Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘peace movement’

20160402_150123

William Perry with Dr. Ira Helfand

The initial down payments toward the production of an entirely new generation of missiles, submarines and bombers designed to deliver a new generation of nuclear warheads are already in the federal budget. The ultimate pricetag would be in the vicinity of a trillion dollars if all the weapons on the Pentagon’s shopping list are produced. But it’s not too late to stop the nuclear assembly lines and get back to the business of nuclear abolition. That was the emphasis of a conference on “Reducing the Dangers of Nuclear War” held April 2 at MIT in Cambridge

“Once you start bending metal, it’s almost impossible to stop,” Joe Cirincione said at one of the workshops. Cirincione, a former staff member of the House Armed Services Committee who now heads the pro-disarmament Ploughshares Fund, said that means we have two to three years to stop the new weapons systems. “This is our moment,” he said.

The conference brought together an impressive array of activists and scholars, plus William Perry, the former Secretary of Defense who has joined the call for nuclear weapons abolition. “The danger of a nuclear catastrophe is higher today than at any time during the Cold War,” he warned. Perry is particularly alarmed by the proposal for a new cruise missile, the nuclear armed version of which would be indistinguishable from one carrying non-nuclear explosives until after it detonates. Eight thousand American and Russian nuclear weapons were dismantled while he was at the helm at the Pentagon, he said, but “we’re going backwards today.”

Given the stakes, “backwards” is an understatement. As Dr. Ira Helfand of Physicians for Social Responsibility reminded the conference attenders, detonation of a nuclear bomb over a major city would not only kill huge numbers of people in an instant, but by destroying hospitals and the doctors and nurses who work there, the ability to respond to burns and other injuries would be crippled. And as Alan Robock, a professor of environmental science from Rutgers stressed, detonation of a relatively small share of the world’s nuclear arsenal could throw so much smoke into the upper atmosphere that it could bring on a global cooling process so severe that food production would fall worldwide by 20 to 40% for a 5-year period.

20160402_162939-1-1

Mary Popeo of Global Zero with Joe Cirincione

“Only nuclear disarmament will prevent catastrophe,” he said.

It’s not just the number of nuclear weapons that poses a danger, it’s also their design. One of the features of the warheads now being pursued by the US nuclear weapons labs and the corporations that run them (on a for-profit basis) is increased accuracy. Aron Bernstein, an MIT emeritus professor of physics, said “when we make the missiles more accurate, we make them more likely to be perceived as a first strike weapon.” They might even be more likely to actually be intended for first strike or battlefield use, something which should not even be contemplated but which becomes an option for military strategists once they enter the arsenal.

Nuclear weapons have proven to be no use against terrorists or the regimes with which the USA has been in conflict in recent years. They certainly make no contribution to efforts to fight climate change, mass migration, growing inequality, and other dilemmas that ought to be top priorities. Whether “deterrence” even works is debatable. But nuclear weapons have proven useful to US leaders time and time again, said Joseph Gerson of the AFSC, who has documented the ways in which nuclear threats have backed up foreign policy objectives starting with their use in Japan 70 years ago. And they are certainly useful to the corporations that stand to get the contracts for new missiles, subs, and bombers.

That’s why the conference wasn’t just about spreading the alarm, it also spread news about a variety of ways to challenge the nuclear-industrial-complex. For a prime example, Cambridge’s Mayor Denise Simmons used the occasion to announce her city’s new policy of divesting city funds from corporations that build nuclear weapons. In this, her administration has the aid of a new web-based tool from MIT’s Future of Life Institute. The Responsible Investing Made Easy tool lists companies that produce nuclear weapons, cluster bombs, and landmines. It also gives grades to mutual funds which claim to be socially responsible. (Spoiler Alert: some of the funds have investments in other financial firms that invest in weapons makers.) The Netherlands-based Don’t Bank on the Bomb project has another set of useful lists.

Short of nuclear abolition there are steps, such as taking missiles off high alert status, which can reduce nuclear dangers. Ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and further nuclear reductions are important steps in the right direction. But for any of these steps to take place, the movement against nuclear weapons needs to grow. Stay in touch with AFSC and your local Peace Action chapter to get involved.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

A scruffy young man wearing a knapsack approached Martha Yager at a rally.  “How do I get to world peace,” he asked?

“Practice,” said Martha.

Okay, that didn’t really happen.  But it’s a pretty good summary of Martha’s message to a small group gathered at the Concord Friends Meeting House in Canterbury on September 23.

canterbury 9-23-12 004 Martha, who used to live in New Hampshire but now coordinates the American Friends Service Committee’s South Eastern New England Program, was invited to make a return visit as part of NH Peace Action’s “Amazing Women for Peace” series.  Acknowledging that the peace movement is in rough shape at the moment, Martha asked her audience to find a partner and answer the questions, “When I think about the state of the world, the thing that concerns me most is __________,” and “When I think about that, it makes me feel __________.”

“It’s all pretty overwhelming,” she said, as participants expressed concerns about apathy, resource depletion, climate change, inequality, and violence.   And it’s no surprise that “people kinda’ zone out,” she said.

“It’s not an accident that people are being encouraged into isolation, disconnected from each other,” she observed.   The powers that be use their power to silence people and keep people feeling powerless even when we’re not.

Martha recommended three types of action to pursue:

First, “holding actions,” or those that help people survive with dignity in a world where that can be difficult.  Local examples might include volunteering at the seasonal homeless shelter at South Church in Concord, a project Martha started several years ago.

Second, actions that support life sustaining practices outside the status quo system.  Examples include community gardens, time banks, food co-ops, anything that helps to create “a new society in the shell of the old.”

Third, Martha said we should support actions that lead to a change in consciousness, that help us shift from a paradigm of “power over” to “power with.”

We are small actors in the midst of a complex world, so we should think about how canterbury 9-23-12 006 our small actions can support changes that are likely to extend beyond our lifetimes to bear fruit. 

And we need to practice, in two senses of the word.  We need to put our ideas and values into practice, not leave them in our heads and hearts.  And we need to try them out, try them over again, and see what works. 

Martha finished up by asking pairs to fill in the blank:  “The thing I’m most passionate about is __________.”

There was some discussion of whether “passion” was what we should strive for, but the point was clear:  our capacity to make change will depend our willingness to put ourselves into it. 

Read Full Post »