it became clear to us in IPPNW that the nuclear weapon states were not going to give up their nuclear weapons, however useless they may be.

We then started a new international network, ICAN, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons

In ICAN the large network was an important factor. ICAN engaged the cooperation of organizations for peace, environment, religion and human rights.

There are now around 550 such associations on our list.

ICAN had four general principles:

First: Cooperation in a large network, in ICAN.

Second: Work with nuclear weapon free states, not the nuclear addicted states;
Third: We talk only of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear war, and leave the methods for disarmament to the nuclear weapon states themselves.

And fourth: We had a concrete goal, the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, TPNW.

Recently 122 states reaffirmed in the UN their support. The treaty is now open for ratification. And ICAN received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.

ICAN also cooperated with a few supportive governments, just as we once did in the work for the treaty against land mines.

The Treaty will decrease the risk of nuclear war

How would this treaty work? TPNW has so far no support from the nuclear weapon states and will not in the short perspective accomplish a nuclear weapons-free world. But with time, the threat to use of nuclear weapons will be more and more unthinkable.

Let us consider: Why have nuclear weapons never been used since 1945? Why did the USA not use nukes in Vietnam? President Lyndon Johnson said ”I would rather lose the war that use nuclear weapons”

Similarly, President George W. Bush threatened to use nuclear weapons in Iraq, only if Iraq used other “weapons of mass destruction”, that is chemical weapons. Obviously nuclear weapons, and chemical weapons, are in a special abominable category, already today.

When the treaty on prohibition of nuclear weapons is in force, the states who have nuclear weapons will gradually be seen as outlaw states.

Even if the Prohibition Treaty may not be signed by the nuclear weapon states in some years, it will elevate the nuclear threshold, making it increasingly unthinkable to threaten with the use of atomic weapons.

Preventing the climate catastrophe: Learn from ICAN!

I used this example of ICAN as a background to discuss if a network of organizations can achieve something similar to prevent the climate catastrophe?

We saw with nuclear weapons that the nuclear weapon states have no intention to live up to their pledge to abolish their atomic bombs.

It is becoming clear that several of the big states have abandoned their goal of working to prevent the climate catastrophe.

We must, therefore, find ways for ordinary people to get together to achieve the necessary reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

We are now facing the greatest threat to human health since the Black Plague in the 14th century which killed one-third of the world population.

We face consequences of the same magnitude. If we work together according to the Paris agreement we will perhaps be able to keep the temperature rise below 2,0°.

The consequences of that rise will be quite serious but possibly within limits that the world community can manage.

But if we do not act according to the Paris agreement, all of us and all countries, we may reach a point of no return, a tipping point, from which the temperature rise will continue, whatever we do.

Preventing nuclear war can be done by abolishing nuclear weapons through political decision-making. With the climate change, the political action is important but we must all, every one of us, act individually and responsibly.

And we see now that the agreement from Paris will not be heeded by several important governments.

Then we must, just as with nuclear weapons, form a network of organizations that will force the governments to live up to their promises, but we must also, each and everyone of us, live our daily lives with the greatest care not to contribute to the carbon oxide burden.

First we must put pressure on the politicians to follow and exceed the agreements made, in Paris and in the future. We must demand taxes, high and rising taxes, on all fossil fuels everywhere, fuels for cars and fuels for heating and cooling our houses.

We must build fast railways, reliable and running on electricity generated from sun and wind. The railway structure shall, whenever possible, not be made from concrete; concrete emits a lot of carbon dioxide.

Preventing the climate catastrophe: Individual and political responsibility.

We must decrease air travel by two thirds or more. Occasionally, we will have to travel by air, for instance to very important conferences, but twenty or thirty years from now, we should be able to travel to meetings on high-speed trains between almost any capital in Europe, Asia and North Africa, in 24 hours.

Or better still: most meetings can be done on the Internet if we prepare them well. Often the most important reason for us to travel to a conference is that we then leave our office and concentrate for three days on one subject and interact with other people interested in similar interests.

Perhaps we should leave our offices and go to conference hubs in our own country or region, and interact with people all over the world through high- class Internet connections, providing lectures and discussions as well as contacts on an individual base.

Vacation travel should generally be made by train, and stay within our continent. We should restrict our vacation travel between continents to one trip every few years, and then stay for a longer and more rewarding period.

The Millennium Goals

Actually, today most people in the world do not make any vacation trips by air, so why should we pretend that this is a human right?

Furthermore: Air transport of all those gadgets we believe we need must decrease. Transport by sea is so much climate-friendly. Really high taxes on airline fuel would be a first step to force a change in our irresponsible behaviour.

Electricity shall, of course, be generated by sun and wind. We should, in most countries, be able to achieve 90% sustainable electricity generation before the year 2050.

Our eating habits must change. We do not have to become vegetarians but we must reduce our meat consumption markedly.

And there are many more changes that will be needed in our individual lives.

Can we do this? Certainly! Will we do this? Certainly not, certainly not most of us.

Not this year, but at the same time, we see more and more people changing their lifestyle. And their example is catching on. More and more young people are becoming vegetarians. Many young people do not have a driver’s license. Electric bicycles are catching on. And everywhere we see solar panels.

There is no question that we are beginning to move in the right direction. If we are able to forego fossil fuel to 90%, we might have achieved a steady state in atmospheric carbon dioxide around the year 2100.

Even then, things will keep on getting worse. The sea will continue to warm up and the level thus rise. Let us just hope that the methane leaks in the Arctic will not force the climate over the tipping point.

Save the Planet!

We must create an International Campaign to Save the Planet, ICSP. All NGO:s working for environment, peace, humane living conditions, human rights, all farmers, beekeepers, fishermen, and of course priests and religious leaders concerned about taking care of God’s creation: We must create an international cooperative network.

This organization, ICSP, should work as ICAN did, and the campaign against land mines, lobbying government and businesses. But we must also work as individuals, inspiring each other.

We should propose changes in individual lifestyles, tell positive stories, and educate, educate!

National and local chapters should work with the appropriate authorities and schools. Working to save the climate will require a large number of changes at all societ’s levels and across its sectors.

In order to change our behavior, we must work together and inspire each other. We must all join our efforts with one purpose: To save the planet from us.

And we must ourselves begin to be the change we want to see…

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