In September, I had the pleasure of hanging out downstairs with my daughter Amy, mother of my two youngest grandchildren ages 5 and 8. We’d had a hectic week and were both enjoying the quiet of my little basement apartment. Not only had we experienced a hectic week, but the world had been challenged by a gallant 16 year old named Greta who stared at us and asked, “How dare you?!” in condemning complacency regarding climate change.
The Star Tribune was on the couch and I commented that I wanted to cut out that Sunday’s editorial–the one entitled The Nuclear Threat. It begins, “The climate crisis rightfully received the most focus at this week’s United Nations General Assembly. But another existential threat–nuclear weapons–needs to be met with the same alacrity as global warming.”
Amy looked at me and asked, “Did you ever wonder if your kids would ever grow up?”
I answered, “Yes.”
It was a somber moment.
My husband and I were parenting in the 70 & 80s and it was not a peaceful time. There was the Vietnam War. There were the college students gunned down on campus. There were race riots where city blocks were burned. And there was the Cold War with the build up of nuclear arsenals. We lived in Western Colorado where Project Rulison was conducted just 40 miles east of us. It was an underground 40-kiloton nuclear test project. My son Andy was a toddler. I was terrified the day of the test. Wikipedia reports that the site “remains under active monitoring by the U.S. Department of Energy.”
As fearful as I felt 50 years ago, it does not compare to today.
In April at a meeting convened to support the Non-Proliferation Treaty Izumi Nakamitsu, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, warned that the use of nuclear weapons–either intentionally, by accident, or through miscalculation–is one of the greatest threats to international peace and security. She went on to identify several examples that governments are currently engaged in that increase the risk:
- use of dangerous and casual rhetoric about nuclear weapons’ use
- an increased reliance on nuclear weapons in security doctrines
- modernization programs to make nuclear weapons faster, stealthier and more accurate
Back From the Brink, a national grassroots organization seeking to change U.S. nuclear weapons policy has extended a call to all of us to support five common-steps to reform U.S. nuclear policy. Our government must:
Step 1: Renounce the option of using nuclear weapons first.
Step 2: End the sole, unchecked authority of any U.S. president to launch a nuclear attack.
Step 3: Take U.S. nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert.
Step 4: Cancel the plan to replace its entire nuclear arsenal with enhanced weapons.
Step 5: Actively pursue a verifiable agreement among nuclear-armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.
Back From the Brink invites all of us to be involved: “Scientists, doctors, faith leaders, elected officials, artists, musicians, authors, working folks, organizations big and small. You, me, all of us. The Call gives everyone a simple way to speak out, be involved… and make a difference.”
Here are some ways:
- Go to Back From The Brink’s website and as an Individual: Join the Effort. Or if you are part of an organization, then you can lead that group to “Endorse the Effort”
- Learn about the Minnesota Peace Project, a network of citizen activists working to build a more peaceful world by influencing U.S. foreign policy through their Congressional Representatives. This will take you to their Peace Agenda. It’s good reading.
- Invite your friends or co-workers to join you in creating a Ribbon panel. It gives you an opportunity to talk about your concerns and your hopes. And it is a positive way to transform your fears into Tangible Hope confirming that we can bring about change on behalf of the world.
In August our plan is to tie together however many panels of material are created, each depicting “What I cannot bear to think of as being lost forever….” We will remember the bombings that occurred 75 years ago in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We will be involved. We will make a difference.
Pope Francis, in a recent visit to Hiroshima and Nagasaki, asserted that, “One of the deepest longings of the human heart is for security, peace and stability. The possession of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction is not the answer to this desire.” He concluded with the hope that by remembering the past we will be stirred from our indifference. He prayed that we learn to be “effective instruments of peace.”
The Star Tribune editorial concluded: “So just as they have put the climate crisis high on the public’s agenda, activism regarding nuclear weapons needs to return, too.”
That’s the call. And the time is now.