Home' Nova National : April 2010 Contents A Climate
© NOVA APRIL 2010
There are two major threats to
our safety as a species, and the
wellbeing of all other living things
on the planet. The first danger
is climate change. The second is less
spoken of in the news: nuclear weapons.
The Dalai Lama has said, "By far the single
greatest danger facing humankind -- in
fact, all living beings on our planet -- is the
threat of nuclear destruction." Arnold
Schwarzenegger, Governor of California,
also agrees "the attention focused on
nuclear weapons should be as prominent
as that of global climate change." Next
month, the world is getting together in
New York to find a way to abolish nukes for
good, with Australia playing a key role.
A few might have thought nuclear
weapons were so Cold War. When the
Berlin Wall came down, some countries,
Nuclear weapons are
the greatest threat
we face. But change
is possible and, says
Adrian Glamorgan, a
key summit next month
may mean we ban
nukes for good.
like Belarus, Kazakhstan and the Ukraine,
joined a few years later by South Africa,
unilaterally renounced nuclear weapons.
The United States and Russia reduced
their weapons from something like 50,000
nuclear weapons to half that. Right now,
the United States has about 10,000, and the
Russians, around 15,000 nuclear missiles.
So why the worry?
It's a good start, but nuclear weapons
are not just ordinary weapons. Authorities
guess (they don't know for sure) that there
are about 27,000 nuclear weapons in the
world. Every one is one too many. A single
nuclear weapon has more destructive
power than all the weapons used in all the
wars throughout human history.
Blink. A city is incinerated. Your shadow
is left on a wall. There is little hope for
survivors. Blink. Blink. Blink. Hundreds
of cities erased. There is no infrastructure
left for anyone. Just radioactive rubble,
and nuclear winter: a shadow over half the
globe for more than a year, of irradiated
dust, floating in the upper atmosphere,
without growing seasons, with plant life
dying and all life that depends on the food
chain starving. All started and finished in
a chain reaction of atoms colliding into
atoms, started by nuclear weapons on hair
trigger alert. A war started by accident?
Fought with malice and intention? Either
is madness. A single Trident submarine,
from Britain, can launch 220 missiles on
220 cities. Gone.
Following a campaign that began in
New Zealand and was supported by people
from all over the world, in 1996 the World
Court advised the United Nations that the
first use of nuclear weapons would be
genocidal and a crime against humanity.
Since then, the United Nations resolves
each year that all countries should meet
their disarmament obligation. When you
look at how indiscriminate and cruel the
weapons are, one is drawn to agree with
essayist Arundhati Roy, "The nuclear bomb
is the most anti-democratic, anti-human,
outright evil thing that man has ever
made...This world of ours is four thousand,
six hundred million years old. It could end
in an afternoon."
Change can come quickly. The Partial
Test Ban Treaty prohibiting above ground
nuclear test explosions (spewing strontium
90 into the atmosphere) was concluded in
just 10 days of determined negotiations.
But change has been slow much of the
When there were just five countries
with nuclear weapons, the nuclear states
grudgingly agreed to eventually abolish
their own nuclear weapons, while the rest
of the world agreed not to make nuclear
weapons for themselves. But the nuclear
powers signing this Non-Proliferation
Treaty have not honoured its prime
objective. The Nuclear Five (China, Britain,
France, Russia and United States) have
shown no interest, until very recently, in
disarming or talking about disarming. Only
President Obama's declaration in April
2009 in Prague gave the world hope. Yet
then it seemed he was massively adding to
nuclear weapons research.
The news is that Obama is considering
staying with the US retaining its option
to launch pre-emptive nuclear strikes
(contrary to the World Court ruling). If
so, that makes Pine Gap a liability for
Australia, should the United States ever
rely on the Alice Springs base to aim and
fire a first-use nuclear weapon: we would
be complicit in a crime against humanity.
This month, the Nuclear Posture Review
will be launched and tell us a lot more
about America's intentions.
And time is running out. Israel has
between 75 and 200 nuclear weapons.
North Korea has 1-10 nuclear weapons. In
the early 1990s, Pakistan and India came
closer to nuclear war than even the Cuban
Missile Crisis brought us for they each
have around 50 nuclear weapons. And
plutonium to make weapons has gone
missing from Russia.
Every country that has nuclear power
plants is within cooee of making nuclear
You would think that a weapon that can
turn your city into 7,000 degrees Celsius
in an instant would be reviled universally,
as a weapon of terror. Hans Blix, who
investigated whether or not there were
weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, (he
said there weren't, and he was right) is
an active advocate of abolishing nuclear
weapons. "So long as any state has such
weapons, others will want them. So long
as any such weapons remain in any state's
arsenal, there is a high risk that they will
one day be used, by design or accident.
Any such use would be catastrophic."
The world has already started to move
against these indiscriminate weapons of
terror. The Mayors for Peace movement
is worldwide, as they campaign with the
chilling motto and demand, "Cities Are Not
Targets!" (Why not get your mayor to sign
up?) The Women's International League
for Peace and Freedom has resourced
"Reaching Critical Will" to inform people
about the possibilities for peace without
nukes. ICAN -- the International Campaign
to Abolish Nuclear Weapons -- has the
support of Nobel laureates and people
from all sides of the political spectrum.
At least 127 countries were for a Nuclear
Weapons Convention, with only 27 against.
Change is possible.
An influential international report last
December, co-chaired by Australian Gareth
Evans, built on the opening created by his
1996 Canberra Commission. The status
quo is not an option. The report's raft of
recommendations does much of the work
needed for a successful May conference.
A Nuclear Weapons Convention would
do the following sensible things, to take
us back from five minutes to midnight:
● nuclear weapons would be taken off hair
trigger alert (In the 1990s, the Russians
almost launched a nuclear attack on the
United States when a flock of birds was
mistaken for an American attack)
● nuclear weapons would be taken from
where they are deployed
● nuclear warheads would be taken from
their delivery vehicles and disabled
● fissile materials would be put under
United Nations control
A year ago this month, President
Obama, Nobel Peace prize winner, stood in
Prague and said to the throng in Hradcany
"Just as we stood for freedom in the
20th century, we must stand together for
the right of people everywhere to live free
from fear in the 21st century. (Applause.)
And as a nuclear power -- as a nuclear
power, as the only nuclear power to
have used a nuclear weapon, the United
States has a moral responsibility to act. We
cannot succeed in this endeavour alone,
but we can lead it, we can start it.
So today, I state clearly and with
conviction America's commitment to
seek the peace and security of a world
without nuclear weapons. "
Do what you can to support Australia's
progressive stand in New York next month.
Let people know that we can actually
ban hydrogen and atom bombs, just as
the world has already banned biological
and chemical weapons, and outlawed
landmines and dum-dum bullets. Yes
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