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Rotary Presidential Peacebuilding Conference February 9-10, 2018

Evening Reception

A great surprise to find Frances, Tina and Saori at the Friday night Pre-Conference reception, where we saw RI President Ian Riseley for the first of many times. Here’s a picture of the four of us, although we weren’t posing ;D and a picture of the RI President with Frances.

Saturday morning highlights included Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada, MP for Saanich and Member of Sydney by the Sea Rotary Breakfast Club, introduce keynote speaker, Dr. David Suzuki. Of note, during her remarks, she recommended posting the 4-Way Test at the front of the Canadian Parliament.

Here are my notes of Dr. Suzuki’s remarks – quite a storyteller, and a great example of how to make complex ideas understandable.

As a grandfather, I know where the science is pointing, and, as an Elder, no longer driven by the need for fame, power, recognition, so can speak from the heart and speak my mind without having to worry about offending people. Earned lots of life lessons, lots of mistakes,

I 4 billion years that life has existed, we are the only species with the greatest power to change the relationship with the earth. One is population – we are the numerous mammals, the most dominant mammal – when I was born in 19336, only 2 billon humans. Most of our technology used today was developed in the last 150 years. By the year 2000, half the people in the world and 85% of people in Canada had migrated into big cities, prior to our primary activity was agriculture.

Anthropocene epoch, dubbed by scientists as the age dominated by humans. Problem is that we do not know how to exercise our powers in a way that doesn’t destroy the planet we live and depend on. Started my career as a geneticist, and all the trails lead back to Africa. 150,000 years ago the Serengeti was full of species, and a few humanoids, we weren’t fast, big, strong, nothing very impressive about us but in 150,000 years, we took over the planet. The secret was a 2 kg organ in our head – the brain endowed us with a memory capacity that exceeds any other animal. That was the key to our survival. We were the only animal that realized we could deliberately affect the future by what we do now – avoid dangers, and exploit opportunities. This power of foresight is what I think separated us from the others on the planet. This simple animal armed with simple tools, but we were a very deadly predator, with simple spears, clubs, and began to migrate into different areas, but where we went, we were a very invasive species and we exploited what we found. As resources declined we had to move again. We ultimately went around the planet on foot. But some people said, This is my home, I’m going to stay.” This was the root of Indigenous cultures.” Science will never replace the knowledge of Indigenous cultures that is thousands and thousands of years old.

This led to the Age of Exploration – it had to do with our ability to harness the wind and currents, European explorers went out and discovered lands that they occupied and colonized the Indigenous peoples. They were in search of resources and opportunities. Inconvenient Indian, by Tom Kng, tells how the Indigenous peoples were an impediment to the gain of those resources and opportunities. When my grandparents cam e they left behind the Indigenous knowledge of Japan. My parents had no connection to that knowledge here in Vancouver, they focused on working hard to get ahead, earning money. Thankfully, during the Depression, they gained knowledge of saving, retaining something today to be ready for tomorrow, share with your neighbours, don’t leave your neighbours without, share what you have. WW2 pulled us out of the Great Depression, wars are great at pulling the economy up. But what happened when peace broke out after, and the political and economic leaders got together and decided to create the Age of Consumption. If you build in Obsolescence it creates a perfect economy where consumption is endless. Consumption is the driving engine of the economy. The biggest consequence is that our oceans are a mess, they cover 70% of the planet and the carbon dioxide from the oceans acidifies the oceans through C02 rain back into the oceans.

Every one of us is carrying dozens of toxic chemicals in our bodies through our use of air, land and water. This is a crisis of humanity, but because the majority of people live in cities, we focus on our jobs because we need money to pay for cost of living in cities. Our Prime Minister signed an agreement in Paris in 2015 that set very ambitious target for greenhouse gas goals. Big Talk No Action, as my father used to say. The easy part is saying things, the hardest part is doing things. In reality that agreement means that most of our oils and gas needs to be left in the ground. We have enough fossil fuels, but building a pipeline, means you are committed to using more resources for at least 30 years.

In 1962, I met a woman who changed my life - Rachel Carson who wrote a book that said the world is becoming more silent, fewer birds, there are consequences of our science. The scientist who discovered that DDT will kill insects won a Nobel prize in 1948, but if you only focus on killing the insects in the field you lose sight of the big picture. When you zoom out and start looking at the food chain, the consequences on breast milk in mothers which became too toxic by the 1960s, we realize what substances like DDT have done to our environment, but only later after the damage is done.

When nuclear bombs were dropped in 1945, we didn’t know about radiation, or electro-magnetic pulses. CFCs, same thing, they are great for preserving things like perfume and other substances and don’t react, remain inert, but after using them by the millions of pounds, they don’t break down, and remain intact, until they hit the atmosphere, the sun hits them, releases the chlorine and breaks down the ozone. So we only later learn the consequences, sometimes much later.

Now, going into biotechnology, nanotechnology, artificial intelligence (AI), geoengineering to try to recover the crisis of the planet. But if history tells us anything, we don’t know enough to start using these technologies. So how do we deal with the great crises of the planet? What our top scientists are telling us about the problems and the opportunities is to look ahead and see the dangers and respond, but now politics and economics are interfering. In the 1980s I was approached by the First Nations people in Lytton, because the BC Government had given Fletcher Challenge a license to log the dying ancient forest of the Styne Valley. I took my family camping in that forest and on our way out after a week in forest, smelling like smoke, we ran into a group of people in suits on the road, and one of them was the CEO of Fletcher Challenge, and he said, “Unless someone like you tree huggers are willing to pay for those trees then there’s no value in them.” I wasn’t smart enough then to say to him that for the FN people, there’s sacred value in the trees. But what is sacred has no value in our economic system. The real reason we’re fighting for that forest, is the carbon sequestration that it is carrying out for us as humans. If you clear-cut that forest, you remove the millions of gallons of water those trees are pumping into the atmosphere.  The forest is a community of organisms. But so long as we constantly have to rationalize what we do as environmentalists, we will constantly lose because our economic system fails to value the role that nature plays in keeping us alive. Our economic system relies on a growth model. Steady growth in a finite system is the creed of cancer cells, they begin as one cell but its mission is to invade and take over all cells within a finite system (our bodies). If we reduced all the elements of our biosphere, land, air and water, it would be thinner than a layer of saran wrap on the earth.

Anything growing steadily over time, is growing exponentially, it has a predictable pattern of doubling, anything growing at a rate of 1% will double in 70 years, at 2%, in 35 years, etc. We have created the illusion of unlimited growth because we are using up the legacy of our children and grandchildren. Elders in every continent I talk to say the same thing, there used to be birds, fish, sounds of nature in the forests. We are past the 59th minute of a finite hour, we need to protect what we have left in order to have some kind of future for coming generations.

A few years ago, CEO of one of our largest oil companies asked to come see me. I said of course, I am always happy to talk, but before you come in, please leave your identity as CEO at the door.  Please enter as a human being. To his credit, he did and he listened as I spoke. I told him that we live within a world law of Nature. We cannot travel faster than the speed of law. We can’t build a perpetual motion machine – the laws of physics, the laws of chemistry determine rates of freezing, etc. these laws tell us what we can and cannot do and constrain what we can and cannot do. Biology is the same. Every species has a limit, and after that it crashes and burns. We call this the carrying capacity – humans are far beyond that capacity for the biosphere, but we are maintaining our over-limits by using the resources of our descendants. As animals, what is the most important thing that an animal needs? The first thing is air (we can survive without air for 3 minutes). Clean air is the highest need of all human beings, and so it should be sacred. The second thing is water. We are 60-70% water as human beings, but we lose water all the time, it secretes out of us, if we don’t have for 4-6 days, we die. Food is next, but we can go 4-6 weeks without food. Food mostly comes from the land, so if we have polluted air, water or land that grows our food, we get sick, or die if we have none of these, so those elements should be our most sacred responsibilities. Fourth is photosynthesis through plants, which is the fourth element or what Indigenous peoples call Fire. Those elements are surely are the foundation of the way we live, and we all have a responsibility to care for those. That’s why in the movie The Martian, when Matt Damon stranded on Mars, he had to put poop in the sand from the planet because there’s nothing organic in the sand to create food from his potatoes that he has to grow. That’s why Elon Musk’s idea of colonizing Mars is such a dumb idea, because there is no soil.

So, I said to that CEO, those are all laws of biology, other things like the laws of property boundaries we can control because they are not forces of Nature and Nature could care less. These institutions and concepts we can control and change, because we can’t change the forces of Nature. As long as we allow the economy to deal with those four elements in our decisions we cannot win.

In 1994, my father was dying, he had cancer, he was 94.  In the last month of his life I moved in to care for him. We talked and talked. It was one of the happiest times of my life. He said I am dying a rich man. Even though my wife and I were subsidizing him, had paid for his home and his care, he felt rich. All we talked about was family, friends, and a wealth of memories, and never about closets of clothes, the car he drove or house he lived in.

In 1900s, Hong Kong was about to revert to China, and there was a great deal of concern on the part of Hong Kong people. I had been living in Vancouver all my life, and I got a flyer telling me to sell my home and “buy up”. If I was going to write up a list of things that make my house valuable, it would include things that economics don’t value. For example, when we bought our family home, I invited my wife’s parents to live with us, and my children had grandparents upstairs all their lives. When I had been away on a tour of genetics labs in the US, I came home and there was my father-in-law waiting for me in the yard, and he handed me a bag of asparagus and raspberries that he had planted in our yard – he loved gardening. My children have dragged dead animals home from the road and we have a pet cemetery, and that is one of the things I listed that I value in my home. When my mother died, I put her ashes on clematis plant and my niece’s ashes are also on that plant. I think of them both every time it blooms. Those are the things that have made my house a home. But we live in a world where these things have no economic value. We pay no attention to the Indigenous values of the land, animals and elements, and we give it no value. When the land is sacred, and when we realize the abundance of it, we will have met the challenge we are facing.

Planting for Peace, Hiroshima Survivors, Dr. Ira Helfand, MD, Co-Chair, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War

In the 1980s we understood very clearly the danger of nuclear weapons, and we are at this moment, we are living at the most dangerous moment in human history, and we don’t know it. There are at least four potential major flashpoints that could each lead to nuclear war – 1) between US and Russia, 2) between US & China, 3) between India & Pakistan and 4) North Korea. Plus, apart from these political conflicts, people in the US are telling us that we also have the very real situation where terrorists can engineer cyber- attacks and hack into a nuclear command system and cause a state to launch nuclear weapons.  

Let me describe what a large-scale attack would look like on a city. Hiroshima and Nagasaki don’t even begin to describe the potential. At any one time, over 100 nuclear weapons are aimed at Moscow. Within 1 second a firewall will rise over an area of 2 kilometers, for over 4 kms, the firewall will vaporize everything, for 16 miles in every direction, everything flammable will burn, and over next half hour over 800 square miles the temperature will be lethal. 10-12 million people would die in Moscow and 15 million in NYC region in half an hour. But the environmental destruction is actually the bigger problem because the amount of soot that would be launched into the atmosphere would cause an ice age that would destroy our food chain and the majority of the human race would starve.

Our response is to promote a campaign to get every Rotary Club in Canada/US to sign onto the UN Treaty on Nuclear Weapons. We have done this before. In early 1980s, we did this with the Soviet Union to change the relationship with nuclear weapons. We did so as Rotary, I spoke in Toronto at Rotary convention, my predecessor as President of Physicians against Nuclear War.

PDG Jiro Kawatsuma, Hiroshima Survivor

73 years ago, the first bomb dropped.  At the time I was living 73 kms away from Hiroshima. I rushed to the home of my sister and father. They were gone. Because I did not receive the direct radiation, I am here to tell you my story.  At that time, the cultural norm was that young people followed blindly the orders of older superiors. I believe this led to even more casualties. After the atomic bomb people thought nothing would grow for 70 years. But plants are stronger than animals. From the burnt trees, the following spring, some trees had white buds. When people in Hiroshima saw those buds, they had hope and thought they could live after all. I am 90 years old. I have been sharing my story since I was young to emphasize the importance of life. I will continue to share my story by planting survivor trees with the help of Rotary.

Japan was the most militaristic state in the world before WW2, and now it is a model of Peace. We have a message from the Mayor of Hiroshima: People of Hiroshima know that nuclear weapons cannot be limited to the battlefield and don’t distinguish between combatants and civilians. Right now, we have a better chance to do something about it than we have ever had, and we have a necessity to do something about it more than ever before. Already the Nobel Committee did a courageous thing by giving the prize for Peace to the Scientists for Nuclear Prevention – but this is nothing compared to the power of Rotary. We are passing petitions to gather signatures, and we are starting a Rotary movement to plant seeds from survivor trees to create a network of support and awareness so that this issue is something people cannot ignore.

Heidi Kuhn, Founder and CEO of Roots of Peace, California

I was a Rotary Exchange student to Japan in the 1980s. I am the mother of 4 children. Originally inspired by Princess Diana’s campaign to support the removal of landmines, I started with a vision of turning Mines to Vines in 1997 through my association with a few vineyard owners in California. A landmine only creates a lethal harvest. Children are the main victim of these mines. Roots of Peace first started our work in Croatia in 2000 where 1.2 M landmines still exist. In fact, there are still 70 million landmines in existence in 70 countries. We have trained farmers and families in Afghanistan to farm vines not for fermentation but for grapes and raisins. Turning swords into ploughshares. Afghanistan is 80% agricultural. We have trained 3000 Afghan women farmers. In 2010 a small boy stepped on a landmine and called me from his bedside from Tel Aviv, and asked for my help, there was no legislation to de-mine in Israel and Palestine. I went over 20 times, and over wall and fence, met with Abbas, Netanyahu and raised money from Napa businesses and raised money to de-mine the fields near Bethlehem in a Muslim inhabited area controlled by Israel. We did it, but there are still 1.2 M mines in Israel, Jordan and Syria. In Vietnam, we are tackling the remaining 3M mines – more bombs were dropped on Vietnam than in the combined total of WW1 & WW2. Quong Tri is the most heavily mined province in Vietnam. It was the DMZ area of Vietnam during the war. I am raising $20M to eliminate the mines by 2020. My son Tucker is leading the on-the-ground work. We plant pepper there, which is the best-tasting black pepper in the world. As a mother and grandmother I call on Rotary partners to plant the Roots of Peace now.

Dr. Jonathan Patz, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Global Health Institute, lead author for UN Panel on Global Climate Change

It’s not our imagination. Summers are getting hotter as indicated by measured temperatures. In most cities in the US, we are going to see a tripling of the days it will be hotter than 30 degrees Celsius by mid-century. It’s actually Global Weirding rather than Warming because as the Arctic warms up, the jet stream wanders and the rest of world gets warmer but some parts of Canada and US will get colder. It’s not a gradual creeping up of temperature, we’re going to see uneven effects because Arctic is melting. Oceans and air are changing and mixing things up. More energy to dissipate, with sea temperatures increasing and causing more hurricane winds. When you look at climate change and see temperature changes in the air and sea, more droughts, floods and fires. My interest is the impact on health. Air pollution and allergens and impact on health, water-borne diseases, vector-borne diseases carried by insects, impacts on the water and food supply chains. Social impacts of forced migrations and environmental refugees, from food shortages, overcrowding. For example, the climate in Syria before the civil war began, drought, increase in population, most severe drought in their recorded history. Hard to prove the direct link, but rural to urban migration rates were 4-5 times higher than normal, food riots in the streets, as a result of food shortages and lack of housing. Instead of a polar bear as the face of climate change, refugees are the faces of climate change and health impacts. Today’s 900 million people at risk of hunger will double by mid-century with stress on crops we expect from warming. But some plant species will benefit from climate change and warming – e.g. ragweed and poison ivy will love it the increase in C02 and longer pollen season and problem for anyone with asthma and allergies. David Suzuki says climate change’s biggest threat may be its smallest – the mosquito. Difference between humans and mosquitoes is that its body temperature changes, so as it warms, parasites, pathogens and viruses inside it speed up. Humans and mammals our temperature doesn’t change. It’s not just a warming scenario. Also issue of extreme water change scenarios. Extreme rain scenarios, when it warms, warm air holds more water. Already, we can’t manage storm water runoff. Combined sewage overflow events. In US, doubling of these events is occurring which threatens our water supply through sewage contamination and increase in e-coli overgrowth. Rainfall becomes a risk.

Another dimension of climate change is climate-sensitive conditions, malaria, cholera. Per capita, Americans and Canadians emit 6x more than the average global citizen. Those countries most vulnerable are the least responsible – i.e. Africa. Yet, even though we know our actions are causing the problem, we are not doing much about it because we are a fossil-fuel-based economy. 7 M people die every year from air pollution, that’s 3x more than AIDS, malaria and cholera together. Transportation, 5.3 M people die every year from physical inactivity – we need to design our cities for walking and biking.

What does it cost? Less than <$30/ton of C02 for cleaner energy; but would save $200 in health benefits from deaths of bad air. The economics make sense. The benefit of clean energy is bigger than the net investment cost. And the price of solar energy is getting cheaper. What about job loss? There are a million jobs in renewable energy + 5x more than in coal, oil, and gas combined in US. 60% of Americans do not get the recommended physical activity even though 40% of trips made by cars are less than 2 km. Cities with higher levels of walkability and bikeability have 20% lower scores of heart disease, cancer, depression, diabetes and obesity. An ounce of prevention is worth so much more in return…when we raised the price of tobacco, the consumption by teenagers dropped. Need to put a price on carbon. Regardless of our views on climate science, we can all support lots of green jobs, physically fit adults and children, safe routes for children to go to school. Ultimately, climate change is about our health. Google Jonathan Patz on Tedex for a replay of this talk and distribute it and promote to your friends.

Kathleen Rogers, President, Earth Day Network – The Tree Solution

Earth Day began in 1997 protesting the legacy of deforestation, polluted rivers, endangered species, still remains the largest civic protest in environmental history. It’s now 192 countries, taking part every year. Our mission, like Rotary is to build the bottom of the environmental pyramid. The word environment means what surrounds you. We build communities and focus on people so that what surrounds them will be healthy, beautiful and sustainable. We first have to focus on people in their communities before we can solve the larger problems. We plant trees in about 35 countries. Have made many mistakes, for example, in Haiti, where after their disaster, we planted trees, when in fact what they needed was firewood. About half the countries in the world will reach their climate goals by reforestation. We partner with demining project Mines to Vines to help remove Agent Orange in Vietnam which is devastating generations, and help replant those regions. Work a lot in India to help reforest even though finding places to replant is difficult. We also plant fruit trees in areas of conflict through cooperative agreement with warring groups/religious associations so they use part of the harvest for themselves and send the rest to market for revenue. Post-conflict strategies that don’t involve environmental rehabilitation often fail. We focus on tropical and sub-tropical areas because the benefits are greater for carbon sequestration. Trees and forests are part of the equation of creating peace and sustainable communities. Crime is lower where there are trees. Focusing on planting 7.8 billion trees by 2020, which is equivalent to the estimated earth population by that date. Rotarians also share a vision of something better, step-by-step we build from the ground up.

Rotary Panel – Bringing Peace Home Dean Rohrs, Rotary International Vice President Linda Low, Rotary Peace Fellow, Phoenix Maclaren, Rotoractor, Ashli Forbes, Interact, Chris Offer District 5040.

Linda Low - I worked for Red Cross during the 1 million person migration, started with drought of climate change in Syria so farmers migrated to cities, couldn’t stay in those communities. What if those farmers could have stayed in place?

Ashli – the earth is one gigantic organism so if you impact one organism, you affect others.

Phoenix – the more people are educated, the more people can act on that knowledge.

Dean – the current Rotary Board president is very interested in the environment so it is very easy for the Board to include it in the vision and strategic planning.

Chris – At the Club level, we have 50 speakers a year, we could take 10% of those spots to feature even 5 speakers on environmental topics. What about an environmental sustainability Award in our community, for a local grocery store that voluntarily eliminates use of plastic bags, or a restaurant that reduces waste?

Ashli - Interactors are teenagers, so the torch of environmental responsibility is being handed down to us. We need to act now so my children don’t have to inherit these disasters. We need a relationship with our local community and environment.

Phoenix - We mobilize through the small acts every day, sharing our knowledge, change the narrative to make it about what we can do, not what we can’t. That’s our attitude as peace scholars. Food waste is one of the top contributors to climate change, as food rots it creates C02, if we reduce the waste of one less banana, one less tomato that we waste each day it will make a difference. Some things seem daunting with the 2 degree rise in temperature getting closer and closer and drought in South Africa, but this conference has shown us that we can make a difference. The change doesn’t have to be monumental. If everyone took one small step, we’d be so much farther than we are today.

Dean – I have degree in wildlife management and spent much of my life living at grass-roots level preserving and protecting species. Rotary has pockets of projects doing good work, but with efforts like this, we are mobilizing a network, motivate, commit, get our communities working, we can make a very big positive impact on our world, with globalization and momentum./Users/diana/Pictures/Photos Library.photoslibrary/Masters/2018/02/26/20180226-001546/IMG_0363.jpg