Each year since 1947, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has set the hands of its Doomsday Clock to show how close humanity is to annihilating itself.
Each second closer to midnight brings us nearer to destroying ourselves with our own technologies. First and foremost among these are nuclear weapons.
On January 26, the hands of the Doomsday Clock moved 30 seconds closer to midnight, from 3 minutes to just 2 ½ minutes—the clock’s closest approach to midnight since 1953.
2017 marks the 72nd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The bombs instantly killed 225,000 people. Burns, injuries and radiation poisoning killed many more by the year’s end.
72 years after those horrific events, the threat of nuclear weapons still looms over humanity.
7 2 Y E A R S A F T E R
- Today, nine nations possess nuclear weapons: Russia, the US, France, China, Britain, Pakistan, India, Israel, and North Korea. Together these states have some 15,000 nuclear warheads. Moreover, all are expanding or “modernizing” their nuclear weapons programs.
- Here’s a breakdown by country of the total nuclear stockpile:
Russia 7,000 Pakistan 120
US 6,800 India 100
France 300 Israel 80
China 250 North Korea Fewer than 10
The threat of nuclear disaster seems to be particularly high at the moment. These are the reasons:
- Tension between the US and Russia over Syria and Ukraine
- Tension between the US and North Korea
- The unpredictability of US President Donald Trump
- India-Pakistan tensions
- A nuclear accident—an accident waiting to happen
BANNING NUCLEAR WEAPONS
Last month, the United Nations held a conference to negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons. 123 countries attended. It was the first major development in nuclear disarmament in decades. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that Canada did not attend the conference. 40 other nations also boycotted the neotiations, including seven of the nine nuclear states. (China and India were the exceptions.)
Why did Canada not attend? Canada is a member of NATO. NATO reserves the right to use nuclear weapons on a first-strike basis. The US instructed all NATO members to reject the negotiations.
Unlike Canada, the Netherlands, also a NATO member, disobeyed US instructions and attended the conference. In the Netherlands, there was strong public pressure on the government to participate in the nuclear ban negotiations.
A SECOND CHANCE
The UN conference to negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons will resume on June 15 and run to July 7. It is not too late for Canada to join the conference.
Nuclear weapons are the only weapons of mass destruction not prohibited by international law.
VOICES FOR NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT
Albert Einstein, 1945: “If only I had known, I should have become a watchmaker.”
Arundhati Roy, 1999: “It is such a supreme folly to believe that nuclear weapons are deadly only if they’re used. The fact that they exist at all, their presence in our lives, will wreak more havoc than we can begin to fathom.”
Mayor of Hiroshima, Kaumi Matsui, 2015: “As long as nuclear weapons exist, anyone could become a hibakusha [victim of those weapons] at any time.”
THE PEACE SYMBOL & NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT
The peace symbol finds its origins in the British nuclear disarmament movement. Designed in 1958, it uses semaphore signals to transmit its message.
Semaphore is a system of conveying information at a distance. You spell out a word by placing your arms in certain positions, each position representing a different letter in the alphabet.
N and D, standing for Nuclear Disarmament, are the semaphore signals represented in the peace symbol.
TAKE ACTION FOR PEACE
CONTACT POLITICAL LEADERS
- Let Prime Minister Trudeau know you want Canada to attend the next UN meetings on banning nuclear weapons and to take a strong stand on their prohibition: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Send the same message to your MP:
Ralph Goodale: email@example.com
Andrew Scheer: firstname.lastname@example.org
Erin Weir: email@example.com
- Ask the leaders of the other federal political parties what their position is on the elimination of nuclear weapons:
Rona Ambrose, Conservative Party: firstname.lastname@example.org
Elizabeth May, Green Party: email@example.com
Tom Mulcair, NDP: firstname.lastname@example.org
ENTER THE 2017 PEACE SYMBOL CONTEST
- Create a peace symbol on any surface: for example, a sidewalk using chalk; a piece of clothing; a cake or cookies using icing.
- Take a photo of your peace symbol.
- Email the photo to email@example.com
You will, in return, receive a peace gift and become eligible to win a major peace prize. The deadline is midnight August 31, 2017.