Since Peter Agre's talk on Saturday, I have thought a lot about the "science as a path to peace" comment.
In searching the internet on the topic of science diplomacy, I came across a website page of The Royal Society (London) entitled "New Frontiers in Science Diplomacy" http://royalsociety.org/New-frontiers-in-science-diplomacy/ - also the name of a 2010 report found at the site. The opening lines on the page caught my attention:
"Science diplomacy is not new, but is has never been more important. Many of the defining challenges of the 21st century – from climate change and food security, to poverty reduction and nuclear disarmament – have scientific dimensions."
Interestingly, I had just been reading some material from the TckTckTck organization that was linking climate change to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals:
“Climate change and global poverty have attracted a lot of attention in recent years as key global justice challenges of our times. Both are serious challenges to the future health and prosperity of our planet. They must be combated simultaneously; we cannot take care of one without addressing the other. An effective attack on poverty and the ill-effects of climate change requires taking comprehensive action that encompasses both issues. We cannot fight climate change without considering the rising energy needs of poor people and countries, nor can we effectively address global poverty without accounting for the impacts of climate change on agriculture, disease patterns, and violent weather events, all of which particularly impact the poorest countries.” http://tcktcktck.org/stories/human-impact/climate-change-and-un-millenium-development-goals
Science will indeed be important (essential) in addressing mitigation and adaptation efforts for a changing climate and in helping to address many of the Millennium Development Goals. But given the backlash against science in the U.S. right now (the climate change skeptics and deniers, those who are fearful of vaccines or genetically modified foods, the people who don’t accept evolution), can scientists convince the public of the value of science for improving the quality of life, much less serving as a tool for international understanding and diplomacy?
These themes are sure to arise when Dr. Vandana Shiva (nuclear physicist, environmental activist, philosopher) comes to campus next week. I will be posting on that experience, but in the meantime, if you want to learn a bit more about some of her work, you can read a series of articles at http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Vandana_Shiva/Vandana_Shiva_page.html .