Sense of Hope on Display at Zero Nuclear Weapons Forum

15.11.2009 - Toronto - Pressenza IPA

Mayor David Miller kicked-off the Forum, warmly welcoming all the guests and participants, and speaking personally of his family’s own experience in the Second World War. Mayor Miller is a member of Mayors for Peace and has also endorsed the World March for Peace and Nonviolence.

The first speaker, connected through live video conferencing, was the President of Mayors for Peace, Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba of Hiroshima. Mayor Akiba spoke about the new moment of hope brought about by President Obama’s administration, and said that while Obama is moving cautiously, he is still moving more quickly towards disarmament than could have been imagined just a few years ago. Indeed, he said that Obama’s statements about arms reduction targets even seem to be out pacing Mayors for Peace’s own vision of nuclear weapons abolition by the year 2020, and wisely remarked that, “We should pay attention to the speed at which the world is changing, or we may find ourselves obsolete.”

Anthony Cary, British High Commissioner to Canada, also echoed this sense of optimism, speaking about how “after a decade of deadlock, there is really is hope now for nuclear disarmament.” Cary received a number of questions from the audience about Britain’s Trident submarines and on the need to connect the question of nuclear energy to nuclear weapons proliferation.

The renowned writer Jonathan Schell rounded out the first evening with an engaging talk looking at where we are now “in this seventh decade of the nuclear age.” He noted the surprising emergence of a right-wing component to voices for disarmament, saying that when people like Kissinger begin making public declarations about the need for disarmament, “it’s like the priesthood turning against its own dogma.” Schell naturally welcomed this development, explaining that such support, “gets us out of the political ghetto this issue used be in.”

Schell’s talk continued with a look at the gap between Obama’s no-nukes vision and the concrete negotiating decisions actually being made, explaining that this was the result of the persistence of a “deterrent mentality” when in fact “nuclear arsenals are a proliferant, not a deterrent”. To finish, Schell stressed that the issue of nuclear disarmament needs to be linked to that of climate change and seen as “part of the larger agenda for the Earth”, given that both issues affect the outright survival of our species and all life on the planet.

“A world without war was once a dream, and now it’s a necessity,” he concluded, to lively applause.

On Saturday, the panel titled “Surmounting the Obstacles” looked at questions of verifying treaty compliance and the impasse between the US and Russia; “Arctic Nuclear Weapon Free Zone” looked at how establishing such a zone might be possible, and “Arousing and Sustaining Political Will” featured talks by activist-academics, and former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament, Douglas Roche.

The Zero Nuclear Weapons Forum was organized by Metta Spencer of Science for Peace, and co-sponsored by the Canadian Pugwash Group, Physicians for Global Survival, and the Canadian Voice of Women for Peace.

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