The Forgotten Element in Averting Nuclear Catastrophe

The Forgotten Element in Averting Nuclear Catastrophe

What will it take to end the nuclear nightmare that has gripped the world since the atomic bombings of 1945?

For a time, that nightmare seemed to have abated for, in response to massive popular resistance to the prospect of nuclear war, governments turned to signing nuclear arms control and disarmament agreements.  Even previously hawkish government officials proclaimed that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

In recent decades, however, nuclear-armed nations have scrapped nuclear arms control and disarmament treaties, begun the massive upgrading and expansion of their nuclear arsenals, and publicly threatened other nations with nuclear war.  The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which has assessed the nuclear situation since 1946, has turned the hands of its “Doomsday Clock” to 90 seconds to midnight, the most dangerous setting in its history.

Why has this renewed flirtation with nuclear Armageddon occurred?

One reason for the nuclear revival is that, in a world of independent, feuding nations, governments turn naturally to arming themselves with the most powerful weapons available and, sometimes, to war.  Thus, with the decline of the worldwide nuclear disarmament campaign of the 1980s, governments have felt freer to engage their natural proclivities.

A second, less apparent reason is that the movement and government officials alike have ceased thinking systemically.  Or, to put it another way, they have forgotten that the motor force behind nations’ reliance upon nuclear weapons is international anarchy.

In the late 1940s, during the first wave of the popular campaign against the Bomb, the movement recognized that nuclear weapons grew out of the centuries-old conflicts among nations.  Consequently, millions of people across the globe, shocked by the atomic bombings of 1945, rallied around the slogan “One World or None.” 

In the United States, Norman Cousins, the young editor of the Saturday Review of Literature, sat down on the evening of the destruction of Hiroshima and wrote a lengthy editorial, “Modern Man Is Obsolete.”  The “need for world government was clear long before August 6, 1945,” he observed, but the atomic bombing “raised the need to such dimensions that it can no longer be ignored.”  Becoming a key writer, speaker, and fundraiser for the cause, Cousins turned the editorial into a book that went through 14 editions, appeared in seven languages, and had a circulation in the United States of seven million copies.  He also became a leader in a new, rapidly-growing organization, United World Federalists, which by mid-1949 had 720 chapters and nearly 50,000 members.

Around the world, the atomic bombing provoked a similar response.  Atomic scientists, horrified by the prospect of worldwide destruction, published a book titled One World or None, organized international antinuclear campaigns among scientists, and emphasized the need for a global solution to the nuclear problem.  Many, like Albert Einstein, became prominent world federalists or, like Robert Oppenheimer, viewed international control of nuclear weapons as a task that necessitated overriding national sovereignty.

The antinuclear uprising of the late 1940s had some impact upon public policy.  Major governments, previously enthusiastic about nuclear weapons, grew ambivalent about their development and use.  Indeed, the appearance of the Baruch Plan, the world’s first serious nuclear disarmament proposal, owed much to the postwar agitation.

Nevertheless, as the Cold War emerged, the officials of the great powers rejected the new way of thinking about relations among nations championed by Einstein and other activists.  Instead of restructuring international relations to cope with the unprecedented peril of the Bomb, they incorporated the Bomb into the traditional framework of international conflict.  The result was a nuclear arms race and a growing sense that agitation for transforming the international order was, at best, naïve, or, at worst, subversive.

These narrowed political horizons meant that, when the antinuclear movement revived in the late 1950s, it championed more limited objectives, beginning with a call for ending nuclear testing.  And this goal proved attainable, at least in part, because halting atmospheric nuclear testing did not seriously hinder the great powers, which could move tests underground and, thereby, upgrade their nuclear arsenals.  The result was the passage of the world’s first nuclear arms control agreement, the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963. 

Admittedly, ban-the-bomb movements also sprang up in numerous countries.  But, although they were sometimes headed by long-time proponents of world government, including Norman Cousins (chair of America’s National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy) and Bertrand Russell (president of Britain’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament), they, too, focused on weapons rather than on reforming the international system.  The result was a welcome surge of nuclear arms control treaties in the late 1960s and early 1970s that quieted the fears of activists and led to the movement’s decline.

When the Cold War revived in the late 1970s and early 1980s, so did an outraged antinuclear campaign.  Indeed, this third wave of the nuclear disarmament movement proved the largest and most successful yet, securing substantial decreases in nuclear arsenals and significantly reducing the danger of nuclear war.

Of all the major actors of that era, though, only Mikhail Gorbachev seemed ready to move beyond weapons cutbacks to advocate the development of a new international security system.  But with the disintegration of the Soviet Union, Gorbachev was swept from power.  And, in recent decades, rising international tensions have swept away the antinuclear campaign’s hard-won gains, as well.

Those gains, though evanescent, were important, for they helped the world to avoid nuclear war while giving it time to press on toward a nuclear weapons-free future.

But this history also suggests that, in the struggle for survival in the nuclear age, confronting the continued anarchy of nations cannot be avoided.  Indeed, given the severity of our current international crises and the escalating nuclear menace that they generate, the time has come to revisit the forgotten issue of strengthening the international security system.

Einstein’s Postwar Campaign to Save the World from Nuclear Destruction

Einstein’s Postwar Campaign to Save the World from Nuclear Destruction

Although the popular new Netflix film, Einstein and the Bomb, purports to tell the story of the great physicist’s relationship to nuclear weapons, it ignores his vital role in rallying the world against nuclear catastrophe.

Aghast at the use of nuclear weapons in August 1945 to obliterate the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Einstein threw himself into efforts to prevent worldwide nuclear annihilation.  In September, responding to a letter from Robert Hutchins, Chancellor of the University of Chicago, about nuclear weapons, Einstein contended that, “as long as nations demand unrestricted sovereignty, we shall undoubtedly be faced with still bigger wars, fought with bigger and technologically more advanced weapons.”  Thus, “the most important task of intellectuals is to make this clear to the general public and to emphasize over and over again the need to establish a well-organized world government.”  Four days later, he made the same point to an interviewer, insisting that “the only salvation for civilization and the human race lies in the creation of a world government, with security of nations founded upon law.”

Determined to prevent nuclear war, Einstein repeatedly hammered away at the need to replace international anarchy with a federation of nations operating under international law.  In October 1945, together with other prominent Americans (among them Senator J. William Fulbright, Supreme Court Justice Owen Roberts, and novelist Thomas Mann), Einstein called for a “Federal Constitution of the World.”  That November, he returned to this theme in an interview published in the Atlantic Monthly.  “The release of atomic energy has not created a new problem,” he said.  “It has merely made more urgent the necessity of solving an existing one. . . .  As long as there are sovereign nations possessing great power, war is inevitable.”  And war, sooner or later, would become nuclear war.

After the creation, in early 1947, of United World Federalists, the U.S. branch of the growing world federalist movement, Einstein served on its Advisory Board.

Einstein also promoted world federalist ideas through a burgeoning atomic scientists’ movement in which he played a central role.  To bring the full significance of the atomic bomb to the public, the newly-formed Federation of American Scientists put together an inexpensive paperback, One World or None, with individual essays by prominent Americans.  In his contribution to the book, Einstein wrote that he was “convinced there is only one way out” and this necessitated creating “a supranational organization” to “make it impossible for any country to wage war.”  This hard-hitting book, which first appeared in early 1946, sold more than 100,000 copies.

Given Einstein’s fame and his well-publicized efforts to avert a nuclear holocaust, in May 1946 he became chair of the newly-formed Emergency Committee of Atomic Scientists, a fundraising and policymaking arm for the atomic scientists’ movement.  In the Committee’s first fund appeal, Einstein warned that “the unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”

Even so, despite the fact that Einstein, like most members of the early atomic scientists’ movement, saw world government as the best recipe for survival in the nuclear age, there seemed good reason to consider shorter-range objectives.  After all, the Cold War was emerging and nations were beginning to formulate nuclear policies.  An early Atomic Scientists of Chicago statement, prepared by Eugene Rabinowitch, editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, underscored practical considerations.  “Since world government is unlikely to be achieved within the short time available before the atomic armaments race will lead to an acute danger of armed conflict,” it noted, “the establishment of international controls must be considered as a problem of immediate urgency.”  Consequently, the movement increasingly worked in support of specific nuclear arms control and disarmament measures.

In the context of the heightening Cold War, however, taking even limited steps forward proved impossible.  The Russian government sharply rejected the Baruch Plan for international control of atomic energy and, instead, developed its own atomic arsenal.  In turn, U.S. President Harry Truman, in February 1950, announced his decision to develop a hydrogen bomb―a weapon a thousand times as powerful as its predecessor.  Naturally, the atomic scientists were deeply disturbed by this lurch toward disaster.  Appearing on television, Einstein called once more for the creation of a “supra-national” government as the only “way out of the impasse.”  Until then, he declared, “annihilation beckons.”

Despite the dashing of his hopes for postwar action to end the nuclear menace, Einstein lent his support over the following years to peace, nuclear disarmament, and world government projects.

The most important of these ventures occurred in 1955, when Bertrand Russell, like Einstein, a proponent of world federation, conceived the idea of issuing a public statement by a small group of the world’s most eminent scientists about the existential peril nuclear weapons brought to modern war.  Asked by Russell for his support, Einstein was delighted to sign the statement and did so in one of his last actions before his death that April.  In July, Russell presented the statement to a large meeting in London, packed with representatives of the mass communications media.  In the shadow of the Bomb, it read, “we have to learn to think in a new way. . . .  Shall we . . . choose death because we cannot forget our quarrels?  We appeal as human beings to human beings:  Remember your humanity, and forget the rest.”

This Russell-Einstein Manifesto, as it became known, helped trigger a remarkable worldwide uprising against nuclear weapons in the late 1950s and early 1960s, culminating in the world’s first significant nuclear arms control measures.  Furthermore, in later years, it inspired legions of activists and world leaders.  Among them was the Soviet Union’s Mikhail Gorbachev, whose “new thinking,” modeled on the Manifesto, brought a dramatic end to the Cold War and fostered substantial nuclear disarmament.  

The Manifesto thus provided an appropriate conclusion to Einstein’s unremitting campaign to save the world from nuclear destruction.

Image courtesy of US Govt. Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s Getting Late

It’s Getting Late

For some time, it’s been apparent that the world’s nations are not meeting the growing challenges to human survival.

A key challenge comes from modern war.

Over the centuries, as military weapons have grown ever more destructive, war-related devastation has grown accordingly.  World War II was the deadliest military conflict in human history, with an estimated 70-85 million people perishing from the war directly or through war-caused disease, famine, and other indirect factors.  Most of the dead were civilians.  In addition, many millions of people were wounded―blinded, crippled, driven mad, or otherwise ravaged by the vast carnage.  Large portions of the globe had become a charnel house, with the battered survivors left to desperately scavenge for food amid the burnt-out rubble and ruin.

Although some scholars have pointed out that warfare has declined since then, and especially since the end of the Cold War, there was a sharp turnabout in 2022, when the wars in Ethiopia and Ukraine contributed to more battle-related deaths than in any year since 1994.  By late 2023, Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine alone had produced an estimated 315,000 killed or injured Russian troops, while the number of casualties among Ukrainian troops and civilians, though unknown, is certainly enormous.  Among these and the many other wars currently raging―in Sudan, Myanmar, Ethiopia, the Sahel, and Syria, to name only a few―the recent one in Gaza, with the fastest daily death rate of the 21st century, is particularly alarming, having already led to nearly 30,000 deaths and nearly 70,000 injuries.

And then, of course, there’s nuclear war, which emerged in 1945 with the utter annihilation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and which now has the capacity to end virtually all life on earth.  Amid public threats from leaders of nuclear-armed nations to launch a nuclear war, the editors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists have set their “Doomsday Clock” at its closest ever to apocalypse.

War―particularly nuclear war―is probably the fastest way to extinguish the human race, but there are other crises underway that, on a longer-range basis, seem likely to accomplish the same task.

The most serious of these crises is environmental.  In recent decades, there has been a rapid loss of biodiversity, with the sixth mass extinction of wildlife clearly accelerating.  Pollution has grown dramatically.  This includes pollution of land and water caused by chemicals and by plastic (which takes 400 years to decompose) and of the air caused by industrial, motor vehicle, and other emissions (leading to an estimated 4.2 to 7 million human deaths annually).  Damage to the soil, caused especially by use of toxic chemicals and other pollutants, as well as by deforestation, has become particularly severe. The United Nations has estimated that some 40 percent of the planet’s soil is now degraded.

A key element in the environmental collapse is the growing climate catastrophe, caused primarily by the burning of fossil fuels.  Melting icecaps and rising sea levels, unprecedented hurricanes, floods, and wildfires, and ocean acidification are all well underway.  Together with unsustainable farming practices, rising temperatures have produced growing food and water scarcity.  UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres declared that, unless immediate action is taken, there will be a “global food emergency that could have long term impacts on hundreds of millions of adults and children.”  Furthermore, it is estimated that, by 2025, two-thirds of the world’s people might face water shortages.  Commenting on the deteriorating climate situation, Guterres declared gloomily in September 2023 that “humanity has opened the gates to hell.”

The rise of rightwing nationalism provides yet another challenge to human survival.  In recent years, rightwing political movements―headed by authoritarian demagogues such as Donald Trump (United States), Jair Bolsonaro (Brazil), Vladimir Putin (Russia), Narendra Modi (India), Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Turkey), Marine Le Pen (France), Benjamin Netanyahu (Israel), Viktor Orban (Hungary), and their counterparts in other lands―have transformed the landscape of world politics.  Appealing to xenophobia, militarism, racism, and religious prejudice, they have made great strides toward stirring up longstanding hatreds in their ruthless quest for power.  A key to their success along these lines has been their call to revive the ostensible glory of their own nations by purging their internal enemies and triumphing over other, ostensibly inferior, countries abroad.  Redolent of the fascist movements of the 1930s, this Radical Right approach portends worldwide turmoil, violence, and destruction.

Of course, it might not be too late to head off these developments.  After all, in the twentieth century, humanity did manage to defeat the drive of the rightwing maniacs who established fascist regimes and launched vast wars to rule the world.  In the aftermath of the chaos and destruction of World War II, humanity did manage to create the United Nations and to extend the range of international law.  And, still later, as the planet stood on the brink of nuclear war, humanity did manage to roll back the nuclear menace and, for a time, halt the nuclear arms race and curb the prevalence of war.

Moreover, there are a great many efforts underway―by social movements and some far-sighted governments―to address the contemporary crises.  Peace, environmental, and political action movements have flourished and brought forth demands for sweeping changes in public policy.  In addition, some social movements, recognizing the global nature of the problems facing humanity, have called for enhanced global governance to cope with the severe threats posed by war, environmental devastation, and violations of human rights. The Summit of the Future on the horizon in September 2024 has been hailed as a “once in a generation” opportunity for meaningful reform of the global governance architecture. This watershed moment could be seized as a chance to correct course and avert disaster for humanity and the planet.

Even so, as the world once again veers toward destruction, it’s clear that it’s getting late―very late―to avert catastrophe.

From the Partial Test Ban Treaty to a Nuclear Weapons-Free World

From the Partial Test Ban Treaty to a Nuclear Weapons-Free World

This September is the sixtieth anniversary of U.S. and Soviet ratification of the world’s first significant nuclear arms control agreement, the Partial Test Ban Treaty.  Thus, it’s an appropriate time to examine that treaty, as well as to consider what might be done to end the danger of nuclear annihilation.

The Rise of Public Pressure

Although the use, in 1945, of atomic bombs to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki unleashed a wave of public concern about human survival in the nuclear age, it declined with the emergence of the Cold War.  But another, even larger wave developed during the 1950s and early 1960s as the nuclear arms race surged forward.  At the time, the governments of the United States, the Soviet Union, and Britain engaged in testing a new nuclear device, the H-bomb, with a thousand times the power of the atomic bomb.

Many people found this situation alarming.  Not only did the advent of H-bombs point toward universal doom in a future war, but the testing of the weapons sent vast clouds of radioactive “fallout” into the atmosphere, where it drifted around the planet until it descended upon the populace below.  In 1957, Professor Linus Pauling, a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, predicted that, thanks to the nuclear tests already conducted, a million people would die early, and 200,000 children would be born with serious mental deficiency or physical defects.

In reaction to this growing menace, millions of people around the world began to resist nuclear weapons.  They formed new, activist organizations, including the National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy (better known as SANE) and Women Strike for Peace (in the United States), the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (in Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand), the Japan Council Against A & H Bombs and the Japan Congress Against A & H Bombs (in Japan), and the Struggle Against Atomic Death (in West Germany).  Even in the Soviet bloc, concerned scientists pressed for an end to the nuclear arms race.

Governments Reluctantly Begin to Alter Public Policy

Government officials in nuclear-armed nations, troubled by the rising agitation, as well as by opinion polls showing widespread popular distaste for nuclear testing, nuclear weapons, and nuclear war, gradually began to adapt their policies to the demands of the public.  Meeting with top scientists in the U.S. nuclear weapons program, U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower told them that the U.S. government was “up against an extremely difficult world opinion situation” and that the country “could not permit itself to be ‘crucified on a cross of atoms.’”  If U.S. nuclear testing continued, U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles warned the president, “the slight military gains” would be “outweighed by the political losses.” 

Accordingly, in 1958, the Soviet, American, and British governments halted nuclear testing while beginning negotiations for a test ban treaty.  Failing to secure an agreement, they resumed nuclear tests in 1961, which led to nuclear testing remaining a very hot political issue for people and governments alike.

Into this controversy stepped Norman Cousins, the editor of a widely-read public affairs magazine, the Saturday Review and, also, ardent world federalist and founder and co-chair of SANE.  During a lengthy meeting at the White House with President John F. Kennedy in November 1962, Cousins inquired if the president would like him to meet with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to try to smooth the diplomatic path toward a nuclear test ban treaty.  Kennedy responded affirmatively and, in the following months, Cousins shuttled back and forth between the two world leaders.  Ultimately, Cousins overcame Khrushchev’s suspicions of Kennedy and, then, convinced Kennedy to deliver a major speech with “a breathtaking new approach” to Soviet-American relations. 

This American University address, partially written by Cousins, proved an immediate success with Khrushchev.  Test ban negotiations commenced in Moscow during July 1963, resulting in the Partial Test Ban Treaty―banning nuclear testing in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water.

The Significance of the Treaty and Its Successors

From the standpoint of ending the nuclear arms race, the treaty had its limitations.  Because the treaty left unaddressed the issue of nuclear testing underground, the nuclear powers and aspiring nuclear powers simply shifted nuclear tests to this new locale.  Furthermore, with nuclear fallout no longer a major public concern, popular pressure to halt nuclear testing―and, thereby, choke off the arms race―declined.

Nevertheless, the Partial Test Ban Treaty proved a turning point in world history.  Together with the nuclear disarmament campaign that produced the treaty, it reduced Cold War hostility and ushered in a period of détente between the U.S. and Soviet governments.  Furthermore, widespread nuclear proliferation, which seemed imminent at the time, failed to materialize.  Even today, sixty years later, there are only nine nuclear powers. 

Most important, the treaty demonstrated that nuclear arms control and disarmament were feasible.  And so a host of treaties followed that substantially reduced nuclear dangers.  These included the Nonproliferation Treaty, Strategic Arms Limitation Treaties, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties, and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.  Through these treaties, as well as through unilateral action―both spurred on by popular pressure―the number of nuclear weapons in the world dropped sharply, from 70,000 to roughly 12,500.  Meanwhile, nuclear war became increasingly unthinkable.

Nuclear Revival and Resistance

Of course, in recent years, with the decline of popular pressure against nuclear weapons, the prospect of nuclear annihilation has revived.  Disarmament treaties have been scrapped, a new nuclear arms race has begun, and reckless leaders of nuclear nations have publicly threatened nuclear war.  Although a UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force in 2021, the nine nuclear powers have resisted signing it.

Even so, it remains possible to get nations back on track toward international security.  Citizens for Global Solutions has signed on to a joint statement for the forthcoming Nonproliferation Treaty conference that calls for a Common Security framework approach as an alternative to nuclear deterrence.  The statement was presented at the recent NPT preparatory conference by the chair of the World Federalist Movement and has been endorsed by 170 organizations.  In a few weeks, CGS will also co-host a parliamentary delegation from Japan and the Republic of Korea that will be welcomed by U.S. Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), one of the staunchest congressional advocates of nuclear disarmament. 

Furthermore, the treaty process provides a useful route toward a nuclear-free world.   As the Partial Test Ban Treaty and its successors show us, arms control and disarmament treaties have helped to curb the nuclear arms race and prevent nuclear war.  The revived march toward nuclear catastrophe can be halted and reversed by a treaty finally banning nuclear weapons―if people will demand it.

Daniel Ellsberg Remembrance (1931-2023)

Daniel Ellsberg Remembrance (1931-2023)

One of the most wonderful qualities about Daniel Ellsberg, (1931-2023), is that unlike too many of us he got better and better as he grew older.  Maybe we all hope we will — even if we fail to fully meet that goal — but he is a genuine hero in American history who truly got wiser and wiser throughout his long life.

For many years during my working life in Washington, D.C. when I was running an idea salon and representing philanthropist Stewart Mott in a historic building just behind the Capitol between the Supreme Court and the Senate Office buildings, Dan Ellsberg was a frequent visitor to 122 Maryland Avenue.  During the 1970’s and ’80’s I would encounter him walking the halls on the first, second and third floors, meeting with Morton Halperin, Admirals Gene laRocque and Gene Carroll and others who were running Fund for Peace Projects which were our tenants in this four-story 1820 building.  He was intense, focused and friendly.  Everybody around here was engaged in peace efforts, military reform, national security and foreign policy rethinking.  It was a veritable hotbed of good ideas for policies to make our country more open, honest, accountable as well as instrumental in getting us to a better world.  The US Pentagon’s first famous cost overruns whistleblower, A. Ernest Fitzgerald, another frequent visitor liked to joke that this was the House of Un-American Activities — but it was in fact exactly the opposite.

Dan Ellsberg had not always been an anti-nuclear analyst and advocate.  After Harvard (summa cum laude in economics), a stint at Cambridge University in England and a PhD from Harvard, he worked for the US State Department as a nuclear war planner, and went to South Vietnam and then to the RAND Corporation, contributing to a 47-volume study of classified documents on the conduct of the Vietnam War that was completed in 1968.

I was privileged to know two of his associates who influenced his later life.  Anthony (Tony) Russo who was also employed by RAND when he worked with Ellsberg to make multiple copies of the Pentagon Papers as that huge 1968 study had come to be known.  Randy Kehler, also a member of Citizens for Global Solutions  National Advisory Council (CGS NAC), first influenced Ellsberg at a conference in 1969 when he said he was going to prison for draft resistance against the Vietnam War.  He said it was the right thing to do.  And Ellsberg wrote later that ‘if I hadn’t met Randy Kehler it wouldn’t have occurred to me to copy (the Pentagon Papers).’  Later that year the deed was done.  But it was made public by The New York Times in 1971.

Among his several books, his most recent, The Doomsday Machine was first published in 2017.  Dan Ellsberg asked me to read it and see what I thought in 2019.  A wonderful read!  We had a number of deep conversations and that was when I thought he would be a great member of the CGS NAC.  He readily agreed.  In this last book he discusses the intolerable dangers to the survival of a civilization that nuclear weapons pose if used.  In all the years since the end of the Cold War, Ellsberg points out that we still have these Doomsday systems in place.  He quotes Martin Luther King observing that ‘There is no such a thing as being too late.’  He also offers a lead quotation from Albert Einstein in 1946 (another former NAC member), ‘The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.’

Ellsberg was awarded the Ron Ridenhour Inaugural Courage Prize in 2004, among numerous other honors.  We were fortunate to have him with us on our CGS National Advisory Council in his last years as he symbolizes a big, influential thinker for our time and our future.

Photo credit: Edward Kimmel from Takoma Park, creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

J. Robert Oppenheimer’s Tragedy―and Ours

J. Robert Oppenheimer’s Tragedy―and Ours

The July 21, 2023 theatrical release of the film Oppenheimer, focused on the life of a prominent American nuclear physicist, should help to remind us of how badly the development of modern weapons has played out for individuals and for all of humanity.

Oppenheimer’s Rise and Fall

Based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning biography, American Prometheus, written by Kai Bird and the late Martin Sherwin, the film tells the story of the rise and fall of young J. Robert Oppenheimer, recruited by the U.S. government during World War II to direct the construction and testing of the world’s first atomic bomb at Los Alamos, New Mexico.  His success in these ventures was followed shortly thereafter by President Truman’s ordering the use of nuclear weapons to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

During the immediate postwar years, Oppenheimer, widely lauded as “the father of the atomic bomb,” attained extraordinary power for a scientist within U.S. government ranks, including as chair of the General Advisory Committee of the new Atomic Energy Commission (AEC).

But his influence ebbed as his ambivalence about nuclear weapons grew.  In the fall of 1945, during a meeting at the White House with Truman, Oppenheimer said: “Mr. President, I feel I have blood on my hands.”  Incensed, Truman later told Assistant Secretary of State Dean Acheson that Oppenheimer had become “a crybaby” and that he didn’t want “to see that son of a bitch in this office ever again.”

Oppenheimer was also disturbed by the emerging nuclear arms race and, like many atomic scientists, championed the international control of atomic energy.  Indeed, in late 1949, the entire General Advisory Committee of the AEC came out in opposition to the U.S. development of the H-bomb―although the president, ignoring this recommendation, approved developing the new weapon and adding it to the rapidly growing U.S. nuclear arsenal.

In these circumstances, figures with considerably less ambivalence about nuclear weapons took action to purge Oppenheimer from power.  In December 1953, shortly after becoming chair of the AEC, Lewis Strauss, a fervent champion of a U.S. nuclear buildup, ordered Oppenheimer’s security clearance suspended.  Anxious to counter implications of disloyalty, Oppenheimer appealed the decision and, in subsequent hearings before the AEC’s Personnel Security Board, faced grueling questioning not only about his criticism of nuclear weapons, but about his relationships decades before with individuals who had been Communist Party members.

Ultimately, the AEC ruled that Oppenheimer was a security risk, an official determination that added to his public humiliation, completed his removal from government service, and delivered a shattering blow to his meteoric career.

The Threat to Human Survival

Of course, the development of nuclear weapons had far broader consequences than the downfall of J. Robert Oppenheimer.  In addition to killing more than 200,000 people and injuring many more in Japan, the advent of nuclear weaponry led nations around the world to enter a fierce nuclear arms race. By the 1980s, spurred on by conflicts among the major powers, 70,000 nuclear weapons had come into existence, with the potential to destroy virtually all life on earth.

Fortunately, a massive grassroots citizens campaign emerged to counter this drive toward a nuclear apocalypse.  And it succeeded in pressuring reluctant governments into an array of nuclear arms control and disarmament treaties, as well as unilateral actions, to reduce nuclear dangers.  As a result, by 2023 the number of nuclear weapons had declined to roughly 12,500.

Nevertheless, in recent years, thanks to a sharp decrease in citizen activism and increase in international conflict, the potential for nuclear war has dramatically revived.  All nine nuclear powers (Russia, the United States, China, Britain, France, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea) are currently engaged in upgrading their nuclear arsenals with new production facilities and new, improved nuclear weapons.  During 2022, these governments poured nearly $83 billion into this nuclear buildup.  Public threats to initiate nuclear war, including those by Donald Trump, Kim Jong Un, and Vladimir Putin, have become more common.  The hands of the Doomsday Clock of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, established in 1946, now stand at 90 seconds to midnight―the most dangerous setting in its history.

Not surprisingly, the nuclear powers display little interest in further action for nuclear arms control and disarmament.  The two nations possessing some 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons―Russia (with the most) and the United States (not far behind)―have pulled out of nearly all such agreements with one another.  Although the U.S. government has proposed extending the New Start Treaty (which limits the number of strategic nuclear weapons) with Russia, Putin reportedly responded this June that Russia would not engage in any nuclear disarmament talks with the West, commenting:  “We possess more weaponry of such sort than the NATO countries.  They know that and are always trying to persuade us to start negotiations on reduction.  Nuts to them . . . as our people say.”  The Chinese government―whose nuclear arsenal, while growing substantially, still ranks a distant third in numbers―has stated that it sees no reason for China to engage in any nuclear arms control talks.

The Demand for a Nuclear Weapons-Free World

To head off a looming nuclear catastrophe, non-nuclear nations have been championing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).  Adopted by an overwhelming vote of nations at a UN conference in July 2017, the TPNW bans developing, testing, producing, acquiring, possessing, stockpiling, and threatening to use nuclear weapons.  The treaty went into force in January 2021 and―though opposed by all the nuclear powers―it has thus far been signed by 92 nations and ratified by 68 of themBrazil and Indonesia are likely to ratify it in the near future.  Polls have found that the TPNW has substantial support in numerous countries, including the United States and other NATO nations.

Numerous organizations are working to create a nuclear weapons-free world, including Citizens for Global Solutions, Peace Action, and Physicians for Social Responsibility in the United States and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the International Peace Bureau, Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament (PNND), and Parliamentarians for Global Action on the international level.

There does remain some hope, then, that the nuclear tragedy that engulfed J. Robert Oppenheimer and has long threatened the survival of world civilization can still be averted.

Tanner Willis

Tanner Willis

Operations Officer

Tanner Willis has a master’s degree from United Nations Institute of Training and Research (UNITAR) in international affairs and diplomacy. During his time at UNITAR he has been part of two fellowships, one with Al Fusaic as an information and communication technology and international affairs fellow. Al Fusaic is a non-profit who aims to provide education and career advancement to promote peace and security in Southwest Asia and North African region. His second graduate fellowship was with the United Nations Association – National Capital Area (UNA-NCA). UNA-NCA advocates alongside UNA-USA for further partnership with the United States and the United Nations to achieve goals surrounding global issues and uphold the UN charter.

Tanner’s research experience focuses on how information & communications technology influences social and political dynamics with civil society and their relationship with governments. His experience will help CGS utilize digital technologies to promote CGS' mission in promoting peace, international law, and human rights in a responsible and ethical manner. 

In his spare time Tanner is an avid basketball fan of his home team of the University of Kentucky Wildcats. He has played, refereed, broadcasted, and coached basketball and enjoys all levels of the game. He also loves going to art museums, hiking, and traveling with his wife

Bruce Knotts

Bruce Knotts

President

Bruce Knotts was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ethiopia, worked for Raytheon in Saudi Arabia (1976-80) and on a World Bank contract in Somalia (1982-4), before he joined the Department of State as a U.S. diplomat in 1984. Bruce had diplomatic assignments in Greece, Zambia, India, Pakistan, Kenya, Sudan, Cote d’Ivoire and The Gambia, where he served as Deputy Chief of Mission. While in Cote d’Ivoire, Bruce served as the Regional Refugee Coordinator for West Africa. Bruce worked closely with several UN Special Representatives and observed UN peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone from 2000-2003. Bruce retired from the Foreign Service in 2007 and began directing the Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office (UU-UNO) in 2008. Bruce founded faith-based advocacy for sexual orientation/gender identity human rights at the United Nations and continues to advocate for the rights of women, indigenous peoples and for sustainable development in moral terms of faith and values. Bruce is co-chair of the UN NGO Committee on Human Rights, the chair of the NGO Committee on Disarmament, Peace and Security, a member of steering committee of the NGO UN Security Council Working Group. Bruce retired from the UUA September 30, 2022. Bruce is currently the UN representative of the International Convocation of Unitarian Universalist Women. In 2006, Bruce and Isaac Humphrie were wed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

James Lowell May

James Lowell May

Program Officer

James May is a programme and project development specialist. He has lived in Serbia since 2005, and prior to joining Citizens for Global Solutions, worked across the Western Balkans on a broad range of issues including human, minority and child rights, accountability for war crimes and crimes against humanity, Holocaust commemoration, democratic participation, social justice and economic empowerment, and environmental restoration.

James began working in the Western Balkans on issues related to accountability for human rights violations, first for the Youth Initiative for Human Rights, a coalition of NGOs active in the countries of the former Yugoslavia, as the network’s development coordinator, then the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights, leading a research project documenting the nomenclatural of the Milosevic Regime, and then the Federation of Jewish Communities in Serbia, running a Holocaust research and education project.

James then transitioned from accountability to efforts to protect and fulfil the rights of marginalised communities. For a decade James worked for the Centre for Youth Integration, an NGO that provides specialized services for children and youth in street situations in Belgrade, where he began as a volunteer before taking up a permanent role, while concurrently volunteering for community mental health organizations, as well as consultancy work for a number of local and international organizations, and most recently branched out to apply his experience to the environmental sector, focussing on social impact assessments and community-oriented nature-based solutions projects.

James has a degree in Archaeology from University College London. He was born and grew up in Great Britain. He is an avid cyclist.

Honorable David J. Scheffer

Honorable David J. Scheffer

Former U.S. Ambassador

Amb. David J. Scheffer is senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), with a focus on international law and international criminal justice. Scheffer was the Mayer Brown/Robert A. Helman Professor of Law (2006-2020) and is Director Emeritus of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University Pritzker School of Law. He is Professor of Practice at Arizona State University (Washington offices). He was Vice-President of the American Society of International Law (2020-2022) and held the International Francqui Professorship at KU Leuven in Belgium in 2022. From 2012 to 2018 he was the UN Secretary-General’s Special Expert on UN Assistance to the Khmer Rouge Trials, and he was the Tom A. Bernstein Genocide Prevention Fellow working with the Ferencz International Justice Initiative at the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (2019-2021).

During the second term of the Clinton Administration (1997-2001), Scheffer was the first ever U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues and led the U.S. delegation to the UN talks establishing the International Criminal Court (ICC). He signed the Rome Statute of the ICC on behalf of the United States on December 31, 2000. He negotiated the creation of five war crimes tribunals: the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, the Special Court for Sierra Leone, the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia, and the ICC. He chaired the Atrocities Prevention Inter-Agency Working Group (1998-2001). During the first term of the Clinton Administration (1993-1997), Scheffer served as senior advisor and counsel to the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Dr. Madeleine Albright, and he served on the Deputies Committee of the National Security Council. Ambassador Scheffer received an A.B. (Government and Economics) from Harvard College, B.A. (Honour School of Jurisprudence) from Oxford University (where he was a Knox Fellow), and LL.M. (International and Comparative Law) from Georgetown University Law Center.

Alex Andrei

Alex Andrei

Director of Technology and Design

Alex is an experienced professional in designing digital products, managing online applications, and providing IT consulting services. Their background is in working with online applications design, digital accessibility, learning management platforms, user experience and interface design for online and mobile applications. They have over 10 years of experience working with higher-education institutions, nonprofits, and business.

He believes that in today’s rapidly evolving landscape, organizations need to adapt and thrive in the digital realm to gain a competitive edge and be as successful as they can be. Alex specializes in supporting organizations in their digital transformation initiatives and creating effective user experiences and driving efficiency through technology to empower people.

As Director of Technology and Design, Alex focuses on identifying opportunities to integrate various technologies in ongoing operations and new initiatives at CGS to support programs, partners, and team members in achieving their goals.

Alex has a passion strategically leveraging cutting edge technologies to maximize the value of what can be done with limited resources to create a lasting impact and great experiences for people.

Jon Kozesky

Jon Kozesky

Director of Development 

Jon brings over 17 years of experience in development and fundraising in both the public and private sectors.  He started his career in politics working in the Ohio Statehouse and later in the office of U.S. Congressman Steven LaTourette, as well as former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. After leaving Capitol Hill, Jon pursued his passion of helping nonprofits secure the resources they needed to best serve their constituents. This passion led to his founding of Jon Thomas Consulting, a boutique nonprofit management and development firm serving organizations across the United States and throughout the world in streamlining their processes and maximizing their revenue growth through grant writing, government affairs, donor stewardship, and major event planning.

Prior to his fundraising career, Jon proudly served his community as a firefighter and water rescue diver. In his personal time, Jon is a champion competitive sailor and a bit of a thrill-seeker, having skydived and bungee jumped on 6 continents.

Jacopo Demarinis

Social Media & Communications Coordinator

Jacopo De Marinis is a 2022 graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he majored in Public Policy and Law, and is pursuing a career in peacebuilding and conflict resolution. While studying at UIUC, he co-founded a student chapter of Chicago Area Peace Action, CAPA UIUC, and spearheaded student campaigns for climate justice, justice for Black farmers, and a Chicago Department of Peacebuilding. He currently sits on the boards of Anne's Haven, a Chicago community-based organization dedicated to women's empowerment, and Chicago Area Peace Action. Jacopo has published articles on topics including conflict diplomacy, US-China relations, and United Nations reform in CounterPunch, Countercurrents, the LA Progressive, and on the Nepal Institute for International Cooperation and Engagement's website, among others. Jacopo joined the CGS team in September of 2022, as he strongly believes that stronger global governance and UN reform is necessary if we are to realize a more peaceful and just world.

Marvin Perry

Accounting Manager

Marvin has been working in the areas of HIV/AIDS, international peace and human rights. He has worked with both national and international non-profits in the DC area. Marvin brings years of experience in non-profit finance and administration. Marvin is a certified human resources professional and holds an MBA from Howard University School of Business.

Peter Orvetti

Communications Consultant

Peter Orvetti is an editor and political analyst who has spent most of his career providing daily intelligence briefings for the White House across four presidential administrations, as well as multiple Cabinet agencies, trade associations, and Fortune 500 companies. He is the author of several “Young People’s Guides” to various U.S. federal elections and is a former daily columnist for NBC Universal’s Washington, D.C., website.

He has been involved with CGS and other world federalist organizations for more than a decade and publishes the daily “One World Digest” email newsletter. He is also a theater reviewer and an actor in both professional and amateur productions.

Drea Bergman

Director of Programs

Drea Bergman has been shaping world citizens developing global youth programs as Director of Programs for CGS. She is a public policy researcher with master’s degrees from Maastricht Graduate School of Governance and the United Nations University-MERIT (Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology). She specializes in evidenced-based public policy programs using mixed-methods research and has focused especially on spearheading digital transformation for a variety of NGOs and foundations. Some of her other projects have included research in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. More recently, she has lent her expertise by providing strategic planning for social enterprise start-ups.

Bob Flax

CGS Education Fund President

Bob Flax, Ph.D. is the former Executive Director of Citizens for Global Solutions (now retired). He has spent a lifetime addressing human suffering, first as a psychologist, then as an organization development consultant, and for more than a decade, as a global activist through the World Federalist Movement. He also teaches in the Transformative Social Change Program at Saybrook University.

Bob has a B.A. in Psychology and Philosophy from New York University (1977), an M.A. in Psychology from Long Island University (1980), a Ph.D. in Psychology from Saybrook Institute (1992), an M.A. in Organization Development from Sonoma State University (2007), a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University (2015) and a Diploma in Global Leadership at the UN Peace University in Costa Rica (2019).

Bob’s love of adventure has led him to international trekking, scuba diving, and climbing the tallest mountains on 3 continents. He also maintains a Buddhist meditation practice and lives in a co-housing community in Northern California.

Rebecca A. Shoot

Executive Director

Rebecca A. Shoot is an international lawyer and democracy and governance practitioner with more than 15 years of experience in the non-governmental, inter-governmental, and private sectors supporting human rights, democratic processes, and the rule of law on five continents.

In nearly a decade with the National Democratic Institute (NDI), Rebecca held numerous positions in headquarters and the field supporting and leading democracy and governance programs in Central and Eastern Europe and Southern and East Africa. She subsequently moved to a leadership role steering NDI’s Governance projects globally and directing programming for the bipartisan House Democracy Partnership of the U.S. House of Representatives. Rebecca created a global parliamentary campaign for Democratic Renewal and Human Rights as Senior Advisor to Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA), an international network of legislators committed to collaboration to promote democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. Prior to that, she directed PGA’s International Law and Human Rights Programme and ran PGA’s office in The Hague. Most recently, she helmed global programming to promote gender equality and criminal justice reform for the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI).

Rebecca has spoken at high-level conferences and events on five continents (and increasingly, globally through online platforms). Her publications include the first Global Parliamentary Report (IPU & UNDP 2012), Political Parties in Democratic Transitions (DIPD 2012), and Navigating between Scylla and Charybdis: How the International Criminal Court Turned Restraint Into Power Play (Emory Int’l L. Rev. 2018), which was honored with the Emory International Law Review’s Founder’s Award for Excellence in Legal Research and Writing.

Rebecca is admitted to practice law in the District of Columbia and is a member of several bar associations, including the American Branch of the International Law Association (ABILA), where she serves as Advocacy Director for the International Criminal Court (ICC) Committee. She served as a Visiting Professional in the Presidency of the ICC and has provided pro bono legal expertise to The Carter Center, International Refugee Assistance Project, United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, and U.S. Marine Corps University, where she helped develop the international humanitarian law curriculum.

Rebecca earned a Juris Doctorate with Honors from Emory University School of Law, where she received several academic distinctions, including the David J. Bederman Fellowship in International Law and Conley-Ingram Scholarship for Public Interest Leadership. She earned a Master of Science in Democracy & Democratisation from University College London School of Public Policy and a Bachelor of Arts Magna Cum Laude in Political Science from Kenyon College. She holds certificates in Conflict Analysis from the U.S. Institute of Peace and in Public International Law from The Hague Academy of International Law.

As Executive Director of CGS, Rebecca will continue her current role as Co-Convener of the Washington Working Group for the International Criminal Court (WICC), a diverse coalition of human rights organizations, legal associations, former government officials, and leading legal professionals. CGS and WICC have a rich and intertwined history that this dual appointment brings full circle, with CGS formerly serving as host for the coalition and with several current and former common Board and National Advisory Committee members.

She also acts, directs, and writes for the theater.

Helen Caldicott

Physician, Author, and Speaker

Helen Caldicott is a physician, author, and anti-nuclear advocate. She founded several associations dedicated to opposing the use of nuclear power, depleted uranium munitions, nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons proliferation, and military action in general. In 1980, she founded the Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament (WAND), which was later renamed Women’s Action for New Directions. In 2008, she founded the Helen Caldicott Foundation for a Nuclear Free Future.

Blanche Wiesen Cook

Blanche Wiesen Cook

Professor, Author, and Historian

Blanche Wiesen Cook is a Distinguished Professor of History and Women’s Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York. She is author of a three-volume biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, as well as The Declassified Eisenhower: A Divided Legacy of Peace and Political Warfare.

David Cortright

Author, Activist, and Leader

David Cortright is director of Policy Studies at the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame and chair of the Board of the Fourth Freedom Forum. In 1977, Cortright was named the executive director of he Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy (SANE), which under his direction became the largest disarmament organization in the U.S. Cortright initiated the 1987 merger of SANE and the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign and served for a time as co-director of the merged organization. In 2002, he helped to found the Win Without War coalition in opposition to the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

He is the author or co-editor of 19 books including Waging Peace in Vietnam: U.S. Soldiers and Veterans Who Opposed the WarGandhi and Beyond: Nonviolence for a New Political Age, and Peace: A History of Movements and Ideas.

Andrea Cousins

Andrea Cousins

Psychologist, Psychoanalyst, and Anthropologist

Andrea Cousins is a psychologist and psychoanalyst who has practiced for more than 30 years. She has a doctorate in anthropology from Harvard University and a Doctor of Psychology degree from the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology. Her father, journalist and peace activist Norman Cousins, served as president of the World Federalist Association and chairman of the Committee for Sane Nuclear Policy, and was honored with recognitions including the United Nations Peace Medal.

Gary Dorrien

Gary Dorrien

Professor, Author, Social Ethicist

Gary Dorrien is the Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics at Union Theological Seminary and Professor of Religion at Columbia University. An Episcopal priest, he has taught as the Paul E. Raither Distinguished Scholar at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and as Horace De Y. Lentz Visiting Professor at Harvard Divinity School. He is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America’s Religion and Socialism Commission and the author of 18 books on ethics, social theory, philosophy, theology, politics, and intellectual history.

Daniel Ellsberg

Lecturer, Writer, and Activist

Daniel Ellsberg is a political activist and former military analyst. While employed by the RAND Corporation, Ellsberg precipitated a national political controversy in 1971 when he released the Pentagon Papers, a top-secret Pentagon study of the U.S. government decision-making in relation to the Vietnam War, to The New York Times, The Washington Post and other newspapers.

Since the end of the Vietnam War, Ellsberg has continued his political activism, giving lecture tours and speaking out about current events. Ellsberg was awarded the Right Livelihood Award in 2006. In 2018, he was awarded the 2018 Olof Palme Prize for his “profound humanism and exceptional moral courage.”

Oscar Andrew Hammerstein

Oscar Andrew Hammerstein

Painter, Writer, Lecturer, and Historian

Oscar Andrew Hammerstein is a painter, writer, and lecturer. He has taught graduate-level courses on New York theatre history and general musical theatre history as an adjunct professor at Columbia University. He is the author of The Hammersteins: A Musical Theatre Family.

Randy Kehler

Randy Kehler

Pacifist Activist

Randy Kehler is a pacifist activist who served 22 months in prison for returning his draft card in 1969 and refusing to seek exemption as a conscientious objector, seeing that as a form of cooperation with the Vietnam war effort. He played a key role in persuading Daniel Ellsberg to release the Pentagon Papers, and later served as executive director of the National Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign. Kehler and his wife Betsy Corner refused to pay taxes for military expenditures, resulting in the federal seizure of their Massachusetts home in 1989. They continue to withhold their federal income taxes.

Gordon Orians

Gordon Orians

Ecologist

Gordon Orians, an ornithologist and ecologist for more than half a century, has focused his work on behavioral ecology and the relationships between ecology and social organization, as well as on the interface between science and public policy. He was director of the University of Washington Seattle’s Institute for Environmental Studies for a decade and has also served on the Board of Directors of the World Wildlife Fund and on state boards of the Nature Conservancy and Audubon.

Orians was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 1989 and to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1990.

William Pace

International Organizer

William Pace was the founding convenor of the Coalition for an International Criminal Court (ICC) and a co-founder of the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect. He has been engaged in international justice, rule of law, environmental law, and human rights for four decades, serving as executive director of the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy, secretary-general of the Hague Appeal for Peace, director of the Center for the Development of International Law, and director of Section Relations of the Concerts for Human Rights Foundation at Amnesty International, among other roles. He is the recipient of the William J. Butler Human Rights Medal from the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on the ICC.

James T. Ranney

Professor, International Legal Consultant, and Author

James T. Ranney is an adjunct professor of international law at Widener Law School. He co-founded the Jeannette Rankin Peace Center in Montana and served as a legal consultant to the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. He has written extensively on the abolition of nuclear weapons and the establishment of international dispute resolution mechanisms.

Rick Ulfik

Rick Ulfik

The Founder of WE, The World, and the WE Campaign

Rick Ulfik is the founder of We, The World, an international coalition-building organization whose Mission is to maximize social change globally. He and his organization work closely with the New York Center for Nonviolent Communication, where he has been a facilitator since 2004. He is also the co-creator of the annual 11 Days of Global Unity - 11 Ways to Change the World, September 11-21.

He is an award-winning composer and keyboard player who has written, arranged, produced and orchestrated music for television networks, feature films, commercials, and albums. He has performed with Queen Latifah, Phoebe Snow, Carlos Santana, Bernadette Peters, and Judy Collins.

John Stowe

Bishop

John Stowe is the Roman Catholic bishop of the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky. He is a member of the Order of Friars Minor Conventual, a mendicant religious order founded by Francis of Assisi. In 2015, Pope Francis appointed Stowe bishop of the Diocese of Lexington. He is the Episcopal President of the U.S. board of Pax Christi, an international Catholic Christian peace movement with a focus on human rights, disarmament, nonviolence, and related issues.

Barbara Smith

Author, Activist, and Scholar

Barbara Smith has played a significant role in Black feminism in the U.S. for more than 50 years. She taught at numerous colleges and universities for 25 years and has been published in a wide range of publications including The New York Times Book ReviewMs.Gay Community NewsThe Village Voice, and The Nation.

Among her many honors are the African American Policy Forum Harriet Tubman Lifetime Achievement Award, the Lambda Literary Award, and the Stonewall Award for Service to the Lesbian and Gay Community. In 2014, SUNY Press published Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith.

William J. Ripple

Conservationist, Author, and Professor

William J. Ripple is a Distinguished Professor of Ecology in the Department of Forest Ecosystems and Society at Oregon State University. He has published two books and has authored more than 200 scientific journal articles on topics including conservation, ecology, wildlife, and climate change. He was the co-lead author on the 2020 paper “The World Scientists’ Warning of a Climate Emergency,” which was endorsed by more than 14,000 scientist signatories from around the world. He is the director of the Alliance of World Scientists, which has approximately 26,000 scientist members from 180 countries.

Mark Ritchie

President, Global Minnesota

Mark Ritchie is president of Global Minnesota, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization devoted to advancing international understanding and engagement. He served as Minnesota secretary of state from 2007 to 2015. Since leaving elected public service, he has led the public-private partnership working to bring the 2027 World Expo to Minnesota and he has served on the board of directors for LifeSource, Communicating for America, U.S. Vote Foundation, and Expo USA. He is also a national advisory board member of the federal Election Assistance Commission.

Kim Stanley Robinson

Author

Kim Stanley Robinson is the author of many works of science fiction, including the internationally bestselling Mars trilogy, and more recently Red Moon, New York 2140, and The Ministry for the Future. His work has been translated into 25 languages, and won awards including the Hugo, Nebula, and World Fantasy awards. In 2016, asteroid 72432 was named “Kimrobinson.”

Leila Nadya Sadat

Special Advisor to the ICC Chief Prosecutor, Professor, Author

Leila Sadat is the James Carr Professor of International Criminal Law at Washington University School of Law and the director of the Whitney R. Harris World Law Institute. She is an internationally recognized expert on the International Criminal Court (ICC) and served as Special Advisor on Crimes Against Humanity to Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda of the ICC. She is also the director of the Crimes Against Humanity Initiative, a multi-year project to study the problem of crimes against humanity and draft a comprehensive convention addressing their punishment and prevention. She is a former member of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, served as the Alexis de Tocqueville Distinguished Fulbright Chair at the University of Cergy-Pontoise in Paris, and is the author of several books.

Martin Sheen

Martin Sheen

Actor, Activist, and Leader

Martin Sheen is an Emmy Award-winning and Golden Globe Award-winning actor who has worked with directors including Francis Ford Coppola and Oliver Stone, in addition to starring as the U.S. president on the long-running television drama “The West Wing.” In his early days as a struggling actor in New York, he met activist Dorothy Day, beginning his lifelong commitment to social justice.

The self-described pacifist was an early opponent of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and has been a consistent opponent of nuclear arms. As honorary mayor of Malibu, California in 1989, he declared the city a nuclear-free zone. Nearly 20 years later, Sheen was arrested during a protest at the Nevada Test Site. Sheen said in 2009 that he had been arrested 66 times for acts of civil disobedience, leading one activist to declare Sheen to have “a rap sheet almost as long as his list of film credits.”

Sheen has also been active in anti-genocide and pro-immigrant causes, as well as in the environmental movement. In 2010, he told a crowd of young people, “While acting is what I do for a living, activism is what I do to stay alive.” In a 1963 episode of “The Outer Limits,” he portrayed a future astronaut wearing a large breast patch that read “UE. Unified Earth.”