Sixty years after philosopher Bertrand Russell and physicist Albert Einstein convened a group of leading intellectuals in London to draft and sign a manifesto in which they highlighted the perils posed by nuclear weapons, this generation's forward-looking thinkers have released an updated version of the document—one that puts the looming climate crisis on par with the threat of nukes and calls for "the creation of a new sustainable civilization on a global scale."
The Declaration on the 60th Anniversary of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, published Thursday, reads in full:
In view of the growing risk that in future wars weapons, nuclear and otherwise, will be employed that threaten the continued existence of humanity, we urge the governments of the world to realize, and to acknowledge publicly, that their purpose cannot be furthered by a world war, and we urge them, consequently, to find peaceful means for the settlement of all matters of dispute between them.
We also propose that all governments of the world begin to convert those resources previously allocated to preparations for destructive conflict to a new constructive purpose: the mitigation of climate change and the creation of a new sustainable civilization on a global scale.
The declaration has been published in the form of a petition that anyone can sign. The effort is being coordinated by Foreign Policy in Focus, the Asia Institute, and World Beyond War.
Among the first to sign onto the document are: political theorist Noam Chomsky; environmentalist and anti-capitalist Naomi Klein; CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou; former NSA technical director William Binney; and anti-nuclear activist Helen Caldicott, who said in a statement: "It was the Russell-Einstein manifesto on the threat of nuclear war 60 years ago that started me upon my journey to try to abolish nuclear weapons."
Justifying his reason for signing onto the updated manifesto, Chomsky wrote:
Last January the famous Doomsday Clock was moved two minutes closer to midnight, the closest it has been since a major war scare 30 years ago. The accompanying declaration, which warned that the constant threat of nuclear war and “unchecked climate change” severely threaten human civilization, brings to mind the grim warning to the people of the world just 50 years ago by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, calling on them to face a choice that is “stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?” In all of human history, there has never been a choice like the one we face today.
In a piece for Foreign Policy in Focus, Asia Institute director Emanuel Pastreich explained how the updated manifesto came to be:
As the 60th anniversary of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto drew near, I became increasing disturbed by the complete inaction among the best-educated and best-connected in the face of the most dangerous moment in modern history and perhaps in human history, grimmer even than the catastrophe that Russell and Einstein contemplated. Not only are we facing the increased likelihood of nuclear war, but there are signs that climate change is advancing more rapidly than previously estimated. Science Magazine recently released a study that predicts massive marine destruction if we follow the current trends, and even the glaciers of the Southern Antarctic Peninsula, once thought to be the most stable, are observed to be melting rapidly. And yet we see not even the most superficial efforts to defend against this threat by the major powers.
Not only have conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East made the threat of nuclear war "more dire," Pastreich added, "now we are faced with an existential threat that may rival the destructive consequences even of a full-scale nuclear war: climate change. The rapacious exploitation of our resources and a thoughtless over-reliance upon fossil fuels have caused an unprecedented disruption of our climate. Combined with an unmitigated attack on our forests, our wetlands, our oceans, and our farmland in the pursuit of short-term gains, this unsustainable economic expansion has brought us to the edge of an abyss."
He concluded: "It falls to us... to decry the reckless acceleration of armaments and the criminal destruction of the ecosystem. The time has come for us to raise our voices in a concerted effort."