In early 1983 the Canadian government, under the controversial Canada-U.S. Test and Evaluation Program, allowed the United States to begin testing an early generation of unmanned stealth weapons over the North.
A year later, the first cruise missiles (AGM-86B) launched from Alaskan based B-52 bombers, flew south along a 2,200-kilometre test corridor beginning over the Mackenzie Delta up on the Beaufort Sea across the Northwest Territories and British Columbia, finally ending up in the Primrose Air Weapons Range straddling the Alberta and Saskatchewan border. The test ignited protests across Canada.
My daughter’s first media exposure came from a press photo taken of her as a three-and-a-half-year-old on my shoulders holding a protest poster at an anti-cruise missile-testing demonstration in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Now, 29 years later, she is a regular political commentator on the CTV News channel. At the protest I had a placard that read; “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Ilona’s small picket sign read “Alive!”
While the elimination of nuclear arms still remains an elusive goal with over 19,000 nuclear weapons believed by Stockholm International Peace Research Institute to be in the arms stockpiles of the nine nuclear-bomb-holding countries, we have not seen a nuclear weapon used since the United States dropped one on Nagasaki, Japan in 1945. Their threat, though, remains very real.
The Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds study released early last month by the National Intelligence Council (which answers, like the CIA, to the U.S. Director of National Intelligence) noted that the proliferation of nuclear weapons is “heightening the risk of their use.” The study pointed to an increased probability of interstate conflicts particularly in Asia and the Middle East, which obviously ups this likelihood. Plus it projects a widening access to “lethal and disruptive technologies” by non-state entities that are notoriously less conventionally controllable.
The 166-page study points to a “radically transformed” world only 17 years into our future. The expected 8.3 billion increasingly urbanized citizens of Earth in 2030 will increase the demand, they say, for food, water, and energy by approximately 35, 40, and 50 per cent respectively. The report bluntly states: “Climate change will worsen the outlook for the availability of these critical resources.”
Will the host of other serious global challenges and threats these researchers foresee drive us to consciously prepare for this future? Will they shake us out of our consumption-driven lethargy? No matter what, Canada cannot be immunized against the worldwide changes it brings. The Canada I first knew 50 years ago is not that same country today and by 2030 it will certainly be different.
Some commentators see the report as grim. Pandemics, which are “not just a hypothetical threat” or the consequences of an increasingly accepted forecast of a six degree average temperature rise, coupled with a metre-rise in sea level by this century’s end, all support this perspective. As does a realist’s answer to their question: “Will global volatility and imbalance among players with different economic interests result in collapse?”
However, as gloomy as these prognostications may seem, the “diffusion of power among states and from states to informal networks” coupled with their view that “Individual empowerment will accelerate owing to poverty reduction, growth of the global middle class, greater educational attainment, widespread use of new communications and manufacturing technologies and health-care advances” point to “a new era of “democratization” at the international and domestic level.” Will people’s movements remake the future for today’s children and tomorrow’s grandchildren? Will they be thriving or just alive?
The road ahead no doubt will be bumpy. However, there is a real chance that we can find the ways to co-operatively reconceive ourselves as a truly planetary community committed to a just, environmentally sustainable, peace-filled future. This future depends on us. My best for a happy and hope-filled 2013!
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.