BUILDING PEACE: RESISTING WAR
In 1993 the Union of Concerned Scientists issued a “Warning to Humanity” pointing out that “human beings and the natural world are on a collision course.” At that time, these top scientists were not certain about the predictions of global climate change, but now they would be; we all are. Meanwhile, everything they were certain of – serious water shortages, the fragility of ocean ecosystems, soil depletion and decreasing food production, the irreversible, heartbreaking loss of species – is happening as predicted or even more quickly than predicted.
The Union of Concerned Scientists listed five areas for action, each “inextricably linked” to the others:
- We must bring environmentally damaging activities under control to restore and protect the integrity of the earth’s systems we depend on, making special mention of the need to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and develop smaller scale, renewable energy sources matched to Third World needs.
- We must manage resources crucial to human welfare more effectively.
- We must stabilize population. This will be possible only if all nations recognize that it requires improved social and economic conditions, and the adoption of effective, voluntary family planning.
- We must reduce and eventually eliminate poverty.
- We must ensure sexual equality, and guarantee women control over their own reproductive decisions.
The declaration went on to point out: “Success in this global endeavor will require a great reduction in violence and war. Resources now devoted to the preparation and conduct of war – amounting to over $1 trillion annually – will be badly needed in the new tasks and should be diverted to the new challenges.”
Obviously, in the nearly two decades since this warning was issued, humanity has made little progress towards these goals, despite the dedicated efforts of millions, even billions of groups and individuals around the world. For instance, by now, the US alone is already spending close to or more than $1 trillion on “defence” each year. Canada’s military expenditures amount to $58 million every day. The huge disparity between unimaginable riches and dire poverty not only still exists, it is increasing, with only 20% of the world’s people consuming over 80% of its resources.
The Canadian Voice of Women for Peace is part of a global grassroots movement that refuses to give up in the face of this terrible situation. We know the “diagnosis” is frightening, the prognosis not hopeful. We realize that in the face of our current situation, denial is tempting, not just for the individual who faces a dire illness but for humanity as a whole. We also know that sometimes, especially when there is great love and strength of will, some patients can heal, despite all odds. There is so much we love in life, in this earth we share with all kinds of other creatures.
We must carry on, as Adrienne Rich put it, “perversely, with no extraordinary power,” seeking to “reconstitute the world”. We ask our fellow citizens: if you were gravely ill, how would you want to act? Would you not hope to have the courage to move beyond denial, so that what time you had to spend with those you loved most would be real, rather than a charade of “nice” appearances? Would you not want to change your way of life, to do what you could to bring about healing?
Thus, we ask you, our fellow citizens: Please, let’s use the resources we have to make the lifestyle changes that will give us and our planet a chance for a healthy future. For instance, let’s not squander our wealth on fighter jets that we supposedly need for defence from “threats” such as the recent Russian flight exercises, a claim columnist Jeffrey Simpson described as “side–splittingly funny.” With the money we would need to spend on those F–35s, we could pay for a whole host of useful programs, including programs to fight poverty, invest in food security, improve health care and fight climate change.
When we are in denial we can end up making ridiculous decisions, such as deciding to use gas–guzzling fighter jets to “defend our air space” when we really need to defend our air from ever increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases. Of course, it is not just one decision about fighter jets that must be changed, but this current example is highly symbolic of the overall change in direction we need.
As Dr. Dale Dewar, executive director of Physicians for Global Survival and a member of the board of VOW, has stated, “War’s utter waste of human resource – lives, intelligence, time and money – devoted to childish ‘games’ will eventually end – or the human race ends.”
Once we move beyond denial, we can take the kinds of risks that may bring healing. Do we have the courage to open our eyes to the reality of what war and militarism are doing to us and all life on earth? We must face the fact that there is no failproof path to “security.” Neither military force nor the power of nonviolence can protect us from all harm. But investing in military force causes crushing harm to people and our earth whereas learning to use the tools of nonviolence can help us grow as human beings, and offers real hope for a livable future.
Systems thinker and author Joanna Macy once pointed out that we have “no guarantee that this tremendous shift [in values and lifestyle, “The Great Turning”] will kick in before our life support systems unravel irretrievably.” But this uncertainty could “draw forth our greatest courage and creativity…. From our own life experience, we know there’s never a guarantee – whether we’re falling in love, or going into labor to birth a baby, or devoting ourselves to a piece of land, turning the soil and watching for rain. We don’t ask for proof that we’ll succeed and that everything will turn out as we want. We just go ahead, because life wants to live through us!… Our time to come alive is right now, on this edge of possibility.”
The burden of the resort to war is now borne by all of humanity; the inability of the international community to accomplish nuclear disarmament; the rise of the doctrine of pre-emptive self-defence; the threat of imperial ambitions; the escalating disregard of the rule of international law; the contradiction between state sanctioned resort to war as a way of solving international disputes and the universality of human rights; the appalling gap between monies devoted to military “security” and other sectors devoted to non-military human security and, the historically unprecedented human and environmental costs of war which raged in the last century and sadly, continues. All of these matters, and more, starkly condemn war as grossly immoral, perverse and risking omnicide. Canadian Voice of Women for Peace demand that war like slavery, colonialism and apartheid, be consigned to the scrap heap of history by its delegitimization, domestically and internationally.
RESOLUTION: THE DELEGITIMIZATION OF WAR
- the delegitimization of inter-state war;
- the government of Canada to take the necessary steps to embed this policy into national infrastructure and practice as soon as possible within this Decade of a Culture of Peace and Non-violence for the Children of the World (2000-2010);
- the government of Canada to seek changes within the international system, including the United Nations system, to fully support this policy.
Submitted for re-affirmation* by Janis Alton. Seconded by Janet Eaton.
For VOW General Meeting, Halifax, 1 November, 2008
* Originally adopted in 2004.