Speech delivered to INES Conference in Mexico City on March 1, 2008

We are meeting to explore relevant issues of Science, Peace, and Sustainability. The relationship between science, peace, and sustainability affects the lives of all of the planet’s inhabitants as well as the lives of future generations yet unborn. The International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility (INES) takes seriously issues of global responsibility, and we believe that engineers and scientists, because of their training, knowledge and privileged place in society, have a special role to play in improving the human condition and assuring a better future for humanity.

INES has worked since 1991 in three principal areas: Peace and Disarmament, Sustainability, and Ethics in Science. INES is an international network of some 70 organizations in 34 countries. It also has individual members throughout the world. INES has held major conferences in Berlin, Amsterdam and Stockholm; and smaller meetings in many places in the world, including Buenos Aires, Argentina and most recently Nagpur, India. We are very pleased to be having our first meeting in Mexico. It is our hope that from this meeting will emerge many important and innovative ideas that will help strengthen the ties between science, peace and sustainability.

Many years ago, in the early 1980s, I had the pleasure of working on a Reshaping the International Order (RIO) Foundation project on Disarmament, Development and the Environment with the great Mexican diplomat and Nobel Peace Laureate Alfonso Garcia Robles. He skillfully negotiated the world’s first Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone in an inhabited region, that of Latin America and the Caribbean. Last year that treaty celebrated the 40th year of its existence. It has been one of the significant success stories in the area of preventing nuclear proliferation.

Many other regions of the world have followed in the footsteps of Latin America and the Caribbean, and we have Nuclear Weapon-Free Zones now in the South Pacific, Southeast Asia, Africa, Antarctica and Central Asia. Virtually the entire Southern hemisphere has become a series of Nuclear Weapon-Free Zones. Now countries in the North need to learn from the South, and cease their hypocritical and dangerous posturing and brandishing of nuclear arms.

Around the same time that the Treaty of Tlatelolco, establishing the Latin American and Caribbean Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone, was being agreed to, another treaty was being negotiated to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. That treaty, known as the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), was signed in 1968 and entered into force in 1970. It contains a major trade-off. In exchange for the non-nuclear weapons states agreeing not to acquire nuclear weapons, the nuclear weapons states agreed in Article VI to “good faith” negotiations for nuclear disarmament. The International Court of Justice advised in 1996 that this meant bringing to a conclusion “negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament in all its aspects under strict and effective international control.”

What I wish to emphasize is the abysmal lack of “good faith” on the part of the nuclear weapons states and, in particular, the United States. In UN General Assembly voting on nuclear disarmament matters in 2007, the United States had the distinction of voting against every one of the 15 measures put before the UN. France voted against 10 measures, the UK against 9 and Israel against 8.

In 1982, I helped found an organization, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, which believes that peace is an imperative of the Nuclear Age. This belief was earlier pronounced by Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell in the Russell-Einstein Manifesto issued on July 9, 1955. The Manifesto concluded, “There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge, and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? 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.”

This is the power that scientists and engineers have placed in the hands of humanity: the power to create a new Paradise on Earth, and the power to foreclose the future by means of technologies capable of causing “universal death.” What shall we do? Which path shall we take? Which power shall we exercise? Science has contributed abundantly to war and continues to do so. Can science and scientists play a role in tipping the balance toward peace?

And what about sustainability? Shall we go on using up the world’s resources because rich countries consider them to be inexpensive? Nothing irreplaceable can be considered inexpensive. This is another way of foreclosing the future. As an alternative course, scientists can contribute to protecting the world’s resources and developing sustainable forms of energy that do not place heavy burdens on future generations. To succeed in sustainable development, we will also need sustainable disarmament. They are inextricably linked.

Resource depletion is a cause of war. So is greed. So is crushing poverty. If we want peace, we must protect our environment, conserve our resources, and have global standards of human dignity. We must also control and eliminate the weaponry we have created that could destroy human life on the planet, as well as most other forms of life.

If we want peace, we must reverse the Roman dictum and prepare for peace. That means that we must use sustainable technologies and conserve our resources. It also means that scientists must work for constructive rather than destructive ends. They must also set appropriate professional standards that delegitimize destructive uses of science and technology. And they must speak out against such destructive uses and those scientists and engineers who succumb to such projects. We need a Hippocratic Oath for Scientists and Engineers based upon the commitment to “do no harm.”

At our conference over the next few days, we will be exploring some critical issues:

  1. science, education and social responsibility;
  2. militarization and the spread of nuclear weapons;
  3. climate change and other serious environmental issues; and
  4. the paradigm of sustainability.

All of this will be infused with the perspectives of Latin America.

Time is not on our side, but perhaps in our deliberations we can make progress on deflecting the course of history that has divided humanity in the past, been conducive to wars, generated human rights abuses, tolerated environmental degradation, and set humanity on a collision course with catastrophe. Let us use our human capacities to choose hope and set a new course for the future, one rooted in peace, sustainability and the constructive uses of science and technology.

I will conclude with a poem that is part of my first poetry book, Today Is Not a Good Day for War. The poem is about the hibakusha, the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, those who are victims, but also the ambassadors, of the Nuclear Age. It is called Hibakusha Do Not Just Happen.


For every hibakusha there is a pilot

for every hibakusha there is a planner

for every hibakusha there is a bombardier

for every hibakusha there is a bomb designer

for every hibakusha there is a missile maker

for every hibakusha there is a missileer

for every hibakusha there is a targeter

for every hibakusha there is a commander

for every hibakusha there is a button pusher

for every hibakusha many must contribute

for every hibakusha many must obey

for every hibakusha many must be silent

Of course this is not just about hibakusha. It is about us as well. It is about our responsibility and also our silence. In today’s world, we all are at risk of becoming hibakusha. We must choose peace, sustainability and human decency, while outspokenly refusing to allow the gifts of our human talents and skills to be used to improve warfare and its capacity for slaughter.

We must break the silence and be leaders for peace and sustainability. We must each play our part in reversing the militarization of our planet and moving it toward a peaceful and sustainable future, the Paradise that Russell and Einstein believed was within our grasp.

David Krieger is President of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.