Jan 23, 2021 - Virtual Conference Program


2021 National Virtual Conference

Saturday Jan 23 2021

“Reducing the Threat of Nuclear War:

Invest in Minds not Missiles”

Though the Coronavirus has devastated the economy, it has not had any braking effect on the Presidential and Congressional push for spending more of our tax dollars on military and nuclear weapons development programs. Thus, we will have to find ways to continue to collaborate and cooperate in the development of a social movement strong enough to reverse the new nuclear arms race. This Conference is focused on that task.


9:30 am: Welcome - Rev. Thea Keith-Lucas, Interim Chaplain to the Institute and Episcopal Chaplain, MI

9:35 am:  This Conference and Tasks Ahead -  Jonathan King (MIT and Mass Peace Action) and Savina Martin (Mass Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival).

9:45  am: Current Dangers

The Threat of Nuclear Winter - Prof. Alan Robock (Rutgers University)

First Strike Risks - Prof. Elaine Scarry (Harvard University).

Dangers of an Inadvertent Launch – Prof. Max Tegmark (MIT, Future of Life Institute).

The Pervasive influence of the Nuclear Weapons/industrial complex – William Hartung (Center for International Policy)

10:45 am: Coffee/tea Break


Liz Theoharis, Subrata Ghoshroy, Erica Fein, Jonathan King


11:00 am: Economic. Social and Political Costs -Chair, Rosemary Kean (Mass Peace Action)

The Immorality of Nuclear Weapons -Rev. Liz Theoharis (Kairos Institute/Poor People’s Campaign);

The Pentagon Budget - Subrata Ghoshroy (MIT)

Destabilization from Nuclear Weapons Upgrades-Erica Fein (Win Without War)

Fund Healthcare Not Warfare - Vaccines not Submarines-Prof. Jonathan King  (MIT & Mass Peace Action).


12:00 -12:30 pm:  Lunch Break



12:30 – 1:25  Breakout Sessions (details below);

A. Ban Treaty & Arms Control  Treaties:

B. The Costs of 21st Century Wars and the Politics of Defense Spending:

C. Back from the Brink Campaign:

D. No Resumption of Testing:

E. No First Use Campaign:

F. Demilitarizing Police:

G. Climate and War/Green New Deal:

H. Divesting from Weapons Manufacture:

I. Bringing Peace into Electoral Contests:

J. No New Cold War: The U.S., China and the Asia Pacific:

K. Moral Budget for Massachusetts:

L. Vaccines Not Submarines:

M. Campus Organizing:


1:30pm: Senator Edward J. Markey; Chair, Cole Harrison (Mass Peace Action)Medea Benjamin, Denise Duffield, Lindsay Koshgarian, Jamie Eldridge


2:00 pm: Paths Forward – Chair, Jim Anderson (Peace Action of New York State)

Peacefully Engaging Iran - Medea Benjamin (CODEPINK)

Back from the Brink CampaignDenise Duffield (Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles)

A Moral Budget for America -Lindsay Koshgarian  (Institute for Policy Studies) 

State Legislative Initiatives - Senator Jamie Eldridge


3:15 pm: Coffee/tea Break


Jodie Evans, William Barber, and Larry Cohen3:30 pm: Next Steps: Chair Andrea Burns (Mass Peace Action)

Broadening the Base of the Peace Movement - Jodie Evans (CodePINK);

Promoting Progressive Candidates - Larry Cohen (Our Revolution);

Rejecting Militarism and the War Economy - Rev. William Barber (Poor People's Campaign) 

 4:30 pm: Adjourn.


Please Register to Attend

List of Breakout Sessions: 

A. Ban Treaty & Arms Control Treaties: Vicki Elson (NuclearBan.US); Timmon Wallis (NuclearBan.US); Jerald Ross (MAPA and CPDCS);  Eileen Kurkoski (WILPF); Ed Aguilar (Coalition for Peace Action, Pennsylvania Director).

Jan 22, the day before this Conference, the Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons, the “BAN” treaty, enters into force. Will that international treaty open up doors to progress on nuclear disarmament within the U.S? What about treaties with Russia such as New Start and Open Skies, and the Iran agreement which Trump discarded? Panelists in this breakout will discuss the prospects of building a base of support for these treaties within the US.

B. The Costs of 21st Century Wars and the Politics of Defense Spending: Co-chairs: Heidi Peltier (Boston University)  and Subrata Ghoshroy (MIT); William Hartung (Center for International Policy); Richard Krushnic (Mass Peace Action).

This breakout will discuss the size, scope, and politics of military spending, with a focus on contractors and commercial firms.  It will include talks on military and contractor costs, the failure of defense conversion, which is linked to the scope of military production and the resulting political resistance, and will include discussion of Raytheon as an example of a nuclear weapons producer with power over U.S. foreign policy. 

C. Back from the Brink Campaign: Jean Athey (MD Peace Action); Jeff Hoey (NJ Peace Action); Denise Duffield (Physicians for Social Responsibility-Los Angeles); Thea Paneth (United for Peace and Justice); Arnie Alpert (NH AFSC);.

Back from the Brink is a national campaign designed to bring about the fundamental change in US nuclear policy that will allow the US to join the UN's Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. The campaign calls on the US to begin negotiations with the other nuclear armed states for a verifiable, enforceable time-bound agreement to eliminate their remaining nuclear weapons and to adopt a number of immediate steps to lower the risk of nuclear war while these negotiations proceed. It has been endorsed by 51 cities and towns, 6 state legislative bodies, and more than 300 NGOs.  Learn how you can help build this national campaign.

D. No Resumption of Testing/Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: Sheldon Krimsky (Tufts University); John Isaacs (Council for a Livable World); Prof. Max Tegmark (MIT and Future of Life Institute); Sir Richard  Roberts (New England Biolabs).

Though  the US has not ratified it, almost all nations of the world, including the US, have refrained from returning to testing of nuclear weapons. The recent Defense authorization contained a budget item supporting the resumption of nuclear weapons testing. This  would be a dangerous step backwards. Panelists in this breakout will review the history of the test bans, and the need to continue political pressure against their resumption, and the prospects for US ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

E. No First Use Campaign: Steve Gallant (Mass Peace Action); Elaine Scarry (Harvard University; Peace Action); Susan Mirsky (Newton Dialogues on Peace and War);  Laura Grego (Union of Concerned Scientists)..

Why is the No First Use campaign especially important?  What are its prospects with President Biden and Congress?  Which groups are working on it, and how can we help? Although many believe that the United States would not initiate the use of nuclear weapons, multiple Presidents have made explicit first strike threats on dozens of occasions.  We will discuss:  Why is the No First Use campaign especially important?  What are its prospects with President Biden and Congress?  Which groups are working on it, and how can we help?

F. Demilitarizing Police: Keith Harvey (AFSC); Rosemary Kean (Mass Peace Action); Quinton Zondervan (Cambridge City Council); Rev. Robert Moore (Coalition for Peace Action, Princeton, NJ). 

MLK Jr. first talked about the coupling of war abroad and war against poor people and people of color at home. In fact, since 9/11 this has been codified into Pentagon policy with equipment purchased for foreign wars, being shipped to domestic police departments. In the light of the murders of innocent black men and women, a movement has developed to demilitarize police forces as part of the reform process. Panelists in this breakout will report on a number of these efforts.

G. Climate and war:  Rosalie Anders (Mass. Peace Action), John MacDougall (350Mass.), Nick Rabb (Sunrise Movement)

On the surface, key connections between climate disruption and nuclear weapons/militarism include the huge greenhouse gas emissions of the US military; and climate disruption as an important factor aggravating social/economic injustice, civil unrest and massive refugee migrations.  But also, the two are linked as existential threats whose solutions ultimately include international peacebuilding.  The history of international and regional nuclear and climate/environmental agreements shows that a constructive, mass movement-based peacebuilding approach to these existential threats can work.  What are the most effective opportunities for activism by climate/environmental, peace and social-justice organizations?  Is a Green New Deal—at different levels, from the local to the global—a good approach?

H. Divesting from Weapons Manufacture: Carley Towne (CODEPINK); David Swanson (World Beyond War); Jodie Evans (CODEPINK); Dennis Carlone (Cambridge City Councilor); Paul Shannon (AFSC).

Join this Breakout session to hear more about ongoing strategies and tactics to divest from the war machine. We'll be joined by seasoned activists with experience passing divestment resolutions at the municipal  level as well as in State Legislatures and community organizations, and learn more about ongoing campaigns around the country. 

I. Bringing Peace into Electoral Contests: Steve Powell (Mass Peace Action); and Maryellen Kurkulos (Mass Peace Action/Our Revolution); Sayre Sheldon (WAND); Tony Palomba (Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment);Jeremy Love (Union of Concerned Scientists); Judy Elliott (NH Peace Action).

This workshop will discuss ongoing efforts of advocates to bring issues of War and Peace into Presidential and Congressional campaigns, issues that were glaringly absent from the 2016 and 2020 elections. Despite Americans increasing weariness with U.S. “forever wars”, entrenched bipartisan support in Congress maintains staggering amounts of Pentagon spending. Year after year, U.S. DoD budgets dwarf the military expenditures of its main adversaries and in fact equal those of the next 10 nations combined. We will review the efforts to highlight these issues in this past year's elections and explore plans for 2022 State and Federal elections, including "bird-dogging” candidates on the campaign trail and recruiting pro-Peace candidates for office.

J. No New Cold War: The U.S., China and the Asia Pacific: Joseph Gerson (Campaign for Peace, Disarmament & Common Security, Committee for a Sane U.S.-China Policy); Hyun Lee (Women Cross the DMZ (invited)); David Vine (American University, author of Base Nation and The United States of War);

This workshop is designed to provide background and policy alternatives to increase peace advocates’ and activists’ capacities to reduce the increasing tensions and dangers of war against China and Korea. Pentagon doctrine and operations make preparing for war against China and Russia have the U.S. strategic priority. The U.S. and China are locking the world into a new Cold War. Both powers are expanding their military capabilities, diverting funds from critical human needs, and igniting new nuclear, “conventional”, and high-tech arms races. Provocative military activities in the South China Sea and near Taiwan increase the danger of triggering uncontrolled escalation. U.S. refusal to declare an end to the Korean War, its aggressive military exercises and nuclear weapons policies, and North Korea’s resulting security concerns are primary obstacles to reducing military dangers that could trigger a disastrous regional war. Peaceful diplomatic alternatives are possible.

K. Moral Budget for Massachusetts: Andrea Burns (Mass Peace Action); State Rep. Mike Connolly (D-Cambridge/Somerville), Lee Farris (Cambridge Residents Alliance); Savina Martin (PPC); Jelena Mitic Elliott (Institute for People’s Engagement).

Public investment in critical human needs such as housing, healthcare, and public education, have been continuously reduced in recent State and Federal budgets. The economic impact of the pandemic has greatly exacerbated these impacts, leaving millions at risk of unemployment, eviction, and loss of health benefits. Panelists in this breakout will describe the programs that could be supported in the state budget, if the Congress adopted the Moral Budget described by the Poor People’s Campaign. Even without that step, articulating a Moral Budget for Massachusetts may help our legislators see their way forward, rather than back.

L. Fund HealthCare Not Warfare- Vaccines Not Submarines: Amar Ahmad (Mass Peace Action); Sandy Eaton (MassCARE); Carlene Pavlos (Mass Public Health Association; Prof. Catherine Royer (Worcester Polytechnic Institute); Rachel Weissman (MIT Biology)..

The outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic revealed the deep inadequacies of the nation’s healthcare and public health infrastructure. The Fund Healthcare not Warfare campaign is one of the responses, a coalition calling for increased state and Federal healthcare and public health investment, to be financed by $100 billion+ cuts in the Pentagon Budget. Public health leaders will describe the needed investments, not only in direct care, but in the biomedical infrastructure needed to support vaccine and therapy developments. 

M. Campus Organizing: Erica Eustis & Molly McGinty (IPPNW); Emily Rubino (PANYS); Deseri Tsepetis (PANYS); Prof. Robert Redwine (MIT Nuclear Weapons Education Project); Ceasar McDowell (MIT Faculty for Democracy).

During the height of the War on Vietnam, almost every campus in the US hosted an anti-war organization. These have faded away in the following decades. Though the direct threat of being drafted to fight a foreign war is no longer present, the bloated Pentagon Budget and costs of endless wars is a major reason higher education is being starved of federal funds. Panelists in this Breakout will report on their recent efforts to organize students and faculty on issues of war and peace.


Please Register to Attend

Conference Co-Sponsors: American Friends Service Committee; Campaign for Peace, Disarmament and Common Security; CODEPINK; Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility;  Institute for Peoples Engagement; Maryland Peace Action; Massachusetts Peace Action; Massachusetts Poor People’s Campaign; MIT Technology and Culture Forum; Newton Dialogues on Peace and War; Women’s Action for New Directions, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom/ Boston Branch; Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment.

Thanks to the Norris- Rugel Charitable Fund, and the Amy Rugel Giving Fund for their financial support.