Here are some brief (10-15 word) descriptions of preventive measures which could be included in a Platform for Survival. Read, comment, and make your own proposals, either via the comments section on this page or by email to email@example.com. You might also want to read our guidelines.
Humankind’s future is at serious risk of six main catastrophes: Global Warming; Wars and Weapons (Especially Nuclear); Pandemics, Famines, Mass Radiation Exposure; and Cyber Attacks (criminal, military, or propaganda). In order to vastly reduce the likelihood of these disasters, we the people of this planet demand prompt compliance with all the following preventive measures, plus some actions required to enable the attainment of those proposals.
- The UNFCCC shall establish an agency for safe disposal of greenhouse gas refrigerator coolants.
- The UNFCCC shall establish an agency for forest management and plant X billion trees.
- All states shall ensure full female access to education and access to family planning.
- The FAO shall promote and fund expansion of “climate smart agriculture,” including biochar.
- All national armed forces shall be reduced by at least 80%, including equipment emitting CO2.
- A global authority must implement 2 children per person, health care and old age security for all humans.
- A global authority must punish through heavy taxes energy consumption in excess of 3.5 kw per person.
- A global authority must speed up the transition to sustainable technology in all nations.
- A global authority must prevent land-based energy farming for producing biofuels.
- A global authority must outlaw nuclear fission reactors for energy production.
- All states should use all means consistent with human rights to stabilize human population numbers.
- During the transition to a low carbon world, technologies and practices should be incentivized to reduce the exaggeration of existing disparities in income, resources and opportunities.
War and Weapons
- All national armed forces shall be reduced by at least 80%, including equipment emitting CO2.
- All states shall sign, ratify, and within 10 years comply with the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
- All nuclear weapons states shall immediately de-alert nuclear weapons and commit to no-first use.
- To protect human rights the UN shall send peacekeepers and mediators as needed to resolve conflicts.
- All military alliances shall immediately and verifiably end any policy to threaten with or use nuclear weapons.
- All states: Sign, ratify, strengthen and promote the ICC, especially jurisdiction over the crime of aggression.
- The UN shall keep an emergency peace service to protect civilians and respond to crises.
- All states shall practice sustainable common security, not plan war for their “national security.”
- The UN Convention on CCW shall ban the development and deployment of lethal autnomous weapons.
- The UN Convention on CCW shall regulate unmanned armed aerial vehicles and drones.
- The WHO shall expand means of early detection, early response to prevent disease pandemics.
- All states with above-average GDP shall fund R&D of vaccines & treatments against resistant microbes.
- The WHO shall explore and publicize research on the use of ultra-violet radiation to fight “superbugs.”
- The WHO shall explore and publicize reseach on the use of phages against human infections.
- All states shall undergo and publicize IAEA safety reviews of existing and planned nuclear reactors.
- Within two years all states shall plan to secure and phase out nuclear power plants.
- All states shall transition to distributed electricity, efficiently using local, renewable energy sources.
- All states shall make publicly available the inventory of all radioactive materials, fuel & wastes.
- All states shall halt transfers of radioactive fuel and wastes across international borders.
- All states shall plan, with public review, the long term control and safe storage of radioactive wastes.
- All states shall maintain proximity, reversibility & retrievability in long plans for radioactive wastes.
- The IAEA shall increase transparency and include civil society and stakeholders in making decisions.
- UN Environment Program shall provide objective information on radiation safety to all upon request.
- All states with nuclear reactors must update their emergency preparedness plans every three years.
- Except in urgent cases, donors shall send funds, not food, to areas of shortage and connect farmers to markets.
- FAO: Advance reduction of wasted food.
- FAO: Support improvements of soil health for resilient food production, carbon sequestration.
- FAO: Promote diversified agrocecological systems instead of industrial agriculture for a sustainable agri-food system.
- All Internet companies and states shall expand law enforcement efforts over cyber crime.
- All states shall implement the 2015 UN consensus report of governmental experts on IT and Communications.
- All states shall adopt decentralization plans for their electricity grids to inhibit cyber war.
- All states shall enable NGOs and specialists to expose Internet disinformation campaigns.
- All devices controlled through the Internet (IOT) shall be designed to obviate destructive hacking.
- All stakeholders: Reduce society’s vulnerability to malicious cyber activity by practicing effective cyber defence.
- All stakeholders: Promote international cooperation to preserve cyberspace for exclusively peaceful purposes.
- UN: Promote dialogue and multilateral agreement on cybersecurity.
- The UN shall create a parliamentary assembly which can override any Security Council veto.
- A UN Emergency Peace Service shall be created and deployed to any area where war seems likely.
- The World Bank, IMF, and WTO shall be held more accountable, responsive to human needs.
- All states shall donate 60% of their savings from military cutbacks to UN-related agencies.
- A significant Tobin tax shall be collected for the UN to spend on programs prescribed herein.
- All UN agencies and large corporations shall appoint 10% of their directors from UN-accredited NGOs.
- All states shall guarantee subsistence income to their citizens, to be funded from taxing wealth.
- All states donate _% of the savings from military cutbacks to fund a UN Peace Studies curriculum for K-12.
- We, who are not plutocrats, must explain to others the reasons for ending capitalism.
Some authors have submitted notes on the thinking behind their proposals, as noted above.
1.^ Only a global authority with legislative, judicial and executive powers can implement this policy. Experience has shown that voluntary compliance of nations, corporations or individuals does not create actions for the common good.
2.^ As with all major cyber security initiatives this will ultimately need the participation of concerned “multi-stakeholders” from both the public and private sectors as well as civil society). Note: the author recommends replacing the earlier elements of the initiative with his two.
3.^ While states will need to assume principal responsibility for this under international law, the concerned non-governmental stakeholder community must also advocate for this approach if it is to be realized). Note: the author recommends replacing the earlier elements of the initiative with his two.
4.^ I’ve been thinking a lot about alternative means for deterring war. Right now, a number of states rely on nuclear weapons. Nuclear deterrence has arguably worked for several decades, but has the drawback of risking catastrophic nuclear war. So we need other ways to deter war such that nuclear weapons are no longer seen as necessary.
One of the strongest ideas I am aware of is the International Criminal Court, and specifically its pending jurisdiction over the crime of aggression (aka military invasion or attack). At least in principle, any nation attacked militarily by another nation can refer the leaders of the aggressor nation for prosecution at the Hague, provided one of the two nations is a state party to the Rome Statute that established the ICC.
I think by deterring presidents and prime ministers from initiating wars, we can reduce the overall likelihood of war, and thereby reduce the need for huge armaments to deter attacks. Just as the invention of nuclear weapons triggered an arms race, a strong prosecutorial deterrent with a wide enough jurisdiction could catalyze a virtuous cycle of international disarmament.
Of course, the risk of prosecution may not directly deter a nuclear strike, which is already a weapon of last resort generally speaking, but I think it can indirectly reduce the need for nuclear weapons. For example, in the case of North Korea, ICC membership could give the NK government some confidence that a conventional attack by the United States is deterred and thus reduce NK’s motive to continue expanding their nuclear program. Thus it would benefit the both NK and the United States to accede to ICC jurisdiction.
Unfortunately jurisdiction for the crime of aggression is not yet in effect, and many nuclear powers, including US, China, India, Israel, Russia, Pakistan, and North Korea are not yet parties to the Rome Statute. And there is a risk that African countries may withdraw en masse in the near future. Much effort needs to be put into maintaining, expanding, and strengthening the ICC.
(This suggestion is not intended to replace the valuable proposal for every country to sign the nuclear ban treaty, but is intended as a means to make it more feasible.)
5.^ My concern is with the bulk of the platform wording trying to drive a Federalist agenda (with binding authority to the UN) throughout the whole dialogue. There some of us (at least me) who are more concerned with process and how to move these things forward. I have less faith in a UN-based “global governance” and while I do not mind those with a Federalist bent keeping their “end game” in the dialogue, I do not think that the Federalist end should be taken as a given solution to each and every challenge.
The rise of antibiotic resistance rekindles interest in a century-old virus treatment.
Sara Reardon 03 June 2014 | Corrected: 04 June 2014
Bacteriophages could be a resource for fighting drug-resistant bacterial infections.
For decades, patients behind the Iron Curtain were denied access to some of the best antibiotics developed in the West. To make do, the Soviet Union invested heavily in the use of bacteriophages — viruses that kill bacteria — to treat infections. Phage therapy is still widely used in Russia, Georgia and Poland, but never took off elsewhere. “This is a virus, and people are afraid of viruses,” says Mzia Kutateladze, who is the head of the scientific council at the Eliava Institute in Tbilisi, which has been studying phages and using them to treat patients for nearly a century.
Now, faced with the looming spectre of antibiotic resistance, Western researchers and governments are giving phages a serious look. In March, the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases listed phage therapy as one of seven prongs in its plan to combat antibiotic resistance. And at the American Society for Microbiology (ASM) meeting in Boston last month, Grégory Resch of the University of Lausanne in Switzerland presented plans for Phagoburn: the first large, multi-centre clinical trial of phage therapy for human infections, funded by the European Commission.
Ryland Young, a virologist at Texas A&M University in College Station, attributes the previous lack of Western interest to clinicians’ preference for treating unknown infections with broad-spectrum antibiotics that kill many types of bacterium. Phages, by contrast, kill just one species or strain. But researchers now realize that they need more precise ways to target pathogenic bacteria, says microbiologist Michael Schmidt of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston. Along with the rising tide of strains resistant to last-resort antibiotics, there is growing appreciation that wiping out the human body’s beneficial microbes along with disease-causing ones can create a niche in which antibiotic-resistant bacteria can thrive. “Antibiotics are a big hammer,” Schmidt says. “You want a guided missile.”
Finding a phage for a bacterial target is relatively easy, Young says. Nature provides an almost inexhaustible supply: no two identical phages have ever been found. As a bacterium becomes resistant to one phage — by shedding the receptor on the cell surface that the virus uses to enter — the Eliava Institute researchers simply add more phages to the viral cocktails that patients receive. Kutateladze says that they update their products every eight months or so, and do not always know the exact combination of phages that make up the cocktail.
Resch, who is one of the leaders of the Phagoburn study, says that regulatory agencies would need to figure out how to oversee such a rapidly evolving product before the therapy could progress beyond clinical trials. He hopes that phage therapy will be treated in a similar way to the seasonal influenza vaccine, for instance, which is updated every year as new flu strains emerge.
The fact that the European Union (EU) is contributing €3.8 million (US$5.2 million) to the Phagoburn study shows that it is willing to consider the approach, Resch says. Beginning in September, researchers in France, Belgium and the Netherlands plan to recruit 220 burn victims whose wounds have become infected with the common bacteria Escherichia coli or Pseudomonas aeruginosa. The patients will be given phage preparations from a company in Romainville, France, called Pherecydes Pharma, which has isolated more than 1,000 viruses from sources such as sewage or river water and screened them for the ability to kill pathogenic bacteria. To lower the chance that resistance will develop, the patients will receive a cocktail of more than a dozen phages that enter bacterial cells in different ways. If the phage treatment fails, patients will then receive standard antibiotics.
Nature 510, 15–16 (05 June 2014). doi:10.1038/510015a
8.^ A recent report by the International Panel of of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems (IPES) pointed out that “Industrial agriculture is a key contributor to the most urgent problems in food systems. To date, food systems contribute around 30% of global greenhouse gas emissions; around 20% of land on earth is degraded; more than 50% of human plant-derived foods now depend on three crops (rice, maize and wheat); 20% of livestock breeds are at risk of extinction; the extinction of wild species and the application of insecticides threaten the 35% of global crops dependent on pollination; around 2 billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies.” (IPES, 2016). They further claimed that there is “growing body of evidence” “that diversified agroecological systems deliver strong and stable yields by building healthy ecosystems where different plants and species interact in ways that improve soil fertility and water retention. They perform particularly well under environmental stress and deliver production increases in the places where additional food is most needed.” (IPES, 2016)
9.^ The proposal on human population is also immediately relevant to another ecological crisis that many consider of equal gravity to climate breakdown – biodiversity loss. In addition, it is likely to lessen the risk of war in the following way: the demographic change brought about by fewer births will skew population numbers to relatively fewer young people. This skew lessens the risk of civil war. This effect is enhanced by higher education (and employment), another important means to the end of population limits.
Research into the human population carrying capacities of regions using current and projected levels of technology is needed. Some areas will need to lower population below current levels to come within carrying capacity.
This issue has been partly addressed by other proposals eg provide education for girls, and reproductive health services for all women. I think this is an indirect approach to the same goal of population stabilisation. It’s better to state the goal directly. And there are means beyond the two mentioned that can contribute to this goal.
10.^ The proposed United Nations Emergency Peace Service (UNEPS) was included in the British Labour Party Manifesto, For the Many, Not the Few: “Labour will commit to effective UN peacekeeping, including support for a UN Emergency Peace Service.” You-Gov suggests the Labour Manifesto has wider popular appeal, especially for its new approach to foreign policy. The Oxford Research Group actually describe a UNEPS as “the most radical idea” within.
With this one development— effectively a UN ‘911’, first responder for complex emergencies—the Organisation would finally have a rapid, reliable capacity to help fulfill four of its tougher assigned tasks. The proposed UNEPS was specifically designed to help prevent armed conflict and atrocity crimes, to protect civilians at extreme risk, to ensure prompt start-up of demanding peace operations, and to address human needs where others either cannot or will not. In contrast to a UN force or army, it makes if far tougher for the opposed to claim vulnerable others don’t deserve help or legitimate emergency services. And, unlike previous proposals, a UNEPS is multifunctional, gender-equitable and likely to raise standards system wide, as well as being a life-saver and a cost-saver.
Of course, a UNEPS is only one of several profound shifts now required, albeit an important one. It should help to prevent the escalation of volatile conflicts; to deter groups from armed violence; and, to cut the size, the length and the frequency of UN operations. Even with success in just one of those areas, it would provide a substantive return on the investment.
Equally important, the emancipatory potential of a dedicated UN service – one capable of responding as a legitimate security guarantor – has long been viewed as a prerequisite to a wider disarmament process; one that should free up vast resources now required for sustainable development and other urgent leaps. We could definitely use a big joint project that helps to renew cooperation and hopes for a more effective UN and global community.
The UNEPS idea was sufficiently developed here to attract endorsements from leaders of UN peace operations and experts in peace and conflict studies world-wide. We also received an encouraging response from the progressive Swedish Foreign Minister, Margot Wallström, who recently chaired the UN Security Council debate on the prevention of armed conflict. Last August, the editorial board of the Toronto Star encouraged our Federal Government to support a UNEPS. As we now know, our Liberals won’t.
Yet Bernie Sanders might. Notably, in 2007, thirty members of Congress supported H-Res 213, “expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that a United Nations Emergency Peace Service capable of intervening in the early stages of a humanitarian crisis could save millions of lives, billions of dollars, and is in the interests of the United States.”
11.^ The umbrella concept of ‘sustainable common security’ may have the potential to build a bridge of support and solidarity between social movements and progressive parties. In contrast to the political emphasis on national security based on realism — pursuing power politics and preparation for more war — sustainable common security is premised on idealism, a shared vision and cooperation in building a better world for all. It encourages the key system shifts now urgently required. As these are shared global challenges, our best hope is within a movement of movements. Although it’s a relatively modest start, fifteen Canadian NGOs endorsed both ideas in September.
As Corbyn and Sanders are making headway in moving beyond resistance to building a more just world, both options might resonate. There’s been scant consideration of military transformation, economic conversion or broadly appealing alternatives to counter further militarization. And, in the absence of viable policy options, permanent war becomes less of shock and more of an accepted routine. I’d concede these two ideas may not stem the shocks of worse to come.
Yet might both ideas help to change the current narrative? Possibly. Are there better ideas for effecting a profound shift in our dysfunctional systems of national and global security? Sadly, not yet.
Canadians do care about global issues and the United Nations. One recent poll had public support for Canada’s participation in UN peace operations at 78%. An earlier DFAIT poll inferred 74% were strongly in favor of a standing UN rapid reaction force (predecessor to UNEPS).
Finally, it’s time to revitalize peace and conflict studies in Canada and abroad. Unfortunately, there is now very little policy-relevant peace research in academe. Canadian programs are either faith-based and unwilling to tackle the key questions or led by political scientists teaching American security studies. The ‘interdisciplinary’ approach has been wildly interpreted as ‘anything goes’ so any approach, with any instructor from anything remotely related satisfies. In turn, those who know the least tend to say the most while those making serious contributions are marginalized and unemployed. It was my understanding that Science for Peace played a key role in prompting the University of Toronto’s Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies to honor the legacy of Anatol Rapoport.
As we learned from the earlier debate between Johann Galtung and Kenneth Bolding, a ‘program of survival’ can’t be simply about avoiding the worst (negative peace). To be effective (positive), it has to address direct violence, structural violence (economic exploitation and exclusion) and the cultural violence now so prevalent in our media, divisive politics and religions, sport and academe. Now, many of our larger worries stem from inequality and the new precarity driven by austerity and disruption, with desperate responses nearly inevitable.
12.^ I was disappointed that this proposal, the most important one of all, was omitted from Metta Spencer’s introduction to world-saving. I don’t know whether this will be a receptive audience. Nevertheless, I will try to briefly explain.
Capitalism (or more broadly, the institution of private property) is the CAUSE of all the other problems from which we are in a hurry to save the world. And as long as capitalism is in place, our efforts to deal with the other problems will fail.
I will focus on two examples — I will show how climate change and war are caused by capitalism — but the other calamities can be explained similarly. Then I will talk about what must be done to end capitalism.
Most of the people who talk about fighting climate change are talking about physical measures — e.g., plant more trees, switch to electric cars, stop eating beef — but we already know all that. The really big question that too few people are asking is this: “WHY are none of those measures (trees, cars, etc.) being IMPLEMENTED?” The reason is quite simple: Public policy is directed by politicians, the politicians are directed by their corporate owners, and the corporate owners are guided solely by short-term profit. They’re quite mad — they’ll discover too late that they can’t eat money.
A blatant example should have been apparent a few years ago, when the Arctic began to rapidly melt. That should have been a wakeup call to the world, to stop using fossil fuels. After all, what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic. But instead of banning fossil fuels, the “leaders” of the major goverments of the world raced to put into place a treaty allocating which nation would have the right to drill for oil in which part of the Arctic.
And look up “exxonknew dot org”. For half a century, Exxon has known that their product is destroying the ecosystem, but they have paid “scientists” and politicians to deny it. That’s because they don’t want any legislation that might cut into their short-term profits. Bill McKibben, in his writings, has tried to paint Exxon as the villain in this story. But Exxon is doing precisely what it is supposed to do, in our present economic system: It is trying to maximize its profits.
The board game “Monopoly” always ends with all the players but one totally impoverished. But if you don’t like that ending, don’t call the winner a villain. If you don’t like that ending, choose a different game.
And the beef industry doesn’t want you to stop eating their carbon-emitting product either. Again, follow the money.
Next let’s look at war. The major manufacturers of weapons and providers of military services are Raytheon, General Electric, Boeing, Halliburton, Blackwater (or whatever its latest name is), etc. Their stock goes up every time new fighting breaks out somewhere, or even when there are headlines about new tensions. These companies make huge profits from the equipment and services they sell. They use a little of that profit as donations to members of congress. There is a revolving door between these companies and the upper ranks of the military. A retired general can make a great deal of money by advising these companies or by making hawkish speeches on television. If you want to know why the USA is constantly at war, follow the money. And if you believe the reasons for war that are given by the corporate press and the corporate government, and you don’t read alternative news media, then you are a victim of brainwashing.
Are the rich really so immoral as all that? Well, keep in mind that Hitler was not a different species from you and me — he was our cousin, the same flesh and blood. It doesn’t take a different species to tell a Big Lie. And keep in mind that the Iraq War, which killed a million Iraqis, was based entirely on lies, and we still have the same governmental system which produced that war. In fact, none of the war criminals have been put on trial. The cigarette companies knowingly lied about cancer for decades. Volkswagen cheated on its emission tests. I could go on and on. The Stanford Prison Experiment proved that power really does corrupt.
And we can’t simply VOTE to fix this. We have a democracy in appearance only. The 2014 statistical research of Gillens and Page proved that, regardless of elections, the rich get the public policies they want, and the rest of us don’t. And under our present economic system, wealth inequality is continuing to increase; wealth and power are being concentrated in the hands of fewer and fewer people. That’s not due to some superficial corruption; rather, that’s inherent in the underlying principles of the system.
What can be done about this? Well, it will take all of us (or an overwhelming supermajority of us, anyway) to change the economic system. To get that support, we have to spread the word. I’ve been writing essays to explain all of this as simply as I can (at http://LeftyMathProf.org), but so far none of my essays or videos hs gone viral. Perhaps some other people reading this can find a better way to express these ideas.