RI President Ian Riseley and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed 800 Rotarians from around the world to the Presidential Peacebuilding Conference on Environmental Sustainability and Peace, held in Vancouver, Canada, on February 9 – 11. It was the first of six Rotary Peacebuilding Conferences slated in 2018. The conference featured business, civic, and scientific leaders who encouraged Rotarians to make environmental responsibility a vital component of all peacebuilding efforts.
President Riseley presented the concept that Rotary’s Peace Area of Focus encompasses all of the humanitarian activities of Rotary International, because peacebuilding is the cornerstone of “service above self” in our communities and world. He reminded the conference that environmental pollution leads to child deaths. This is due to complex environmental systems where fires can cause asthma, or poor sanitation can contribute to deadly gastro-illnesses. He related how water scarcity affects 4 billion people during at least one month per year, especially in regions where there is no consistency in seasons.
He opened the conference by taking a picture of the many Rotarian peacebuilders from around the world who gathered at the conference to promote environmental sustainability, and peace.
RAGFP was pleased to be a partner for this important event and we are grateful for the contributions of Conference Committee Chair John Anderson and the entire organizing committee. RAGFP Executive Director Reem Ghunaim also served on the conference committee, and RAGFP was well-represented at the event.
Rotarian Action Group For Peace members, board members and staff, represented RAGFP to fellow Rotarians at the conference. RAGFP distributed brochures, peacebuilder club materials, The Peace Science Digest magazine, Rotary Peace Highlights, and other peacebuilding resources at our friendship booth.
RAGFP members also shared a wide-range of peacebuilding topics at the conference including nuclear non-proliferation, Rotarian peacebuilding projects, Rotary Peace Centers, and upcoming Rotary peace conferences.
RAGFP was honored to be a partner and active participant in this amazing event.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Welcomes Rotary International to Vancouver, Canada
The conference featured keynote speakers and breakout sessions, designed to provide insights and blueprints for sustaining the environment as Rotarian peace action. Speakers and presenters offered ideas for environmentally responsible peacebuilding that benefits both the planet and the people who live on it.
Dr. David Suzuki spoke to the conference in a daytime keynote address. He said humans are the most dominant and most numerous large mammal, and our incredible technology has increased our reach across the earth. As “curious creatures” we expanded beyond our rural roots and created societies based in consumer habits. He said humans became “shopper/gatherers” and many of our world economies now depend upon consumption, built-in obsolesce and disposal. These mechanisms not only fuel industry but have the power to affect our atmosphere, cause desertification at the equator, and acidify the oceans. “We ourselves are now filled with toxins,” he said.
Dr. Suzuki recalled scientists and first nation elders all agree that, “Everything is connected.” He said we have the power to create the future.
Other presenters and speakers included, PDG Jiro Kawatsuma, a 90-year-old survivor of Hiroshima, who spoke about how the “Hiroshima trees” now give people seeds of hope. Mayors for Peace echoed Mr. Kawatsuma and presented on the dangers of nuclear weapons.
The many breakout sessions also featured discussions on Rotary Peace Scholars, “transforming land mines to vines,” air pollution, and “feeding people without harming the planet.” The impressive slate of scientists, civic and business leaders, positive peace advocates and Rotarian peacebuilders, offered both alarm and hope about environmental sustainability and peace.
Each of the six Presidential Peacebuilding Conferences in 2018 will link Rotary International’s five other areas of focus including, Disease Prevention and Treatment, Water and Sanitation, Maternal and Child Health, Basic Education and Literacy, and Economic and Community Development, with Peace.