Beyond Nuclear International

The most useless of arsenals

Nuclear nations have handled COVID-19 the worst

By Tilman Ruff

The Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated that massive arsenals are useless in a pandemic. The countries that have spent obscene sums on nuclear weapons have failed to provide the most basic of protective equipment against the coronavirus, putting their citizens in danger every day.

New pathogens will continue to evolve, spread and disrupt our world. Indeed as we deplete habitats for other species, wreak climate havoc, and grow food industrially, we can expect new infectious diseases more often.

COVID-19 is just the latest; it will certainly not be the last. Bad enough it is, but far from the worst we could expect.

Exposing vulnerability

COVID-19 has caught even the wealthiest nations unprepared; their massive armaments useless against a small, mindless aggregation of single stranded RNA, a few proteins and a thin lipid envelope about 120 nm across.

Nations investing obscene sums in nuclear weapons that must never be used have been unable to provide the most basic of protective equipment – gowns, gloves, and facemasks for their frontline health professionals putting themselves in danger every day.

Image by HFCM Communicatie/Wikimedia Commons.

The best funded public health organization in the world, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of the United States, went from recommending N95 respirators for doctors and nurses at risk to recommending improvised bandanas in the face of severe shortages of the most basic protection costing a fraction of a dollar.

The US government rejected international assistance with test kits and was then left with woefully inadequate numbers of its own faulty kits.

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It’s been 75 years

Why are we still planning for the ultimate planet-ending act?

By Ray Acheson

Reaching Critical Will, a program of the Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom, has released its new report — Assuring Destruction Forever: 2020 edition. This is its introduction, (edited here for publication timing), a powerful reminder of the lessons humanity has yet to learn, 75 years after the US dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

It’s August 2020. Seventy-five years since a US president sitting in Washington, DC decided to drop two atomic bombs on the people of Japan—one on the city of Hiroshima, the other on Nagasaki. Thus began the nuclear age, marked with the construction of multiple “doomsday machines” programmed for unwinnable wars and global conflagration; astonishing wastes of human and financial resources; bullish, masculinised conflicts among states that deploy violence here and there while dancing around their potential for planet-ending acts; and the relentless peddling of all this as completely, totally, and undeniably rational.

Seventy-five years of apocalyptic potential

But it is not rational. And the continued investment by certain governments in not just the maintenance but also the “modernisation”—the upgrading, updating, and life- extending—of nuclear weapons is absurd, dangerous, and immoral. Fortunately, during the COVID-19 crisis, people are starting to take notice of where all of the money—in many cases, taxpayers’ money—has gone; of why their governments cannot provide basic protective equipment and medical supplies and services during a global pandemic. And even more fortunately, there is something we can do to get rid of the threat of nuclear weapons and release trillions of dollars to deal with real, rather than imagined, crises of security, safety, and stability: we can divest, and we can disarm.

For seventy-five years, the world has lived under the threat of radioactive blast and firestorm, the effects of which are immediately devastating and punishingly intergenerational. For seventy five years, from production to testing and use to storage of radioactive waste, nuclear weapon activities have contaminated land and water—and will continue to do so for thousands of years more. For seventy-five years, a very few governments—nine, at current count—have decided to invest trillions of dollars into these instruments of death and destruction. For seventy-five years, corporations like Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Bechtel have reaped incredible profits from government contracts for bombs and bombers. Certain academics, politicians, and bureaucrats have risen through the ranks of think tanks or government administrations in positions bankrolled by the nuclear profiteers, spinning theories of “nuclear deterrence” and “strategic stability” to justify this massive, unconscionable investment in technologies of massive violence.

The Hiroshima Peace Memorial, now marking 75 years since the dropping of the US atomic bomb. (Photo: Jepster/Creative Commons)

It’s been seventy-five years. Will we reach one hundred if we continue on like this? Can we survive a century with nuclear weapons? Can we survive a century of wasted money and ingenuity; a century of tensions between human beings armed to the death with the capacity to destroy entire cities, countries, the world, in moments; a century of living with this existential threat while another, that of climate change, promises even more damage and uncertainty ahead?

The question of can we, though, is not as relevant as should we. Should we just keep going, the way the nuclear war mongers want? They say we’ll be fine. Better than if we were to disarm, they argue. Eliminating nuclear weapons will “destabilise” international relations, they assert. It will mean another global conflict, invasions and occupations, “dogs and cats living together.”

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Nuclear power in the Green New Deal?

The arguments against it

By M.V. Ramana and Schyler Edmunston

Over the last few years, there has been a growing interest in a Green New Deal and there are many versions proposed in different countries. At the same time, there has also been criticism of these proposals on many counts, including the fact that they typically don’t include nuclear energy.

This criticism misses a basic point: a Green New Deal is, by its very definition, much more than an emissions reduction plan. As we argue below, the other attributes that characterize Green New Deals, rule out nuclear energy as an option.

Like the original New Deal of U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s, all Green New Deal proposals emphasize the creation of new jobs. Canada’s New Democratic Party version, for example, calls for “a New Deal for Climate Action and Good Jobs.”

Nuclear power is not a good job creator. One widely cited study found that for each gigawatt-hour of electricity generated, solar energy leads to six times as many jobs as nuclear power. This is compounded by the fact that solar power plants are far cheaper to build and maintain than nuclear reactors.

The Sunrise Movement has led the fight for the Green New Deal in the US. (Image: “File:Chicago Sunrise Movement Rallies for a Green New Deal Chicago Illinois 2-27-19 6308 (33360192358).jpg” by Charles Edward Miller from Chicago, United States is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)
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Visions for peace

At 91, Joanna Macy still sees the good in — and hope — for all of us

By De Herman

One is never too old to be a catalyst for positive change. Indeed, the voices of our elders are needed now more than ever. Joanna Macy is a prime example. 

“The most remarkable feature of this historical moment is not that we are on the way to destroying our world—we’ve actually been on the way quite a while. It is that we are beginning to wake up, as from a millennia-long sleep, to a whole new relationship to our world, to ourselves, and to each other. Active Hope is waking up to the beauty of life on whose behalf we can act. We belong to this world.” 

(Picture of Macy, above, at home in Berkeley, by De Herman.)

This is how Joanna Macy, Ph.D., sees humanity at this time in the story of our existence.  

Macy is a visionary, anti-nuclear activist, writer, deep ecologist, systems theorist, teacher, Buddhist scholar and, at 91, a wise elder. It’s been a long and circuitous life journey, woven by the threads of spiritual seeking, insatiable curiosity and passion for justice and activism. Her work, as described on her website, “addresses psychological and spiritual issues of the nuclear age, the cultivation of ecological awareness, and the fruitful resonance between Buddhist thought and postmodern science.”  

In 1978, taking lessons from grassroots activism, wisdom from East and West, and her spiritual stirrings, Macy initiated the workshops that would eventually be known as the Work That Reconnects. More than 40 years later, the workshop exercises invite participants of all ages and backgrounds “into fresh relationships with our world, and not only arouse our passion to protect life, but also steady us in a mutual belonging more real than our fears and even hopes.”

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A judge again denies Virginia Uranium Inc.

Will the latest court ruling uphold Virginia’s uranium mining ban for good?

By Kay Patrick

On a damp January day earlier this year, I went with two members of a group called Keep the Ban (KTB) on a little tour through the Coles Hill area, just outside the town of Chatham, Virginia. 

Coles Hill is the site of this country’s largest uranium deposit — a surprising discovery given most US uranium mines are to be found in the arid climate of the American Southwest.

Keep the Ban is a coalition of environmental groups and Virginia residents organized in 2008 to uphold Virginia’s moratorium on uranium mining and keep the Coles Hill uranium mining threat at bay. With good reason. As we surveyed the sodden terrain, there were so many reminders of why uranium mining is a bad idea anywhere, but especially here.

A creek that frequently floods, runs between the two proposed Coles Hill uranium mine sites, on already wet terrain. (Photo: Kay Patrick)

The Coles Hill area is criss-crossed with streams, ponds, springs, creeks and rivers. On that January day, the brown hay fields, flecked with patches of new-growth green, were singing with a chorus of peepers. There was standing water everywhere, while fallen trees decayed quietly on the banks of gurgling streams, all of it testimony to the frequent torrential rains that occur in this area. 

The next day, schools were forced to close early and remained closed the day after that due to flooding. 

Assurance that uranium mining could be done safely in this environment is a hard sell.

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Fiji’s bold step for peace

Ratification of United Nations treaty banning atomic weapons honors a half-century of anti-nuclear activism

By Vanessa Griffen and Talei Luscia Mangioni

On the streets of Suva in the 1970s it was the young who carried the cause. In afros, headbands and bell-bottom jeans they handed out pamphlets and printed newsletters, performed skits and variety shows, gave lectures, and led rallies on the streets of Fiji’s capital.

Crowds heard firebrand speeches from church leaders, trade unionists, university staff and student leaders.

The Atom (Against Testing on Mururoa) committee, formed in Fiji in 1970, was dedicated to educating, creatively but powerfully, the Fijian public of the dangers of radioactive fallout from French testing and colonialism in the Pacific.

They were resisting what Father Walter Lini, later Vanuatu’s first prime minister, described as “nuclearism” – an amalgamation of “nuclear” and “colonialism” – in the Pacific island territories by the United States, Britain, and France with their nations’ permanently harmful nuclear weapons testing.

The Against Testing on Mururoa (ATOM) committee protests on the streets of Suva, Fiji, in the 1970s. ( Photograph: Supplied by author)

The fight has been long. France would continue nuclear testing on atolls in Tahiti until 1996, and Pacific islanders fought too for justice over the radioactive legacy of US and British tests in the 1950s in the Marshall Islands and Kiribati. Their damaging environmental, social and health inheritance remains today.

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