LAKE MACBRIDE— During the Reagan era, there was a general understanding that a nuclear exchange and subsequent war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union would be a disaster for the entire world. What we know today is that even a limited war between nuclear states, like between India and Pakistan, would also cause a global catastrophe. Are we worried? Not really. Should we be? Not necessarily worried, but we should be working diligently toward nuclear abolition, as is most of the rest of the world.
New research about the humanitarian consequences of a nuclear exchange has fueled a growing international movement to abolish nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, this research is not widely known in the U.S., and most people here continue to act as though the danger of nuclear war ended when the Berlin Wall came down. Even now, more than 3,000 nuclear weapons stand ready to launch in less than 15 minutes. Are we mad? No, but we are distracted.
A full scale nuclear war would disrupt the climate in a way that would produce a decade-long nuclear winter, with temperatures around the world dropping an average of 15 degrees F. In this scenario, agriculture and food production would stop, with dire consequences for humanity. Even a smaller nuclear exchange would disrupt agricultural production resulting in wide-spread famine, according to the study.
Whenever one writes about getting together with more than 100 other countries to do something, the pro-life, anti-UN, anti-tax crowd gets vociferous. They assert any infringement on U.S. sovereignty is wrong, and unnecessary. There are sound reasons to support nuclear abolition. Some of them are:
The risk of global famine should states launch a nuclear exchange intentionally or accidentally. As long as nuclear weapons exist, there is a chance we would use them. Preserving life on planet earth is as important as any cause there is.
The diversion of resources that could be spent elsewhere or eliminated. If one feels taxed enough already, avoidance of unnecessary nuclear weapons spending is a way to reduce taxation. Some say as much as $59.2 billion could be cut from the nuclear weapons budget. Do we really need to spend $100 billion on 12 new ballistic missile submarines? Or $55 billion on 100 new nuclear-armed strategic bombers? Or $60 billion to upgrade five nuclear warhead types?
The interconnectedness of life on our blue-green sphere is obvious to some and less so to others. Failure to recognize it could have fatal consequences for us and for everything we hold dear.
My advice is to learn more about nuclear abolition and do what is possible to get involved in the movement. For starters, check out the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons at www.icanw.org, or Physicians for Social Responsibility at psr.org. Nuclear abolition matters, and our participation matters more.