“…One of the most exciting intellectual and political ventures
of the later part of the 20th century”....
With these brief words, Professor William A. Barletta and Ambassador Henning Wegener introduce the great experience of the International Erice Seminars in their book “Averting Disaster: Science for Peace in a Perilous Age”.
“..The International Erice Seminars, – first on Nuclear War and, in later years, on other Planetary Emergencies – were the attempt to stem these perilous tides and to put science at the service of political problem-solving in a new, open and interdisciplinary manner, at the highest scientific level.
In those years of Cold War, when the specter of nuclear winter was dreading the entire world and the East-West dialogue seemed impossible, the Erice International Seminars were the opportunities for Scientists from antagonistic systems to meet.
The meeting in San Vito (near Erice) between the Scientific Responsibles of the two superpowers (USA and URSS) – to deal with problems on which depend the fate of a world in which 60.000 H-Bombs were ready to be used – is now heritage of 20th century history. The sea of San Vito was the only place where you could talk without the danger of being recorded. It was the great Wigner (author of the Theorem of Time and Nobel Prize) to say in 1989 that the Berlin Wall had begun to fall in the Erice and in the San Vito waters many years before then in Berlin.
Even Lowell Wood’s testimony about the political impact of the Erice International Seminars: “I remembered in details these Seminars but I really didn’t ponder why-&-how they could have done what they did until very recently, when I’ve have opportunity to study a number of hitherto-sequestered documents of the Reagan Administration, including minutes from key meetings of the US National Security Council and Reagan’s own daily-diary, correspondence and manuscripts on strategic policy issues, especially those relating to nuclear war.”
Professor Wood ends his personal record with these words: “The Seminars on the Prevention of Nuclear War are now history, some small-but-crucial portions of which they helped write. All of us privileged to live in the post-Cold War era owe a large debt-of-gratitude to Pros. Nino Zichichi for his vision, daring, initiative and many years of indefatigable endeavors to bring the Seminars into existence and then to see them bear their bountiful fruit, for our present safety-&-serenity on international scales surely are due in no small part to him and his Seminars efforts!”
In 1991, when the specter of nuclear winter had disappeared and the Berlin Wall had fallen, the Seminars reverted their agenda from war to peace: Science for Peace and the Safeguarding of the Planet became the major concern in Erice International Seminars.
The World Federation of Scientists rapidly identified 15 classes of Planetary Emergencies – Water, Soil, Food, Energy, Pollution, Limits of Development, Climatic Changes, Global Monitoring of the Planet, Missile Proliferation and Defense, Science and Technology for Developing Countries, Organ Substitution, Medicine and Biotechnology, Cultural Pollution, Defense Against Cosmic Objects, Conversion of Military Resources – and began to organize the fight against these threats. In 1986 the World Lab started its activity and three years later Professors T.D. Lee, K.M.B. Siegbhan and A. Zichichi wrote the Farnesina Statement:
“We believe that one of the most serious problems facing the World today is Poverty and the Loss of Human Dignity. A large part of the world's population is in poverty due to overpopulation, famine and other natural and man-made causes. With extreme poverty, there invariably comes a loss of human dignity, which indeed has an equally damaging effect.
With the recent relaxation of East-West relations, the threat of nuclear war may have been reduced. The lack of human rights still exists, and remains a major problem. But the deprivation of human rights comes from without, while the loss of human dignity occurs from within. Human rights can readily be returned if the external oppressive force is removed. However, human dignity, once lost, may not be regained. Consequently, to tackle the human dignity problem, food and medical aid is far from sufficient.
We are convinced that a direct way to combat the human dignity problem is to help the people in the Developing Countries to acquire self-confidence. The most effective method is through the transfer of Science and Technology. Only when scientists from the Third World can contribute to Science in a meaningful way, would they and the people there be truly self-confident. We should, therefore, restore human dignity through Science”
Once again, the Scientific Community that center around Erice run ahead the discussion and identified the Planetary Emergencies more than 10 years before that the General Assembly of United Nations adopted the Millennium Declaration on 8th September 2000.
 Lowell Wood, SDI member.
External Advisor, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Seattle WA USA.
Special Studies Program Leader, University of California Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore CA (retired) and Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford CA USA(retired)