Categories
Living in Society

Fall Cleanup 2020

Big Grove Township, Nov. 8, 2020

While returning from a walk in the state park I picked up four yard signs a neighbor placed in their yard. Two of the candidates are poised to win and two are not.

While crossing the street, another neighbor called out but I couldn’t hear them. They walked over to discuss Saturday’s events in the general election. They had considered leaving the country if the president were reelected. Like many in our neighborhood, they keep their politics private. Sigh of relief the president was defeated. They are good neighbors.

After my walk I drove over to a damaged street sign and removed the signs from the pole. It is hard to get the screws loosened so I brought it home to repair in the garage if I can. Leaves are mulched with the mower so the minerals can return to the soil. The smell of neighbors burning leaves permeated the neighborhood. What fall work remains in the yard is optional. Today looks to be in the 70s so it is a chance to work outdoors.

Emails began arriving from groups with which I associate after the election. This one from the Climate Reality Project is typical.

We will mobilize support like never before for federal-level climate policy, and will bolster this with continued state and local-level work, which has been so instrumental in building this movement since 2016. We will persist in fighting for climate justice, by forging partnerships and adding capacity to campaigns that address systemic ways the climate crisis hurts historically marginalized communities. And we will continue to the grow the Climate Reality Leadership Corps, ensuring we have even more voices conveying our clear message. We have the solutions at-hand, and there is no more time to waste.

Ken Berlin, President and CEO, The Climate reality Project

To work on any of the received requests, I had to get organized. Here is what I came up for post-election priorities from an email to friends:

My first Iowa work will be determining a leverage point to advocate for mitigation of the coronavirus pandemic. The virus prevents us from organizing as we are accustomed. I plan to follow State Senator Rob Hogg’s lead on this. As you likely know, experts are saying we will be challenged by the virus into 2022. This is a high priority.

I’m working on nuclear arms control issues with the Arms Control Association, and on the climate crisis with the Climate Reality Project. I’m also working with the Sierra Club on the Pattison Sand proposal to pump water from the Jordan Aquifer and ship it to arid western states. However those things dovetail with your organization will be our points of opportunity to work together.

The Biden administration will quickly become besieged with its efforts to undo the four years of the current administration, therefore I view moving the ball forward on our issues as something our folks in DC should lead. My expected local contributions include writing an op-ed for the Cedar Rapids Gazette every 4-6 weeks (arms control and social topics), organizing a group in Solon to help me work on issues including politics and political advocacy, and set the stage for a Democratic comeback in the 2022 election. Tall orders all.

I don’t see Iowans devoting much bandwidth to the TPNW (Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons) until there is an opportunity for the administration to listen and take action on the treaty. I forget who’s having the Zoom meeting that includes Rose Gottemoeller but I plan to listen in. For the time being, the U.S. government and those of the other nuclear states are ignoring the treaty. If that changes in the next couple of years I’ll get more involved.

If we don’t get organized ourselves, we will be hindered in working with others. Onward we go!

Categories
Sustainability

UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons Ratified

The weekend has been a stream of emails from friends leading to ratification of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

On Oct. 24, Beatrice Fihn, executive director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), reported Honduras became the 50th state to ratify the treaty. This started a 90-day clock for the treaty to enter into force and become international law on Jan. 22, 2021.

Congratulations to everyone who worked to achieve this significant milestone.

What we have known all along is the nine nuclear states have scant interest in eliminating nuclear weapons, even if most of them give lip service to Article VI of the Non-proliferation Treaty which calls for it.

During the Obama administration activists fully understood the United States would not lead on abolition of nuclear weapons. ICAN, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and others took the cause to the international stage and yesterday set the world on a more definitive path by making nuclear weapons illegal. The hard work now begins.

There remains a growing danger of nuclear weapons proliferation. In an Oct. 24 statement, reacting to the 50th state ratification of the TPNW, IPPNW laid out the risks:

The treaty is especially needed in the face of the real and present danger of nuclear war climbing higher than ever. The hands of the Doomsday Clock stand further forward than they have ever been: 100 seconds to midnight. All nine nuclear-armed states are modernizing their arsenals with new, more accurate and “useable” weapons; their leaders making irresponsible explicit nuclear threats. The cold war is resurgent—hard won treaties reducing nuclear weapons numbers and types are being trashed, while nothing is being negotiated to replace them, let alone build on them. If the Trump administration allows the New START Treaty to expire, then from 5 February 2021, for the first time since 1972, there will be no treaty constraints on Russian and US nuclear weapons. Armed conflicts which could trigger nuclear escalation are increasing in a climate-stressed world. The rapidly evolving threat of cyberwarfare puts nuclear command and control in jeopardy from both nations and terrorist groups. Close to two thousand nuclear weapons remain on hair-trigger alert, ready to be launched within minutes of a leader’s fateful decision.

~ Tilman Ruff, Ira Helfand, Arun Mitra, and Daniel Bassey—Co-presidents of IPPNW

This milestone is a moment for celebration as the plan to eliminate nuclear weapons comes together as well as it has since the United Nations was established 75 years ago. Whatever uncertainties there are in our global civilization — the coronavirus pandemic, economic injustice, and armed conflict — today there is hope for a better world. That’s worth noting.

Categories
Sustainability

75 Years After Hiroshima

Chia Fen Preserve, Aug. 3, 2020

President Harry Truman did not need to drop the atomic bomb to end World War II.

The first test explosion of an atomic bomb, called Trinity, was conducted by the U.S. Army July 16, 1945, as part of the Manhattan Project on what is now part of White Sands Missile Range.

The day after Trinity, U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson flew to Potsdam, Germany where President Harry Truman was meeting with Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee and Joseph Stalin to determine the fate of Germany which had surrendered unconditionally on May 8.

Truman wrote about this meeting with Stimson in his memoir:

“We were not ready to make use of this weapon against the Japanese, although we did not know as yet what effect the new weapon might have, physically or psychologically, when used against the enemy. For that reason the military advised that we go ahead with the existing military plans for the invasion of the Japanese home islands.”

A committee had been established to evaluate use of the atomic bomb once testing was successful. On June 1, 1945 the committee of government officials and scientists made their recommendation, which Truman recounts:

“It was their recommendation that the bomb be used against the enemy as soon as it could be done. They recommended further that it should be used without specific warning and against a target that would clearly show its devastating strength.”

Ultimately Truman made the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and on Aug. 6 the U.S. Air Force delivered it. On Aug. 9 the Air Force bombed Nagasaki. The Japanese surrendered Aug. 10.

Historian Gar Alperovitz, in his book The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb, asked two well-known questions about Truman’s decision.

“To what degree did (the president) understand that a clarification of the officially stated demand for ‘unconditional surrender’ specifying that Japan could keep its Emperor would be likely to end the war?”

“To what degree did (the president) understand that the force of a Russian declaration of war might itself bring about an early end to the fighting?”

The book based on his research is 847 pages.

The idea that dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki saved tens of thousands of allied forces lives by ending the war early is a myth perpetuated by those who would absolve our country from a decision to kill tens of thousands of Japanese children and as many or more other non-combatants. Historian Howard Zinn asked, “Would we have sacrificed as many U.S. children to end the war early?” Obviously we wouldn’t.

A friend, the late Samuel Becker, was in Guam in August 1945 preparing for the invasion of Japan. I recently asked him about the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The reaction in Guam was positive he said. U.S. military personnel were in favor of it because they felt it would bring a quick end to what could have been a prolonged, bloody conclusion to World War II. Before he died, Becker changed his mind. With time and reflection he found the notion that the atomic bombings saved many lives was a myth. The Japanese were already in a position to surrender.

Alperovitz said in a recent webinar that, to a person, contemporary military leaders went on the record to say there was no need to use the atomic bombs to end the war early. The war had already been won.

Truth matters and one truth is the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unnecessary. Their effects would fuel the Cold War and the idea of mutually assured destruction should they be used. This is crazy talk. Nuclear weapons must be eliminated and the only way to do that, to pierce the wall of our federal government, is citizen action demanding it.

On the 75th anniversary of Hiroshima it’s past time we took action.

~ Written for the Cedar Rapids Gazette and published Aug. 9, 2020. Used with permission of the author.

Categories
Living in Society Sustainability

Trinity 75 Years Later

Trinity Marker near Bingham, N.M.

Trinity was the code name for the first nuclear bomb detonation 75 years ago today.

The test explosion was conducted by the U.S. Army at 5:29 a.m. on July 16, 1945, as part of the Manhattan Project. It took place in the Jornada del Muerto desert about 35 miles southeast of Socorro, New Mexico, on what is now part of White Sands Missile Range.

The day after Trinity, U.S. Secretary of War Henry Stimson flew to Potsdam, Germany where President Harry Truman was meeting with Winston Churchill, Clement Attlee and Joseph Stalin to determine the fate of Germany which had surrendered unconditionally on May 8.

Truman wrote about this meeting with Stimson in his memoir:

We were not ready to make use of this weapon against the Japanese, although we did not know as yet what effect the new weapon might have, physically or psychologically, when used against the enemy. For that reason the military advised that we go ahead with the existing military plans for the invasion of the Japanese home islands.

A committee had been established to evaluate use of the atomic bomb once testing was successful. Before Trinity, on June 1, the committee of government officials and scientists made their recommendation, which Truman recounts in his memoir:

It was their recommendation that the bomb be used against the enemy as soon as it could be done. They recommended further that it should be used without specific warning and against a target that would clearly show its devastating strength.

Ultimately Truman made the decision to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and on Aug. 6 the U.S. Air Force delivered it. Truman threatened to drop a second atomic bomb. On Aug. 9 the Air Force bombed Nagasaki. The Japanese surrendered Aug. 10.

A friend and fellow Veteran for Peace, the late Samuel Becker, was in Guam in August 1945 preparing for the invasion of Japan. I recently asked him about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. He said the reaction in Guam was positive, they were in favor of it because it brought a quick end to what could have been a prolonged, bloody conclusion to World War II. In the years before he died, Sam didn’t believe it was a good idea. With time and reflection, the notion that the atomic bombings saved many lives turned out to be a myth. The Japanese were already in a position to surrender. At a Zoom call on Monday, author of the book The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb Gar Alperovitz said that to a person contemporary military leaders went on the record to say there was no need to use the atomic bombs on Japan. The war had already been won.

On July 1, 1968, states began to sign the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) which entered into force on March 5, 1970. Every state on the planet has joined the treaty with the exception of India, Israel, Pakistan, and South Sudan. India, Israel and Pakistan have nuclear weapons. The treaty has three interrelated parts: non-proliferation, disarmament, and peaceful use of nuclear energy. Article VI states, “Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” 75 years after Trinity we missed the “early date” by a country mile.

Progress is measured in a meeting of the parties every five years. This year’s scheduled NPT review conference was postponed until next year because of the coronavirus pandemic. In the Trump administration nuclear arms control is not even up for discussion, except to eliminate constraints on “American freedom.” The U.S. plans to spend $1 trillion on the nuclear complex in the coming years. That will drive Russia to do likewise. FOX News personality Chris Wallace recently wrote a popular book regurgitating false myths about the history of the atomic bomb. Alperovitz debunked some of Wallace’s claims on Monday.

Also on Monday Sueichi Kido spoke about his experience as a five-year-old during the bombing of Nagasaki. People like him are called hibakusha or survivors of the atomic explosions at Hiroshima or Nagasaki in 1945. Over the years he and other hibakusha told their story many times. The hibakusha are aging and will soon all be gone. Along with them will go living memory of the effects of a nuclear weapon.

Truth matters and one truth is the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were unnecessary. Atomic bombs were never needed for defense. Their existence, as demonstrated at Trinity, would fuel the Cold War and the idea of mutually assured destruction should they be used. This is crazy talk. Nuclear weapons must be eliminated and the only way to do that, to pierce the wall of our federal government, is citizen action demanding it. On the 75th anniversary of Trinity it’s past time we took action.

Categories
Sustainability

No First Use

B-61 Nuclear Bombs

On Jan. 30, U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and U.S. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) introduced companion bills in the 116th Congress to establish the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first.

That’s the bill, 14 words, “It is the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first.”

Sounds like a no-brainer for rational people. Nuclear weapons should never be used. Under what circumstances would our country ever consider using them first? No rational person could come up with a scenario to do so that would stand the light of public scrutiny.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia would only use its nuclear weapons in response to an incoming missile attack. He acknowledged the global catastrophe that would result from a nuclear war. “We can’t be those who initiated it,” Putin said.

H.R. 921 has 25 house co-sponsors, all Democrats. S-272 has six co-sponsors including five Democrats and one Independent. None of the six members of the Iowa delegation to the 116th Congress has signed on as a co-sponsor. That is unfortunate.

The reason Iowa’s lack of co-sponsors on this no first use policy is unfortunate includes:

Iowa’s agricultural industry would be particularly hard hit in the aftermath of a limited nuclear war elsewhere in the world. Smoke and debris thrown into the upper atmosphere would disrupt the growing season. Crop yields in Iowa and other Midwestern states, as well as in other parts of the world, would plummet according to a 2012 study, due to declines in precipitation, solar radiation, growing season length, and average monthly temperature. As many as two billion people would be at risk of food insecurity.

There is no adequate medical response to a limited nuclear war. “We know from the International Committee of the Red Cross’s first-hand experience in Hiroshima in 1945 that the use of even a relatively small number of nuclear weapons would cause death, injury and destruction on a massive scale, that there would be no effective means of providing aid to the dying and wounded, and that those exposed to radiation would suffer life-long and fatal consequences to their health,” Kathleen Lawand, head of ICRC arms unit said.

Preparing for a limited nuclear war, one which should never be fought, is costly. The Trump administration is planning to spend more than a trillion dollars to upgrade the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, including improved weapons, delivery systems and labs. They are even considering development of so-called “low-yield” nuclear weapons which were phased out at the end of the Cold War. Those funds could be better used elsewhere or could even pay for tax cuts.

My ask is modest. The Iowa delegation to the 116th Congress should sign on as co-sponsors to the no first use bills. It is a rational first step in reducing global tensions surrounding the use of nuclear weapons. Those of us in the nuclear abolition community would ask for a lot more, but a no first use policy is something upon which people could agree without even considering more controversial aspects of a ban on nuclear weapons.

There is no cure for a nuclear war. We must prevent what we cannot cure.

Categories
Sustainability

Will Lady Conductors Sing Karaoke for Kim Jong Un?

On June 14, 2018 PSR Board member Ira Helfand, MD met with South Korean Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon in Seoul, urging South Korea to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The main nuclear weapons threat on earth is increasing tension between the United States and Russia over Syria, Ukraine, Crimea and other issues. Not far behind is the ongoing dispute between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. Either conflict, if escalated to nuclear war, could end life as we know it.

So what the hell was the Hanoi Summit between Donald J. Trump and Kim Jong Un?

As a drill sergeant in the U.S. Army often described our duty performance when it did not meet his refined standards, it was a “goat screw.”

We don’t know what preparations the North Korean dictator made, in fact we know little about his country except what we might read in books like Barbara Demick’s Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea. He presumably prepared for the summit, and had a 60-hour train trip from Pyongyang, North Korea to Đồng Đăng, Vietnam, in case last minute changes and consultations were required. Kim traveled by rail for security considerations according to Associated Press.

Air Force One’s 20-hour trip to Hanoi, with two refueling stops, was also very long. We don’t know what preparations the U.S. President made either, but it was clear from the news coverage it wasn’t much. Here’s CBS News reporter Mark Knoller:

Couldn’t this have been discovered and vetted long before the actual, expensive in person meet up? Isn’t that why we have diplomats? Why elevate this meeting to a “summit” if we didn’t know the basis for an agreement beforehand?

While Air Force One was enroute home, North Koreans disputed this characterization of the summit. Why cut the meeting short before agreeing what happened and would be said to the press? Seems like basic diplomacy is missing from this administration.

What a bunch of knuckleheads. I’m not referring to the North Korean dictator and his staff. Why would the U.S. elevate this guy to this level of prominence on the world stage? Importantly, it was a staged distraction from Secretary of State Michael Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton’s dismantling of the U.S. – Russia arms control protocol. There is other stuff going on the the country to be distracted from as well. The tail is wagging the dog.

We don’t know but Kim must have been feeling good on the long trip home to Pyongyang after the president failed to find common ground for denuclearization of the Korean peninsula. We do know something about his green, bullet-proof train with yellow trim on the cars.

“Kim Jong Il, who was Kim Jong Un’s father, was known to have hated flying and traveled by train on several trips to China,” Eric Talmadge and Adam Schreck of AP wrote. “He is said to have fitted his train out to accommodate lavish parties and karaoke sessions.”

His father is also said to have kept four female singers on the train when he traveled, referring to them as “lady conductors.” Will lady conductors sing karaoke for Kim Jong Un on the trip home? Since the U.S. president won’t hold him to account, there may be something for a dictator to celebrate.

Categories
Sustainability

Helsinki and New START

B-61 Nuclear Bombs

I don’t know one person, acquaintance or public figure who thought the July 16 meeting between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in Helsinki went well.

The only people who found a ray of hope in the awkward encounter are those in the arms control community who pointed out some positives, not the least of which is an easing of tensions between the two nuclear powers evidenced in the meeting.

“It looks like Trump and Putin may have agreed in Helsinki to resume strategic stability talks.” Daryl Kimball, director of the Arms Control Association, posted on twitter. “One key issue: New START, which can be extended without complex negotiation, without further approval by Senate or Duma, and without Trump making unwise concessions.”

Such a move makes sense and would be an easy win for Trump. It may not be well received among Trump’s base supporters because, after all, the Obama administration negotiated New START. The 44th president called in his markers to get the U.S. Senate to ratify the treaty. Some of us felt he gave away too much with a complex offering of perquisites to Republican hawks led by Jon Kyl. Not the least of these was an expensive, unneeded modernization of the U.S. nuclear complex. The Trump crowd won’t like it, regardless of the efficacy of an extension, because of the association with President Barack Obama.

Republicans have expressed disappointment with Trump’s foreign policy, such as it exists. They may (publicly or privately) attempt to reign in the president. At some point the U.S. wants to address perceived Russian violations of the INF treaty negotiated between Presidents Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, signed in 1987. Russia has threatened to withdraw from the INF treaty for many years, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

As we look forward with trepidation to the next meeting between the two heads of state, the arms control community will be working to advance the causes of nuclear disarmament and abolition. It is something they do regardless which party has majorities in the Congress or who is president.

~ First posted on Blog for Iowa

Categories
Environment Living in Society Sustainability

Stronger Together

Stronger TogetherIf we accept the premise articulated by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, that we are stronger together, there is a lot in society requiring our collective attention.

What did we work on? What are we working on? What should we be working on? What did we get done?

If we are separated from the pack, answers to these questions don’t much matter. We might think of ourselves as lone wolves, fending for ourselves in a hostile world, but we aren’t by nature. Being stronger together is a fundamental characteristic of homo sapiens. It’s what we do as a species.

I see three critical issues requiring us to be stronger together to save ourselves from near-term extinction.

The first is applying the golden rule, or the law of reciprocity. When we view the troubles of society through our flawed lenses, there is no other, only the One, of which we are all a part. We should treat others as one seeks to be treated oneself. We should be applying the golden rule to everything we do already. This is basic.

Second is the threat of nuclear weapons. Today, on very short notice, nuclear powers could unleash a holocaust that could end life as we know it. Nuclear war is not talked about much in the 21st Century, however the threat is as real today as it was in the wake of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings. The United States should begin taking steps to eliminate nuclear weapons. As my friend Ira Helfand said, “We need a transformational change in our nuclear policy that recognizes that these weapons are the gravest threat to our security and must be banned and abolished.”

Finally, we are wrecking our environment and need to stop. Just 90 companies are to blame for most climate change, taking carbon out of the ground and putting it in the atmosphere, geographer Richard Heede said. If that’s the case, and he has evidence to suggest it is, the move to eliminate fossil fuel extraction and use can’t come quick enough. Our governments must intervene, and targeting the 90 most responsible businesses should make it easier. The businesses say they are not to blame for demand from billions of consumers driving fossil fuel use. The technology exists to eliminate fossil fuels and we should work toward its adoption with haste.

The measure of August’s passing was in milliseconds, and September will be the same. The election will be here before we know it, as will the next one. What should be our focus? The three issues outlined above represent a viable starting point, and I plan to get to work. Will you join me?

~ Written for Blog for Iowa

Categories
Sustainability

No Nukes? Not Now

Nuclear Spring in Sioux City
Nuclear Spring in Sioux City

It is no surprise the 2015 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) review conference failed to reach consensus about next steps.

On Nov. 7, 2014 the U.S. State Department made a statement about the role of the NPT in a press release, “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.”

The Arms Control Association highlighted the fact that the parties “could not overcome deep differences over the slow pace of action on nuclear disarmament.”

The U.S. and Russia have each embarked on a nuclear complex modernization process—the opposite direction from disarmament. Disarmament was talked about and around, but was never really on the table at the conference.

“The 2015 NPT Review Conference does not signal the end of the NPT, which remains vital to international security, but it reveals a lack of political will and creativity that undermines the treaty’s effectiveness. Without fresh thinking and renewed action on the 70-year old problem of nuclear weapons, the future of the NPT will be at risk and the possibility of nuclear weapons use will grow,” Daryl Kimball, executive director, Arms Control Association warned.

Some found hope in the humanitarian campaign for abolition of nuclear weapons.

“Regardless of what has happened here today, the humanitarian pledge must be the basis for the negotiations of a new treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons”, said Beatrice Fihn, executive director, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons in an email. “It has been made clear that the nuclear weapon states are not interested in making any new commitments to disarmament, so now it is up to the rest of the world to start a process to prohibit nuclear weapons by the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.”

Fihn released a statement titled, “The Real Outcome,” that includes the following.

As the 2015 NPT Review Conference ended, over 100 states had endorsed the humanitarian pledge, committing to work for a new legally binding instrument for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons.

The pledge reflects a fundamental shift in the international discourse on nuclear disarmament over the past five years. It is the latest indication that a majority of governments are preparing for diplomatic action after the Review Conference.

The wide and growing international support for this historic pledge sends a signal that governments are ready to move forward on the prohibition of nuclear weapons, even if the nuclear weapon states are not ready to join.

But for the nuclear-armed states, none of this seemed to matter.

The idea that world opinion could force nuclear states to abolish nuclear weapons is hopeful, but unlikely.

The U.S. made it clear in words and deeds it has no interest in moving forward under a new treaty. Unless the U.S. accelerates its progress toward compliance with Article VI of the NPT, progress in all of the nuclear states is stymied. At present the majority of countries has not been able to press their case for abolition in the U.S., where it is most needed.

While the NPT is legally binding, the lack of political will makes enforcement of its terms unlikely. That may be the most significant outcome of the conference.

Categories
Sustainability

It is 5 Minutes to Midnight

BAS CoverThe world has not tamed the nuclear beast and we should be concerned.

Later this month, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS), a group formed 70 years ago by some of the physicists who worked on the Manhattan Project, will decide whether to update their Doomsday Clock which says, “It is 5 minutes to midnight.®”

The clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and emerging technologies in the life sciences.

This may seem alarmist. So why should Iowans worry when most don’t think about nuclear weapons at all, yielding to the cacophony of radio, television and Internet noise?

Iowans don’t need to freak out, but they do need to be aware and concerned.

In 2009, President Obama announced pursuit of a world free of nuclear weapons in Prague. Things have gone another direction under his leadership.

“I note the United States does not support efforts to move to a nuclear weapons convention, a ban, or a fixed timetable for elimination of all nuclear weapons,” said Adam Scheinman, U.S. delegate to a Dec. 8, 2014 international conference on the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons in Vienna, Austria.

Jaws dropped in the room where people from around the world had gathered to hear the witness of Hibakusha, people who had survived the nuclear explosions in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It was a tone-deaf statement.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the administration plans to spend $355 billion over the next 10 years to modernize our nuclear arsenal, and a trillion dollars over the next 30 years. This is an absurd waste of taxpayer dollars on weapons that should never be used.

The Doomsday Clock is a reminder that we can’t afford the luxury of an incremental approach to nuclear disarmament.