Hand on the Button

Nuclear Spring in Sioux City

What do U.S. nuclear abolitionists do when the administration has no plans other than vaguely stated goals of “modernizing the nuclear complex” and spending money on a missile defense system that has never been proven to work?

Focus on a long term strategy toward the goal of nuclear abolition, using the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons as a hook and the consequences of nuclear war as the message.

It’s a tough row to hoe because the United States and other nuclear states stand in opposition to the ban treaty promulgated at the U.N., now open to signature.

A colleague in the nuclear abolition movement reported July 14 from New York:

The emotional electricity in the room was palpable. Everyone could feel that history was being made in Conference Room 1 at the United Nations headquarters in New York. And when the vote tally came in, it was followed with a roar of approval in the room. Bucking intimidation from the nuclear-armed superpowers, 122 nations voted to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons with one vote “no” and one abstention. It’s official: nuclear weapons are illegal!

I’ve never felt hopeful about the ban treaty because President Obama and his successor both indicated they would modernize our nuclear complex, investing more than a trillion dollars. President Trump’s recent statement while taking questions at his golf resort in Bedminster, New Jersey is disappointing on multiple levels.

“We are going to be increasing our budget by many billions of dollars because of North Korea and other reasons having to do with the anti-missile,” Trump said. “As you know, we reduced it by five percent, but I’ve decided I don’t want that. We are going to be increasing the anti-missiles by a substantial amount of billions of dollars.”

Modernization is not really his decision because the Congress must appropriate funds for it. It’s the normal checks and balances designed into our government by the framers of the constitution. However, what is in President Trump’s control is launching a nuclear war within a few minutes at his sole discretion. That can and should change.

Once accepted without vocal opposition, the president having his hand on the nuclear button should be challenged. No president should have sole discretion to unleash a human Armageddon that could end civilization as we know it.

There is chatter in the news media that President Trump won’t complete his full, four-year term. The better bet is he will and will mount a formidable campaign for re-election. Republicans in the Congress won’t impeach, and the 45th president won’t resign.

We shouldn’t be distracted by the hope this presidential term will soon be over. Regardless of who’s president, if the U.S. doesn’t sign on to the nuclear weapons ban, as it currently appears we won’t; if we won’t fulfill our obligation under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to which we are a party; others should be included in any decision to use nuclear weapons.

That change is something nuclear abolitionists can and should work on now.

To learn more, click on Martin Fleck’s report from the UN here.

Environment Kitchen Garden Sustainability Work Life Writing

On Our Own into 2017

Western Sky at Sunrise
Western Sky at Sunrise

In this final 2016 post it was easier than last year to outline my writing plans.

The work I do to pay bills and support my writing has been tough mentally and physically. To cope with an aging frame and occasionally distracted mind I have had to focus. That meant planning, and then with discipline, working the plan. 2016 was a mixed bag and I expect to do better in 2017.

I seldom post about my personal life and family — at least directly. That leaves issues I confront every day as grist for the keyboard.

There are four broad, intersecting topics about which I’ll write during the coming year.

Low Wage Work and Working Poor

Not only do I earn low wages in all of my jobs, I meet a lot of people who do too. During the last four years I developed a framework for viewing how people sustain their lives without a big job or high salary. A focus on raising the minimum wage, wage theft or immigration status may be timely but most of what I read misses the mark. Stories fail to recognize the complexity with which low wage workers piece together a life. This subject needs more exposition and readers can expect it here.

Food Cultivation, Processing and Cooking

Living on low wages includes knowledge of how to grow, process and prepare some of our own food. My frequent posts on this topic have been intended to tell a story about how the work gets done. I plan to grow another big garden in 2017 and perform the same seasonal farm work. I sent off a membership form to Practical Farmers of Iowa this morning and expect my experience with that group to contribute to food related writing.

Nuclear Abolition

I renewed my membership in Physicians for Social Responsibility. We have a global footprint and as a member I have access to almost everything going on world-wide to abolish one of the gravest threats to human life. The president elect made some startling statements about nuclear weapons this month. The subject should hold interest and perhaps offer an opportunity to get something done toward abolition. The United Nations voted to work toward a new treaty to abolish nuclear weapons. They did so without the support of the United States or any of the other nuclear armed states. In that tension alone there should be a number of posts.

Global Warming and Climate Change

My framework has been membership in the Climate Reality Leadership Corps. Like with Physicians for Social Responsibility we have a global footprint with thousands of Climate Leaders. We have access to the latest information about climate change and its solutions. The key dynamic, however, is how work toward accepting the reality of climate change occurs on a local level. What researchers are finding is skepticism about the science of climate change originates in the personal experience of people where they live. If the weather is very hot and dry they tend to believe in climate change. If it is cold, they tend not to believe. Thing is, climate change and human contributions to it are not a belief system as much as they are facts. Global warming and climate change already affect us whether we believe or doubt.

So that’s the plan. While you are here, click on the tag cloud to find something else to read. I hope you will return to read more in 2017.


Reinventing Weekend

Le WeekendLAKE MACBRIDE— The idea of a forty hour work week and regular, scheduled workdays, including a Friday until Sunday weekend, was blown up a long time ago.

Beyond reason, I continue to long for le weekend, as elusive as it has become. Longing overcoming reality in a way common in the consumer enclaves where life often finds us.

Any more, I work every day, and enjoy almost all of it.

The unfinished work of my generation has been reducing and eliminating nuclear weapons. What has changed is the weapons systems have aged, support structures have become calcified, and each year we understand new ways nuclear weapons could be the end of everything we know about life on Earth. Whether by design, by accident, or madness, a nuclear explosion would have devastating consequences for humanity and must be avoided at all costs.

“There have been two conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons in the last year and a half, in Oslo, Norway, and in Nayarit, Mexico,” Gunnar Westberg wrote on the IPPNW Peace and Health Blog. “At the latter 146 states participated. The conclusion was that any use of nuclear weapons would have such severe humanitarian consequences that they must be abolished completely.”

There will be a third conference in Vienna Dec. 8-9. The good news is two of the nine nuclear states will be in attendance for the first time, the U.S. and U.K. The rest of the news is the U.S. is committed to a methodology for arms control based upon enforcement of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Therefore, besides many chats over Viennese pastry and coffee, only limited work toward abolition seems possible.

In my early sixties, I can still work on nuclear abolition. But what about after I am gone? When living memory of the dawn of the nuclear age and its aftermath recedes, what then?

Our descendants will be left with an aging nuclear complex, the purpose of which has been in doubt for decades already. If current government operations continue, it will continue to be five minutes until midnight.

Considering the doomsday threat, talk about le weekend seems futile. Better get back to work.


U.S. to Attend Vienna Nuclear Abolition Conference

Iowa City Nuclear Free SignIn a carefully worded press release, the U.S. State Department indicated it would attend the Dec. 8-9 conference on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons in Vienna. (The full release appears below).

What that means is uncertain, but the press release language indicates inherent skepticism about potential outcomes of the conference, and that the U.S. won’t be distracted from it’s own nuclear agenda.

The conference could easily have come and gone without U.S. participation, and no one here except a select group of NGOs would have noticed, even if the rest of the world would.

Despite the large number of countries participating in the two previous conferences, the idea of nuclear abolition, for any reason, has not penetrated American society with any depth.

On Friday I attended a local Rotary Club meeting. When asked what brought me there, I pointed to the Rotarian Action Group for Peace‘s recent embrace of the humanitarian campaign, saying I wanted to be a part of it. The response was “I hadn’t heard of that.” There is a lot of work to do to raise awareness of the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons in the U.S.

At the same time, the fact that we are sending an official delegation is a small step in a positive direction. For if we don’t discuss the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons, and what we as a society should do to abolish them, we will linger on in a twilight between fear and uncertainty.

Here’s hoping this news will lead to something more positive.

Office of the Spokesperson
Washington, DC
November 7, 2014

The United States will attend the Vienna Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons this December. Following a careful review of the agenda, as well as discussions with the conference host Austria, the United States concluded there were real prospects for constructively engagement with conference participants.

The United States fully understands the serious consequences of nuclear weapons use and gives the highest priority to avoiding their use.

The United States is committed to seeking the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. As we have said previously, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is the focus of our efforts on disarmament, as well as on nonproliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. However, this conference is not the appropriate venue for disarmament negotiations or pre-negotiation discussions and the United States will not engage in efforts of that kind in Vienna.

We look forward to presenting the U.S. perspective at the Vienna Conference. This event will be a useful opportunity to highlight the significant progress the United States has made and the resources it devotes to create conditions under which nuclear weapons are never again used.


Letter to John Kerry on Nuclear Abolition

Iowa City Nuclear Free SignDear Secretary Kerry,

With the rise of Islamic State and  Boko Haram; Ebola; persistent drought in California and Texas; persistent tension between India and Pakistan; and continuing inaction over our relationship with Latin America, Russia and China, it is clear that nuclear weapons can’t solve our biggest problems.

If they can’t solve our biggest problems, they become more liability than asset.

Please accept Austria’s invitation to send an official U.S. delegation to the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons conference in Vienna, Dec. 8 and 9.

The Humanitarian Impact initiative is a growing international movement to understand the consequences of nuclear war and build momentum toward nuclear disarmament.

President Obama said that America seeks “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” I completely agree with him, and believe the United States must be represented at this conference. We need to eliminate nuclear weapons before they eliminate us.

There is no cure for a nuclear war, only prevention. U.S. participation in this conference would be a step in that direction.


Autumnal Equinox

Campaign Nonviolence Rally
Campaign Nonviolence Rally

LAKE MACBRIDE— I gave the speech on nuclear abolition, representing Physicians for Social Responsibility, without notes.

If the issues around nuclear abolition are not part of me now, they may never be. While fretting a bit beforehand about what to say, my five minutes on stage at the Iowa City Pedestrian mall on Sept. 21 went well without notes.

I made three points.

The nuclear explosions at Hiroshima and Nagasaki are those we all know about. What is less considered is the more than 2,000 test explosions that killed thousands and sickened millions. I referred to the radioactive fallout from the Nevada test site that drifted and fell over Iowa, contaminating our soil. I spoke about President Obama’s commitment to submit the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty to the U.S. Senate for ratification. It was a promise made in Prague in 2009, and still not kept.

President Obama will chair the United Nations Security Council this week, with the hope of passing a resolution regarding counterterrorism. The five nuclear club members on the security council won’t be debating nuclear weapons, but should. Obama had bicameral support for pursuit of the Islamic State in the U.S. Congress last week, and now he is rolling it out to the world.

Finally, when we consider our biggest problems, Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Yemen, the Ebola virus, South Sudan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and Iran, Palestine and Israel, the drought in California, and others, nuclear weapons won’t help solve them. Since we don’t need nuclear weapons for our biggest problems, let’s get rid of them, I concluded.

It was a cool, crisp day leading into the autumnal equinox. While the actions of the aging crowd may not get done what should regarding abolition, it was good to see so many friends and try once again.


Campaign Nonviolence Event in Iowa

Field of Yellow Flowers
Field of Yellow Flowers

Many eyes will be fixed upon the discussion of climate change during the debate that begins Sept. 24 at the United Nations 69th General Assembly.

There is another topic of interest to the peace and justice movement.

President Obama is expected to preside over the U.N. Security Council meeting and a discussion of counterterrorism. He will have a draft resolution in hand for consideration and debate by the council. ThinkProgress covered the story:

Specifically the meeting will cover the phenomenon of foreign fighters traveling to conflict zones and joining terrorist organizations, as seen in the surge in foreigners joining ranks with such groups as Jahbat al-Nusra in Syria. “Certainly the problem of terrorists traveling to foreign conflicts is not new, but the threat posed by foreign terrorist fighters has become even more acute,” a U.S. Mission to the U.N. official told ThinkProgress when asked about the meeting. “The Internet and social media have given terrorist groups unprecedented new ways to promote their hateful ideology and inspire recruits. The conflicts in Syria and Iraq have highlighted this threat, with an estimated 12,000 foreign terrorist fighters joining that conflict.”

As part of its Campaign Nonviolence, Pace e Bene has organized a series of nonviolent actions to take place concurrent with the U.N. General Assembly and Security Council meeting, including one in Iowa City on Sept. 21.

“To launch this movement, over 100 nonviolent actions will take place Sept. 21-27 in cities and states across the U.S. and beyond, taking a stand against all violence and calling for concrete first steps toward peace, economic justice, healing the earth, and mainstreaming active nonviolence,” according to the campaign website. “These first steps include: an international treaty for swift, verifiable action to reverse climate change and taking nonviolent action for a culture of peace; ending the military drone program; establishing a $15 minimum wage for all; K-12 nonviolence education everywhere; and practicing nonviolence toward ourselves, toward all others, and toward the planet.”

Blog for Iowa contributor and local peace activist Ed Flaherty sent this invitation along:

Please join us on Sunday, Sept. 21, at 4 p.m. on the Pedestrian Mall in Iowa City for the first Campaign Nonviolence event. There will be many organizations involved, including Veterans for Peace, PEACE Iowa, Dancers for Universal Peace, Physicians for Social Responsibility, and several faith groups. Come help us celebrate the ways of non-harming towards self, others and our world.”

Campaign Nonviolence Order of Events:

Welcome (Dorothy Whiston)
Opening Song (Blowing in the Wind)
John Ivens (Veterans for Peace)
Rabbi Jeff Portman (Agudas Achim)
Barbara Schlacter (100 Grannies for a Livable Future)
Gospel Explosion Ministry
Paul Deaton (Physicians for Social Responsibility)
Yasur AbuDagga (Iowa City Mosque)
Ed Flaherty (PEACE Iowa)
Virginia Melroy (Dancers for Universal Peace)
Mary Kay Kusner (Ghandi prayer)
Kerry Batteau (Native American Blessing of the Four Directions)
“Peace, Salem, Shalom”

~ Written for Blog for Iowa

Home Life Sustainability

A Humanitarian Campaign

Iowa City Nuclear Free SignThis is the first in a series of new posts about the humanitarian campaign to abolish nuclear weapons.

“Since the end of the Cold War we have acted as though the problem of nuclear war has gone away. Unfortunately it hasn’t.” ~International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW)

“I am very worried that people don’t think there is a real danger that nuclear weapons will be used. I hope you will read these materials in order to truly understand how bad a nuclear exchange of any kind will really be. Nuclear weapons are a real and present danger. A nuclear detonation can happen, and in fact will happen, if we don’t get rid of the weapons.” ~Rotarian Action Group for Peace

“Nuclear weapons are unique in their destructive power, in the unspeakable human suffering they cause, in the impossibility of controlling their effects in space and time, and in the threat they pose to the environment, to future generations, and indeed to the survival of humanity.” ~International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies

“The willingness of the world as a whole to move forward in a constructive manner to eliminate nuclear weapons has never been more evident.  Yet a very small number of States stand in the way, trying to block progress and to find a comprehensive solution to the problem that goes on year after year in paralysis and obfuscation.” ~The Holy See

Here is a brief video framing the discussion, narrated by Ira Helfand, co-president of IPPNW:

To read more about the international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons, click here.


Why Nuclear Abolition Matters

ICAN_Regular_LogoLAKE 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, or Physicians for Social Responsibility at Nuclear abolition matters, and our participation matters more.