At this year’s first board meeting of the Right Livelihood Award Foundation (“Alternative Nobel Prize”), we “young people” were able to benefit from the extensive experiences of Daniel Ellsberg, a person who had already acted as a whistle-blower by the late 1960s − and therefore at a time when the word was by no means a household term. Ellsberg was in Stockholm at the same time as us. The 87-year-old was in the Swedish capital to receive the Olof Palme Prize, which is awarded for services to international understanding and common security.
How nice of Ellsberg to do us the honour! The US citizen and former Pentagon official followed his conscience and leaked secret information about the US government lies on the war in Vietnam – the so-called Pentagon papers. Ellsberg has ever since campaigned for peace and encouraged others to speak truth to power.
PEACE AND TRUTH COME FIRST
In 2006, Ellsberg received the “Alternative Nobel Prize” for his work. At the time, we honoured him for his courage to put peace and truth first, at considerable personal risk, and for dedicating his life to inspiring others to follow his example. It was disquieting to hear someone with decades of experience talk of their worries about nationalist developments across the world, and especially the current relationship between the two great powers, the US and Russia. Ellsberg fought against nuclear armament during the Cold War and experienced the phase of detente between the two opposing powers since the mid-1980s. Now he is forced to witness the revocation of the INF Treaty, which once led to nuclear disarmament. “Have people forgotten all of that?”, he asked. What answer could we give him? None.
WE MUST USE OUR TIME WISELY
Another person who is in deep dismay and concern is Paul Walker, an active fighter for chemical disarmament and one of our 2013 laureates. The lawyer is also a board member, and he shares Ellsberg’s opinion. At the award ceremony in 2013, he made an appeal to everyone to recognise that during our short time on Earth, everyone must strive to leave this planet a more peaceful, just, and sustainable place for future generations to come. Now, in times of Trumps and Putins, many young people understand that they can and must take their future into their own hands. Through the “Fridays for Future” movement, they demand action against climate change.
Global warming is the topic that’s on everyone’s lips, but Ellsberg and Walker made it clear that the use of nuclear weapons can also lead to climate change, and in a way that nobody can wish for: research on the so-called nuclear winter suggests that the powerful nuclear explosions would throw so much dust into the atmosphere that it would absorb most of the sunlight cause a fall in temperature. The 2004 Hollywood blockbuster “The day after tomorrow” by director Roland Emmerich used this scenario as a plot − however, in the film the new ice age was caused by a cessation of the Gulf Stream.
FIGHTING SPIRIT, NOT THE BLUES
Credit is probably due to the resilient morale of both Ellsberg and Walker that not all of us were struck by the blues. For the two demonstrated that giving up is not an option. Once again, I was pleased to be a part of the Right Livelihood Foundation and to know such special people as these two men.