Ensuring the Survival of Civilisation
38th Pugwash Conference
Issued 3 September 1988
We live in an interdependent world of increasing risks. Thirty-three years ago, the Russell-Einstein Manifesto warned humanity that our survival is imperilled by the risk of nuclear war. The familiar challenges identified in that Manifesto and the 1982 Warsaw Declaration of Nobel Laureates remain as important as ever. But in the spirit of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, we now call on all scientists to expand our concerns to a broader set of interrelated dangers: destruction of the environment on a global scale and denial of basic needs for a growing majority of humankind. Without reducing our commitment to arms reduction and war prevention, we must recognise that environmental degradation and large-scale impoverishment are already facts and can lead to a massive catastrophe even if nuclear war is avoided.
The present inequitable international economic order confines many countries to the crushing cycle of poverty and induces them to use environmentally destructive industrial and agricultural practices. When coupled with world-wide population growth, and excessive production and profligate consumerism in the industrial nations, this is pushing the planet toward disaster.
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 deposition, and water pollution. These, combined with other potentially catastrophic effects, including deforestation, soil erosion, and mass extinction of species, reduce the earth’s ability to support a growing population. The combined effect diminishes ecosystem functions in ways that will damage economies in the North and fatally undermine economies in the South.
These linked environmental problems affect all nations. They exacerbate international tensions and increase the risk of future conflicts through the impacts of sea-level rises, forced migrations, and persistent crop failures.
To survive, we must recognise that environmental degradation weakens the security of all. The challenge is to find ways to promote sustainable development of all regions in the world while reducing both military and ecological threats. Co-operation among nations, and effective organisations at the international, national, regional and local levels, are essential to maintain earth’s life-support systems. Intense efforts must be made to foster a feeling of connectedness and co-operation and to correct economic injustices and promote trust.
The steps taken up to the present to halt environmental destruction have proved inadequate. Much stronger measures are required now.
These include the development of alternative high-yield agricultural methods, while recognising the value of some traditional practices, in order to conserve scarce water and topsoil. They will also entail strict regulation of industry and land-use, and massive investment in environmentally sound practices, increased efficiency of resource use, deployment of renewable energy technologies, poverty reduction, and population planning. Education must promote a shift toward lifestyles compatible with the preservation of our life-support systems. Global use of fossil fuels must be reduced. The 1987 Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depletion must be strengthened to eliminate the production and use of chlorofluorocarbons. International support for reforestation must be increased dramatically. In this way, the planet may move toward a new and stable balance in which nature can withstand the impacts of human civilisation.
Dagomys, USSR, 3 September 1988