Havel warns of impending disaster for mankind at opening of 14th Forum 2000 conference

“The world we want to live in” is the theme of this year’s Forum 2000 international conference, which has just got underway in the Czech capital. The annual event, held under the auspices of former Czech president Václav Havel, brings together public figures from around the world to consider some of the most poignant issues of our times. This year, the conference discusses the ways we influence the environment, and out responsibility for the state of the world.

Václav Havel, photo: CTKVáclav Havel, photo: CTK The annual gathering of intellectuals, former politicians and other public figures began on Sunday night at the Prague Crossroads, a former church in the capital, with keynote speeches by former Czech president Václav Havel, the head of the Nippon foundation, Yohei Sasakawa, and European commissioner Štefan Füle.

The theme of the 14th year of the Forum 2000 conference is mankind’s influence on the environment in the broadest sense, and mankind’s responsibility for it – one of Mr Havel’s favourite topics. The former Czech head of state addressed the subject in his opening speech.

“Someone keeps allowing our cities to destroy the surrounding environment and countryside, traditional roads, alleys, small villages, mills and winding streams, and to build in their stead some sort of gigantic agglomeration which anonymizes life, breaks the networks of natural human communities, and attacks with its international uniformity all uniqueness, identity and diversity.”

Roger Scruton, photo: CTKRoger Scruton, photo: CTK Among more than 60 speakers is the British writer and philosopher, Roger Scruton. In his remarks, he elaborated on the ideas put forward by Mr Havel, and also showed he was no stranger to the Czech capital.

“Within a space of 20 years, they have littered Prague with grotesque gadgets, like the hotel Giovanni, the faceless office block at Karlovo náměstí, and the Palladium shopping mall which mutilates Náměstí Republiky. Structures that destroy the city as a communal habit and which erase the public space that have been treasured by some many people over the centuries. Of course the effect should not be blamed only on international capitalism and its placeless imperatives.”

Václav Havel sees the process as a new kind of existential phenomenon; according to the Czech ex-president, the global atheistic civilization produces a new kind of solitude, and people will have to change their ways to avert the impending disaster.

Photo: European CommissionPhoto: European Commission “I am certain that our civilization will be heading for catastrophe if mankind does not recover its senses. But it can only do so through standing up to short-sightedness, to bovine belief in its own omniscience and to its swollen pride so deeply rooted in its mind and actions. We need to wonder, and we need to worry about the non-self-evidence of things.”

The Forum 2000 conference goes on until Tuesday; you can follow it online at www.forum2000.cz