Are you doing your best to protect our people, planet and just prosperity?
Yes, thank you. You reduce or recycle, you bike or bus, you vote for the greenest candidates and policies to prevent climate change and other disasters.
What else could you do? You could add to your to-do list: ban nuclear bombs to keep our people and planet safe from mass destruction. Nuclear weapons are a greater threat than ever, but you can join the new nuclear abolition movement growing here and all over the world.
How can one bomb destroy a city? On Aug. 6 and 9, 1945, the United States detonated the first nuclear bombs on the people living in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan.
The bombs instantly killed at least 100,000 people and destroyed thousands of homes, schools, buildings and nature. Another 100,000 died later from burns and radiation.
Fortunately after this devastation, an international community of scientists, religious, elected leaders and millions of people of conscience united to demand action and declare, “Never again.” In 1970, the Non-Proliferation Treaty committed nuclear-armed states to pursue disarmament. Then, in 1996, the International Court of Justice opined that the threat or use of nuclear weapons violates international law.
Finally, this spring, nations met to negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons, giving them the same illegal status as other weapons of mass destruction such as chemical and biological weapons. On July 7, a treaty was signed by 122 nations. This is a historic victory for disarmament and a crucial step in creating a world without nuclear weapons.
Unfortunately, the U.S. and other nuclear-armed nations did not sign. In fact, Trump is igniting a new nuclear arms race. He has repeatedly asked why the U.S. can’t just use nuclear weapons. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has declared that all options, including a pre-emptive military strike, are on the table with North Korea. Even before the recent election, U.S. military-industrial profiteers launched a plan to spend $400 billion on nuclear weapons over the next 10 years. According to Physicians for Social Responsibility, Washington residents paid $1.4 billion in 2016 in federal taxes — $196.06 per person.
Why should Washingtonians care? Because the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the U.S. is just 20 miles west of Seattle at the Bangor submarine base. If one or more of those nuclear bombs were detonated, by accident or hack, can you imagine what would happen to every living thing here? These bombs are up to 30 times more deadly than the ones that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Why do I care? In 1969, I had the opportunity to spend my junior year of high school as a Rotary exchange student in Hiroshima, Japan. I spent that year seeing the survivors’ scars, hearing their stories and listening to their pleas to share this message to prevent another Hiroshima. This taught me the inevitable tragic suffering of war, and that the better option is to invest our time, skills and resources to protect life.
So what can we do now? Right here in our state, people are joining together to speak out to prevent nuclear annihilation. A new statewide coalition to stop the new nuclear arms race brings nearly 30 faith, labor, environmental, peace and health groups together to influence our elected representatives. In the wake of this historic treaty banning nuclear weapons, you can call your members of Congress to support the treaty. Here in Seattle, you can join one of our coalition partners, From Hiroshima to Hope, at their 33rd annual lantern-floating ceremony to honor the atomic bomb victims as well as all victims of war and violence on Aug. 6 at Green Lake. To learn more, including information about events and action options, visit Washington Physicians for Social Responsibiltiy.
Would any sane, caring person ever choose mutually assured destruction? Never again. Let’s join with our neighbors and the international community to ban the bomb now.
A longtime law, economics and history teacher, Beth Brunton contributes to creating a more just, peaceful world by strengthening nonviolent power through community connections. Beth is on the Leadership Team for the South Seattle Climate Action Network.