On July 6 at the Community Christian Church, Peter Lumsdaine discussed “Turning the clock back from midnight: How we can address the crisis of 2018 and renew eco / justice / peace work for the 21st century.” The event was organized in part by PeaceWorks-Kansas City.
Lumsdaine described his decades-long work against nuclear weapons and war more generally. His current speaking tour was encouraged by but not endorsed by Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR).
This tour included a event in Asheville, NC, organized by the Western North Carolina chapter of PSR. This event included Veterans for Peace and Mary Olson, Southeast director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS).
Lumsdaine noted that the last thirty-five years are roughly bracketed by two Noble Peace Prizes for anti-nuke work:
- International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, with their US affiliate, Physicians for Social Responsibility, in 1985, and
- the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) just last year.
He said his family lives about 35 minutes from the Bangor, Washington, Trident submarine base. In Raleigh, NC, he met with Patrick O’Neil, with the Plowshares group protesting the King’s Bay, Georgia, naval submarine base. Patrick was at that point out on bail, wearing an ankle bracelet for electronic surveillance.
He also mentioned some recent presentations he had attended by leaders concerned about climate change. He said they tried to balance a sense of urgency with empowerment and hope.
In Chinese, the word “crisis” has two characters: 危机, which transliterated means dangerous opportunity.
Lumsdaine also mentioned the ocean going sailing sloop, the Golden Rule. In 1958 it sailed toward Enewetok, with the goal if disrupting nuclear weapons testing there. The vessel was stopped in Honolulu, and its skipper arrested. However, inspired by this protest, Dr. Earle L. Reynolds sailed his ship, The Phoenix of Hiroshima, into the test zone, and was arrested, and convicted of trespassing. (The conviction was overturned on appeal.)
He also discussed the Future of Life Institute, whose concerned include three threats to the future of humanity:
- Global economic corrosion including climate chaos
- Nuclear war
- Rapid rise of Artificial Intelligence.
The Future of Life Institute was inspired in part by William Joy‘s 2000 essay on “Why the future doesn’t need us“, in which he suggested that “Our most powerful 21st-century technologies … are threatening to make humans an endangered species.” He mentioned several leading figures, who have expressed concerns about these issues. These include Ellsberg, Joy, Sherry Turkle, and Elon Musk.
Stephen Hawking said that artificial intelligence could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization. But it could also be the last.”
He insisted there is hope. For example, bald Eagles exist today, because people agitated effectively to ban DDT.
The Luddite movement of the early nineteenth century involved so many people that more troops were required to suppress it than the British devoted to protection against their main enemy, France. Bernie Sanders gave people hope and energy. Standing Rock raised the awareness of many people.
Musician Michael Franti and his band Spearhead sang, “Everyone addicted to the same gasoline; everyone addicted to a Technicolor screen,” in the title track of their 2007 CD, “Yell Fire!”
Starting in 2004 he and his wife went into Iraq twice. They entered as many NGOs were leaving. They went especially to Najaf, because they saw that as a trigger for war with Iran.
They were largely shepherded by Hussein al-Sharistani, a physicist who spent 10 years incarcerated by Saddam for refusing to work on Saddam’s nuclear weapons program.
They talked with PhDs and common laborers. The people they spoke with didn’t agree among themselves, but all seemed surprised and pleased that Americans risked their lives to try to understand what was happening there. One guy said, “the United States hired Saddam, paid Saddam, fired Saddam. The student is gone. Now the master is here.”