We spend billions for war and pennies for peace (5 November 2007)



We are facing unprecedented risks to the very survival of life on Earth as we know it, but pessimism would be self-fulfilling. We must continue to be motivated by our hopes and be guided in our actions by our growing capacity to respond to these ominous risks.

Keynote Speech by Maurice F. Strong at Symposium on "Integrating Beauty, Nature and Spirituality Into Life in the New Millennium" Marking the 10th Anniversary of the Opening of the Miho Museum, Shigaraki, Japan.

What a great honour and thrill it is for my wife, Henne, and me, to have this opportunity of joining such impressively distinguished company to mark the 10th Anniversary of the Opening of the Miho Museum which so uniquely manifests the theme of this Symposium and the teachings of Meishusama to which Shinji Shumeikai is dedicated. The awesome splendor of Miho is the product of the vision of Mihoko Koyama, the unsurpassed genius of I. M. Pei, and the dedicated leadership of Hiroko Koyama which have combined to enhance its precious natural beauty. It is a living tribute to the diversity of human experience and creativity in which our profound love of beauty and our hopes and aspirations for the future of humanity are manifest.

I am sure that all here share with me the deep stirrings of our common spirituality as it is expressed in Miho's world-class works of art and cultural history. The many dimensions to our spirituality are the source of the rich and diverse range of cultures and histories displayed at Miho. As one of the world's great collections what a great testimony this is to the extraordinary ways in which the human spirit is expressed in the stories of the world's civilization. Indeed, this special place is also today a cornerstone of the foundations for the prospects of a peaceful, harmonious and sustainable future for the entire human community.

Integration of art, beauty and spirituality

As we join in celebrating this anniversary we pay tribute to the magnificent and distinctive way in which Miho epitomizes the integration of art, beauty and spirituality, we are moved to express our most profound congratulations to those who have helped to create it and our abiding admiration of and gratitude to those who continue to enrich and care for it. I recall how deeply moved and impressed I was on my first visit here and what a great and special privilege I feel to be back to join you in marking this IOth milestone. I am happy to share my thoughts as to how much this experience, the inspirational and healing power of Jyorei have moved me. As has my increased knowledge of the many practical ways in which Shumei's programs of sustainable agriculture, artistic and cultural activities which demonstrate the philosophy and the wisdom of Mokichi Okada - "Meishusama''. This is helping to heal the wounds we have inflicted on our precious planet and on each other and put us on the pathway to a future in which all can share in.the bounty and the beauty that nature provides. This is the unifying theme of the spirituality which is the source of all beauty - and unity among peoples as the indispensable basis for a sustainable future.

I and my wife and family have been greatly impressed, and tried to be helpful, in the establishment of the Shumei Centre in Crestone, Colorado, which is a particularly effective example of this. It has made an important and appreciated contribution to our community, and to the growing influence and network of Shumei in the western world. Never has this been more necessary.

As one who has long been active in the environment and sustainable development movement, I want particularly to commend the leadership of Shumei in pioneering the practice of natural agriculture which enables the human needs for healthy food to be met without undermining the natural environment on which we all depend. Scientific evidence and practical experience have made more and more clear to our generation that current patterns of production, consumption and behaviour are simply not sustainable. Indeed, I am convinced that the direction of the human future will be largely decided by the actions or non-action of the current generation. The opportunity to change course will no longer be available if we have not taken decisive steps to move on to a sustainable pathway within the first decades of this century.

Single biggest challenge

In the meantime, the opposing forces continue to confront each other across the demilitarized zone that divides Korea, American troops remain in command in the South under the banner of the United Nations.

It is truly ironic that this war, which was waged under the authority of the United Nations Security Council, has not yet been resolved peacefully. Paradoxically, although all parties agree that the Korean Peninsula should be free of nuclear weapons, their deep-seated distrust of each other has prevented a resolution. This is particularly manifest in the continued inability to settle with the DPRK the divisive issue of the Japanese abductees. Seeking resolution of these difficult issues, through the Six Party process led by China, even if frustrating, is producing some encouraging progress towards a peaceful resolution. The agreement under which North Korea has begun to dismantle its nuclear facilities is especially hopeful. However, a prerequisite of any peaceful settlement will be long term and sustained international support for revitalizing of the economy of the DPRK and enabling it to participate fully in both the benefits and responsibilities of membership in the international community and its institutions. Japan has insisted that its support depends on a satisfactory resolution of the abductee issue.

While Korea is the most acute, it is not the only risk facing the peace and security of northeast Asia. Competing territorial claims over some of the small island areas of the region have escalated. Competition by China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea for Russian oil and natural gas are an emerging source of tension; increases in trans-boundary environmental impacts and other interactions amongst neighbouring countries of the region all point to the need for more regional agreements and institutions to provide the means of fostering and facilitating the greater degree of cooperation that is needed to avoid conflict over these issues and ensure the future security and prosperity of the region. I am pleased to say that the recently formed Institute for Sustainability and Security in Northeast Asia at Peking University in Beijing offers to provide a significant centre for cooperative research and dialogue in support of this process.

The new global civilization is rooted primarily in materialism and the commercialization of more and more aspects of human activity. This is symbolized in international conference centres, hotel chains, McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken, WalMart, and many other multinational commercial enterprises with which people and consumers identify wherever they may live. The common appetite for material goods and services which globalization makes available is not accompanied by a unifying ideology or culture, Many who cherish and want to maintain their traditional belief systems and ways of life, are at the same time seeking and participating in the material aspects of globalization. This dichotomy is particularly acute in the majority of the world's people who continue to live in and to cherish their traditional ways of life, while being increasingly drawn into the global civilization. Those who live in the more industrialized societies are far more comfortable with this new global civilization because it is so largely an extension of their own.

Unprecedented risks

We need not dilute, but rather must re-enforce the distinctiveness and qualities of traditional civilizations, while enabling them to participate in the benefits and opportunities of globalization. All peoples share a common interest in ensuring peace and security, and in maintaining the integrity and sustainability of the environment, natural resources and life support systems on which we all depend for our survival and prosperity. In a real sense, this is a struggle between the world's eco-systems and its eco-systems of which all of us are part. These common interests require a degree of international cooperation that goes beyond anything yet experienced. For this, the United Nations, despite the differences arising from its lack of sufficient support, provides the indispensable institutional framework and necessary reform.

One of the most promising means of articulating these common interests and values with which I have the privilege of being associated is the Earth Charter, which sets out a pervasive and ethical set of moral principles to guide the behaviour of people and nations towards the Earth and each other. The Earth Charter is a product of extensive consultation and contributions by people of all faiths and ideologies throughout the world to which Japan has made a notable contribution. It has now been embraced by many millions of people and thousands of organizations. I especially commend Shumel for its support of the Earth Charter and the principles which so much accord with its own purposes and programs.

We are facing unprecedented risks to the very survival of life on Earth as we know it, but pessimism would be self-fulfilling. We must continue to be motivated by our hopes and be guided in our actions by our growing capacity to respond to these ominous risks. People everywhere now have access to sources of information and knowledge and to each other which enables them to communicate directly in areas of the common interests they share. There are more and more examples of how people power can drive political will and produce major changes in politics, governments, systems and policies.

People power is no abstract concept, but one that must be the product of a commitment by every individual to do what they can best do to contribute to positive action.. The people here I know are already making this commitment. May we all leave here with our commitment to integrating beauty, nature and spirituality into our lives, strengthened and re-enforced by the beauty, the natural setting and the unifying spirit of this place, the excitement of this shared experience and the impetuses and ideas that will guide us in making our contribution to a more peaceful and harmonious world.