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The Marshall W. Nirenberg Papers

Policy and Action Statement for the Second Biennial Conference on the Fate of the Earth pdf (1,155,466 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Policy and Action Statement for the Second Biennial Conference on the Fate of the Earth
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11 (1,155,466 Bytes)
Date Supplied:
Brower, David
Peterson, Russell W.
Friends of the Earth
National Audubon Society
Reproduced with permission of Friends of the Earth.
Exhibit Category:
Beyond the Laboratory: Professional, Personal, and Political Life, 1967-2002
Metadata Record Letter from Robert Hofstadter, Henry Taube, William Fowler, and George Wald to Marshall W. Nirenberg (September 6, 1984) pdf (126,204 Bytes) transcript of pdf
Box Number: 128
Folder Number: 36
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Document Type:
Drafts (documents)
Physical Condition:
Series: Series VI: Professional Activities, 1951-2002
SubSeries: Conferences and Symposia, 1951-2002
Folder: Second Biennial Conference on the Fate of the Earth, [ca. 1984]
In 1955, ten years after the first nuclear bombs killed a quarter of a million people in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell, along with seven other Nobel laureates, urged the people of the world to recognize that nuclear weapons threatened the continued existence of humankind and to renounce these weapons forever: "We appeal, as human beings, to human beings: Remember your humanity and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death."
Today, nearly thirty years and 50,000 warheads later, the world continues speeding toward nuclear apocalypse, which we now know would be worse than anything Einstein and Russell ever imagined. Recent studies by leading American, European, and Soviet scientists have concluded that even a limited nuclear war involving less than one percent of existing arsenals could produce enough smoke and soot to block out more than 99 percent of the Northern Hemisphere's sunlight, plunging the planet for many months into a dark, lethal nuclear winter. These findings have made it clear that nuclear wars, perhaps even all wars, now imperil the continued existence of both human life and a living planet.
What nuclear war could do in 50 to 150 minutes, an exploding population assaulting the Earth's life-support systems could do in 50 to 150 years. Today, aquifers are being exhausted, farms turned into dustbowls, tropical rainforests destroyed, and limited fossil energy and mineral resources depleted. This environmental assault is particularly devastating to the more than one billion people faced with chronic hunger, deteriorating land, increasing shortages of firewood and other fuels, inadequate housing, and unsanitary drinking water. In the years ahead, unless humanity changes its ways, these people will be joined by billions more competing for dwindling or degraded resources. If these expanding multitudes continue pursuing economic growth without seeking environmental sustainability, we may all soon be forced to cope with catastrophic food shortages, pollution disasters, and severe climate perturbations.
These ominous problems are solvable, but only if we recognize their interconnections. On his death bed, Aurelio Peccei, founder of the Club of Rome, wrote that peace must be understood not only as the prevention of violent conflict between nations "but also in the relationship between human society and nature."- A recent 31 nations conference issued a similar communique that "the preservation of the environment and the maintenance of peace are important to one another."
The connections between nuclear war and environmental destruction are manifold. In a world where increasing competition over resources such as oil, fisheries, or fertile land could spark conflicts capable of escalating from conventional to nuclear weapons, peace will require us to adopt more sustainable patterns of resource use. In a world where nations squander six hundred billion dollars each year on weapons and armies, sustainability will require us to divert these military-directed funds into ambitious global plans for family planning, environmental restoration, rural development, and pollution control. And resolution of these problems will require that national attempts to conquer the environment and vanquish security threats must be supplanted by new approaches aimed at international stewardship and cooperation.
For the sake of peace, of the Earth, and of its children, we call upon the world's people -- in all branches of their governments, in business, in academia, in churches, and in the press -- to awaken to and to redress these urgent problems. The prospects of nuclear winter and environmental catastrophe have brought humankind to the most critical crossroads of its existence. We can no longer afford to go about business as usual. Nothing less than new, bold policies for restoring rationality to national security and promoting a sustainable global economy will ensure our survival.
I. Restoring Rationality to National Security
We first call for all nations to recognize that a rational national security policy must seek to freeze and reduce weapons stockpiles, to prepare the economy for peacetime production, and to seek, ultimately, the universal abolition of nuclear weapons. Even if complete disarmament may lie decades away, we urge that it become an explicit goal to guide short-term policy. In the same way that people in the past have rejected inhumane activities like slavery, human sacrifice, and child labor, we must have the moral courage to reject nuclear deterrence, a policy by which nations stand ready to slaughter the human race in the name of national security. As the American Catholic Bishops have stressed, we must make a moral about-face and accept deterrence only as a step on the way toward progressive disarmament. But to make deterrence even conditionally acceptable, we must make dramatic changes in strategic doctrine and in policies regarding conversion, nonproliferation, intervention, and international law.
First, we recommend the elimination of all strategies for fighting, surviving, and winning so-called limited nuclear wars. Accordingly, we urge all nuclear nations to adopt a "no first use" posture accompanied by a strengthening of nonnuclear deterrents to war. Because almost any nuclear exchange can escalate into a nuclear winter, there is no conceivable gain that could outweigh the likely costs of nuclear war.
Second, we call for negotiations or independent initiatives aimed at the universal elimination of all nuclear weapons that give the false perception that nuclear wars are fightable, survivable, or winnable, including weapons with very high accuracy, short flight times, multiple warheads, or explicit war-fighting purposes. In addition, the development of all nonnuclear technologies such as space-based particle beam weapons and anti-satellite weapons should be abandoned and outlawed.
Third, we recommend substantial reductions in the total number of nuclear and conventional weapons deployed. To effect such reductions, we call upon our leaders to seek, first, through independent initiatives designed to set the stage for fruitful negotiations, a bilateral freeze on the development, testing, product ion, and deployment of all nuclear weapons.
Fourth, to ensure we can afford an outbreak of peace, we urge the development of sound conversion programs by both government and private industry to help retrain defense workers and retool plants involved in military production. The resultant redirection of human and material resources to sustenance rather than to destruction is essential to a sound global economy based on conservation.
Fifth, we urge stronger national and international policies to halt the spread of nuclear weapons to nonnuclear nations by tightening controls on the export of all nuclear materials and technology, increasing the inspection and enforcement powers of the International Atomic Energy Agency, and implementing wherever cost-effective renewable, nonproliferative energy- supplies, including efficiency improvements. Furthermore, member nations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty should prepare to use the 1985 review conference to bring holdout nations like China, France, and India within the treaty.
Sixth, to reduce the chance that nuclear weapons will be used in conventional conflicts, we call upon all nations, especially those possessing nuclear weapons, to strengthen international treaties and institutions aimed at respecting one another's territorial sovereignty. We particularly encourage nations to influence one another, not through military intervention, but through nonmilitary avenues of cultural exchange, trade, and persuasion. Accordingly, we urge the superpowers to work with their allies in replacing their nuclear umbrellas with regionally based, nonnuclear defense arrangements. We finally urge the endorsement of the McCloy-Zorin principles for secure, phased disarmament, agreed to by American and Soviet negotiators in 1961, and to seek what the United Nations Charter has always envisioned but never implemented: an effective international collective security system as a reliable, legitimate hedge against all global aggression.
Finally, to help make disarmament conceivable in the decades ahead, we seek the long-term transfer of some national power and legitimacy to democratic global organizations to promulgate international laws and adjudicate international conflicts in a binding, nonviolent manner. As first steps , we support efforts to encourage leaders increasingly to abide by and to strengthen the fragile international laws and institutions already in place, particularly the Law of the Sea Treaty, the International Court of Justice, and the United Nations.
II. Promoting A Sustainable Global Economy
To improve the quality of life for the planet's rapidly expanding 4.7 billion people without courting eco-catastrophe, we call for both public and private initiatives aimed at promoting biologically sustainable economic progress, conserving resources, controlling pollution, protecting biological diversity, and curbing population growth. These initiatives will be increasingly possible as the world redirects resources to what we really need and away from weapons we no longer can afford.
First, we urge our governments to offer more assistance to the world's poor people. Savings from disarmament should be reinvested in programs promoting employment and economic progress in developing nations, particularly in rural areas. We further endorse the recommendations of the distinguished Brandt Commission that developed nations open their markets to developing countries' producers and create mechanisms for stabilizing fluctuations in the prices of global commodities.
Second, we urge all governments to adopt a policy of living within the carrying capacities of nations' ecosystems, with reasonable allowance for trade with other regions having surplus resources. Renewable resources should be used instead of nonrenewable ones and conserved so that they are consumed at a rate no greater than they can be replenished. We strongly endorse the development of resilient, diversified, and decentralized energy supply technologies capable of tapping the renewable energy sources, including efficiency improvements, to reduce our current reliance on brittle, overcentralized, and nonrenewable sources such as uranium, coal, oil, and gas. Where nonrenewable resources must be used, we urge their careful conservation through more vigorous programs promoting efficiency and, where possible, recycling.
Third, because pollution fails to respect national borders, we recommend that global development be accompanied by vigorous programs of international pollution control. Acid rain, ozone depletion, climate shifts, pollution, radioactivity contamination, and water all of which have been caused by unwise global development, are among the areas most in need of special international attention. Moreover, nations should regulate the export of potentially hazardous substances or technologies as rigorously as they regulate them at home.
Fourth, we urge a halt to the tragic destruction of our irreplaceable genetic resources. Today, we are losing uncounted species, sacrificing agricultural sustainability, destroying potential sources of human foods, medicines, and industrial products, and irreparably tearing the entire fabric of our ecosystems. To reverse this trend, we call upon our leaders to undertake innovative efforts to conserve Earth's biological diversity. Particular attention should be placed on preventing further losses of tropical rainforests, which harbor an enormous share of the planet's biological wealth and the disappearance of which could well lead to cataclysmic changes in global climate.
Fifth, we urge a reversal of the growth rate of the global human population, which is now expanding by more than 200,000 people per day. If unchecked, population growth could overburden the earth with more than ten billion people by the year 2050, more than canceling any economic advancement in poor nations, spurring more disruptive global migrations, and placing unmanageable stresses on the global environment. While the consequences of population pressures will at first be most keenly felt among the world's poor, the west will inevitably suffer the reverberations. To avoid these consequences, we call upon developed nations to help other nations assess their resources and carrying capacities, and give international population measures the highest priority.
Finally, we urge that governments, educational institutions, labor, and management develop comprehensive plans to accommodate the rechannelling of resources from military production to these development and environmental protection programs.
Making A New Commitment
To those who consider these proposals unrealistic, Richard Barnet's reminder is apt: "we now march to annihilation under the banner of realism." The world has fundamentally changed, and the "realistic" approaches of the past no longer work. Our task must be to expand the boundaries of what is realistic. Many "unrealistic" approaches of yesterday -- energy conservation efforts, international environmental treaties, and small-scale rural development programs -- have become the success stories of today. As the accompanying legislative agenda reflects, there is much we can do, providing we have the will. The most unrealistic policy imaginable is to believe complacently that continued nuclear arms races can avert a nuclear winter.
We call for new, enlightened leadership within all nations, but especially within the United States, which controls one-fourth of the world's wealth, an even greater amount of its scientific and technical knowledge, and half of the planet's nuclear weapons. With a proven track record in influencing global security and environmental policies, the United States can help lead the world toward disarmament and a sustainable society, especially if it devotes more intellectual, financial, and institutional resources to these problems.
Above all, survival rests in the hands of each and every one of us. We must educate and organize our families, our friends, our neighbors, and our local leaders. From millions of individuals and groups committing themselves to finding an answer to the human predicament, new national and international institutions and policies can be shaped and implemented. Citizens can also influence international affairs by working directly with citizens in other nations, as American and Soviet citizens have done through regular visits to one another's lands. As the tools of global transportation and communication become more accessible, people everywhere should use them to link-up and combat the world's most pressing problems through existing and new transnational networks of nongovernmental organizations, churches, labor unions, and political parties.
We are now entering the fifth decade of the nuclear age and are approaching the decisive moment in human history. If we act decisively, we still have a chance to avert nuclear war and environmental catastrophe. But we each must make survival an uncompromised priority, for if we let life slip away, we shall never have another chance.
United States Legislative Action Agenda
In a democracy, one of the most powerful tools for implementing new policies is through legislation. Consequently, to implement the goals of the Policy and Action Statement, we urge our duly elected representatives in Washington, D.C. to undertake the legislative actions described below.
In making these recommendations, we do not mean to suggest that only Congress has a burden to act. Indeed, little legislation is possible without public pressure (through letters, phone calls, and voting) or presidential leadership and support. We instead view this agenda as a call for action to people throughout America to educate, organize, and persuade other people to make these small legislative steps possible.
I. Restoring Rationality To National Security
(1) Reexamination Of U.S. Nuclear Strategy In The Face Of Nuclear Winter: We urge the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to hold hearings on the strategic implications of the recent evidence on nuclear winter. These hearings should critically examine the Pentagon's report on the subject, which both houses have directed it to issue by March 1, 1985. They should especially examine whether the risks of human extinction posed by a nuclear winter have now rendered nuclear war obsolete.
(2) Legislate Moratoria On Destabilizing Weapons -- We endorse Congressional attempts to restrict production and recall deployment of the MX, Trident D-5, and Pershing II missiles, all of which are designed to encourage nuclear war-fighting and therefore threaten American national security at least as much as they threaten Soviet security. We further endorse Congressional attempts to cut off the development, production, and deployment of "Star Wars" weapons and anti-satellite weapons.
(3) Legislate A Nuclear Freeze -- We endorse recent Congressional initiatives that urge the President to enter negotiations with the Soviet Union for a bilateral, verifiable freeze on the development, testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons. We also endorse the National Freeze Campaign's proposals to make defense appropriations conditional on the President faithfully pursuing a freeze.
(4) Ratify Outstanding Arms Control Treaties -- We endorse Congressional resolutions (SJR 29, HJR 3) urging the President to enter negotiations for a comprehensive test ban and to submit to the Senate for ratification of the Threshold Test Ban Treaty and the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty. We further urge the Senate to ratify SALT II.
(5) Conduct Hearings On Deep Cuts -- To meet the challenges posed by substantial reductions in nuclear arsenals -- including verification, the disposal of fissionable materials, and dangers posed by medium-sized nuclear powers, proliferation, and technological breakout -- we urge the Congress to undertake extensive hearings on these issues.
(6) Legislate A Conversion Assistance Program -- We support efforts to create national programs aimed at easing the economic impact of defense spending cuts through adjustment assistance and retraining.
(7) Strengthen The Nonproliferation Act -- To bolster the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act, we urge Congress to prohibit domestic use of recycled plutonium and highly enriched uranium in U.S. nuclear power plants, to ban foreign reprocessing of U.S.-supplied nuclear fuel, and to halt all exports of reprocessing and uranium enrichment technology as well as separated plutonium and highly enriched uranium.
(8) Create A Sunbeams For Peace Program -- To phase out nuclear power exports, we recommend that Congress discontinue subsidizing nuclear exports through the Export-Import Bank and instead begin promoting the export of nonnuclear energy sources (including conservation measures) to undercut the world's nuclear reactor vendors.
(9) Strengthen The War Powers Act -- To restore the constraints on military intervention originally conceived in the Constitution, we endorse Congressional efforts (HR 6078) to strengthen the War Powers Act by requiring the President to obtain prior Congressional approval before committing U.S. troops abroad, except to rescue U.S. citizens, to repel an attack on U.S. armed forces, or to respond to an invasion of U.S. territory.
(10) Pass The Common Security Resolution -- In an effort to pave the way for deep cuts in all nuclear arsenals, we support the "Common Security Resolution" (SR 125, HR 123) that urges the President to reopen negotiations with the Soviet Union to implement the McCloy-Zorin principles for general and complete disarmament.
(11) Ratify Outstanding International Law Treaties -- To secure the fragile instruments of international law already in place, we urge the President to submit to the Senate for immediate ratification the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the International Convention on Human Rights, and the Law of the Sea Treaty.
(12) Funding For A United Nations Verification System -- To help verify global weapons control arrangements, we urge Congress to undertake hearings on the possibility of the United States offering funding and technical assistance to establish a non- partisan United Nations verification system, especially a UN satellite system -- an initiative which has already received overwhelming international support despite opposition by both superpowers.
(13) Conduct Hearings On United Nations Reform -- To strengthen the only continuous forum for international discussion and cooperation the world has, we urge Congress to consider proposals for reforming the United Nations, including those aimed at giving more General Assembly votes to nations with large populations or making large contributions, directly electing General Assembly representatives, ensuring more procedural fairness for minority blocs, abolishing the Security Council veto, and establishing a permanent peacekeeping force.
II. Moving Toward Sustainable Development
(1) Increase Support For Some U.S. Agency For International Development; Reevaluation Of Others -- To be added.
(2) Increase Support For Multilateral Development Banks -- We urge funds disbursed to multilateral development banks (including the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, and the Asian Development Bank) be more carefully tied to concrete assurances that these development programs are undertaken with careful attention to the goals of the World Conservation Strategy of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).
(3) Increase Support For The United Nations Environment Program -- The United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) is one of the most important international organizations working to promote global environmental protection by facilitating treaty negotiations on water pollution, hazardous pesticides, and ozone-protection. Despite an authorization for ten million dollars, the Administration has requested -- and the Senate has approved -- an appropriation of only three million dollars. We urge a restoration of the prior level of funding and the gradual expansion of American contributions.
(4) Strengthen Domestic Anti-Pollution Programs -- To be added.
(5) Strengthen National Programs Aimed At Protective Species In The United States -- One way for the United States to protect global biological diversity is to set a good example by reauthorizing and strengthening the Endangered Species Act, inaugurating a national ecosystems protection study, and setting up a new U.S. biological survey analogous to the U.S. Geological Survey to monitor and inventory species.
(6) Increase Support For National Programs Aimed At Protecting Species Abroad -- We recommend that the United States offer more financial support to the international affairs offices of both the National Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service, both of which are working with their counterparts in developing countries to protect endangered species like migratory birds and to set up biological preserves. Similarly, we support increased federal funding for the Man and the Biosphere Program, which sponsors national research on biological management techniques.
(7) Increase U.S. Support For Existing International Programs Aimed At Protecting Species -- The United States can also help biological protection by contributing more money to ongoing international programs like UNEP, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Heritage convention. UNEP is especially important since it provides a quarter of the budget of the IUCN, which itself carries out projects to conserve endangered species, protect national parks, and designate natural areas for inclusion in the World Heritage Convention. Finally, major funding should be provided to the World Heritage Convention, which promotes the recognition and protection of key natural and cultural areas in the world.
(8) Conclude Species Protection Treaties -- We recommend that the United States sign and ratify the already completed Ramsar Wetlands Convention and the United Nations Charter for Nature. Congress should also urge the President to sponsor a treaty to protect Third World biological resources.
(9) Retain And Expand Support For Existing Population Programs -- We urge Congress to oppose the Administration's attempts to cutoff $100 million to international population control programs that practice or advocate abortion. To reduce the incidence of abortion, we instead encourage increased support for programs promoting family planning methods and higher literacy among women.
III. Making A New Commitment
(1) Conduct Hearings On Establishing Foresight Capability -- To improve the nation's ability to evaluate population, and environmental trends effectively, resource, we recommend that Congress enact current proposals (HR 31, SR 33) to create an executive level Global Foresight Agency.
(2) Hold Hearings On Means Of Expanding Public Participation -- Congress should explore means of expanding public participation in strategic planning, perhaps by opening the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency's statements on the arms control impact of each new weapons system to a more rigorous system of public scrutiny analogous to the public scrutiny that now occurs under the National Environmental Policy Act.
(3) Increase Support For Global Education Programs -- We endorse legislation to increase federal funding for programs aimed at increasing students' appreciation for and comprehension of foreign languages, culture, and politics.
(4) Increase Support For The Peace Corps -- We recommend increased funding for the Peace Corps, which since 1962, has sentmore than 100,000 volunteers to assist in development and environmental protection projects around the world.
(5) Increase Support For Exchange Programs -- We urge greater federal support for programs like the Fulbright Fellowships that enable tens of thousands of scientists, teachers, artists and ordinary citizens to participate in international exchanges each year.
(6) Create An American Peace Academy -- We endorse legislation (Amendment to HR 5167 under title IV, and SR 564, HR 1294) establishing a United States Peace Academy to research peace issues and train government leaders, military officials and civilians from all over the world in peacemaking and conflict resolution techniques.
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