Nobel Laureates call for Making Peace with the Earth
By James Michael Wine
Thanks to the Nobel Prize, peace is not simply the absence of war. The work for peace is not simply the prevention of war or the resolution of conflict. Peace has been equated with new strains of grain to help feed the world; with planting trees to stimulate resiliency in the land, in people, in society; with micro-credits for development. Poverty, hunger, disease, indignity, segregation and apartheid, humanitarian help in a world without borders. All the work for peace.
Now the Nobel message is about making peace with the Earth. We are a world at war. The consequences are now and for generations to come. In the words of another Peace Laureate Kofi Annan, “We are all in the same boat.”
It was no surprise that the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the 2007 prize to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and Al Gore "for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change."
We are all more aware of the intensely systemic problem known as climate change thanks to their combined efforts in science and communication. 2007 will be remembered as the year we got the message. "We all agree. Climate change is real, and we humans are its chief cause. Yet even now, few people fully understand the gravity of the threat, or its immediacy," wrote UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon recently in the International Herald Tribune, adding: "I have always considered global warming to be a matter of utmost urgency. Now I believe we are on the verge of a catastrophe if we do not act."
The IPCC is the largest group of scientists ever to work together for the benefit of the whole planet. Their research findings make it clear that it’s not natural, it’s us. The message is simple: we must stop emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere before tipping the planet in a dangerous phase that will last for centuries.
Al Gore is not a scientist, but a tireless ex-politician and slide show lecturer turned Oscar winning movie star, who managed to create a profoundly effective form of communication out of an impossibly complex subject. Gore studied and spoke the inconvenient truth. We got the message. More than 75% of the world’s population are now aware and concerned.
Yet it is not surprising that a recent survey showed that concern is higher in the developing world than at the source of the problem, the developed world. Study after study show it will the poorest who will suffer first and most. Witness the fallout from Katrina. When you have little, you can lose the most.
Underscoring the sudden urgency is the fact that both the IPCC and Gore vastly underestimated the
speed of climate change. This year’s dramatic Arctic meltdown came decades ahead of their predictions.
Nature, it seems, has its own time schedule and we must accommodate. Increasingly, the issue of climate is linked to global security. The consequences of forced migration, water and food shortages, storms and droughts, financial and market instabilities all point to conditions that have led to war before. Though now on an altogether different scale. Soon the world gathers in Bali to hammer out the framework for a new deal. Essentially it comes down to climate and equity, but this makes the complexity of the Doha Round seem like simple arithmetic.
Still, climate is just the tip of the ecological iceberg that is melting away. Water, fisheries, land-use, pollution, species extinction - the problems are everywhere. New technologies will play essential roles in the solution. But old “new” technologies also caused many of the problems. They will not solve the deeper crisis.
William James’ essay, “The Moral Equivalent of War,” is given the credit for such US projects as the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Peace Corps, enlisting youth in the work for the commonwealth. However, his was an “army enlisted against Nature,” so that these young people could have “done their own part in the immemorial human warfare against nature.”
This human warfare has wittingly and unwittingly been the consistent strategy of civilization. It defined progress. It produced wealth. It carved out sovereign territories on a borderless planet. Now this cumulative warfare has brought us to the brink of Mutually Assured Destruction - and this too is mad. If we are to understand the meaning of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Peace, we will not find it in the historical tomes of statesmen or the metaphorical tombs of unknown soldiers. We must look to ourselves.
Thanks to Rachel Carson, we have a better understanding: "We still talk in terms of conquest. We still haven't become mature enough to think of ourselves as only a tiny part of a vast and incredible universe. Man's attitude toward nature is today critically important simply because we have now acquired a fateful power to alter and destroy nature. But man is a part of nature and his war against nature is inevitably a war against himself. I truly believe that we in this generation must come to terms with nature, and I think we're challenged as mankind has never been challenged before to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature, but of ourselves."
We have less than ten years to change course, to gain maturity and prove this mastery. To mitigate
climate change will demand an end to poverty. Conflicts will play out in a new context. It will alter forever how we live with each other and with the Earth. We have a choice. Do we sustain this immemorial human warfare against nature and against ourselves - or do we choose to bury all of our hatchets, heed the human wisdom which has whispered from the edges of every culture and choose the path of peace?
The work for peace has usually seemed a thankless task at the periphery of Business as Usual. Now the task has never been so challenged, or so critical to the survival of humanity. We live in a world at war. At war with nature and with ourselves. We cannot negotiate a settlement with nature, not even an orderly truce. But we can bring the work for peace into every home, every school, every church, every business, every nation - everyone.
In the United States everyone celebrates Thanksgiving, the great family gathering. Most Americans have some vague idea of the tradition, a picture Indians and Pilgrims sharing a meal. But the real history dates back a thousand years to the beginning of the Iroquois Confederacy when the Peacemaker brought the five warring nations together, buried their hatchets under the Great Tree of Peace, and instructed the people in the rite of Thanksgiving for all of creation, all of nature, of which they were a part, in peace.
So today let’s thank the Iroquois Peacemaker and these Nobel Peace Laureates. Thanks, too, to Pogo who shouted: “We have met the enemy and he is us.” And thanks to Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, whose insight echoes the indigenous wisdom that leads to peace: “We are the earth’s.”
Give thanks for peace.
James Michael Wine, a Tallberg Forum adviser and poet, is one of the founding members of the Peace Appeal Foundation and Peace Tools. His father was one of John F Kennedy’s principle speech writers.
UN Resolution on the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World
Full text of UN Resolution a/res/55/47
International decade for a culture of peace and non-violence for the children of the world (2001-2010)
The General Assembly,
Recalling the Charter of the United Nations, including the purposes and principles contained therein, and especially its dedication to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war,
Recalling also the Constitution of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization which states that, since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed,
Recalling further its previous resolutions on a culture of peace, in particular resolution 52/15 of 20 November 1997 proclaiming 2000 as the International Year for the Culture of Peace, and resolution 53/25 of 10 November 1998 proclaiming the period 2001-2010 as the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World,
Reaffirming the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace contained in General Assembly resolution 53/243 of 13 September 1999, recognizing that it serves, inter alia, as the basis for the observance of the Decade and convinced that effective and successful observance of the Decade throughout the world will promote a culture of peace and non-violence that benefits humanity, in particular future generations,
Taking note of the report of the Secretary-General on the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World,
Recalling Commission on Human Rights resolution 2000/66 of 26 April 2000, entitled “Towards a Culture of Peace”,
Emphasizing the particular relevance of the Decade for the special session of the General Assembly, in 2001 for follow-up to the World Summit for Children, to be held in New York, and for the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, to be held in South Africa in 2001,
Taking into account the Manifesto 2000 initiative of the United NationsEducational, Scientific and Cultural Organization promoting a culture of peace, which has so far received over sixty million signatures of endorsement throughout the world,
1. Recognizes that the objective of the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World is to strengthen further the global movement for a culture of peace following the observance of the International Year for the Culture of Peace in 2000;
2. Notes with satisfaction the engagement of Member States, the United Nations system and civil society during the International Year for the Culture of Peace at the national, regional and global levels and, in this context, recognizes the role of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as the focal point during the year;
3. Invites Member States to place greater emphasis on and expand their activities to promote a culture of peace and non-violence, in particular during the Decade, at the national, regional and international levels and to ensure that peace and non-violence is fostered at all levels;
4. Welcomes the establishment of more than two hundred national committees and national focal points in over one hundred and sixty countries in the context of the observance of the International Year of the Culture of Peace and stresses the importance of their continued close involvement in furthering the objectives of the Declaration in the effective observance of the Decade;
5. Designates the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as the lead agency for the Decade with responsibility for coordinating the activities of the organizations of the United Nations system, as well as liaison with the other organizations concerned;
6. Recognizes the important role of relevant United Nations bodies, in particular the United Nations Children’s Fund and the University for Peace, in further promoting a culture of peace and non-violence, particularly by means of special activities during the Decade;
7. Requests the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization to disseminate widely in various languages the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace and related materials, in particular throughout the Decade;
8. Calls upon the relevant United Nations bodies, in particular the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund, to promote both formal and non-formal education at all levels that inculcates a culture of peace and non-violence;
9. Invites civil society at the local, regional and national levels to widen the scope of their activities to promote a culture of peace and non-violence, engaging in partnerships and sharing information, thus contributing to a global movement for a culture of peace, and encourages civil society, including non-governmental organizations, to further the objectives of the Decade by adopting their own programme of activities to complement the initiatives of Member States, the organizations of the United Nations system and other global and regional organizations;
10. Stresses the importance of the media and of the new information and communication technology in further promoting a culture of peace and non-violence, especially among children and young people;
11. Requests the Secretary-General to submit to the General Assembly at its sixtieth session in 2005 a report on the observance of the Decade at its mid-point and on the implementation of the Declaration and Programme of Action, taking into account the views of Member States and in consultation with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund and other relevant bodies of the United Nations system;
12. Invites civil society, including non-governmental organizations, to provide information to the Secretary-General on the observance of the Decade and the activities undertaken to promote a culture of peace and non-violence;
13. Decides to devote one day of plenary meetings at its sixtieth session to the consideration of the item, including a review of the progress made in the implementation of the Declaration and Programme of Action on a Culture of Peace, as well as the observance of the Decade at its mid-point, with the participation of all relevant actors;
14. Requests the Secretary-General to submit a report on the implementation of the present resolution to the General Assembly at its fifty-sixth session;
15. Decides to include in the provisional agenda of its fifty-sixth session the item entitled “Culture of peace”.
Download the original resolution below
TO THE HEADS OF STATE OF ALL MEMBER COUNTRIES
OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE UNITED NATIONS
FOR THE CHILDREN OF THE WORLD
Today, in every single country throughout the world, there are many children silently suffering the effects and consequences of violence.
This violence takes many different forms: between children on streets, at school, in family life and in the community. There is physical violence, psychological violence, socio-economic violence, environmental violence and political violence. Many children – too many children – live in a "culture of violence".
We wish to contribute to reduce their suffering. We believe that each child can discover, by himself, that violence is not inevitable. We can offer hope, not only to the children of the world, but to all of humanity, by beginning to create, and build, a new Culture of Nonviolence.
For this reason, we address this solemn appeal to all Heads of States, of all member countries of the General Assembly of the United nations, for the UN General Assembly to declare:
• That the first decade of the new millennium, the years 2001-2010, be declared the "Decade for a Culture of Nonviolence";
• That at the start of the decade the year 2000 be declared the "Year of Education for Nonviolence";
• That nonviolence be taught at every level in our societies during this decade, to make the children of the world aware of the
real, practical meaning and benefits of nonviolence in their daily lives, in order to reduce the violence, and consequent suffering, perpetrated against them and humanity in general.
Together, we can build a new culture of nonviolence for humankind which will give hope to all humanity, and in particular, to the children of our world.
With deepest respect,
– The Nobel Peace Prize Laureates
Signed by: Mairead Maguire Corrigan, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Aung San Suu Kyi, The 14th Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso), Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev, Shimon Peres, Elie Wiesel, Mgr. Desmond Mpilo Tutu, Adolfo Pérez Esquivel, Yasser Arafat, Mgr. Carlos Felipe Ximenez Belo, José Ramos-Horta, Norman Borlaug, Oscar Arias Sánchez, UNICEF, Frederik Willem de Klerk, Betty Williams, Lech Walesa, Joseph Rotblat, Henry Kissinger, Jody Williams, John Hume, David Trimble, Rigoberta Menchú Tum, and the American Friends Society.
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