Surviving and Achieving Sustainability by Following a Fundamental Principle and asking the Right Questions

A paper prepared for the 53rd Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs


This paper examines values, and introduces a superordinate principle, the Principle of Life as a basis for a new paradigm. It looks at the major interrelated threats to human civilization: overpopulation; war and militarism; climate change; contamination pollution and waste; counterproductive myth, the world’s socio-economic system(s) and the phenomenon of overdeveloped male dominance. Attention to all these areas will be needed to avert a demographic catastrophe this century, or major war. The abolition of military establishments and of militarism, always desirable, is now seen to be essential. Since early 2002, the United States has announced four new projects and policy postures amounting to a declaration that it is now the ruler of an empire. International responses to the new situation have yet to be formulated, and they will need to be imaginative, peaceful, collective, determined, and preferably nonconfrontational. By contrast, the fact that the new empire has shown itself to be militarily undefeatable makes the response in terms of armament and disarmament different from the overall political response. Thus, unilateral disarmament by some nations makes more sense than it has done since warfare first began 6300 years ago. The more countries achieve general and complete disarmament unilaterally, the easier it will be for the others to follow suit. Application of the Principle of Life needs most to be developed for those areas that feature human-human interactions on a large scale – where it is currently least well understood how to apply it. Many important and vital changes can be deduced from it, through, for example, examining conditions that would prevent the recurrence of Third World debt following debt forgiveness. Profound changes will be needed so as to permit economic success in a world where industrial growth must of necessity come to an end. Economic growth can be allowed to continue, but it cannot be based on increasing extraction, manufacture and consumption, and paving over good agricultural land. In measuring economic growth, net domestic product rather than gross domestic product should be used as the financial indicator.

“We have only one or perhaps two generations in which to reinvent ourselves.”

Chris White, in State of the World 2003


All of us would like to experience a sustainable, peaceful and prosperous world, free of weapons of mass destruction. Fifty-eight years after the first nuclear detonation at the Nevada test site, we are further than ever from achieving such a goal.

This paper surveys briefly the factors that are likely to cause the greatest declines in human life and civilization and indicates some of their interlinkages, suggesting their relative intractability if viewed and tackled as separate problems. A holistic approach based upon a new paradigm is necessary; an early draft of the paradigm already exists1. It does not follow from anything in this paper that a peaceful, sustainable world can be attained if all the factors discussed here are fully dealt with, but it does follow that disaster will be consequent upon the neglect of any of them. The present human path is clearly unsustainable. If we are not are heading toward a demographic catastrophe worldwide, then at least we are moving headlong toward several such local disasters2. Figs.1a-1c show the high-population scenario in a recent modeling by McRuer and colleagues (unpublished, private communication), without the feedback that would be caused by shortages. Figs.1d-1f then reveal the shortages of essentials that such population increase would give rise to. These figures are shown here because they reveal the onset of serious stress much sooner that has generally been imagined.

Fig1a. Fertility: historical to 2000 and projected scenario from then on
Fig.1b. Life expectancy: historical to 2000; extrapolated scenario from then on.

The need for the holistic approach has been recognized for some time34. At the biennial World Order conferences at Ryerson University organized by Helmut Burkhardt, the participants hear all the papers that are presented orally in a series of plenary sessions. Thus all participants hear the session on values, usually at the start of the conference. A hope of these conferences has been that a useful contribution would by now have been made through systems science, since the world can be viewed as a system. Some progress toward that goal can now be seen in the increasingly sophisticated modeling of McRuer and colleagues5.

Fig.1c. The three figures 1a to 1c are mutually consistent to 2000, and the population after 2000 is what results from the fertility and life expectancy exptrapolations (Figs.1a, 1b).

Fig.1d. Note that the crop tension undergoes a sudden change after 2016 in the high population model. Since there are fewer than 20 years’ extrapolation from the input scenarios, it is realistic expect serious food shortages to begin in fewer that 14 years under the model’s assumptions.

Fig.1e. This model results assumes that the human race will generally continue to take what it needs when it needs it from forests. This avoidable situation is the subject of one of the recommendations of this paper.

Fig.1f. The energy consequences, arising from successive shortages of conventional or traditional fuels.

This paper follows Burkhardt’s 14-year long conference series in emphasizing the need for making the interconnections, and for searching for root causes. We are not likely to extract ourselves from a path of doom unless we are willing to look at what holds us on that course. Some of the ideas in this paper were first presented at one of the World Order Conferences6.

Values, the Principle of Life, and the new paradigm

It is a mistake to avoid discussion of values. I was first forced to examine the values held by scientific researchers in 1987, when Joseph Rotblat asked me to do a commissioned paper on Peace Research for the Gmunden Conference. I found that there is a wide range of values underlying the work of academic researchers, but that people engaged in peace research held life itself as a value7. In the minds of most people, life is a phenomenon, or a set of phenomena, rather than a value. My understanding of how it stands as a value was greatly enhanced after reading Jacob Bronowski’s Silliman lectures8, published after his death. In this brilliant exposé of modern philosophy, Bronowski made only one mistake — that of asserting that scientific responsibility is a logical consequence of the general philosophical principle of interconnectedness9. The truth, rather, is that we have a choice whether to use science responsibly, and that responsibility does follow from adopting life as a value. What does it mean to adopt life as a value?

On observing life, one sees that it has developed from more primitive forms to more complex forms over hundreds of millions of years, and that it maximizes itself in abundance. In fact the tendency to “go forth and multiply” has led to various species undergoing demographic catastrophes, once they have overgrazed their pastures10. These two general characteristics of life — viewed as an Earthly phenomenon — may be explainable using the thermodynamics of open systems. To hold life as a value, therefore, means first of all to accept its progress in complexity, and to be aware of the tendency to abundance (or overabundance).

Enter homo sapiens, and the order of things changes because of the rapid development of consciousness and, with it, the ability to control life processes. Abstract concepts develop, such as a sense of responsibility, but that sense doesn’t come automatically and, when it develops, it remains a mystery11. Adopting the Principle of Life means to be committed to preserve life in its fullness and diversity, but this is not a precisely defined notion12.

Application of the Principle to human interactions with non-human species leads to numerous sub-principles, such as were admirably delineated at the Stockholm Conference13. Application to person-to-person relations amounts to the well-known religious principle to treat others as one would oneself be treated, a feature common to great religions. Application to the human world on a macroscopic scale is what is least well understood, and this will be a facet, sometimes a focus of this paper. The human race is faced with the dilemma that it is not only exterminating the major non-human species, but is in very great danger of bringing itself down to a very low level of existence, a new dark age. The way out must obviously be to follow the Principle of Life, and look at what that Principle dictates in all areas of decision and policy making. This, in essence, is the new paradigm.

The major threats to human existence and culture

The following appear to be the major threats to the possibility of a continuing human population able to enjoy a fine level of culture and sustainable prosperity14:

a. A demographic catastrophe
b. War, especially nuclear war
c. Climate change
d. Contamination, pollution, and waste
e. Irrational beliefs
f. Faulty social structures

The fact that the above can be separated in a list does not mean that their effects are linearly independent. Most of them affect each other strongly and in complex ways.

a) Demographic catastrophe

It is difficult to prove that the world is heading for a major demographic catastrophe, in the style first projected by the Club of Rome. However, an important condition for such catastrophe is already established, namely, that the world has exceeded its ecological footprint by some 30 percent. Evidence that such a catastrophe has already begun could be deduced from studies of poor countries, their widespread poverty, epidemics, droughts and the state of agricultural internationally, including rates of change of that state. The continuing population increase throughout such tragic times is an indicator that conditions are likely to become worse in the short term, and that this will ultimately render the crash even more severe, locally if not in general.

Overpopulation is defined here in terms of inability of land to support the people who live off it. The ecological footprint is the productive land area that would be needed to sustain human life at an acceptable level, whereas, for many countries, the productive land area they have is smaller than that. Countries that have expanded their consumption beyond what their natural heritage will provide do various things to compensate. Japan, for example, retains prosperity through manufacture and export. But there are costs, in the form of major importing of raw materials, depleting the natural capital of other parts of the world. The importation is not necessarily damaging of itself; but if the nations supplying these materials are also themselves overextended in ecological footprint, the whole system becomes unsustainable, with rapid declines of natural capital. When the whole world has expanded in population beyond the world’s ecological footprint we are in deep trouble. And this point was reached some thirty years ago, or thereabouts. The loss of tropical rainforest is a conspicuous and measurable result of overpopulation. Yet it is important to retain preserve rainforest, since failing to do so exacerbated climate change. See recommendations at the end of this paper.

Overpopulation, as defined here, is a problem that simply must be faced. The notion that it is too sensitive a question to put on the agendas of international conferences is the most feeble-minded of cop-outs.

To extract oneself from such trouble requires attention on every front that can have a beneficial effect. Greatly reducing human birth rates is one approach, necessary but not sufficient. Minimizing waste is essential, as that will reduce the acreage required per capita. Increasing arable acreages, and restoring lost lands to productivity are essential measures. Alternative methods of food production, such as hydroponics, may have to be encouraged. Preventing desertification is vital, and recovering productive land from deserts is important. In all these endeavours, education is an essential component. It must be public education, not private, because nobody should be excluded on the basis of low family income.

The role that education of women plays in controlling the size of family is well known, and need not be discussed here. However, there are many poor countries in which large numbers of women are deprived of education. This factor alone could make the difference between success and failure in preventing a demographic catastrophe in such a region.

b) War

All wars, all aggressive military operations, nearly all military research and production, and most military exercises have the effect of making it more difficult to preserve the web of life and maximize productive land. Thus militarism in all its facets enhances the excess of the ecological footprint relative to productive land area, and is a driving force pushing the world toward a disaster. Most of the undesirable effects of militarism are indirect. Carbon emissions and other forms of pollution arising from military production, military exercises and war contribute to climate change. Wars have rendered certain areas unproductive. Military training areas tend to be unproductive. Fields chemically contaminated in war, the best example being contamination by Agent Orange in Vietnam, render the soil biologically dangerous. In Vietnam, 650,000 serious birth abnormalities have been ascribed to Agent Orange. Military action tends to destroy vital infrastructure that is costly and difficult for a poor society to rebuild. Every nation in Africa that has been beset by war these past forty-five years has undergone great difficulty regaining a viable lifestyle after the conflict. Ethiopia, noted by Gro Harlem Brundtland15 to have passed the point it could sustain itself already in the 1930s, nevertheless mounted extraordinary military campaigns during the Cold War. These proxy wars, fought for reasons stemming from elsewhere in the world, contributed further to the poverty and desperate conditions of that region of Africa today.

To reduce wastage and assist maximally in the struggle to avoid a demographic catastrophe, a substantially demilitarized world is needed. Such demilitarization will not guarantee a solution to the problem but continuance of militarization will guarantee that the problem cannot be solved.

Nuclear war, necessarily, would be a great accelerator of demographic catastrophe, not simply because of the number of people that would be killed, but because of the difficulty or impossibility of the survivors to move forward. Much has been said and written about this.

c) Climate change

Climate change is rife with imponderables, such as, “will a global increase of 2 degrees Celsius really have any effect on human existence?” At present all we have to go on are the projections of about five detailed climate models, all very sophisticated, and none able to explain all the observed phenomena. However, these models are all we have to go on, for the purpose of policy formation. Furthermore the models agree that the central parts of the two great northern land masses will experience the greatest increases in average temperature, the increases being greater in the Arctic and declining as one moves south. The consequences for agriculture in the midwest of North America would appear to be severe and similar effects may be expected in Siberia.

Thus climate change is projected to decrease the available land area for agricultural production, which impinges directly on the question of demographic catastrophe. The disappearance of coral islands in the short term, and agricultural coastal lowlands in the medium term, from flooding by the rising ocean, are added factors.

Precaution thus dictates that minimizing further climate change should be a major priority. The Kyoto Protocol is a first step in realising that priority.

d) Contamination and pollution

Pollution is clearly linked to climate change, since the atmosphere is being overloaded with greenhouse gases. Other pollutants — objectionable chemicals and radioactive substances — continue to find their ways into ground water, lakes, rivers, oceans and, more recently, the deserts of Iraq and Kuwait, and parts of Kosovo, which are contaminated with depleted uranium. Links between demographic catastrophe, climate change and militarism are thus all clear.

e) Irrational beliefs — a few examples

The human factor enters everywhere in these concerns, often not appearing logical in the process. Indeed, Bronowski stated in the Silliman lectures that the human brain does not function like a digital computer8.

Roger Fisher, a frequent Pugwash participant during the Cold War and author of “Getting to Yes”, stated clearly and repeatedly in those days that “more weapons wouldn’t make us safer.” Each side could, during the Cold War, easily have eliminated everything that people base their lives upon in only about half an hour, and that possibility still exists. Yet it was difficult, if not impossible, to persuade people that increasing the number of missiles on one side was not the answer to deployment of more by the other. During that period, Canadian peace researcher Alan Newcombe showed that the outbreak of war was more likely when the parties were overarmed[y].

Another irrational belief is that it is wicked, or against God’s command to use contraceptive methods of population limitation. Somehow, many devout Catholics in developed countries have managed to sidestep that problem, appropriately using denial to brush that particular edict under the rug. Sometimes having a brain that isn’t a digital computer offers advantages! However, the same proscription in poor countries can have a devastatingly negative effect on the restriction of population growth.

Another particularly dangerous belief, widely held in Ottawa among government officials and, possibly, in cabinet, is: “the only viable alternative to fossil fuel burning to generate electricity is nuclear power.” This belief is held despite the glaring fact that nuclear power proved highly uneconomic in Canada, leaving the Province of Ontario and the energy agency that owns the reactors with a $41 billion debt that is a severe burden on taxpayers. At the time of writing, seven out of its 19 nuclear reactors have been continually out of operation for several years, for a production loss of $1 billion per annum at today’s artificially low (highly subsidized) electricity price16. But the belief persists.

Another irrational belief that is one learned in some madrassas: “I will go to a particular type of heaven if I sacrifice my life perpetrating some violent act that I am called upon to do.” The passage to that heaven may turn out to be true, but the prior belief in it is irrational.

To conclude this subsection, an appropriate field of peace and environmental research may be to study ways of counteracting harmful irrational beliefs, without attempting to eliminate irrationality. The British were successful in this at the time of the Mau-Mau terrorism in Kenya. What they did was to replace the irrational belief that was causing the terrorism with another more powerful one. The human brain is not a digital computer …

f) Faulty social structures

While sounding very different from e) above, this category is very closely linked to it and is at the root of much of the present human dilemma. Here we must look at all the givens of modern human existence that are held to be sacrosanct and may not be questioned, but which are preventing essential change, that is, change that the human race must be prepared to make if major disaster is to be avoided. These are introduced in the next sections of this paper.

The military establishments

A major focus of Pugwash has always been the prevention of nuclear war, including the total abolition of nuclear weapons. Indeed, major nuclear war would hasten a tragedy that is already looming, demographic catastrophe. To reverse the march toward such catastrophe will require a huge effort, a departure from all forms of wastefulness, and a universal focus on the central problem of sustainability.

Military activities of the kinds and on the scale that are occurring today are highly unsustainable. Presently the ecological footprint of humankind is 1.3 times the Earth’s productive land area, implying a huge degree of overstressing of the whole life system. Thus all forms of insult to that system need to be halted. In the interest of the entire ecosystem, all military production and all aggressive military activities should cease, especially anything involving chemical combustion, explosions, radioactive munitions, and so on. Each violent military incident is a nail in the coffin of the whole human race, not just the person or people who were the obvious victims of that event.

Some authors, for example Rapoport17, have taken the point of view that, far from defending anyone, military establishments have the prime purpose of defending themselves, that is to say, keeping themselves in business, or perpetuating themselves. Others have shown that a small fraction of the world’s military budget could finance all urgently needed developmental problems in poor countries, worldwide, and much else that is sorely needed18.

Throughout the last 30 years the world’s annual military budget has not differed much from its present approximate value of $1 trillion (in 2003 dollars). Seen ecologically, all this expenditure has amounted to the generation of waste. The public utterances that sustain this appalling wastage consist of propaganda: “Saddam has weapons of mass destruction … “, “We must be able to counter the Soviet (or Russian, or Chinese, or rogue state, etc.) threat.”

The real threats are twofold: the threat of demographic catastrophe, local or general, and the threat of nuclear war. The first of these is maximally furthered by militarism and the other is directly caused by it. It is therefore vital to examine the system that maintains this destructive monster — for monster it has become, the perfect analogue of Grendel in the Anglo-Saxon story of Beowulf. Had it not been for Beowulf’s courage and skill, Grendel would have destroyed the people just as militarism will destroy us if we do not suppress it once and for all.

Here are some major elements of that sustain militarism:

1. The lust for power, domination and profit
2. The use of military industry as a provider of employment
3. Public gullibility

Pervading all of the above is fear; fear of neighbours, who are also seen to be armed, coupled to the belief that one’s own armaments will defend one. Saddam’s arms didn’t defend Iraq. Serbian arms couldn’t defend Kosovo. US arms cannot defend against the next terrorist attack. Israeli arms are not providing security against terrorism.

Military industry as a provider of jobs

During the Cold War, military production was shown to be economically the least effective way of providing employment in the United States. That is, more money had to be invested for each job created in the military industries than in other industries. How did these industries acquire the extraordinary position that they hold today, so that all States of the Union want to have military industry located within their boundaries? Part of the answer stems from deep-rooted concepts of how civil industries should be operated, namely through competition and without subsidy. Military industry, by contrast, must respond to difficult tasks of development given to it from outside, and must be fully supported during this phase. In production, too, the support may have to continue, since otherwise there is risk that the substantial sums already invested might turn out to have been paid for nothing. The fact that civil industry often requires subsidy, and certain industries regularly obtain such subsidies — for example the US water subsidies — escaped notice. Nevertheless, subsidy of civil industry (with exceptions) was forbidden in two trade agreements involving Canada and the United States, while subsidy was specifically permitted for military industries. Consequently, civil industry minimizes its work force so as to be as competitive as possible (and for other reasons), while military industry becomes the employer that can provide more secure or better paid employment. Fortunately, subsidy of municipal infrastructures is not forbidden by present trade agreements, and this may turn out to be a practical element in demilitarizing societies without creating massive unemployment.

Lust for power and domination

Male dominance has been a feature of human civilization for about 6300 years19. Before that we have little information, except that there is no evidence for weapons of war, and there seem to have been no specifically male gods20. War and military power structures are thus relative newcomers to the human scene, and a world without war was once a long-term reality. Many places in the world today are untouched by recent wars. A world free of war is not just a dream; it is a realistic goal and it happens also to be essential. There is no doubt the secret of achieving it will have an element of bringing back into balance the sharing of power and influence that almost certainly existed in prehistoric times.

There are several trends toward power sharing between men and women that can be traced through recent history, but men still control all the organizations that actually foment and make the wars — including most or all governments (cabinets), NATO, the national militaries, and so on. The Parliamentary Union keeps track of the advancement of women in government, in particular, recording the percentages of women in the world’s parliaments. While the trends toward equal female participation go slowly forward, only two or three countries have sufficient female representation in their parliaments to provide an approximate gender balance, such as would force government to take fully into consideration a feminine viewpoint. Another paper prepared unofficially for this conference21 looks thoroughly at the gender issues, indicating the special need to take into account women and their experience of wars.

In the meantime, operating in an exceptionally male-dominant and militarily aggressive mode, the US administration has taken four unequivocal steps to announce to the world that it is now the centre of a world empire2223 and the Centre for Research on Globalisation, 2002). The term empire used in this paper, however, arises entirely from the change of self-declared status implicit in the four changes listed in this footnote, and the violation of international law and international norms by the USA that have increased since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2002.)), “the United States made it plain that it will wield force as the new norm of international relations in order to achieve global rule. Ongoing military ventures in Afghanistan and Iraq, and increased military projection in more than 100 countries are clear signs of this intent.” They continue, “Having promised the world endless war against possibly 60 nations, the United States has claimed the right to launch pre-emptive attacks on any state suspected of being a threat, and proclaimed the right to retain nuclear weapons and develop more usable ones as well as claiming the right to their first use. It has even renounced negative security assurances to non-nuclear states.”)). If the word empire seems too strong, at least I shall use it here to indicate major departure from merely being the world’s only superpower. This unilateral declaration must not be ignored, or psychologically denied. It requires all of our wit and imagination to grasp and face up to it. Since we are discussing militarism, every thought we used to have on this subject needs to be re-examined. For example, what now will be the path to disarmament, if any is possible, so as to progress toward a peaceful and sustainable world? It may no longer be of any use whatever to proceed as we used to do. But even if the old ways, such as negotiating disarmament treaties, still have some validity, basic questions need to be asked. Here is exactly such a question: is the Conference on Disarmament (CD) still relevant? Its negotiations have bogged down for years, the USA being blamed for this by refusing to agree to anything. If that question has been asked, what is the answer? Alternatively, has the CD’s real task changed, without the new task being formulated? These are not rhetorical questions. Another example: there is to be a PrepCom for the upcoming review of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but is the Treaty is still relevant? If it is, that relevance needs to be revealed in light of the new style of power that is being projected. Lastly, is NATO still relevant, except as an arm of US power projected overseas? How is it that the US administration, not liking the protests of Belgian citizens, can theaten to move the NATO headquarters from Brussels? Why are European nations sticking to an organization that was formed as a bulwark against Soviet incursion, and has in principle served its purpose? These three sets of questions are only a few of many that need to be asked in light of the tremendous political change that the new US policies and doctrines imply.

My remarks are not anti-American. I happen to admire US institutions, its civil service and its universities profoundly, and I hold many of its citizens in great respect. Furthermore, the United States’ government itself continues to deserve the occasional accolade. As a nation that has not signed the Anti-Personnel Landmines Treaty, the USA, through its State Department, is doing more than any other country to rid the world of land mines. Nevertheless, a very basic change in world politics has occurred22 and must be faced.

Creighton and Paul24 point out, however, that the empire has set itself on a path that leads to its own early demise. In 1992 Burkhardt and Paul25 had already pointed out that the major policies of the US administration were on the death track, rather than on the path of life. The engine driving all this forward is the military-industrial complex coupled to oil interests. Oil, or the greed for it, is perhaps the world’s worst enemy after militarism[z], and it is the substance that powers the military system everywhere. The system is unsustainable and contains the seeds of its own destruction. Its effect on human prospects of prosperity 100 years from now are entirely negative. Military activities maximize climate change, bring about the conditions that drive the birth rate up and bring civilization down, that increase disease and malnutrition, reduce productive agricultural land area, pollute the sea the ozone layer and outer space, and now threaten the ionosphere. In the hands of empire militarism disregards international law and order except as redefined to suit itself. Under laissez-faire, the world over which the new empire’s rulers will rule 100 years from now is likely to be a very dismal one, with a hugely reduced population existing at subsistence levels.

Possible world responses

An alternative, preferably collaborative strategy is clearly required by the other developed nations, as well as by other nations, acting together or in convenient blocs. The concept would not be to develop a confrontation with the empire, but rather, for the other nations (or blocs) to go ahead with their own, less destructive and more life-giving or life-preserving policies, and not to be diverted from these. The technique used by the empire to prevent a collaborative, life-giving strategy from developing is to bring nations on side with it one at a time using persuasion and disinformation where that will work and threats elsewhere26.

The needed principles, however, are all embodied in the Principle of Life, but are difficult to discover and to apply in situations involving large groups of people, whole nations, for example. We have been living with concepts of capitalism and with military concepts that were valid (more or less) in the days when the human race was living well within its ecological footprint. Wasteful ways of doing things were accepted in those days, partly through ignorance of what was wasteful, and the inappropriate habits have carried through until the present, even though knowledge has advanced. The idea economic growth is essential needs close study, since certain forms of economic growth have become negative factors in a world that has exceeded its ecological footprint. The aforesaid US policies seek to maximize economic growth, but do not distinguish between healthy growth ans wastage. The policy is essential 19th)) century. Retrospectively, one can see that wastefulness was never a good idea, so that we are being forced now to make changes in attitudes that are very difficult, especially in developed countries, and most of all in North America, where wastefulness has been a way of life for over fifty years. In Germany and much of the rest of Europe, the tendency toward economy in energy consumption and water usage indicate a new greening of human thought. Europe, therefore, having given birth to the industrial revolution, is now transforming itself of necessity into a centre for sustainability. Perhaps it is only one step further to adopt the Principle of Life, so that this paper asks how the new paradigm may best be promoted in Europe, beyond the point reached so far. The consequences of adoption of such a paradigm across a whole continent would be very profound, and would accelerate processes that I see as being necessary in the medium term to avoid major catastrophe in this century. Formerly it was generally assumed that national interest was what must necessarily drive national policies. The Life Principle will change this to collective self-interest.

In the meantime Europe is simultaneously making the huge mistake of locking itself into step with US militarism through NATO. This could prove to be a major stumbling block to advancing into the new mode of thinking.

Once the predominant thinking has moved to the new mode, the developed nations and others that care to join them will find it easier to take a common position on many matters of international policy.

The aforesaid nations should strive to keep the United Nations functional at all costs. There are areas where US pressure should be resisted, such as manipulation within the UN. The other developed nations can afford to support the UN better than they do financially, so that a first step could very well be to make the UN less dependent on US funding.

The two most difficult problems to be faced are probably militarism and poverty, discussed in the next sections.


This section is brief, since most of what needs to be said has been covered or hinted at in the foregoing sections. Let us return briefly to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), with its most cited section, Article 6. What is often passed over in Article 6, which binds the nuclear powers “to pursue negotiations in good faith … on nuclear disaramament”, is the continuation “ … and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” The final goal, therefore, wasn’t purely nulcear disarmament, but general and complete disarmament.

Recent history and indeed much of the history of disarmament negotiations from the 1950s through the 1980s suggest that negotiation is a slow, painful and often ineffective way of obtaining disarmament27. The draft treaty on general and complete disarmament was guided through many stages at the UN by its able chairman Garcia Robles, who was rewarded with a Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. However, even in its most recent form, it contained large numbers of bracketed phrases and clauses, indicating that some nation or other was not about to agree on that point. It stands as an important indication that disarmament by negotiation is extremely difficult, often intractable. One reason may be that the negotiating teams consisted mainly or entirely of men28. Another is simply that negotiation always gives the hawks special opportunities to put their objections in, and gives them huge amounts of time to manufacture excuses for opposing the treaty. A third is that peace seeking inevitaably involves taking risks, and anyone seeking a foolproof formula leaving no risk of any kind to their party will not achieve the peaceful solution sought. A more effective method of achieving disarmament is simply to disarm. This was done by Costa Rica, which now has no standing military forces, and appears to live in peace with its neighbours, and without being invaded by armed nations. Note that this also involves risk. It is not hard to find circumstances in which it would be folly to disarm, but equally, the disarmament itself makes a nation less of a threat to its neighbours. Canada’s unique position could enable it to dismantle its entire combat forces without abandoning its roles in peacekeeping. It would simply give up maintaining and training any combat forces whatever. By quitting all its military alliances, which serve no security purpose whatever for Canada, it could then declare its territory a nuclear weapon-free zone, thereby adding another 9.9 million sq km to the land area so declared. South America, an established nuclear weapon-free zone, accounts for 17.7 million sq km; so the addition of Canada’s land area would be significant. Other countries could also follow Costa Rica’s lead in general disarmament. The countries that might benefit the most by unilaterally carrying out general and complete disarmament are some of the ones that are most likely to be the United States’ next targets after Iraq, of which 60 countries have been named. Transparently disarmed, it would be difficult to persuade even Britain’s Prime Minister Blair that such countries constituted a threat to the world. But of course they do constitute a threat. They would threaten militarism itself, by abolishing it locally and undermining it elsewhere.

Canada’s Prime Minister, the late Pierre Elliot Trudeau, proposed in all seriousness at the United Nations that the way to end the arms race is to suffocate it. No better way has been proposed up to this time. The emergence of a superpower so powerful that the combined military forces of the world cannot sensibly stand up to it with force of arms, makes it logical for all of the others ultimately to disarm unilaterally. This would achieve Mr Trudeau’s purpose. The arms race would have ceased. All that would remain is to watch and see how much military expenditure the US public would be prepared to allow in the new circumstances in which they genuinely had no enemies that could pose military threats.

In this process, nuclear disarmament becomes part of the whole, and a very tricky part, but not the central focus.

Note that Article 6 of the NPT requires a Treaty on general and complete disarmament. Such a Treaty, after disarmament is complete, would be much easier to obtain, since all it would have to do is codify the status quo and provide some verification mechanisms. The Cold War taught us that it is easier by far to codify the status quo than to achieve disarmament by treaty negotiation.

Application of the Principle of Life on the larger scales

It will not be possible in a brief survey to give many examples of human interactions on a large scale and how the Principle of Life can be applied. However, money, credit and debt are often enter into such matters, so it is useful to learn what we can merely from the known processes of how money is created and absorbed — how it really appears and disappears. The discussion that follows is not about wealth or the creation of wealth, but about money and how its creation can lead to impoverishment.

Fig.2a. The money-debt equality. This figure is identical in essence to that first created by P.A.M. Dirac to represent the creation of positive and negative charge out of the vacuum.
Fig.2b. This hydrodynamical model, also taken from physics, is the analogue of the circulation of money prior to its disappearance at debt repayment at an authorized money-creating bank.

Figs.2a and 2b are a physicist’s models representing money creation, absorption and flow. Money is created when someone borrows it from a bank authorized to create money (Fig.2a). The amount borrowed is equal in magnitude to the debt debt incurred. Between appearing and disappearing money changes hands and this corresponds to flow in the physical science of hydrodynamics (Fig.2b). If the borrower decides to repay some of the debt, by repaying money to the bank, she/he reduces the total money in circulation. That money disappears. This rule is so strict in economics that it is considered that the total money in circulation less the total debt is exactly constant. Many economists insist that the constant is in fact zero, though it doesn’t seem fundamental that this must be so. However, that is the usual picture: total money = total debt. A strange consequence of this fact is that, though you may save money all your life and end up with some money and no personal debt, someone else somewhere else will have debt where you have money, otherwise the equation cannot be balanced. That person may have much more wealth than you have, but her/his money holding is negative.

Debt is therefore a necessary feature of economic life insofar as money is used for exchange and accounted in the way I am describing. I don’t know of any proposition that this picture should be or could be changed. At first sight it looks like an unfair system, bound to create misery. However, that is not necessarily so, since the thing that is important about debt is the debt burden, and that depends on the interest rate charged on the debt by the bank. The rate of repayment of the debt can also be a burden, but this can in principle be offset by further borrowing, so that it is really the interest rate that determines the burden. At least this is a good first approximation. Some religions disapprove usury, meaning interest on loans, and I would say that they come nearer to fulfilling the Principle of Life than those that approve usury. Christians have generally approved of usury, and Jews have done so too despite the fact it was decried in their history. The idea doubtless comes from the notion that money equals wealth, and that wealth in a well run economy increases with time. If you have cattle and they breed, you end up with more cattle. So money should multiply itself in the same way. While there is much truth in this, since money is accepted as an indicator of wealth, it has a much more important facilitating purpose that is masked, reduced or perverted when it is hoarded so as to become a means of gaining wealth for its owner simply by lending it.

The foregoing ideas are at the root of much stagnation, Third World debt problems, municipal development problems, and much else. In principle, national banks can make loans at nominal interest, for example, for municipal infrastructure development, but this is outlawed by the Bank of International Settlements for countries that have allowed themselves to become indebted. What is needed is a system of zero, or nominal interest combined with a rational system of repayment that in fact makes repayment possible by the borrower, and puts just the right amount of pressure on the borrower to repay. The Grameen banks achieve this by making the interest low, but also having a system of peer pressure which says in essence: “we need the money back so someone else can borrow it.” This maximises the economic opportunities for the whole community.

By contrast, the western banking system tends to maximise the social pain it causes. Two examples are: the ultrahigh interest rates charged to those who can least afford it, such as people who have made far too many purchases using their credit cards because they didn’t have anywhere else to turn for needed funds; and students who were obliged to borrow so as to complete their education. In Canada, student loans are repaid with 10 percent annual interest, while secured loans for the wealthy are available at about half that rate. The system penalizes the poorest in order to maximize the benefit to the richest. To call the system hateful is exactly correct, because the Principle of Life is in fact that of love and the opposite is one of hate. To switch from one to the other doesn’t mean having to be foolish. The Grameen banks work just fine.

In the case of loans to poor countries, much more needs to be looked at. To render debts repayable, it is essential that all the conditions of loans are such as can be met without bringing the borrower down. In fact thos becomes a general Life Principle in the economic field. In the early days of the Bretton-Woods system, the exchange rates were constant, or about constant, so that loans of US dollars could, in the main, be repaid in US dollars, as was required. However, the present system of floating exchange rates has made the international system unstable, with the poorest nations very vulnerable. Protection is needed, therefore, against the fluctuations in exchange rates in the international system. But there is also a requirement for protection against drastic changes in world prices. More than one poor country has been hit hard by the drop in world price of its chief export. A system that requires full repayment of loans with interest in such circumstances is on the death track, not that of life. There are further anomalies in the international system that are detrimental to life for poor countries and playing into the hands of the rich, such as structural adjustments. The obscenity of such conditions imposed, from time to time, by the International Monetary Fund, for example, needs to be more widely known. Some of the effects are the prevention of local self-sufficiency, destruction of local culture, and indirect cause of death. In other cases, the production of crops for export have been recommended where there was already a sufficiency, if not a glut on the market. In this way, international financial institutions that were created to relieve poverty have been misused to create a glut of very low-priced products for import into rich countries. These very low prices guarantee continuance of poverty where the financial institutions were created to relieve it. It would appear that we are in then process of discovering a new sub-principle here, that help must not involve interference. All structural adjustment requirements amount to interference.

International trade agreements and globalization

Nowhere has public gullibility been more widespread than in its partial acceptance of the doctrine that globalization is inevitable. The type of globalization that has been favoured by modern industry these past years involves

1. moving production to the location with the lowest wages;
2. opposing any kind of labour rights or justice in the new location;
3. maximizing, or greatly increasing transport of goods;
4. in a few cases, increasing profit by cutting costs without reducing prices, and passing the gains to shareholders and the CEO, and rather few others.

The system is unsustainable in that it fails to measure the effect of additional transportation on the ecosystem, it creates new waste, because faulty product is thrown away instead of being returned for repair, it takes little or no account of justice and human rights. Ultimately it will become a killer system, unless it is reined in, or unless the purposes of corporations become redefined (see below). And this as a question we should all be asking.

By contrast, local self-sufficiency avoids all these pitfalls. This does not mean that all products of every kind should be manufactured locally. However, when successful manufacturing is removed from one locality, the full costs the shut-down have tended to be neglected, especially the real, full costs of transportation. In particular, the paving over of fertile land to make new highways is generally unacceptable in a world that has overstepped its ecological footprint to the degree ours has. Therefore, globalization of production and trade, local self-sufficiency, land-use planning and transportation need to be looked at together. Human values are generally missing from consideration, suggesting a failure in the legal concept of the industrial corporation itself. Indeed, this idea is not new, but it goes beyond the scope of this paper.


This paper examines a basic Principle of Life, that must be followed if the human race is to survive prosperously into the next century, without drastic fall in numbers. Militarism violates the Principle maximally, and will guarantee megadeath if allowed to continue as at present. Current major US policies all are in opposition to the Principle of Life, partly because they are pervaded by exceptionally militaristic thinking, not appropriate to the world situation, partly because current US military strategies, tactics, use of weapons and treatment of human beings violate accepted norms, and partly because of a lack of understanding of the needs of the rest of the world. Also a general wave of corporate greed has been unleashed in the last decade or so which is without precedent. Globalization in its current manifestation is part of that wave of greed.

The formidable excess of military strength exhibited by the United States makes military opposition to that country absurd, which in turn provides a new opportunity for unilateral disamament, perhaps not experienced since warfare began 6300 years ago. The single most important inititative is for Canada to disarm unilaterally, quit NATO and its other military alliances, and declare itself a nuclear weapon-free zone. Under this notion, Canada would retain peacekeeping forces.

Population reduction and universal education for women are key issues. Bringing women into all major decision making is another key issue.

A vital initiative for preserving life must be an approach to Brazil, preferably be several governments, and as soon as possible to all other countries having tropical rainforests. The question to be raised is: what would you want from us in order to halt altogether any further reduction of your tropical rainforest?

A new and greatly improved world system is needed to replace the financial system operated by the IMF and the World Bank. it should not be placed under US control.

The United Nations is essential, and it is the responsibility of the wealthier nations to ensure its healthy continuance.


Lee-Anne Broadhead, International Environmental Politics: The Limits of Green Diplomacy (Lynne Rienner Publishers Inc., 2002).

Marq de Villiers, Water (Stoddart Publishing Co. Ltd., 1999). This book won the Governor General’s Award.

Murray Dobbin, The Myth of the Good Corporate Citizen: Democracy under the Rule of Big Business (Stoddart Publishing Co. Ltd., 1998).

Anita Gordon and David Suzuki, It’s a Matter of Survival (Stoddart Publishing Co. Ltd., 1990).

Vandana Shiva, Staying Alive (Zed Books Ltd., 1989).

Joseph E. Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents (WW Norton and Co. Ltd., 2002) David Suzuki and Holly Dressel, Good News for a Change: Hope for a Troubled Planet (Stoddart Publishing Co. Ltd., 2002).


  1. Phyllis Creighton and Derek Paul, “A New Paradigm for Policy Making”, a draft Statement by Science for Peace, 12 July 2002. Work on this was put in abeyance when preparations for the 53rd Pugwash Conference began. []
  2. Chris White, in Chapter 1, State of the World, 2003 (WW Norton and Co. 2003) writes: “The vast majority of humanity is not living in places likely to undergo classic demographic transitions.” The expression “classic demographic transition” is a hygienic term coined for the weak-of-stomach, meaning that millions, perhaps many hundreds of millions of people will die of hunger, thirst or disease. I call it demographic catastrophe. Implicit in White’s statement is that very many people are living in places where where catastrophe is likely, and that they very likely will die. Already in Africa, disease is taking a huge toll. The ramifications of such large-scale death, even if limited to one or two continents, on an interdependent world, have not been projected for a highly interdependent world.
    Beyond the scope of White’s paper are many possibilities, including disastrous effects that could arise from climate change in countries that currently have surpluses of food. One such question is whether the central North American continent will still be a huge food producer in 2090 – climate models project very high summer temperatures for much of this region by that time. Similarly increased summer tempreratures are predicted for central Asia, especially the northern latitudes.
    A third, more speculative cause of lost food production is the possibility of a change in direction of the Gulf Stream, altering the climate of Europe for the worse. This should become a focus for serious research. A longer-term loss of food production will be due to sea-level rise affecting fertile coastal areas. The rise could continue for well over 1000 years — it will depend upon how much is done in the next few years to keep the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere below 450 ppm.
    Therefore there are several sets of possible causes for loss of food production which, combined with population expansion, make the possibility of general demographic catastrophe something that cannot just be brushed aside. White’s quoted statement, above, dismal though its implications are for several parts of the world, must therefore be seen as somewhat overoptimistic.
    The work of John McRuer and colleagues, Rob Hoffman and Bert McKinnis shown in the graphs is only one scenario they are pursuing.It is most important not to take any of the data illustrated even slightly out of context. []
  3. The foundation of the International Society for Systems Science is an example of a search for a holistic approach. []
  4. The biennial World Order Conferences at Ryerson University, Toronto, form a useful example of an attempt at a holistic approach to world problems. This is achieved at the conferences by including aspects of human existence, such as values, and religion, that are often omitted from otherwise scientific or political conferences on world affairs. The Worldwatch Institute has also included a fine article in State of the World 2003 (WW Norton & Co., 2003): Gary Gardner, “Engaging Religion in the Quest for a Sustainable World”, pp.15275. []
  5. Chris White, in Chapter 1, State of the World, 2003 (WW Norton and Co. 2003) writes: “The vast majority of humanity is not living in places likely to undergo classic demographic transitions.” The expression “classic demographic transition” is a hygienic term coined for the weak-of-stomach, meaning that millions, perhaps many hundreds of millions of people will die of hunger, thirst or disease. I call it demographic catastrophe. Implicit in White’s statement is that very many people are living in places where where catastrophe is likely, and that they very likely will die. Already in Africa, disease is taking a huge toll. The ramifications of such large-scale death, even if limited to one or two continents, on an interdependent world, have not been projected for a highly interdependent world.
    Beyond the scope of White’s paper are many possibilities, including disastrous effects that could arise from climate change in countries that currently have surpluses of food. One such question is whether the central North American continent will still be a huge food producer in 2090 – climate models project very high summer temperatures for much of this region by that time. Similarly increased summer tempreratures are predicted for central Asia, especially the northern latitudes.
    A third, more speculative cause of lost food production is the possibility of a change in direction of the Gulf Stream, altering the climate of Europe for the worse. This should become a focus for serious research. A longer-term loss of food production will be due to sea-level rise affecting fertile coastal areas. The rise could continue for well over 1000 years – it will depend upon how much is done in the next few years to keep the carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere below 450 ppm.
    Therefore there are several sets of possible causes for loss of food production which, combined with population expansion, make the possibility of general demographic catastrophe something that cannot just be brushed aside. White’s quoted statement, above, dismal though its implications are for several parts of the world, must therefore be seen as somewhat over-optimistic.
    The work of John McRuer and colleagues, Rob Hoffman and Bert McKinnis shown in the graphs is only one scenario they are pursuing.It is most important not to take any of the data illustrated even slightly out of context. []
  6. Derek Paul, “General Principles for a Sustainable Future” 1999 unpublished. []
  7. It does not follow that all Pugwash participants hold life as a value, though this value is partly implicit in the Russell-Einstein Manifesto. []
  8. Jacob Bronowski, “The Origins of Knowledge and Imagination” (Yale University Press, 1978). [] []
  9. Jacob Bronowski, loc. cit., sixth lecture. []
  10. Science 2002/3 []
  11. Consciousness is all we have in order to examine and understand consciousness itself, which amounts to to a self-referent process, leading to paradox. Therefore we need to accept that we cannot perfectly understand it. []
  12. The meaning of preserving life in its fullness and diversity is somewhat vague, because the mix of life on Earth has changed very much since humankind overexpanded its numbers. Obviously, there is no hope of returning to the huge numbers of diverse African animals that once roamed the savannahs; so a process of redefinition of what one is trying to preserve will be ongoing. Nevertheless, there is something disgusting about the extinction of species, so much so that many of us would go to great lengths to preserve the inheritance we have, be it Bengal tigers or White rhinos. []
  13. Notwithstanding established property rights in many jursidictions, human beings are really custodians of the land they occupy rather than owners. According to the Principle of Life they must share their space with others, including other species. This lesser principle has given rise to numerous declarations, beginning with the Declaration on the Human Environment, of 1972, resulting from the Conference in Stockholm. That first Declaration came up with no fewer than 26 principles, each a sub-principle of the Principle of Life. []
  14. Such prosperity does not imply great luxury, and especially excludes the luxury of wastefulness. []
  15. 14 []
  16. In 2002, the Progressive Conservative government of Ontario fixed the electricity price for domestic and small business consumers at 4.5 cents/kWhr which, in US currency at the time of writing, would be 3.29 cents/kWhr, well below the true generation cost. This huge subsidy of electricity has already incurred an additional deficit of nearly $0.5 billion this calendar year in the overall electricity picture, in addition to encouraging wastage and increasing the risk of brown-outs. []
  17. Anatol Rapoport, “Whose Security does Defence Defend?” in Defending Europe, ed Derek Paul (Taylor and Francis, 1985) pp.271-80 []
  18. Eric Tollefson, in World Security (Science for Peace, 1993) Chapter 13. All the ideas put forward in the present paper, or by Tollefson, could be paid for with the money saved by eliminating military establishments. []
  19. Riane Eisler, The Chalice and the Blade (Harper and Rowe, 1987). []
  20. Marija Gimbutas, The Goddesses and Gods of old Europe: 6500-3500 B.C., Myths and Cult Images (Thames and Hudson, 1982) In the conclusions she writes: “In Old Europe, the world of myth was ot polarized into male and female as it was among the Indo-European and many other nomadic people of the steppes. Both priniciples were manifest side by side … Neither is subordinate to the other; by complementing one another, their power is doubled.” []
  21. Shirley Farlinger, “Empowering Women: the UN Security Council Resolution 1325.” A paper prepared for the 53rd Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs. []
  22. The four projects and policy changes that amount to this profound change are: the Project for a New American Century, Vision for 2020, the Nuclear Posture Review, and the National Security Strategy. The term empire was anticipated before it became fact, for example by Helen Caldecott in The New Nuclear Danger (WW Norton & Co., 2002) and Michel Chossudovsky in War and Globalisation: the truth behind September 11 (Global Outlook and the Centre for Research on Globalisation, 2002). The term empire used in this paper, however, arises entirely from the change of self-declared status implicit in the four changes listed in this footnote, and the violation of international law and international norms by the USA that have increased since the invasion of Afghanistan in 2002. [] []
  23. Phyllis Creighton and Derek Paul “Brief on Canada’s Foreign Policy”, April 2003 (Dialogue on Foreign Policy, DFAIT) These authors state that, with these four policies and strategies ((The four projects and policy changes that amount to this profound change are: the Project for a New American Century, Vision for 2020, the Nuclear Posture Review, and the National Security Strategy. The term empire was anticipated before it became fact, for example by Helen Caldecott in The New Nuclear Danger (WW Norton & Co., 2002) and Michel Chossudovsky in War and Globalisation: the truth behind September 11 (Global OutlookTM []
  24. Phyllis Creighton and Derek Paul, “Brief on Canada’s Foreign Policy” (Science for Peace, 2003). This document is now in the public domain as part of the dialogue on foreign policy initiated by DFAIT in 2003. []
  25. Helmut Burkhardt and Derek Paul, “Essentials of Foreign Policy Making”, a brief presented to the Standing Committee of DFAIT by the authors, representing Science for Peace, 8 May 2002. The official French version is entitled, “Bases du processus décisionnel en politique étrangère”, Mémoire prepare pour la réunion du 8 mai 2002 du Comité peramnent du MAECI, par Science et Paix. []
  26. Getting the British on board for the Iraq war was achieved partly through disinformation, whereas stopping Belgian protesters against US policies is being attempted by threatening to move NATO headquarters out of Brussels. The mere fact that such a threat or veiled threat could emerge should have Europeans asking some new and profound questions. Regarding disinformation, the new processes emerging from the United States have a different goal from the generation of disinformation in WWII. Then, we had an enemy who, we were convinced, was out to destroy us, and the disinformation was used by each side to frustrate the other’s war effort. The new disinformation has as the goal of deceiving “friends.” Insofar as disinformation and threats are put to work against one nation at a time, it could have the effect of keeping other nations apart just when they need most to collaborate and stand together politically. This can be seen as a policy of divide and conquer, even though the conquest is political. []
  27. 28 []
  28. 29 []