Arriving in Hiroshima for the 20th World Congress
[IPPNW's 20th World Congress opens in Hiroshima, Japan on August 24. A number of people will be blogging from the Congress, including members of the US affiliate, Physicians for Social Responsibility. Those pieces will be published on the PSR blog and reposted here.]
By Andy Kanter
It seems a little strange returning to Japan after 23 years. I attended the Ninth World Congress of IPPNW which was held in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1989. I was a medical student at the time. I had been Medical Student Liaison for IPPNW in 1985 when we won the Nobel Peace Prize, but it had been several years since I left the central office and was nearing the end of my medical school training. IPPNW still meant a lot to me and I endeavored to make the protection of the planet one of my primary goals in life. Since graduating from medical school and traveling the world, I have returned to the US and have been working to achieve the Millennium Development Goals at the Earth Institute, and have continued with my advocacy work with PSR in Chicago and currently New York City. Now, as current President of Physicians for Social Responsibility, I return to Japan and the 20th World Congress of IPPNW!
In some ways the world is very different now. There are even more threats to our very existence. In our highly integrated and interdependent ecosystem, we continue to threaten everything with nuclear extinction. But now we can add climate change, toxic degradation and even nuclear famine to the list of ills that we must solve if we are to survive. I return to Japan with the toxic legacy of Fukushima still smoldering to the northeast. Its radioactive poisons will leech out for decades to come. And I return to Japan as a new father, contemplating the future not only of the Japanese people, but the future of everyone including my son. The situation seems very bleak and the future dark. But I have hope, and believe that we will come together to turn things around.
World Congresses are an important time to come together and take stock of the situation, revitalize ourselves and gain strength from the common bonds which bring together our global community of IPPNW affiliates. We have a busy week planned, with a meeting of the ICAN movement on Tuesday, followed by the medical student congress on Wednesday and Thursday and the full congress on Friday through Sunday. On Friday afternoon, I will be giving a workshop with PSR President-Elect, Jeff Patterson and PSR Board member, Ed Ifft on a critical review of the nuclear-industrial complex by looking at the 3 poisonous “P’s” (Pollution, Proliferation, and Price) of the nuclear age. Following the Congress, several PSR members, including myself, will be traveling to Tokyo to take part in a side-meeting on the Fukushima Daiichi situation.
I am excited to see old friends, learn new skills, and help to add new energy which will help catalyze a fundamental shift in our planet’s history. Stay tuned for more from Hiroshima and Japan.