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This is a key time for youth organizing on nuclear weapons, and the Project for Nuclear Awareness (PNA) is doing something about it. The International Youth Dialogue for Nuclear Disarmament started today with a BANG (ok, bad pun…BANG also stands for the Ban All Nukes Generation). After introductions by Ed Aguilar and Emily Gleason of PNA, Dr. Hans Blix took the stage; he spoke of the Nobel Peace Prize being awarded to President Obama as a token to lend support to him against hawks and skeptics, much like Al Gore was awarded the prize to lend support to climate change activism. He spoke more than once about global interdependence and how this affects nuclear disarmament. For example, he spoke of how Russia looks to the US for inspiration, of Russia and Finland and the policy of being a good neighbor versus being a big brother and of how Chinese CTBT ratification could urge other countries in that direction. He also spoke of the steps that need to be taken: a START I follow-on treaty as a precursor to more far-reaching disarmament, CTBT ratification, an NPT conference that does not end in acrimony as the 2005 one did and a Fissile Materials Cutoff Treaty to “close the tap.”
I spoke second; you can read the text of my speech in the previous blog post.
What followed was an excellent discussion between the 3 participating venues: Santa Barbara, Philadelphia and Mexico City thanks to live teleconferencing technology (see the photo above and to the right). From Mexico City came the comment that it would be important to have a campaign emphasizing the advantages of being a non-nuclear country and the interesting perspective that Latin America, being a nuclear weapons free zone, could lead the nuclear states in disarmament. In Santa Barbara, Daniel Hall of Soka Gakkai International – USA (SGI), Rick Wayman from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (NAPF) and David Krieger from NAPF offered their input including an appeal to creativity from NAPF, talking about the importance of the voices of hibakusha and a plea to no more double standards such as with Israel or the US’s relationship with Pakistan and India. Emily Gleason from Philadelphia talked about the connection between climate change and nuclear war, and others in Philly drew the distinction between nuclear weapons and the military.
David Krieger from NAPF then gave an exceptionally useful and organized talk. He started by describing five categories of people: 1) bomb lovers, 2) bomb users – those who would support arms control if it gave them a relative advantage, 3) those that don’t engage, which compose the largest group, 4) bomb controllers or nuclear incrementalists – those who wish to control the bomb through agreements and see disarmament as a distant goal, such as the “gang of 4″ (Kissinger, Nunn, Perry and Shultz) and 5) those who see the bomb as a risk to all life and seek the abolition of omnicidal nuclear weapons. He spoke of how nuclear weapons undermine democracy, divide states into haves and have-nots, threaten to foreclose the future and corrupt our future. He also offered 7 steps that should be taken: 1) deleting nuclear arsenals, 2) no first use, 3) no new nukes, 4) ban nuclear testing forever – including not only the CTBT but also to stop subcritical testing and lab testing, 5) controlling all fissionable materials 6) a nuclear weapons convention that serves as a treaty for a new phased, verifiable, transparent and irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons and 7) the reallocation of resources for peace or social justice issues. He urged those at the conference to be persistent, as our very future depends on our success. He then ended with a poem he wrote about Hibakusha entitled Hibakusha do not just happen.
Next up was a breakout session at each of the venues to discuss what advocacy and organizing methods work best, after which the different groups came together to share what each group had discussed. Mexico City underscored the importance of dialogue. Santa Barbara mentioned framing the issue in financial terms, employing culture and the arts, using 1:1 dialogue, visiting locations such as Hiroshima and meeting with hibakusha and investigating new modes of thinking to get beyond nuclear weapons. There were several groups in Philadelphia. One theme that emerged was the idea of having a longitudinal peace studies program implemented in our schools. They proposed a photo petition, wherein different people around the country would be photographed with a sign complete with a message for nuclear disarmament; then there would be a contest for the best photo in an exhibition. One group talked about the challenge of getting 67 votes in the Senate, and using visible and loud public pressure to do so. Another group mentioned getting history and science teachers involved, and on focusing on the commonalities between climate change and nuclear abolition. The “economic” group emphasized the cost of nuclear weapons now, as well as the future costs. They urged us to tie these costs to the taxes we pay so that it is easier for people to process.
Comments included a suggestion to talk to the DOE to completely shift its focus to renewable energy; nuclear weapons account for over half of its budget, and this is not what the DOE was intended to do.
Day 1 ended with Emily Gleason urging us to think about what we can specifically do, even if it is just one thing, and to make a specific plan such that we could plan to coordinate actions.
For a live feed of day 2 of the IYDfND, please visit the Ban All Nukes Generation blog.
For even more comments, see the tweets by @banallnukes, @PNAUSA, @ippnwstudents and @spsr.
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Dr. Helfand spoke in September, 2010 to an audience of University students and professors on the medical consequences of nuclear weapons and the urgent need for the United States of America to reduce the risk posed by these weapons of mass destruction. Read more »