Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR) is a UK based membership organisation promoting responsible science and technology. We caught up with Executive Director Stuart Parkinson, to hear more about their work.

Why did you join the Rapid Transition Alliance

I saw a Rapid Transition speaker at a conference, read your pamphlet and thought it was good. This led to collaboration, which is vital. I am keen on evidence-based work in science and technology that appeals to the public but also argues for political and economic change – not just technofixes. There are good examples of rapid transition that I see from the history of nuclear weapons, where people from opposing nations – such as the USA and the Soviet Union – came together to rapidly advance disarmament due to political bravery. This built trust and led to new treaties, helping to end the Cold War. As the Soviet Union broke up, it was also vital to secure nuclear materials and prevent their use for weapons, not least for terrorism. The resulting disarmament procedures have been truly helpful in reducing nuclear risks.

What for you is the biggest challenge of rapid transition?

The lack of political will. Politicians will grab opportunities in crises, so we need visible, not too pricey and technologically possible solutions to enable things to move quickly when the moment arises. The Rapid Transition Alliance offers examples of what is possible, which is good. Society typically muddles along quite well for ages – but we need to be ready to take the opportunity when it arises.

What is your organisation doing to encourage rapid transition?

SGR recognises that science and technology are indeed part of the problem; but, unlike those who are indifferent or even hostile to science, SGR also recognises the enormous contributions that science and technology make to our civilisation and well being. The new problems, as well as those that have always been with us, such as starvation, drought and illness, require a combination of new scientific, economic and political solutions. Scientists for Global Responsibility also asks whether scientists should walk the talk on climate change, setting an example for others. In November 2019 we published a briefing examining the importance of behaviour change across society to help tackle the climate crisis, and the potential of scientists and engineers to act as role models for such change.

What is your favourite example of rapid transition?

The transition at the end of the Cold War – East and West were head-to-head with nuclear weapons bristling until then. Presidents Reagan and Gorbachev achieved major progress in reducing the numbers of nuclear weapons – thanks to trust between military, security and political figures.

What one thing would best help the task of rapid transition?

Courageous leaders who understand the scale of the problem facing society: weapon proliferation, plummeting biodiversity, the climate emergency. Inequality in a society is also an immense problem: if the gap is large between rich and poor, people at the bottom can be easily manipulated by unscrupulous politicians and people at the top can behave like in Ben Elton’s book “Stark” – where a group of super rich folk plan to save themselves from the Earth’s impending environmental destruction, without a thought for the rest of humanity.


Stuart Parkinson

Stuart Parkinson has been the Executive Director of Scientists for Global Responsibility since 2003.