In the 20 years since the Brundtland report’s publication, the specter of nuclear destruction has not yet been “removed from the face of the Earth,” as the report called for, but has merely changed scale: the threat of the mushroom cloud has been replaced by the threat of the dirty bomb—a crude device that a terrorist cell could fashion out of pilfered nuclear material. Setting off such a bomb in a world city—a major hub in the global economy—could create more disruption than the paradigm-shifting attacks of September 11, 2001, although the radioactivity would impact far fewer people than the feared global nuclear winter
Since the end of the Cold War in 1989, the security community’s focus has shifted from the global clash of superpowers to fragmented groups of stateless actors fomenting civil war and terrorism. The end of the Cold War also opened greater political space for analyzing a range of diverse threats to both individuals and the world beyond using the traditional state-centered approach. The environment—along with the related challenges of health and poverty—has become a key area of focus within that new space.
Our understanding of the links between environment and security has evolved in the last 20 years to reflect these changing threat scenarios. Today, “environmental security” has become a popular phrase used to encompass everything from oil exploration to pollution controls to corn subsidies. The Brundtland report, in an underappreciated chapter entitled “Peace, Security, Development, and the Environment set the agenda for understanding these multiple links between environment and security.
In this chapter, the Brundtland commissioners flagged both the environment’s implications for security and security’s impact on the environment. They highlighted the contributions of natural resources to violent conflict and their link to the well-being of humans and ecosystems. At the same time, the arms culture of superpower military confrontation and the subsequent war on terror have presented tremendous impediments to achieving sustainable development. The report even previewed the recent efforts to capture the power of environmental issues to build peace instead of conflict. “Some of the most challenging problems require cooperation among nations enjoying different systems of government, or even subject to antagonistic relations,” wrote the commissioners. Twenty years later, that statement still rings true, outlining the pathway to one facet of our common future: environmental peacemaking.
INES ou International Network of Engineers and Scientists for Global Responsibility was founded in Berlin in Novembre 1991.
Knowledge becomes property. Property of knowledge exist in two forms:
1. Property per se and most effective is secret knowledge. In order to secure knowledge as property, almost all employees – especially scientists and technicians – have to accept and must undersign employment contracts containing secrecy obligations.
2. Commercializing knowledge as property requires it to be patented. So, "intellectual property" in the form of patents is the predominant form of private ownership of knowledge. But although patents are open for licensees, research leading to patents is nevertheless secret. In the form of patented know how, knowledge can be bought and sold.
What about knowledge and truth? Is it not nearly the same? What is the difference? Obviously truth cannot be private property. It is a common good of that community to whom it concerns.
Especially scientific truth is a common good of all mankind. Truth cannot be bought or sold. This would be a contradiction in itself. Often it is spoken about a decay time or a half-life of knowledge. This means obviously the money value of know-how. Truth, however, keeps its value, which is a value of quite another nature.
Knowledge turns into truth by getting public. Scientific knowledge becomes truth by free publication. Knowledge as private property is not truth. It is ruling knowledge. Secrecy is a sure indication of ruling knowledge. Ruling knowledge has a fatal tendency to get wrong. For, there is a tension between power and truth. Rulers have trouble with truth. In contrast to this, truth is powerless. Never this became more obvious than during the interrogation of Jesus by Pilatus when the latter asked his famous question: "What is truth?" Power passes away, truth remains. The tension between truth and power, which can go up to contradiction, is also expressed in the well-known dictum:
The first victim of war is truth.
Society needs truth
To begin with, let me make some very general remarks: Life is essentially a communication phenomenon. For public life in politics, economy and culture this is quite obvious and needs no further explanation. Life in general and public life in particular can only thrive and succeed if information, exchanged in this communication, is mostly true and honest. Lie and deception poison and damage life. As a man who lived 40 years in the German Democratic Republic, in the system of a one-party dictatorship I know what this means. It was a system of institutionalized lie. Vaclav Havel analyzed this some 20 years ago in his famous essay, the title of which expresses a demand: Living in truth. And he demanded corresponding societal changes. Also Gorbatchov realized the essential importance of truth in the public life when he tried to save the socialism in the last historical moment by his glasnost and perestroika program.
At first sight glasnost seems to be realized in our liberal western societies, because we have a pluralism of meanings, freedom of information, independent media, and guaranteed civil rights. But at second sight, it becomes clear that all that does not reveal transparency, which is the meaning of glasnost, because we have, what Jürgen Habermas, called the "new confusion." Everybody can say what he wants, but in the many-voiced public noise it is nearly impossible to bring essential analyses and important insights against the ruling mainstream to public awareness. This is because we live in a market society, which becomes more and more total. Its cultural face is what is called post-modernity. The post-modern spirit of the age tells us: There is no truth, but only interest.
Everybody can and should follow his or her interests. If there is no truth then there is no lie as well, at least as a moral category. Everybody can lie in the own interest. What else is advertising? Advertising becomes the predominant form of public communication. There is neither truth nor lie, only successful or unsuccessful advertising. The predominant ethics is utilitarianism in which the end justifies the means, also lies. So, the president of the United States and its minister of defense as well as the prime minister of the UK found it acceptable to lie about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, allegedly ready for action, in order to justify a war of aggression, the actual reasons of which were quite different. Or, take another example: The boards of big companies decided to fake their balance sheets in order to enhance their shareholder value. A culture of lie develops in which one can less and less believe, what is said in public. This is true especially for the internet communication.
On the other hand, our market society has been analyzed and characterized as a risk society by the outstanding German sociologist Ulrich Beck. The precautionary principle cannot hold and does not hold, because it is incompatible with the capitalist market economy which is addicted to steady innovations in order to fulfil its systemic growth compulsion. Many innovations involve not sufficiently examined risks. The patent law does not require any independent proof of societal and environmental safety. Very often direct benefits for paying customers are overcompensated by fatal side effects for people being not involved at all. But the strong interest in return of invested R&D money simply has priority. Electrosmog due to mobile phoning is one of the most recent examples.
In this situation of the "risk society," danger cognition is certainly the most important, but nevertheless not very much an esteemed knowledge. In addition, it is an insufficiently elucidated type of knowledge, which is quite different from usual scientific knowledge, because it is a prospective one, whose empirical confirmation has to be avoided. In spite of its importance, reliable procedures of danger cognition have not been developed so far.
Danger cognition is obviously not suitable as a ruling knowledge. It cannot be patented, not be bought or sold. Danger cognition needs to be public, because it should be aware to those who are endangered. Rulers, however, are in most cases interested in suppressing danger cognition. All that qualifies well-founded danger cognition as a truthful knowledge.
Whistleblowing – an eminent way of speaking truth
Many historical examples show that whistleblowing was the first step of public danger cognition. In face of quantitatively and qualitatively increasing, often yet unknown risks, whistleblowing is urgently needed in the "risk society." But it is not conform to the market society. It is not "politically correct," or better, not economically correct. In the age of post-modernity with its common sense, that truth does not exist at all, but only interests, it is hard to speak the truth without being declared as a fundamentalist or ideologist. In a market society, in which all things seem to be purchasable, it is hard to resist monetary pressure or to face a court procedure against highly paid lawyers. In a sense whistleblowers are heralds of truth in a society, which is proud of getting a "knowledge society," thereby loosing the truth. Since every society needs truth in order to live, the market, risk, and knowledge society needs whistleblowers more than any other type of society because they stand against the structural defaults of our post-modern and non-sustainable society.
Truth as an ethically qualified knowledge is, of course, much more than what whistleblowers have to say, but their warnings are so to say spotlights of truth penetrating the fog of the parcelled, fragmented, and orientation-less know how of the "knowledge society."
INES does well in supporting whistleblowing not only by awarding outstanding whistleblowers but also by its project INESPE to protect and to support ethical conduct in science and engineering. I would like to propose that INES should offer a special honorary membership to recognized whistleblowers so that it is not only an organization for but also an organization of whistleblowers.
a physicist, member of the INES Standing Committee on Ethical Questions and the Ethics Protection Initiative INESPE.
Research Group Climate Change and Security
Center for Marine and Atmospheric Sciences
University of Hamburg
Bundesstrasse 53 - D-20146 Hamburg
The militarization of the world is the main cause of the deterioration of our environment on land, at sea and in space. Our planet is in need of intensive care and it is increasingly being damaged by the very people who are its self-proclaimed defenders: the armed forces.
What can be done?
- Limit the damage from weapons systems
- Counteract the excesses in the international distribution of the death threat posed by the military-industrial complex, a complex that consumes our vital resources, occupies land and squatts a fair deal of our territories, and militarizes our minds.
- Make armaments an integral part of the rally cry to "Limit Growth" in a time when ecosystems are in the throes of strategic reconfigurations due to deregulation and climate manipulation.
- Conceptualize and design ecological security to neutralize harmful preparations of war in time of peace.
Accomplishing this program depends on if and how well environmentalists and peace researchers/activists work together, without getting embroiled in the question of who is the best placed or better equipped to "save" the planet.
We need to assess how the environmental crisis – including the climate emergency – is related to our failure to attain security.
The book is available in the Collection Société Civile, ISBN 978 2 36429 052 5,
Not available in English yet.
It is not surprising that the political community and civil society have little visibility on the nuclear issue, as even among researchers and other stakeholders there has been a marked absence of available literature, particularly on the issue of cost. Although the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in Washington has to date published five volumes in the collection 'The Nuclear Weapons Databook' (cf. Stan Norris, 1994), most books or studies on the subject of nuclear disarmament usually avoid addressing the financial dimension of the nuclear issue. The 231-page report, Weapons of Terror: Freeing the World of Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Arms (June 2006), produced by the Independent Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission and known as the Blix Report (Hans Blix chaired the Commission), urges the international community "to study the report and consider its 60 recommendations" on what the international community can and should do. However, the Blix Report makes no mention of the financial implications of the measures proposed.
From 1980 to 1987, Michael Randle was coordinator of the British Alternative Defence Commission. He contributed to two major publications, Defence Without the Bomb (Taylor and Francis, 1983) and The Politics of Alternative Defence (Paladin 1987). In the first one, which is relevant to our theme, the financial arguments against the bomb do not cover more than a page. The Canberra Commission's 1996 Report on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons dedicates only four pages to the cost issue. A few individuals, such as Susan Willett, formerly Senior Fellow at the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) and Michael Renner, Worldwatch Paper (1994), have tried to put focus on the cost issues.
"As long as lions don't have their historians,
hunting stories will always glorify the hunters."
How can France belong to the 'happy few' who have a say on the international arena, while the country (3% of the world's GNP) is holding on to 300 out of 19,500 warheards, i.e. 2 % of the world atomic arsenal ? A real dilemma.
War in Mali in the background highlights the fact that some Nuclear Weapons States (NWS) live beyond their nuclear means. If France is playing beyond it's weight, it is feeling it now for the first time.
Previous glory and present burdens
Since 1953, - with the support of socialists that became anti-bomb once De Gaulle came to power in 1958 -, France has embarked on the nuclear path.