Tag Archives: global

Students are striking around the world to protest against the lack of action to stop global warming

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

A survey of the press by CPNN

Students are striking around the world to join with the Swedish girl Greta Thunberg who sat outside the Swedish parliament last year to protest against the lack of action to stop global warming. Now, up to 70,000 schoolchildren each week hold protests in 270 towns and cities worldwide.


student strike in UK

In the UK, according to the Guardian on February 15, thousands of schoolchildren and young people joined a UK-wide climate strike amid growing anger at the failure of politicians to tackle the escalating ecological crisis. Organisers said more than 10,000 young people in at least 60 towns and cities joined the strike. They estimated around 3,000 schoolchildren and young people gathered in London, with 2,000 in Oxford, 1,000 each in Exeter and Leeds and several hundred in Brighton, Bristol, Sheffield and Glasgow (see video below).

In Switzerland, according to Euronews thousands of students, some as young as 14-years-old, took to the streets of several Swiss cities on Friday [January 18] to denounce the lack of government action to fight global warming.

In the Netherlands, also according to Euronews, thousands of Dutch students skipped their classes on Thursday, February 7, to join a demonstration in The Hague calling for greater action on climate change. Kim van Sparrentak,a 29-year-old student, who is running in the European Parliament elections this year, told Euronews’ The Cube why people like her had been inspired to protest. “This is really the climate generation we are talking about here. This generation is now on the streets to start protesting and to show that they want a different world, a better world and a future for themselves.”

In Belgium, according to Forbes Magazine on February 7, high school students have managed to grind traffic in Belgian cities to a halt over the past month, staging repeated walk-outs from class in protest of adults’ inaction on climate change. The demonstrations saw 35,000 children and young people take to the streets two weeks ago. But this week, their protests caused something much bigger than snarled traffic – they forced the resignation of Joke Schauvliege, the Flemish climate minister.

Deutsche Welle describes the actions of students in Germany: “It’s a cold January morning in front of Cologne Central Station. As people stream out of the main entrance, it’s noticeable that there are quite a few teenagers. Strange, considering it’s a school day. Most of them have come in small groups, while others hang out in the main square outside of the station with friends. Many have brought homemade cardboard signs with them bearing painted-on slogans such as “We are here, we are loud, because you are stealing the future from us,” and “We do not learn for a ruined future.” At the same time, a separate climate protest is taking place in the nearby city of Bonn, where young people marched up to the UN Campus to demand that their voices be heard. Students ditching class to protest . . . has become a common scene in many large cities — students eschewing lessons at school to protest for climate protection.”

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Question for this article:

 

Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

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In France, according to France 24, several hundred high school and university students skipped class to demonstrate in front of the French ministry for the environment in Paris. At the heart of the demonstration is a deep disappointment with France’s failure to fulfill its commitments under various climate agreements. The protesters aren’t buying rhetoric about stimulating the economy. “We want climate change to be taken into account. Of course the economy is important and makes a country prosper. But to have a country, you need a planet. And if we destroy it, there won’t be an economy at all,” said Zelia, a high schooler. The demonstration in Paris on Friday, February 15 had a relatively modest turnout of 300 to 400 students, but they are getting organised quickly. Students have pledged to join their peers around Europe in weekly demonstrations leading up to March 15, when Thunberg has called for a global strike.

In Canada, according to the Montreal Gazette, students in Quebec are now taking matters into their own hands in the battle against climate change. A coalition of groups from universities came together Friday, February 8, to launch a call to action under the banner “La planète s’invite à l’université.” Small collectives from Université du Québec à Montréal, Université de Montréal and École de technologie supérieure launched the joint appeal, and are inviting students from across Quebec to join them for a provincewide climate strike on March 15. It would be followed by a second strike day on Sept. 17, and it’s all part of an international mobilization of young people demanding drastic action from their governments.

In Australia, according to the News, school students striking for climate change want adults to join them for a global event on March 15, and organisers say they already have support from a growing number of unions, including the National Union of Workers, National Tertiary Education Union, United Firefighters Union, Hospo Voice, the Victorian Allied Health Professionals Association and the National Union of Students. The National Union of Workers, one of the most powerful unions in the Labor Party and part of its right-wing faction that supports Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, said it was supporting the strike and the students standing together collectively for their future. “They are inspiring leaders, and we support them in making our political leaders listen,” the union said.

In Austria, as reported on February 17 by Metropole, Viennese students launched their KlimaStreik last December but have been gaining more momentum recently, with last Friday’s (Feb 8) strike attracting around 150 participants at Heldenplatz and receiving media coverage. Local schools have worked closely with FridaysForFuture to ensure students do not get in trouble for skipping class, with some even sending teachers along and incorporating the protests into their “Political Education” curriculum.

In the United States, US Youth Climate Strike have issued a
press advisory
announcing that they will partiipate in a global day of climate ation on March 15 in all state capitals as well as the US Capitol. “We are US Youth Climate Strike, a collective movement of youth in the United States who are fighting for the conservation of our planet. We are joining the movement “Fridays for Future”, sparked by 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg and her weekly Friday “school strikes for climate in front of the Swedish Parliament, and thereby bringing the movement to the United States.”

What the Press Hides from You about Venezuela — A Case of News-Suppression

. . FREE FLOW OF INFORMATION . .

An article by Eric Zuesse in Transcend Media Service

8 Feb 2019 – This news-report is being submitted to all U.S. and allied news-media, and is being published by all honest ones, in order to inform you of crucial facts that the others — the dishonest ones, that hide such crucial facts — are hiding about Venezuela. These are facts that have received coverage only in one single British newspaper: the Independent, which published a summary account of them on January 26th. That newspaper’s account will be excerpted here at the end, but first will be highlights from its topic, the official report to the U.N. General Assembly in August of last year, which has been covered-up ever since. This is why that report’s author has now gone to the Independent, desperate to get the story out, finally, to the public.


Alfred de Zayas,  UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order (appointed by the United Nations Human Rights Council)


The Covered-Up Document

On 3 August 2018, the U.N.’s General Assembly received  the report from the U.N.s Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, concerning his mission to Venezuela and Ecuador. His recent travel though both countries focused on “how best to enhance the enjoyment of all human rights by the populations of both countries.” He “noted the eradication of illiteracy, free education from primary school to university, and programmes to reduce extreme poverty, provide housing to the homeless and vulnerable, phase out privilege and discrimination, and extend medical care to everyone.” He noted “that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and Ecuador, both devote around 70 per cent of their national budgets to social services.” However (and here, key paragraphs from the report are now quoted):
*****
22. Observers have identified errors committed by the Chávez and Maduro Governments, noting that there are too many ideologues and too few technocrats in public administration, resulting in government policies that lack coherence and professional management and discourage domestic investment, already crippled by inefficiency and corruption, which extend to government officials, transnational corporations and entrepreneurs. Critics warn about the undue influence of the military on government and on the running of enterprises like Petróleos de Venezuela. The lack of regular, publicly available data on nutrition, epidemiology and inflation are said to complicate efforts to provide humanitarian support.

23. Meanwhile, the Attorney General, Tarek Saab, has launched a vigorous anticorruption campaign, investigating the links between Venezuelan enterprises and tax havens, contracting scams, and deals by public officials with Odebrecht. It is estimated that corruption in the oil industry has cost the Government US$ 4.8 billion. The Attorney General’s Office informed the Independent Expert of pending investigations for embezzlement and extortion against 79 officials of Petróleos de Venezuela, including 22 senior managers. The Office also pointed to the arrest of two high-level oil executives, accused of money-laundering in Andorra. The Ministry of Justice estimates corruption losses at some US$ 15 billion. Other stakeholders, in contrast, assert that anti-corruption programmes are selective and have not sufficiently targeted State institutions, including the military. …

29. … Over the past sixty years, non-conventional economic wars have been waged against Cuba, Chile, Nicaragua, the Syrian Arab Republic and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in order to make their economies fail, facilitate regime change and impose a neo-liberal socioeconomic model. In order to discredit selected governments, failures in the field of human rights are maximized so as to make violent overthrow more palatable. Human rights are being “weaponized” against rivals. Yet, human rights are the heritage of every human being and should never be instrumentalized as weapons of demonization. …

30. The principles of non-intervention and non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign States belong to customary international law and have been reaffirmed in General Assembly resolutions, notably [a list is supplied]. …

31. In its judgment of 27 June 1986 concerning Nicaragua v. United States, the International Court of Justice quoted from [U.N.] resolution 2625 (XXV): “no State shall organize, assist, foment, finance, incite or tolerate subversive, terrorist or armed activities directed towards the violent overthrow of the regime of another State, or interfere in civil strife in another State”. …

36. The effects of sanctions imposed by Presidents Obama and Trump and unilateral measures by Canada and the European Union have directly and indirectly aggravated the shortages in medicines such as insulin and anti-retroviral drugs. To the extent that economic sanctions have caused delays in distribution and thus contributed to many deaths, sanctions contravene the human rights obligations of the countries imposing them.Moreover, sanctions can amount to crimes against humanity under Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. An investigation by that Court would be appropriate, but the geopolitical submissiveness of the Court may prevent this.

37. Modern-day economic sanctions and blockades are comparable with medieval sieges of towns with the intention of forcing them to surrender. Twenty-first century sanctions attempt to bring not just a town, but sovereign countries to their knees. A difference, perhaps, is that twenty-first century sanctions are accompanied by the manipulation of public opinion through “fake news”, aggressive public relations and a pseudo-human rights rhetoric so as to give the impression that a human rights “end” justifies the criminal means. …

39. Economic asphyxiation policies are comparable to those already practised in Chile, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nicaragua and the Syrian Arab Republic. In January 2018, Middle East correspondent of The Financial Times and The Independent, Patrick Cockburn, wrote on the sanctions affecting Syria: There is usually a pretence that foodstuffs and medical equipment are being allowed through freely and no mention is made of the financial and other regulatory obstacles making it impossible to deliver them. An example of this is the draconian sanctions imposed on Syria by the US and EU which were meant to target President Bashar al-Assad and help remove him from power. They have wholly failed to do this, but a UN internal report leaked in 2016 shows all too convincingly the effect of the embargo in stopping the delivery of aid by international aid agencies. They cannot import the aid despite waivers because banks and commercial companies dare not risk being penalised for having anything to do with Syria. The report quotes a European doctor working in Syria as saying that “the indirect effect of sanctions … makes the import of the medical instruments and other medical supplies immensely difficult, near impossible”. In short: economic sanctions kill. …

41. Bearing in mind that Venezuelan society is polarized, what is most needed is dialogue between the Government and the opposition, and it would be a noble task on the part of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to offer his good offices for such a dialogue. Yet, opposition leaders Antonio Ledezma and Julio Borges, during a trip through Europe to denounce the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, called for further sanctions as well as a military “humanitarian intervention”. …

44. Although the situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has not yet reached the humanitarian crisis threshold, there is hunger, malnutrition, anxiety, anguish and emigration. What is crucial is to study the causes of the crisis, including neglected factors of sanctions, sabotage, hoarding, black market activities, induced inflation and contraband in food and medicines.

45. The “crisis” in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is an economic crisis, which cannot be compared with the humanitarian crises in Gaza, Yemen, Libya, the Syrian Arab Republic, Iraq, Haiti, Mali, the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Somalia, or Myanmar, among others. It is significant that when, in 2017, the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela requested medical aid from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the plea was rejected, because it ”is still a high-income country … and as such is not eligible”. …

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Question(s) related to this article:

Free flow of information, How is it important for a culture of peace?

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46. It is pertinent to recall the situation in the years prior to the election of Hugo Chávez. Corruption was ubiquitous and in 1993, President Carlos Pérez was removed because of embezzlement. The Chávez election in 1998 reflected despair with the corruption and neo-liberal policies of the 1980s and 1990s, and rejection of the gulf between the super-rich and the abject poor.

47. Participatory democracy in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, called “protagónica”, is anchored in the Constitution of 1999 and relies on frequent elections and referendums. During the mission, the Independent Expert exchanged views with the Electoral Commission and learned that in the 19 years since Chávez, 25 elections and referendums had been conducted, 4 of them observed by the Carter Center. The Independent Expert met with the representative of the Carter Center in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, who recalled Carter’s positive assessment of the electoral system. They also discussed the constitutional objections raised by the opposition to the referendum held on 30 July 2017, resulting in the creation of a Constitutional Assembly. Over 8 million Venezuelans voted in the referendum, which was accompanied by international observers, including from the Council of Electoral Specialists of Latin America.

48. An atmosphere of intimidation accompanied the mission, attempting to pressure the Independent Expert into a predetermined matrix. He received letters from NGOs asking him not to proceed because he was not the “relevant” rapporteur, and almost dictating what should be in the report. Weeks before his arrival, some called the mission a “fake investigation”. Social media insults bordered on “hate speech” and “incitement”. Mobbing before, during and after the mission bore a resemblance to the experience of two American journalists who visited the country in July 2017. Utilizing platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, critics questioned the Independent Expert’s integrity and accused him of bias, demonstrating a culture of intransigence and refusal to accept the duty of an independent expert to be neutral, objective, dispassionate and to apply his expertise free of external pressures. …

67. The Independent Expert recommends that the General Assembly: (g) Invoke article 96 of the Charter of the United Nations and refer the following questions to the International Court of Justice: Can unilateral coercive measures be compatible with international law? Can unilateral coercive measures amount to crimes against humanity when a large number of persons perish because of scarcity of food and medicines? What reparations are due to the victims of sanctions? Do sanctions and currency manipulations constitute geopolitical crimes? (h) Adopt a resolution along the lines of the resolutions on the United States embargo against Cuba, declaring the sanctions against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela contrary to international law and human rights law. …

70. The Independent Expert recommends that the International Criminal Court investigate the problem of unilateral coercive measures that cause death from malnutrition, lack of medicines and medical equipment. …

72. The Independent Expert recommends that, until the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court address the lethal outcomes of economic wars and sanctions regimes, the Permanent Peoples Tribunal, the Russell Tribunal and the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission undertake the task so as to facilitate future judicial pronouncements.

****

On January 26th, Britain’s Independent headlined “Venezuela crisis: Former UN rapporteur says US sanctions are killing citizens”, and Michael Selby-Green reported that:

The first UN rapporteur to visit Venezuela for 21 years has told The Independent the US sanctions on the country are illegal and could amount to “crimes against humanity” under international law.

Former special rapporteur Alfred de Zayas, who finished his term at the UN in March, has criticized the US for engaging in “economic warfare” against Venezuela which he said is hurting the economy and killing Venezuelans.

The comments come amid worsening tensions in the country after the US and UK have backed Juan Guaidó, who appointed himself “interim president” of Venezuela as hundreds of thousands marched to support him. …

The US Treasury has not responded to a request for comment on Mr de Zayas’s allegations of the effects of the sanctions programme.

US sanctions prohibit dealing in currencies issued by the Venezuelan government. They also target individuals, and stop US-based companies or people from buying and selling new debt issued by PDVSA or the government.

The US has previously defended its sanctions on Venezuela, with a senior US official saying in 2018: “The fact is that the greatest sanction on Venezuelan oil and oil production is called Nicolas Maduro, and PDVSA’s inefficiencies,” referring to the state-run oil body, Petroleos de Venezuela, SA.

Mr De Zayas’s findings are based on his late-2017 mission to the country and interviews with 12 Venezuelan government ministers, opposition politicians, 35 NGOs working in the country, academics, church officials, activists, chambers of commerce and regional UN agencies.

The US imposed new sanctions against Venezuela on 9 March 2015, when President Barack Obama issued executive order 13692, declaring the country a threat to national security.

The sanctions have since intensified under Donald Trump, who has also threatened military invasion and discussed a coup. …

Despite being the first UN official to visit and report from Venezuela in 21 years, Mr de Zayas said his research into the causes of the country’s economic crisis has so far largely been ignored by the UN and the media, and caused little debate within the Human Rights Council.

He believes his report has been ignored because it goes against the popular narrative that Venezuela needs regime change. …

The then UN high commissioner, Zeid Raad Al Hussein, reportedly refused to meet Mr de Zayas after the visit, and the Venezuela desk of the UN Human Rights Council also declined to help with his work after his return despite being obliged to do so, Mr de Zayas claimed. …

Ivan Briscoe, Latin America and Caribbean programme director for Crisis Group, an international NGO, told The Independent that Venezuela is a polarising subject. … Briscoe is critical of Mr de Zayas’ report because it highlights US economic warfare but in his view neglects to mention the impact of a difficult business environment in the country. … Briscoe acknowledged rising tensions and the likely presence of US personnel operating covertly in the country. …

Eugenia Russian, president of FUNDALATIN, one of the oldest human rights NGOs in Venezuela, founded in 1978 before the Chavez and Maduro governments and with special consultative status at the UN, spoke to The Independent on the significance of the sanctions.

“In contact with the popular communities, we consider that one of the fundamental causes of the economic crisis in the country is the effect that the unilateral coercive sanctions that are applied in the economy, especially by the government of the United States,” Ms Russian said.

She said there may also be causes from internal errors, but said probably few countries in the world have suffered an “economic siege” like the one Venezuelans are living under. …

In his report, Mr de Zayas expressed concern that those calling the situation a “humanitarian crisis” are trying to justify regime change and that human rights are being “weaponised” to discredit the government and make violent overthrow more “palatable”….

Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world and an abundance of other natural resources including gold, bauxite and coltan. But under the Maduro government they’re not easily accessible to US and transnational corporations.

US oil companies had large investments in Venezuela in the early 20th century but were locked out after Venezuelans voted to nationalise the industry in 1973.

Other than readers of that single newspaper, where has the public been able to find these facts? If the public can have these facts hidden from them, then how much trust should the public reasonably have in the government, and in the news-media?

Mohamed Sahnoun, 1931-2018: Advisor for Culture of Peace

. . TOLERANCE AND SOLIDARITY . .

An obituary from Initiatives of Change International

September 24, 2018. It is with immense sadness that we announce that Ambassador Mohamed Sahnoun, former President of Initiatives of Change International, died on 20 September 2018.
Mohamed Sahnoun was chosen by two UN Secretary-Generals as their Special Representative in some of Africa’s most intractable conflicts. They knew him as a man with a remarkable ability to persuade warring factions to meet and talk.


Photo from Early History of the Culture of Peace

FThis was partly a product of his wide experience as a diplomat. He had been Deputy Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity and of the Arab League. He had served as Algeria’s Ambassador to Germany, France, the USA and Morocco.

But even more, it was a product of his approach to life. As a young man, during Algeria’s struggle for independence from France, he had been arrested by the French authorities and severely tortured. Yet as a diplomat he established warm relations with French leaders. As he said later, ‘My passion is to save endangered populations from the extreme insecurity of war, famine, drought and disaster,’ and he sought to enlist all who could help in that task.

His approach did much to resolve the tensions arising from the process of decolonisation across the African continent. His help was sought in situations large and small. His most satisfying task, he said, was mediating the transition of South-West Africa into the new country of Namibia. But he also dealt with innumerable places where towns and villages, divided by colonial straight-line borders, had to be adjusted. Sahnoun was often the person who mediated a solution.

UN Secretary-General Boutros Ghali chose him as his Special Representative to Somalia in 1993, when the country had erupted into severe conflict. Sahnoun reached out to all sides, and a basis for resolving the conflict was emerging. Then Boutros Ghali told him that the USA intended to intervene militarily. Sahnoun protested vehemently and, when told that the decision had been made, resigned. The US intervention was a disaster.

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Questions for this article:

Where in the world can we find good leadership today?

(continued from left column)

Sahnoun was always searching for more effective ways to bring peace. He supported the UNDP initiatives for ‘human security’, which focused on meeting the basic needs of citizens and thereby overcoming insecurity. He advised UNESCO on its Culture of Peace programme and advised Kofi Annan on environmental and development issues. He was a member of the Brundtland Commission.

He served as co-chair of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, which developed the concept of Responsibility to Protect. ‘Mohamed had an extraordinary capacity to bring people together and bind wounds,’ wrote his co-chair, former Australian Foreign Minister Gareth Evans. ‘He played an indispensable role in searching out the common ground between North and South which made possible the birth of Responsibility to Protect. We will particularly remember his delightful capacity to defuse tensions, usually with African parables involving lions, monkeys, crocodiles, scorpions or all of the above.’

In 2008, together with Cornelio Sommaruga, former President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, he launched the Caux Forum for Human Security. As he said in an interview with the Huffington Post, ‘The idea came from my sense of the deep insecurity in today’s world. Insecurity is born of fear. We must look to the root causes of that fear, and address it with far more energy and cohesion.’

He chose the IofC centre in Switzerland, Caux, as the venue because ‘it is a place where interreligious dialogue is deeply established. I had heard about Caux and Moral Re-Armament (the previous name of Initiatives of Change) from friends over many years. Caux was a safe place where people could build trust in one another.’

In Sahnoun’s view, achieving human security depended on progress in five areas, which he defined as just governance, inclusive economics, intercultural dialogue, environmental sustainability and healing historical wounds. ‘So often the understanding of security has focused purely on physical security,’ he said. ‘But human security is about the very fundamentals of our existence. I place special emphasis on healing wounded memories. In Algeria, Northern Ireland, the Balkans and other places of long pain and violence, the feelings run so deep that a special effort is called for.’

The Caux Forum brought together several hundred people each year, who explored these five concerns jointly. Many initiatives have emerged. In Eastern Europe there is a new emphasis on uncovering and healing the wounds resulting from war and authoritarian rule. And Caux is now doing much to bring the importance of land restoration to international attention.

Sahnoun served as President of Initiatives of Change International for two years [2007-2008], and his insights have helped shape Initiatives of Change programmes throughout the world.

Watch Mohamed Sahnoun’s opening speech  of the 3rd Caux Forum for Human Security in 2010 and an  interview  with him in 2011. 

United Nations: Guterres underlines climate action urgency, as UN weather agency confirms record global warming

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article from the United Nations

In the wake of data released by the United Nations World Meteorological Organization (WMO), showing the past four years were officially the ‘four warmest on record,’ UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for urgent climate action and increased ambition, ahead of his climate summit in September.


The five data sets used by WMO to monitor global temperatures confirm that the past four years have been the warmest on record. (Click on image to enlarge.)

His reaction on Wednesday came after WMO issued a report confirming that 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 were the four warmest years recorded to date. The analysis, based on the monitoring performed by five leading international organisations, also shows that the global average surface temperature in 2018 was approximately 1° Celsius above the pre-industrial (1850-1900) baseline.

“The long-term temperature trend is far more important than the ranking of individual years, and that trend is an upward one,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “The 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years. The degree of warming during the past four years has been exceptional, both on land and in the ocean.”

“Temperatures are only part of the story. Extreme and high impact weather affected many countries and millions of people, with devastating repercussions for economies and ecosystems in 2018,” he said.

“Many of the extreme weather events are consistent with what we expect from a changing climate. This is a reality we need to face up to. Greenhouse gas emission reduction and climate adaptation measures should be a top global priority,” said Mr. Taalas.

Noting “with concern” this data, which was first released in November 2018, UN Secretary-General Guterres said it confirms “the urgency of addressing climate action”, and echoes the science presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its October 2018 special report on the impacts of a global warming of 1.5°C.

The IPCC report that found that limiting global warming to 1.5°C will require “rapid and far-reaching transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities” and that global net emissions of carbon dioxide, attributable to human activity, would need to fall by about 45 per cent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050.

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Question for this article:

 
Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

(Article continued from the left column)

The Secretary-General stated that, “to make these transformations, we need to significantly increase the global level of climate action and ambition”.

In order to mobilize political will, Mr. Guterres is convening a Climate Summit on 23 September this year, focusing on nine key areas:

1 Raised ambition on climate mitigation measures.

2 How to manage the transition to alternative energy sources.

3 Managing industrial transition.

4 Coming up with solutions through agriculture, oceans, forests and nature-related environments.

5 Focus on infrastructure, cities and through local action.

6 Issues of climate finance, notably carbon pricing.

7 Increased resilience and adaptation, especially for the most vulnerable.

8 A focus on social and political drivers.

9 Citizen and political mobilization.

The Secretary-General is working closely with Member States and non-party stakeholders to enable outcomes in these areas to the Summit, in order to send “strong market and political signals that can inject momentum into the race” to meet the goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement, in which countries committed collectively to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Informing the discussions at the Summit alongside other key scientific reports, WMO will issue the full 2018 State of the Climate report this coming March.  It will provide a comprehensive overview of temperature variability and trends, high-impact events, and key indicators of long-term climate change such as increasing carbon dioxide concentrations; Arctic and Antarctic sea ice; sea level rise and ocean acidification.

It will be accompanied by UN-wide policy recommendations statement for decision-makers on the interplay between weather, climate and water supply, and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

(Thank you to Phyllis Kotite, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

Stories from Rotarian Action Group for Peace provide inspiration for peace

.. DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION ..

Excerpts from an article by Reem Ghunaim, Executive Director of Rotarian Action Group for Peace (RAGPF)

. . . This is our 2nd annual Top 5 RAGFP Membership Countries newsletter. It highlights only a fraction of the stories you generously and courageously create on the ground, daily, in 74 countries around the world. Thank you for leading countless stories such as these every day in your Rotary clubs and districts. Your stories are our inspiration at RAGFP. We hope you enjoy reading and learning from each other’s experiences, initiatives, and ideas. . . .


RAGFP member Caroline Millman, (pictured right with Nobel Peace Laureate Rigoberta Menchu Tum)

[United Kingdom]

RAGFP Board Member Alison Sutherland is current chair of our Peace Education Committee. She wrote an article for The Rotarian Magazine UK  that exemplifies all Rotarian peacebuilders. She sat in busy traffic one morning, noticing a group of people outside an old building in her home town of Cardiff, Wales, and recognized an opportunity of Rotarian service. These were refugees seeking asylum and she found a way for Rotary to help them. She assisted Rotarian partnerships that currently integrate many of the 1,000 foreign refugees per month who arrive in Cardiff into their community. The Welsh Refugee Council now refer refugees who wish to integrate into British society to the City of Cardiff Rotaract.

Alison says many of these immigrants “did not always fall within the prescribed Rotaract age range,” yet Rotary created a space for them. Rotarians in her District 1150 now help provide refugees in the UK with English classes, sports and craft facilities, community social events, and even help asylum seekers with complicated government form fillings. Alison demonstrates how Rotarian peacebuilders are committed to meeting the basic needs of their communities as their approach to creating peace. Read More

RAGFP member Caroline Millman, (see photo above), is the Chair of PeaceJam UK. Caroline works with PeaceJam UK to tailor teacher-friendly curricula materials for youth, based on the lives of the Peace Laureates. All of their curricula features global “Call to Action” projects aligned with high-quality service-learning standards and is linked to the One Billion Acts of Peace campaign established by the Peace Laureates. PeaceJam is an international education program for schools and youth groups. It is unique as it is the only educational program working directly with Nobel Peace Laureates. PeaceJam itself has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize seven times. Their aims are to teach and inspire a new generation to be active citizens and agents for change. . .

[India and Pakistan]

RAGFP members in Districts 3011 and 3070 (India) and District 3272 (Pakistan) have joined forces with Rotarians in six other Rotary districts worldwide to build a Peace Park in the disputed border zone between India and Pakistan. The Indus Peace Park Project seeks to promote peace and international cooperation along the border.

The Indus Peace Park Project was conceived in 2015 when a Rotary District 5080 Friendship Exchange group was unable to attend certain events in the region, due to border tensions between India and Pakistan. RAGFP members came together to provide peace action.

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Questions for this article:

How important is community development for a culture of peace?

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The Indus Peace Park Project seeks to secure an area of 10 hectares (25 acres) of land (5 in Pakistan, 5 in India), on either side of the border. To be maintained by Rotarians, Rotaractors, and Interactors from both countries. The park will be a neutral location where everyone can gather in a spirit of lasting peace, cooperation and goodwill. This project and the RAGFP members who lead this project emphasize the notion that “if Rotarians didn’t change the status quo- who else would do it?” This mindset is demonstrated in our live-stream videos recorded with park organizers at the RI Convention 2018 in Toronto.

Rotarian Action Group for Peace is a partner in this project. RAGFP leaders are signators of a global petition to show political leaders on both sides of the border there is overwhelming worldwide support for this Peace Park within the disputed borderlands. You can also sign the petition here, and provide financial support. Learn how your Rotary club or district can support The Indus Peace Park.  Read More . . .

[Australia]

Rotary E-Club Melbourne conducts their weekly Rotary meetings online and then go “into the field,” as they close their laptops and seek peacebuilding opportunities in their local community and globally. They often travel together internationally to remote locations so they may personally identify opportunities for Rotarian service. They sponsor water and sanitation projects in underdeveloped areas of India and visit these areas to see for themselves “if the toilets are working.” They promote peace in local schools, actively recruit fellow Peacebuilder Clubs throughout Australia, and consider personal engagement as the most important philosophy in all of their peacebuilding activities. . . .

[Canada]

. . . a national “culture of peace” is cultivated by Rotarians who form community peace partnerships and alliances throughout their country. The Rotary Club of Winnipeg is a RAGFP Peacebuilder Club. . . . Their peace initiatives focus on the value of human rights, comprehensive peace education, and include, Peace Days 365 including Festival of Peace and Compassion, an annual festival of events celebrating of the United Nation’s annual International Day of Peace. This Peace Days Festival is a nearly month-long schedule of daily events leading up to, and extending beyond, September 21st each year.

The entire community of Winnipeg and District 5550/WPP is involved in hosting peace-centered events that focus Canadians upon shared values of human dignity, compassion for one another, and respect for our environment. Peace Day 2018 events featured a film premiere of the Canadian TV series, First Contact, and the series built bridges between Indigenous Peoples and Canadians across the nation.

Their peace education in human rights programs helped foster Canada’s very first interdisciplinary Master of Human Rights program to be offered at The University of Manitoba in 2019. These Rotarian peacebuilders and RAGFP members provide examples of how all RAGFP Peacebuilder Clubs can develop effective peace projects and initiatives within their own local communities around the world. Read More . . .

[United States]

There are now 78 RAGFP Peacebuilder Clubs spread across the continental United States, in Alaska and the Pacific. . . . The Rotary Club of Boulder [Colorado] has set their next century of Rotarian service on peacebuilding. Their peace initiatives allow school children to access engaging peace education, focus their community upon peace in public spaces, inform social justice in Colorado, and introduce innovative minds from around the world to Rotarian peacebuilding. They also contact and recruit other Rotary clubs in their district to become active Peacebuilder Clubs offering mentorship and an example of excellence. 

Mayors and parliamentarians call on Russia and the U.S. to preserve the INF Treaty

.. DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION ..

A press release from the Basel Peace Office

Mayors, parliamentarians, policy experts and civil society representatives from forty countries – mostly Europe and North America – yesterday [January 29] sent an open letter, the  Basel Appeal for Disarmament and Sustainable Security, to Presidents Putin and Trump and to the leaders of the Russian and US legislatures, calling on them to preserve the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, prevent a new nuclear arms race in Europe and undertake measures to reduce the risk of a nuclear conflict and support global nuclear disarmament. (Appeal also available in French, German, Russian and Spanish).

The INF Treaty is an historic agreement reached in 1987 between the United States and the Soviet Union to eliminate all of their nuclear and conventional ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500 to 5,500 kilometers, and to utilize extensive on-site inspections for verification of the agreement.

Following President Trump’s 20 October, 2018 announcement of his intent to withdraw the United States from the INF Treaty, the State Department has signaled that the US will suspend implementation of the treaty beginning 2 February 2019 and commence the six-month withdrawal process. If the Treaty is dissolved it would further stimulate the current nuclear arms race. In particular, it would open the door for intermediate-range, ground-based nuclear-armed missiles returning to Europe and for US deployment of such missiles in Asia.

‘We are extremely concerned about the deteriorating security environment in Europe and internationally which led the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists to last week re-set the Doomsday Clock at 2 Minutes to Midnight,’ says Christine Muttonen (Austria), Co-President of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament.

‘Conflicts over the INF Treaty should be resolved through the Treaty, not by abandoning it. And other conflicts should be resolved through diplomacy and common security mechanisms such as the United Nations and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE),’ said Ms Muttonen, who recently served as the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.  ‘They cannot be resolved by elevating nuclear threats and ratchetting up the arms race.’

(continued in right column)

Questions for this article:

How can parliamentarians promote a culture of peace?

How can culture of peace be developed at the muniipal level?

(continued from left column)

‘Mayors and parliamentarians, especially those of us from Europe, will not sit idly on the side while the US and Russia erode our security,’ said Thore Vestby (Norway), Vice-President of Mayors for Peace and a former member of the Norwegian parliament. ‘Cities and parliaments are therefore taking action to support nuclear arms control treaties such as the INF and START treaties, promote additional measures such as no-first-use and the new  Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, and to put an end to city and state investments in nuclear weapons corporations.’

‘Legislators in nuclear armed States have a specific role to prevent authorization and funding for new more sophisticated and usable nuclear weapons that increase the risk of destruction of humanity by accident, miscalculation or intent,’ said Paul Quiles (France), Mayor of Cordes sur Ciel, President of Initiatives pour le Désarmement Nucléaire, and Former Defence Minister of France.

‘The fact that the President of the US Conference of Mayors is among 18 US mayors who endorsed on short notice is a significant indicator that ‘Main Street USA’ opposes the Administration’s destabilizing and expensive nuclear weapons program and supports proactive efforts to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world’’ said Frank Cownie, Mayor of Des Moines, Iowa and Vice-President of Mayors for Peace.

‘We do not want to see the dark days of Cold War conflagrations of the 1980s return to Europe. All effort is required to maintain a productive nuclear weapons disarmament regime so that we don’t see the return of nuclear weapons across the continent,”  said Councillor David Blackburn, Chair of UK & Ireland Nuclear Free Local Authorities. ‘I urge the United States and Russia to go back to the diplomatic table and not seek to build a new generation of dangerous nuclear weapons’

‘Nuclear weapons and climate change pose an existential threat to current and future generations,’ says Dr Andreas Nidecker MD (Switzerland), President of the Basel Peace Office. ‘The massive amount of spending in nuclear weapons – over $100 billion per year – should instead be spent in areas which increase our security – such as diplomacy, climate protection and the Sustainable Development Goals.’

‘Diplomacy is starting to work on the Korean peninsula with North and South building cultural, sporting and other contacts despite their political differences,’ said Alyn Ware (Czech Republic), PNND Global Coordinator and Member of the World Future Council. ‘We give full support to the Korean peace and denuclearization process and we call on US, NATO and Russia to follow a similar diplomatic approach with regard to their conflicts, and to help achieve global nuclear disarmament.’
 
Background

Renew Nuclear Arms Control, Don’t Destroy It. By Andrew Lichterman and John Burroughs

Who lost the INF Treaty? by Pavel Podvig, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists;

Parliamentary action to preserve the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, PNND.

Greta Thunberg: My Message to Davos Elites: Act As If Our House Is on Fire. Because It Is.

. . SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT . .

An article from Common Dreams reprinted under under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

The following is a slightly edited version of remarks delivered by 16-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg to attendees at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Friday, January 25, 2018.

video of Greta’s speech

Our house is on fire. I am here to say, our house is on fire.
According to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), we are less than 12 years away from not being able to undo our mistakes. In that time, unprecedented changes in all aspects of society need to have taken place, including a reduction of our CO2 emissions by at least 50%.

And please note that those numbers do not include the aspect of equity, which is absolutely necessary to make the Paris agreement work on a global scale. Nor does it include tipping points or feedback loops like the extremely powerful methane gas released from the thawing Arctic permafrost.

At places like Davos, people like to tell success stories. But their financial success has come with an unthinkable price tag. And on climate change, we have to acknowledge we have failed. All political movements in their present form have done so, and the media has failed to create broad public awareness.

But Homo sapiens have not yet failed.

Yes, we are failing, but there is still time to turn everything around. We can still fix this. We still have everything in our own hands. But unless we recognize the overall failures of our current systems, we most probably don’t stand a chance.

We are facing a disaster of unspoken sufferings for enormous amounts of people. And now is not the time for speaking politely or focusing on what we can or cannot say. Now is the time to speak clearly.

Solving the climate crisis is the greatest and most complex challenge that Homo sapiens have ever faced. The main solution, however, is so simple that even a small child can understand it. We have to stop our emissions of greenhouse gases.

Either we do that or we don’t.

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Question for this article:

 

Despite the vested interests of companies and governments, Can we make progress toward sustainable development?

(Article continued from the left column)

You say nothing in life is black or white. But that is a lie. A very dangerous lie. Either we prevent 1.5C of warming or we don’t. Either we avoid setting off that irreversible chain reaction beyond human control or we don’t.

Either we choose to go on as a civilization or we don’t. That is as black or white as it gets. There are no grey areas when it comes to survival.

We all have a choice. We can create transformational action that will safeguard the living conditions for future generations. Or we can continue with our business as usual and fail.

That is up to you and me.

Some say we should not engage in activism. Instead we should leave everything to our politicians and just vote for a change instead. But what do we do when there is no political will? What do we do when the politics needed are nowhere in sight?

Here in Davos—just like everywhere else —everyone is talking about money. It seems money and growth are our only main concerns.

And since the climate crisis has never once been treated as a crisis, people are simply not aware of the full consequences on our everyday life. People are not aware that there is such a thing as a carbon budget, and just how incredibly small that remaining carbon budget is. That needs to change today.

No other current challenge can match the importance of establishing a wide, public awareness and understanding of our rapidly disappearing carbon budget, that should and must become our new global currency and the very heart of our future and present economics.

We are at a time in history where everyone with any insight of the climate crisis that threatens our civilization—and the entire biosphere—must speak out in clear language, no matter how uncomfortable and unprofitable that may be.

We must change almost everything in our current societies. The bigger your carbon footprint, the bigger your moral duty. The bigger your platform, the bigger your responsibility.

Adults keep saying: “We owe it to the young people to give them hope.” But I don’t want your hope. I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.

I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.

(Thank you to Janet Hudgins, the CPNN reporter for this article.)

“Peace and Love rooms in schools”

… EDUCATION FOR PEACE …

Sent to CPNN by Shahin Gavanji, World Peace Ambassador

Here on the earth, we have thousands of religions and ideologies in which their creators were completely sure about their authenticity. But every day we are faced with wars and bloodsheds. We should ask ourselves why?

When I was a kid I wanted to grow up and tell the world “I love you, let’s love each other and be friends”, so that no kid should be without shelter and food. But as I was growing up a question troubled me: what does peace mean? Is it just the absence of war? Or does it mean something beyond that? I saw countries in which there is no war but nobody gives water to the tree of love. Indeed what happen to the world if the tree of love becomes thirsty?


Shahin Gavanji on left
(click on photo to enlarge)

(Article continued in right column)

 

Question related to this article:

What is the best way to teach peace to children?

(Article continued from left column)

Then an idea came to my mind. What we teach to our children in childhood and adolescence is the same as what they will build in the world. Our children spend most of their time in schools. They get familiar with physics and mathematics, but nobody make them familiar with the most important subjects which are Love and Friendship. Indeed there is no lesson related to these important subjects. In my opinion if in every school we make a room with the name” Peace and Love room”, students will get familiar with the basis of peace and love.

With attention to students we can increase the self confidence between them so that they understand that they can help humankind at the national and international levels. We should teach the student how to love other in this industrial world. Every student can communicate with students in other schools. They should learn “international love” by sending a letter or a picture. In this room the students should learn the equality of men and women.

In this way children can grow up with Love as an essential part of their lives, because they have become familiar with it for many years and it was one of the most important challenges they have faced.

By the use of this idea we can create a world without enmity and hatred, a world of social justice without poverty, racism and any racial discrimination. We can live in a world with social safety, equity, peace and love and the tree of love will no longer be thirsty anywhere in the world.

Book review: On the frontlines of peace

. . . EDUCATION FOR PEACE . . .

An article from  Peace News

In places like South Sudan, Syria and Congo failed peace pacts have devastating consequences. Now, renowned author Séverine Autesserre is writing a new book [“On the frontlines of peace”] that focuses on a different approach to peace than traditional high-level negotiations: ‘peace from below’. And where it’s working.


video

“Peace from below is peace built by ordinary people, people like you and me,” Dr Autesserre, a professor of Political Science at Barnard College, Columbia University, said. 
 
“It’s peace that’s built by teachers who go and decide to meet with former students who have become militia leaders, it’s peace built by uncles, mothers, fathers, cousins, who go and meet with family members who are fighting. It’s peace built by local leaders as well, by traditional chiefs or local mayors or local elite who decide to do whatever they can to mediate conflict within their communities.”
 
Just one peace summit, arranged at a national or international level can cost millions, so why aren’t the big negotiations working?
 
“There is absolutely nothing wrong with peace by political leaders,” said Dr Autesserre. “Except that very often it doesn’t happen, it just doesn’t work.”

”What happens is political leaders sign agreements, sometimes they hold elections, and very often the media headlines praise peace, and then a week or two later – sometimes just days after – violence flares up again. Often it never actually ended, and in many cases it lasts for years after.”
 
(Continued in right column)

Question for this article:

What are the most important books about the culture of peace?

(Continued from left column)

“The problem is that currently we are always focusing our efforts on the top, on political leaders, on elite, and we very rarely support peace at the grassroots.”
 
But Dr Autesserre explained that lasting peace requires both these top-down and ground-up approaches. 
 
“Because very often the causes of violence themselves are both top-down and bottom-up. The causes are both political leaders who are fighting (presidents, rebel leaders who are fighting) but also ordinary people who are fighting or who are supporting combatants.”

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo the residents on the island of Idjwi have used a ‘peace from below’ approach to avoid violence, despite surrounding conflict claiming millions of lives.

“Idjwi has all of the conditions that have led to violence in surrounding provinces in other parts of Congo,” said Dr Autesserre. “So you have ethnic tension, you have land conflict, you have geo-strategic location, mineral resources, I could go on and on. But the inhabitants of Idjwi have managed to build peace, and maintain peace, by building on ordinary people and local leaders.”


”What they’ve done is promoted what they call a ‘culture of peace’ – they are very, very proud of their identity as a peaceful island.”


The island’s schools, churches and local organizations strengthen peace here, and respect for local customs also helps. For example, the community sometimes build on blood pacts, a kind of traditional promise between two families who to refrain from violence against each other.

A lack of research means grassroots peacebuilding needs more attention in the academic sphere, but there’s one common theme Dr Autesserre has observed in the various locations she’s studied.
 
“It’s, again, the involvement of ordinary people and local leaders,” she said. 
 
“It’s really the fact that every single member of the community feels that is it his or her responsibility to help build peace, rather than waiting on a Hail Mary, or rather than waiting on a savior, rather than waiting for political leaders, or for United Nations peacekeepers to come and build peace, it’s really taking peace in to their own hands and trying to build peace on an everyday level. That’s what really matters.”

2019 Doomsday Clock Statement

.DISARMAMENT & SECURITY.

Press release by The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Humanity now faces two simultaneous existential threats, either of which would be cause for extreme concern and immediate attention. These major threats—nuclear weapons and climate change—were exacerbated this past year by the increased use of information warfare to undermine democracy around the world, amplifying risk from these and other threats and putting the future of civilization in extraordinary danger.


Video of announcement

In the nuclear realm, the United States abandoned the Iran nuclear deal and announced it would withdraw from the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), grave steps towards a complete dismantlement of the global arms control process. Although the United States and North Korea moved away from the bellicose rhetoric of 2017, the urgent North Korean nuclear dilemma remains unresolved. Meanwhile, the world’s nuclear nations proceeded with programs of “nuclear modernization” that are all but indistinguishable from a worldwide arms race, and the military doctrines of Russia and the United States have increasingly eroded the long-held taboo against the use of nuclear weapons.

On the climate change front, global carbon dioxide emissions—which seemed to plateau earlier this decade—resumed an upward climb in 2017 and 2018. To halt the worst effects of climate change, the countries of the world must cut net worldwide carbon dioxide emissions to zero by well before the end of the century. By such a measure, the world community failed dismally last year. At the same time, the main global accord on addressing climate change—the 2015 Paris agreement—has become increasingly beleaguered.The United States announced it will withdraw from that pact, and at the December climate summit in Poland, the United States allied itself with Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait (all major petroleum-producing countries) to undercut an expert report on climate change impacts that the Paris climate conference had itself commissioned.

(Continued in right column)

Question related to this article:

Can we abolish all nuclear weapons?

(Continued from left column)

Amid these unfortunate nuclear and climate developments, there was a rise during the last year in the intentional corruption of the information ecosystem on which modern civilization depends. In many forums, including particularly social media, nationalist leaders and their surrogates lied shamelessly, insisting that their lies were truth, and the truth “fake news.” These intentional attempts to distort reality exaggerate social divisions, undermine trust in science, and diminish confidence in elections and democratic institutions. Because these distortions attack the rational discourse required for solving the complex problems facing humanity, cyber-enabled information warfare aggravates other major global dangers—including those posed by nuclear weapons and climate change—as it undermines civilization generally.

There is nothing normal about the complex and frightening reality just described.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board today sets the Doomsday Clock at two minutes to midnight—the closest it has ever been to apocalypse. Though unchanged from 2018, this setting should be taken not as a sign of stability but as a stark warning to leaders and citizens around the world. The current international security situation—what we call the “new abnormal”—has extended over two years now. It’s a state as worrisome as the most dangerous times of the Cold War, a state that features an unpredictable and shifting landscape of simmering disputes that multiply the chances for major military conflict to erupt.

This new abnormal is simply too volatile and dangerous to accept as a continuing state of world affairs.

Dire as the present may seem, there is nothing hopeless or predestined about the future. The Bulletin resolutely believes that human beings can manage the dangers posed by the technology that humans create. Indeed, in the 1990s, leaders in the United States and the Soviet Union took bold action that made nuclear war markedly less likely—and that led the Bulletin to move the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock far from midnight.

But threats must be acknowledged before they can be effectively confronted. The current situation—in which intersecting nuclear, climate, and information warfare threats all go insufficiently recognized and addressed, when they are not simply ignored or denied—is unsustainable. The longer world leaders and citizens carelessly inhabit this new and abnormal reality, the more likely the world is to experience catastrophe of historic proportions.