On January 22nd, 2021, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) became part of international law. This is more than 75 years after the horrors of the USA bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan in August of 1945. The law now makes it illegal to develop, produce, store, threaten to use, or use nuclear weapons. One hundred twenty-two nations endorsed the Treaty in 2017, at the UN General Assembly, with 51 countries signing and ratifying it. Some countries with no nuclear development had become impatient with the ineffectiveness of the Non- Proliferation Treaty in ridding the world of nuclear weapons. I do not know of a weapon constructed by humans that has never been used. There are now about 3,750 active nuclear devices in our beloved world, and 13,890 in total. Nine nations produce nuclear weapons: the USA, Russia, North Korea, China, France, Pakistan, India, the United Kingdom, and Israel. They are in violation now, of International Law, though as they have not signed the Treaty this poses a great challenge to the long-standing struggle for disarmament.
Of NATO members, the UK, France, and USA possess 6,305 nuclear weapons, and five NATO nations hold weapons from the US on their territory. In 2016 the USA sent a mission to NATO members to persuade them not to vote for the TPNW. The position of NATO is that nuclear weapons are the major guarantee of the alliance. Since the cold war NATO has moved soldiers and weapons closer to Russia. Of course those of us for total disarmament consider that the chance of life on Earth going forward depends on eliminating these weapons–and of course, eliminating the human causes of environmental crises, of life extinction. President Biden in the USA has put a huge emphasis on these environmental crises, which is so needed. However, if the nuclear crisis remains, what chance is there anyway for a future? My view is that we must combine these two situations into one vision of what is important in creating a viable future.
There are some things that one rarely sees in the media today, such as how people were scorched into to shadows on the streets and walls by the bombing of Hiroshima, and how the USA had knowledge it would win the war with Japan without any bombing. How often do we hear of the ten nuclear warhead accidents experienced by the US between 1950 and 2007? In 1983 a NATO exercise which included a simulated attack nearly led to war with the Soviet Union. Albert Einstein, whose work led to the development of the atomic bomb, was a pacifist, and later regretted his part in the US bomb development; he had done what he did because he was afraid Germany would develop the bomb. When the US bombed Japan then of course some other nations decided to get on the bomb train. It is called the “arms race,” as if it is a peaceful sensible thing in which to partake, like an Olympics race or a basketball game. And billions of dollars are spent yearly to produce these deadly instruments. The USA has the highest military budget in the world. In 2019 it used 53% (numbers vary–one source gave 64%) of total spending on the military; this is $730 billion, and if veterans, homeland security and similar costs are added, it is over one trillion dollars.
Sadly, my country, Canada has not signed onto TPNW, for reasons of its relationship with the USA, yet there is a push here to have Canada add its approval. From 1963 to 1984 there were some US warheads fielded in Canada. Presently the Canadian Government allows US planes carrying nuclear weapons to fly over Canada, though over 60% of Canadians live in cities and towns that proclaim to be “nuclear weapons free.” People all over the world have been working hard for decades for the removal of these weapons, and for the end of war as a tool. Is it not terrorism when a handful of nations own and control the means utterly to destroy the world? One very early morning in the 1980’s I was awakened suddenly by the sound of a huge blast. I told myself this must be it–the end of the world, a nuclear explosion; I went through enormous helpless grief of the end of everything meaningful in life. Then I realized it had been a sonic boom. I lived far from any town, up in the hills and occasionally we heard these booms. And actually, the global nuclear destruction could happen at any moment until we, the people of this planet, summon the will to work until we end this possibility.
It is a great and deep-seated fear that has brought the world to 100 seconds before midnight. As in the picture above of Dr. Strangelove in the movie riding the bomb down to oblivion, our species has turned this disease of fear into something that would create a hell at least as bad as what is feared. As King Kong in the movie, we ride to certain disaster as if we have no comprehension of the reality that on purpose or by accident our end will come if we do not change course. There are ways for those who find enemies, whose fear makes them greedy, who are somehow not filled enough by the spiritual depth of life and this planet–to heal into holding awe and gratitude, and accepting all that we cannot control. We cannot control Nature, and that has been a huge part of the fear: rather than living in wonder and devotion to Nature some cannot bear it nor their own fear of it. A fear so great it would destroy billions of years of life here!
True healing takes us to an inner reality of caring and appreciation that we are part of a human family. Each can be touched by any other human being: that is too precious a gift to throw away. In these times more that ever it is so important to see us as one people needing to face the environmental ruin and the need for living free of the possibility, even probability, of nuclear annihilation. We are all in this together, let us meet in constructive ways toward a global peace that commits itself to structures that can be put in place to preserve it. Because most everyone actually wants this, it can become the road ahead. Yes, it took 75 years to get this far, and we can create a time of no nuclear terror. First we must picture it, then let the children’s voices join with those of the survivors of war, and listen to the wise and caring voice of our Mother Earth. All life deserves this.
All my Relations.