The inaugural meeting of the World Future Council was recently held in Hamburg, Germany. It brought together 50 Councilors from all continents, chosen for their diversity and pioneering commitment to building a better world. At the conclusion of the four-day meeting, the Council released the Hamburg Call to Action, a document calling for action to protect the future of all life. It began, “Today we stand at the crossroads of human history. Our actions – and our failures to act – will decide the future of life on earth for thousands of years, if not forever.”
The Call to Action is a challenge to each of us to take responsibility for assuring a positive future for humanity and for preserving life on our planet. The document states: “Today there is no alternative to an ethics of global responsibility for we are entering an era of consequences. We must share, co-operate and innovate together in building a world worthy of our highest aspirations. The decision lies with each one of us!”
We are challenged to consider what we are individually and collectively doing not only to radically undermine our present world through war and its preparation, resource depletion, pollution and global warming, but also the effects of what we are doing upon future generations. Those of us alive now have the responsibility to pass the world on intact to the next generation, and to assure that our actions do not foreclose the future.
The Hamburg Call to Action is a great document and I urge you to read and reflect upon it. But I draw your attention specifically to the section on nuclear weapons: “Nuclear weapons remain humanity’s most immediate catastrophic threat. These weapons would destroy cities, countries, civilization and possibly humanity itself. The danger posed by nuclear weapons in any hands must be confronted directly and urgently through a new initiative for the elimination of these instruments of annihilation.”
With this in mind, we should unite in demanding the abolition of these weapons – eliminating the weapons before they eliminate us. There is much to be done in this regard, most important being the negotiation of a new treaty for the phased, verifiable and irreversible elimination of all nuclear arsenals, as required by the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. While these negotiations are in progress, there is much to be done to lower the level of reliance on nuclear weapons and to safeguard nuclear materials, including taking deployed nuclear weapons off high-alert status, ceasing all nuclear weapons tests and ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and implementing strategies to bring all weapons-grade fissionable materials and the technologies to create them under strict international control.
We must also withdraw our support from any programs that seek to maintain nuclear arsenals into the future. A prime example is the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program now being developed at the US nuclear weapons laboratories. This is but one example of a dangerous weapons program unworthy of our humanity. Rather than continuing the nuclear arms race, largely with itself, while ignoring its obligations under international law for nuclear disarmament, the United States must take a leadership role in ending the nuclear weapons threat to humanity. This is only likely to happen if US citizens demand such action from their government.
At the University of California, students are challenging the University’s management and supposed oversight of the US nuclear weapons laboratories. They are saying, in effect, “Enough is enough. It is time for the University to stop providing a fig leaf of respectability to nuclear weapons laboratories engaged in a dangerous continuation of the nuclear threat to humanity.” The students are a voice from the future that is with us today. It is their future, and they are demanding nuclear sanity. They deserve our support as they speak out and confront the University of California Regents, political appointees who seem content to promote any nuclear weapons program proposed by the nuclear labs.
The Hamburg Call to Action challenges each of us to change our way of thinking, and to engage in meaningful actions to assure the future. The time for global sanity has arrived – none too soon.
David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (www.wagingpeace.org) and a Councilor of the World Future Council (www.worldfuturecouncil.org). Please send comments to him at “firstname.lastname@example.org”.