Joseph Rotblat visited Pugwash many times, always staying at Thinkers Lodge. Born in Warsaw, Rotblat’s family suffered under the Nazi crackdown on Jews. Despite extreme poverty and discrimination, he attended university and eventually worked on the Manhattan Project. Learning that the atomic bomb was not being developed by Nazi Germany, he spoke against the creation of this deadly weapon; on moral grounds, he quit the project.
In the 1950s, Russia and the United States tested hydrogen bombs, many times more deadly than the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Today, North Korea is testing these deadly atomic and hydrogen devices. President Trump’s unbalanced tweets stoke the animosity between the nations. Additionally, Trump’s rhetoric threatens to undo the Iran Nuclear Treaty.
In 2010, Thinkers Lodge became a National Historic Site of Canada. Each year it continues to host conferences, workshops, and retreats on science, education, sustainability, peace, and climate change.
This year from September 28 to October 1, 2017, Thinkers Lodge hosted a Climate Change Retreat jointly with the Centre for Local Prosperity and Project Drawdown. The following is quoted from a press release for this conference modeled on the 1957 Pugwash Conference.
“We know there are no more chances. It is not going away, and today is the time to get it right in dealing with climate crisis,” said Andy Horsnell, Chair, Centre for Local Prosperity, at a recent Thinkers Retreat. “Our world will live with it for the rest of our history, just as we have lived with the 20th century legacy of the threat of nuclear war. Our shared duty now, as one people, is to protect and repair Mother Earth, even as we prepare ourselves for its future unknowns.”
Armed with this conviction, 60 years post the inaugural Pugwash Thinkers Retreat on nuclear disarmament, 22 global and regional Thinkers, representing all aspects of community life, gathered for two and a half days of intense, intentional and focused conversation on the greatest threat facing humankind, Global Warming.
Atlantic Canada is starting now, with a localized bottom up attitude, to create a change model for the world. Believing local action the best path, the retreat’s mission was to move conversation to ‘doing’ by generating a roadmap to develop community-based action plans, with drawdown potential, that hold the capacity to face and manage life in a very different world.
The diversity of participants—scientists, First Nation representation, municipal government, artists, Project Draw Down Director and others—powered a cross pollination of thoughts and ideas, fostering charged and difficult conversations. Without shying away from the hard reality of a changed and changing world, the group identified and articulated Global Warming’s cascading impacts on small, rural and coastal communities, each facing challenges around population size as well as that which is unique to location and individuality. Participants worked to generate and share place-based solutions that contributed to drawdown through GHG emission reductions and stimulated economic health, while respecting and fostering natural resource stewardship.
Narrowing in on specific areas where communities can take action now, such as education and awareness, municipal governance and local finance, the group drilled down into community risk factors, benefits and opportunities. This process created the framework for a development model for change, while mapping out the resources, partners and connections individual communities need to map out their different futures.”
John Eaton, grandson of Cyrus Eaton, made the link between the nuclear global threat and the climate change global threat. “The Pugwash Movement started to turn its attention to Climate Change in 1988. That was the year they gave the following call to action. ‘We live in an independent world of increasing risks. Thirty-three years ago the Russell-Einstein Manifesto warned humanity that our survival is imperiled by the risk of nuclear war. The familiar challenges identified in that manifesto in the 1982 Warsaw Declaration of the Nobel Laureates remains as important as ever. We now call on all scientists to expand our concerns to a broader set of interrelated dangers: the destruction of the environment on a global scale and denial of basic needs for growing majority of humankind. Today’s pattern of increasing energy use is a key link in a dangerous web of international environmental problems. Among these are global climate change, ozone depletion, acid rain, and water pollution. These combine to create catastrophic effects including deforestation, soil erosion, and mass extinction of species, and reduce the earth’s ability to support a growing population. The combined effects will damage economies to the north and fatally undermine economies in the south.’”
The Climate Change Crisis and the risk of Nuclear Destruction are deadly perils that face our world. Thinkers Lodge, Pugwash and Nova Scotia have the opportunity to play pivotal roles in fighting these lethal threats.
The Pugwash students were involved and active in the public events of the Climate Change retreat. They hosted speakers at the high school, asking penetrating questions; they created art depicting the global crisis that was displayed at the Lobster Factory. They waited tables, baked snacks, and mingled with the Thinkers from the retreat.
These students are the future, and their commitment to changing the world in a positive direction is a significant example of the role the youth of Nova Scotia can have. Joseph Rotblat and Cyrus Eaton returned again and again to Thinkers Lodge in Pugwash during their long crusades to keep nuclear weapons from destroying the world. They believed in the responsibility of the youth to take a role in these efforts.
The tranquility of the Northumberland Strait, the kindness of the Pugwash residents, and the courageous scientists that launched this fight against nuclear weapons are needed today more than ever. Joseph Rotblat donated his Nobel Peace Prize to Thinkers Lodge. which also holds Cyrus Eaton’s Lenin Peace Prize.
It is to be hoped that 1995 and 2017 Nobel Peace Prizes as well as the Iran Nuclear Deal will not be undermined and will continue to forge paths forward to peaceful co-existence. The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons has a powerful and crucial role in the survival of mankind. The legacy and current role of Thinkers Lodge Conferences and Retreats will continue to make its voice heard as it urges people not to be apathetic while inspiring them to act to make our a world a safer, healthier place.
Steve Miller of the Pugwash Executive Committee “once said the most profound message of the Manifesto is “the need for eternal vigilance in addressing the dangers associated with nuclear weapons.” This holds true on the 60th anniversary of the 1957 Conference. As of 2016 “There [were] still 15,700 nuclear weapons in the world. 14,700 of those belong to two countries – Russia and the USA. It’s not a time for complacency.” (Sandy Butcher)