Chicago conference of Student Pugwash USA

Peace, Science and Humanity: Choices for the Next Generation

Report of the Student Pugwash USA Conference, Chicago, IL, 2 April 2000

by Anna Moden
Associate Director, Student Pugwash USA

THE benefits of the growing collaboration between Pugwash and Student Pugwash were clearly evident at an event sponsored by Student Pugwash USA entitled “Peace, Science and Humanity: Choices for the Next Generation.” Around 75 people participated in this exciting event which was held in Chicago on April 2, 2000.

Professor Joseph Rotblat, who spoke on the topic “Science and Civilization in the Coming Decades” encouraged the audience including many students as well as senior Pugwashites to forget the differences between people and political persuasions and use science and technology for the benefit of humankind. Student Pugwash USA organized this day because we believe that the way to create a more secure world is to build bridges between current and future concerned leaders and scientists. The event was co-sponsored by The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and Physicians for Social Responsibility.

In his speech, Professor Rotblat provided an overview of the human condition in the 20th century, using the UN Human Development Index to make his point that developments in science and technology have provided better health, better food, safer industry, fewer day-to-day chores, more education, and many other benefits to humanity as a whole. Rotblat said that these indicators should serve as a reason for optimism.

However, he continued, we will be faced with tough decisions as we enter the 21st century. As science proceeds in fields such as biotechnology and communications technologies, young people must be prepared to make choices about how to use these new technologies. He prompted the audience to remember the historical relationship between science, technology, and society in the 20th century as we face the coming challenges. Victor Rabinowitch, senior vice president at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and a Pugwashite, provided comments after Professor Rotblat’s speech. Professor Rotblat attended the whole event and also took the opportunity to share his thoughts with students during lively lunch-time conversations. Ruth Adams, Pugwashite and a long-term supporter of Student Pugwash USA, also joined us for the day.

Another panel examined the topic “Scientists, Young People, and Nuclear Weapons.” Stephen Schwartz, publisher of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Bob Musil, executive director of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Clayton Nall, a member of Student Pugwash USA’s board of directors and a student at the University of Madison-Wisconsin, and Heather Stewart, pledge coordinator at Student Pugwash USA, spoke about the importance of young people being involved in nuclear weapons issues, how to increase interest in these issues, and what it is like to be a student caring about nuclear weapons and arms control.

Hugo Estrella, coordinator of International Student/Young Pugwash spoke about exciting new plans for the establishment of an international Student/Young Pugwash secretariat and the importance of student movements around the world [see his commentary “The Hidden Power”]. Jeffrey Boutwell from the Pugwash secretariat delivered greetings from the Pugwash Conferences and talked about recent and upcoming activities, and Anna Moden, Student Pugwash USA’s associate director, emceed the event.

Student Pugwash USA holds several regional events in different parts of the United States each spring. Next on Student Pugwash USA’s agenda was “Deciding on Disarmament: A Day at the UN’s Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference,” held in New York City on April 24 in conjunction with the opening of the NPT review conference.