T166. Rotary and IPPNW

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Project Save the World Podcast / Talk Show Episode Number: 166
Panelists: Dr. Richard Denton
Host: Metta Spencer

Date Aired: 25 March 2021
Date Transcribed: 11 March 2021
Transcription: Otter.ai
Transcription Review and Edits: David Millar

Metta Spencer

Hi, I’m Metta Spencer, and good morning to you and to Richard Denton. Today we’re going to talk about the Rotary Club, which I’ve heard about all my life, but my goodness, I’m impressed with him lately. And just finding out all the wonderful things that Rotarians do. And Richard Denton is a big time Rotarian. He’s also big time in a whole bunch of other things. He is the co-chair of the North American Committee of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. And he’s involved with Pugwash, very involved. And with the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace. I’ve just teased him about being the first bearded lady in the Canadian Organization of Women. Okay, and so we’re going to have a conversation about all these wonderful organizations that he’s engaged in. And he might recruit a few of you. I should say that if you’re watching this live, you can write a question in … the chat box, and my assistant Adam, who is watching… if he sees a really interesting question, he’s authorized to interrupt our conversation and on zoom, and ask Richard whatever question he has… So, you may have a chance to put a question directly to Richard Denton. Good morning, Richard. Hello. wonderful to see you.

Richard Denton

Great to see you.

Metta Spencer

And wonderful to see this wonderful background, which you tell me is not a green screen, but some wonderful, tricky thing that you can put on your computer. So, it’s a virtual background. Virtual background. Yeah. And you have all these words that mean peace, peace, freedom and “pace”… “paz”… all these different languages. Is this Rotarian? I see a gear wheel, which must be a rotary symbol, is that right?

Richard Denton

Correct. Yeah. over that way. …the rotary wheel… was actually designed by a fellow Rotarian. I like liked it, and she was kind enough to offer it to me.

Metta Spencer

Uh huh. Okay, so that gear we although it has been around a while, right, it must have been the founding symbol of the organization.

Richard Denton

Correct. Rotary is the oldest and largest service club in the world. It was founded by a lawyer, Paul Harris in 1905. And we now have 1.2 million Rotarians. And really, it’s probably…about 2 million because when you add younger people in Rotaract and Interact… and spouses, then it swells to about 2 million.

Metta Spencer

What is Rotaract?

Richard Denton

ACT is the ending of it. Correct. And it is for young people University age, and then on up. It used to end at about 30-35, and now there is no limit. And it is now functioning pretty much the same as rotary, it’s on just about equal par with rotary and will be in 2022.

Metta Spencer

What happens they have their own separate meetings or do you get together, or what’s the relationship between oldsters and youngsters?

Richard Denton

Well, obviously, we’re all working in — our motto is “service above self”. So, we work on projects, to better our community and to better our world. And often, we will work together and also can work separately… as clubs.

Metta Spencer

Okay. And is it always — my impression is that it’s quite a progressive organization. In general… anybody could call their orientation service. But is there some sort of consensus about what kind of service you want to perform in the world?

Richard Denton

Well, yes… there’s lots of service organizations… Lions, Kiwanis, etc. And our motto is “service above self”. So, as I said, service to our community and to the world. We follow what is called the four-way test. And one of my mentors has taken the four-way test … will it be beneficial to all? Will it be bringing goodwill and friendship? Will it be fair to all and then when you develop a relationship with another person, then — and you have that trust between each other, then you can get into the nitty gritty, which is the fourth question, is that the truth? And so, you can apply this to just about anything, you know, to any type of discussion, be it in your marriage, be it in your workplace, be it in world politics. And we feel that, you know, if there were more Rotarians in politics, who applied the four-way test, the world would be a much better place.

Metta Spencer

How do Rotarians get along with other service clubs? You know, like Lions and Elks, and I don’t know what all there are. But there are a number of other other I think of them back in the day. When I was in high school, I used to be invited to give talks to the Lions Club lunches. And, and I think they gave me a couple of hundred dollars for a university … for me to go away to Berkeley… I don’t know that they were all that progressive, although I didn’t try to poke them and find out. Do all of these service clubs have a lot in common or is there… do you have strong cleavages between groups of service clubs?

Richard Denton

Well, certainly I would say there’s no cleavages. I mean, we’re all helping our own communities, and to better the world. I think each club has their own niche. And so you’re here in Canada, you hear of the Kiwanis Music Festival. And they put that on. Rotary has historically been a men’s club, old gray-haired men who were at the top of their businesses and professions. And… even back in 1905, they looked for diversity so that you would not have two doctors in a club, you would just have one and you’re trying to have representatives from a variety of professions. Now, of course, what happened then was that… I’m a family physician, but you could have a surgeon, you could have a pathologist, you could have any other type of doctor in sort of subcategories. So that’s how they used to get around it

Metta Spencer

I know… The idea is to prevent a competition to doctors, trying to steal each other’s practice… was that the original…

Richard Denton

I would say, actually, no, the idea was to certainly network. So different business people would network together. And we often have sort of the joke that you’re an outstanding Rotarian. So instead of being in a conference, listening to the speaker, you’re often out in the hallway out standing in the hallway and talking with colleagues about other business pursuits. So, it was very much an organization along those historical lines. Now, as you say, yes, we are a very progressive organization. And now we allow anybody … in who still holds our values, our core values, and who has the time and the energy to put into service projects. And so that… the core value of the of the organization… is to work, helping others in a variety of ways.

Metta Spencer

Well, I can tell anybody without even asking that your core value is peace and that your work … within Rotary must also represent your work for peace, right? So, tell us about the kind of… you have a committee of peace committee or something, don’t you? Well,

Richard Denton

In Rotary, there are what we call six areas of focus, which are health, water and sanitation [mothers and children, education, local economies]… of which peace is also one. And then being a progressive organization, we have just added the environment as the seventh area of focus. So, we’re now looking at climate change and how to address that. But the major project that Rotary has been involved in, of course, is “polio plus”, and we have raised a billion dollars to immunize, vaccinate the world, and the Bill Gates and Melinda Gates Foundation has matched that with another billion. And so, we have almost eliminated polio, plus several other illnesses in the world… such that now only Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only countries in the world that actually have live polio cases.

Metta Spencer

Uh huh. Yeah, I was hearing about that a few years ago. And then was it after that, that there was a real problem? I think that was in Pakistan, that the US government sent out really spies…, disguised as vaccinator promoters, and this turned the public against them… I’m sure I’m not telling this right.

Richard Denton

Well, yes, that’s the story. The American government had people going around, pretending to be vaccinators, and they were then able to locate Osama bin Laden by that technique, and found out his location… through that. And then of course, as a result, now, people have a great distrust for vaccinators in Afghanistan and Pakistan. And so that has done a great disservice to our organization and to what we are trying to do, and to the cause of ending polio. Oh, yeah, sure.

Metta Spencer

Well, is there a possibility? Or have you considered, has Rotary considered mobilizing people to go out and administer COVID vaccines? Looks like now they’re gearing up, at least in the US. And I’m sure that other countries as well, I don’t know, I haven’t seen that much for about Canada. But to take over stadiums… how people go to the stadiums in, you know, that kind of numbers, to get their stuff jammed in their arm. Could ordinary people… could I for example, if I were able and interested, volunteer to… give these vaccinations or would… it really requires medical personnel to do it?

Richard Denton

Good question. Metta. Certainly, Rotary is using expertise in vaccinations, and because of our experience with polio, and we have the word “polio plus”, meaning that we also vaccinate for other diseases, the measles, mumps, rubella, those sorts of things. And so, we are now doing just as you say, using that expertise to vaccinate against COVID-19.

Metta Spencer

So, I presume there’s no real trick to… I’ve myself done it. I was an office nurse for a few years, and I’ve injected people occasionally. But I think that the rationale was that you need to have a medical person around in case there was… somebody with a reaction, an immediate serious reaction. But I know they give vaccinations at my local pharmacy. I don’t know I don’t think they do COVID. But they do some kind of vaccinations. So, to what extent is that going to…? I know we’re veering off topic, but I am curious about whether or not that is going to have to be a limiting factor, making it necessary to have medical people nearby, in case somebody has an adverse reaction?

Richard Denton

Well, certainly that… is the case. Now with polio. It came in the two forms. The Sabin and the Salk. One was an injection and therefore, yes, you did need to have medical personnel. The other was given as a drop on the sugar cube, or just a drop in the baby’s mouth, child’s mouth. And so, as an oral, it was much safer to give, it didn’t require the refrigeration so much. And… any “volunteer” basically could give that… you’re right, when you’re injecting a needle, though… there is the risk of anaphylaxis reaction, which the patient can have, what one might call the Darth Vader syndrome, where they lose their ability to breathe, their throat will swell… and they can die. And so, you need to have medical personnel who are trained in resuscitation and could administer the drugs immediately to prevent that.

Metta Spencer

Some kind of epinephrine or something like that, is that what… the correct…?

Richard Denton

Yes, adrenaline. Epinephrine is the first drug, and then steroids and then antihistamines.

Metta Spencer

So maybe if we have a whole stadium full of people, there might be a couple of people around just in case, who could —

Richard Denton

need that

Metta Spencer

Okay, well, there we go straight from talking about the Rotary to

Richard Denton

Well, that’s all part of “polio plus”, which is Rotary’s big project.

Metta Spencer

Uh huh. Well, good, wonderful. I didn’t actually didn’t know any of that. So but I know that you have this Rotary peace organization, which must be some sort of club within the club. Is that the general idea? Tell us about that.

Richard Denton

Well, we are individual Rotarians that are concerned about the risks of nuclear weapons. And I think, as we have seen this past week, down in the United States, with the storming of the Capitol buildings, things can go wrong. And we have the president, who has… sole authority to push the button… and there’s his conversations there, to put it mildly, with the leader of North Korea. They were joking —

Metta Spencer

Rocket Man.

Richard Denton

They weren’t joking, unfortunately. But they were talking about who had the biggest button and whether it would work or not. And we’ve got nine countries in the world who now have nuclear weapons. And so, it is based on having a rational person who is in control. And this may not be the case. I mean, one can look at presidents of the United States, John F. Kennedy, was in pain and on narcotics, which can affect your mental abilities. Ronald Reagan was suffering from Alzheimer’s in his latest stages. You got Brezhnev who may have been intoxicated at times. So those are some areas where you worry… you obviously need safeguards. So they’re, the military is instructed, of course not to do anything that is illegal, but at the same time, they need to follow the orders of their commander-in-chief… who is the president. So that is a concern. The other concern is certainly the risk of accidents and miscalculations. We’ve seen several movies: Command and Control, we’ve seen The Man who Saved the World, about a Russian who thought that Russia was being attacked by nuclear weapons. But did not launch a counter attack until he had visual proof or radar proof.

Metta Spencer

I think he didn’t believe it. That’s the thing. He was supposed to believe it because this was supposed to be the rock-solid evidence, but in fact, he knew damn well it wasn’t. And then he used good sense… Stanislav Petrov.

Richard Denton

Yeah. But there’s been numerous other examples. during the Cuban Missile Crisis, we now know that the Americans found a Russian sub, they didn’t realize that it was nuclear-armed, they started throwing depth charges at it. The Russians on board said, “Hey, World War 3 has broken out, we need to launch our missiles.” Two of them said yes. And a third said no. And so he was also a Russian man who saved the world. Absolutely.

Metta Spencer

Well, we’re all in the business of saving the world. And this is Project Save the World that we’re on. And you do as much as anybody I know. In those regards, I have to really, really admire your commitment. I don’t know anybody who’s got more zeal for the kind of work that you do.

Richard Denton

Oh, you’re my mentor. You’re the one who’s done this project on how to save the world and come up with your six… possible risks to the world?

Metta Spencer

Well, they’re actually fairly similar to the things that the Rotarians had already identified. Although I must say, not many people were thinking about pandemics when we formed Project Save the World. And we said a pandemic is up there, right with some of the worst ones, as a threat to humankind. And I guess we’ve been vindicated — for what it’s worth, if anybody wants to feel proud of having anticipated COVID. I guess Bill Gates is probably the main one who anticipated that and saw how dangerous the situation was. And, you know, if you compare what we’ve been going through to some of the previous pandemics, it’s hard to say this, but we kind of got off easy, because … there have been pandemics that have wiped out even a larger proportion of the human population. So… really what we need is a movement, a social movement…, there is no social movement — like a peace movement, or hunger campaigns for food in the world, or some of these other social movements. There isn’t anything for the general public, to work on, preventing pandemics, it seems to me that the people working against pandemics are all professional, public health experts or epidemiologists or people in… paid to do medical work. So, I think we need to… build up our awareness in the general public of the importance of… the transmission of viruses and things from animals to people, and maybe from people to animals. I don’t know, that that kind of One Health approach could stand… some help. Maybe we can get Rotary to… take part in that kind of orientation.

Richard Denton

Right? Well, I mean, first of all, you are my mentor, asked me how To Save the World looked at six risks. And I think what the pandemic has shown is that all of these risks are global problems. They transcend borders, and countries around the world have not prepared for these catastrophes. So, I think what we need to do is have a new mindset, a new way of thinking, to stop spending money on the military, and to spend it on treating the six areas of your focus, which are as you say, also the six — and now seven — areas of focus for Rotary… health and infections and sanitation and water, and all of these then go together to create peace. You know, what we’re finding now is that… you can’t vaccinate in Pakistan and Afghanistan, if you don’t have peace, if you don’t have trust, if you cannot build up relationships with people. And so, peace is… fundamental. And one of the things that Rotary is involved in now is the Institute for Economics and Peace, that has come out with the… the eight pillars of positive peace, we often we think of peace as a negative thing, the absence of violence, the absence of fear of violence. But this Australian, Steve Killelea, founded this institute, and came up with a Global Peace Index, a way of measuring peace, and he looks at things like a well-functioning government, equitable distribution of resources, a free flow of information instead of the fake news… the propaganda that we have now… having good relationships with our neighbors… working cooperatively together, multilaterally, multi nations together, and I think this is where the United Nations could play a much larger role. If it… gets better funded. You could look at human levels, our levels of human capital, you know, it would be much more important to fund… scientists…working on your six problems, as opposed to modernizing nuclear weapons at a cost of a trillion plus dollars, over the next 20-30 years. You know, there’s the acceptance of human rights… we’ve certainly seen this in the past year with, you know, Black Lives Matter. And here in Canada, we have systemic racism with our indigenous people… low levels of corruption is another area… in the military, you know, if a hammer costs $3, but if you put military on it, it suddenly jumps to $20 or more for the same hammer… and then of course, sound business environment. So, all of these things are all interrelated. And, you know, I think, as you say, Metta… back in the, during the Cold War, we had a social movement against nuclear weapons. Now that Greta Thunberg and our young people are Interactors — high school people are now addressing the climate crisis down in the States, they’re addressing gun violence… all of these are interrelated. And what we need to do is to show that and… desertification of land which will dry up, people will then be forced into starvation, you’ll have famine, which is one of your areas of focus again, people will then move — become refugees. We then… give arms and weapons. And… then that creates more refugees if they try to flee the violence. And then Canada then looks to taking in the refugees… and I think this is the problem, it’s that we often don’t look at the root of problems. And we’ve just tried to address them superficially saying, okay, we’ll take in the refugees, as opposed to saying, Okay, why did this happen in the first place? It’s the climate, and it’s us selling arms —

Metta Spencer

I think the thing is, people often say… we just can only do so much. So, let’s pick one of these things and work on it. The truth is, I think that if you work on them all together, it gets easier because they’re so connected and connected to everything else, you know. You can’t really solve any one of them without doing something on some of the others. So, just the example you gave of this chain of event of disasters, one leading to the other We have to think of it that way. And, and if we address it as a package then… oh boy, it’s wonderful to be on the same team. As you know what we’ve only talked about Rotary, we haven’t even given you time yet to talk about IPPNW… you are the co- chair, the North American co-chair of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which is a Nobel Peace Prize winner from way back and did a huge amount during the Cold War, to really change policies, especially I think, in Russia, maybe in the US to some extent, but tell. Let’s talk a little bit about that before we wind this up.

Richard Denton

Well, I think maybe… we should end on a hopeful note. At this week, on Friday, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons comes into effect. And this will make nuclear weapons illegal. We’ve known that they’ve always been immoral, illogical, and insane. And now they are illegal as well. And yes, IPPNW was founded equally by a Russian and an American cardiologist, who both looked after their own leaders, and were able to influence their leaders and bring them together, and eventually to end the Cold War. And for that, we got the international… the Nobel Peace Prize in 85. Now, we formed the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, ICAN, which got the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.

Metta Spencer

And it was largely supported by IPPNW —

Richard Denton

And now it’s brought… all these various peace organizations around the world, and they pushed the countries to form the UN nuclear ban treaty in 2017. So, the NGOs, the non- government organizations, like the International Red Cross, and Red Crescent societies, and all these other peace organizations came together and pushed the states, the various states to actually come up with this new treaty. And so, this is definitely a positive note. I think, IPPNW is working again, it’s a international organization, and it is working on a number of fronts in the United States, one of our members, Dr. Ira Helfand, has come up with Back from the Brink, which has our five steps: not to be spending the vast sums of money on nuclear weapons… no-first-use, to remove the president from having the sole authority to launch an attack, etc. And so, I think, you know, we’re looking at Don’t Bank on the Bomb, which is a program to divest money from nuclear weapons and their delivery systems and put that into the climate crisis. And to address pandemics and to all the other global problems that need global answers through a strengthened United Nations.

Metta Spencer

Well, within about 24 hours, we’re going to have a new president of the United States, who will make all of those things a little bit easier anyway. I don’t think he’s a red-hot disarmament person yet, but maybe we can push things in that direction. Anyway, you know, what we need to talk about IPPNW further. So later on, I’m going to get you and somebody else or maybe a couple of other people from IPPNW together for a whole conversation… we’ve given our attention so far to Rotary, which absolutely deserves it. And now we’ll move on to some other group one of these days. So, All right, thank you so much, Richard. This has been extremely enjoyable and informative because you’ve told me some things I didn’t know and I bet you a lot of other people don’t know either. So yeah. Share this with other people if you have any opportunity to do so, and maybe we’ll get some new Rotarians in the world knows

Richard Denton

that that’s our what we’re looking forward to do is to increase our membership throughout the world. Definitely. Terrific.

Metta Spencer

Thank you so much. Have a great day.

Richard Denton

Thank you. Bye-bye.

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