Sixty-one years ago, at the height of the Cold War, Nova Scotia philanthropist and industrialist Cyrus Eaton brought 22 leading scientists from the around the world to the Pugwash Thinkers’ Lodge to address the threat of nuclear war.
Inspired by this historic meeting, a smaller group of leaders met recently at the Lodge to address climate change, today’s existential threat. This meeting was initiated by Eaton’s grandchildren, John and Cathy Eaton, and Nova Scotia’s Centre for Local Prosperity, led by Robert Cervelli and Gregory Heming.
In 1957, scientists urged the world’s governments to act immediately on nuclear proliferation. They launched a worldwide movement and were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995.
In their final statement, the Pugwash Declaration, of the weekend, they identified a list of actions everyone in Atlantic Canada can immediately take to lessen the impacts and decrease the risks and subsequent harm from global warming. Each invitee provided an uncompromising assessment of the impacts of climate change.
“It’s a silent summer,” said Phil Ferraro, an organic farmer and co-director of the Institute for Bioregional Studies in P.E.I., in a press release issued following the weekend. “After working in Cuba, I recognized the deafening silence in rural Prince Edward Island, not just because of the absence of people but also because of the decline in numbers of insects and songbirds.“
“In Atlantic Canada – as around the world – we need to step up and care for ailing Mother Earth. Without a healthy planet, we all perish,” said Cervelli.
Given that bleak reality, the meeting focused on positive action.
“We can eat our way out of climate change by turning away from industrial farming,” said Lil MacPherson, co-owner of the Wooden Monkey restaurants in Halifax and Dartmouth.
Betsy Allard, a member of the Centre for Local Prosperity’s board of directors, said municipal planners in rural communities need to put climate change at the top of their priority list.
“And there is so much they can do to protect water, farmland, forests, and to create jobs for millennials.”
“Climate change must be at the centre of every single provincial and municipal policy,” added Heming, municipal councillor in Annapolis County. “All levels of government must work with and not against each other. We are all in this together.”
The Pugwash Declaration
“The Thinkers’ Climate Change Conference agrees that all people have the right to: live in a healthy environment; have access to clean air, water, nutritious food, and green spaces; know about pollutants and contaminants used and released in their local environment; participate in decision-making that will affect their environment.”
To face climate change, the Thinkers note in the Pugwash Declaration there are a number of things governments at all levels must do, including examining all Environmental Impact Assessments through a climate change lens, accounting for greenhouse gas emissions, atmospheric temperature and sea level rise, changes in ocean currents, acidity and overall ocean health, loss of biodiversity, and more extreme weather events.
The declaration also lists ideas surrounding actions the public can take, what municipal governments and communities can do, and what the province should be looking at. Some ideas are published, however for the full Pugwash Declaration, visit centreforlocalprosperity.ca.
What can individuals do?
- – Conduct a home energy assessment.
- – Look for ways of saving energy.
- – Switch to renewable energy.
- – Be mindful of purchases
What can communities or municipal governments do?
- – Make climate change a priority in planning strategies and land-use bylaws.
- – Offer a municipal financing program for energy efficiency and renewable energy.
- – Facilitate community gardening.
- – Encourage walking, bicycling, and public transit.
On the provincial level:
- – Make climate change the top priority of government planning and policy-making.
- – Recognize the rights of nature are no different from human rights, as other countries have done.
- – Create farming practice incentives that reverse climate change and promote good land-use stewardship.
- – Implement and fund ecological and high-value forestry practices; ban clearcutting, whole-tree harvesting, and herbicide spraying.
- – Remove open-pen fish farms from coastal waters and inland waterways; support inshore fisheries and land-based aquaculture.