Nuclear Weapons and Our Future

Doomsday Clock 

1147On January 22, 2015, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved the minute hand on the Doomsday Clock to three minutes to midnight. Kennette Benedict, the Executive Director of the Bulletin, spoke to the dangers of both nuclear weapons and climate and emphasized “this is about doomsday, this is about the end of civilization as we know it.”

The threat to the ongoing Universe Story, and the call to those who treasure our sacred planet and our interconnection with all being, is inescapable.

Extent of Danger

The U.S. government is very anxious about Iran’s and North Korea’s developing nuclear weapons. (No doubt both countries are anxious that others have weapons and they don’t.) They want to enrich uranium, but enriched uranium can be developed into plutonium that breaks down with an enormous release of energy and destruction.

Consider the relative destructive power of nuclear bombs:
– One kiloton equals 1000 tons of TNT. Think of it as one cube.
– 15 kilotons (15 cubes) were dropped on Hiroshima.
– 21 kilotons (21 cubes) on Nagasaki. Most readers will have seen pictures of the resulting wreckage and are aware of the approximate number of civilians killed.
– Then imagine 15,000 of those cubes — the power of Castle Bravo, the bomb detonated in 1954  by the U.S. at Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands.
– Firepower has certainly increased since 1954.

Almost 16,300 nuclear weapons exist in the countries known, or assumed, to have them: the US, Russia, China, France, India, Pakistan, the UK, North Korea, and Israel. The United States has about 4,800 weapons now, enough collective destructive force to lay waste to every country on Earth.

One wonders not just about the morality of that fact, but the logic. Of the many wars and aggressions in progress today, how many would be solved by dropping a nuclear weapon? How many of the causes of conflict might be solved or reduced if funds were spent in other ways?

Continuing Destruction

As plutonium decays over hundreds of years, it continues to release radiation. This contaminates the environment and threatens human health. In Japan, people are still suffering the consequences of the bombs dropped in 1945.

Testing the weapons is also destructive of human health and the environment.

U.S. Budget Ramifications

President Obama’s proposed 2016 budget calls for $585.2 billion
for the Pentagon. (Compare that with $71 billion for education and $8.6 billion for the environment.)
The Energy Department’s nuclear weapons and other programs total an additional $35.6 billion for 2016.

1-trillion-dollarsObama’s plan proposes to rebuild the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal: the warheads plus the missiles,  planes and submarines that carry them. The National Defense Panel, appointed by Congress, found that the price tag over 30 years could be as much as $1 trillion. That’s $1,000,000,000,000, or 1,000 billion, or the piles made with $100 dollar bills shown next to the truck and the person standing beside it.

What will taxpayers get for that money besides threats of accidents, continued international arms race, and loss of money needed elsewhere? Nuclear weapons do precious little to address the threat of terrorism; nothing to counter Islamic State forces in Iraq and Syria; nothing to counteract the growing risk of cyber attack; nothing to address the causes of conflict.

Crimes Against God and Humanity

In 1984 the United Nations Human Rights Committee noted that It is evident that the designing, testing, manufacture, possession, deployment and use of nuclear weapons are among the greatest threats to the right to life which confront mankind today, and concluded that The production, testing, possession, deployment and use of nuclear weapons should be prohibited and recognized as crimes against humanity.

That UN statement echoes the 1965 Vatican II statement: Any act of war aimed indiscriminately at the destruction of entire cities or extensive areas along with their population is a crime against God and humanity. It merits unequivocal and unhesitating condemnation.

Pope Francis, in his World Peace Day Message, 2014, reiterated the stand taken by the Catholic Church for decades: I make my own the appeal of my predecessors for the non-proliferation of arms and for disarmament of all parties beginning with nuclear and chemical weapons. 

The Austrian Pledge 

vienna-conferenceIn December 2014 the Austrian government hosted the third International Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons. Participants issued the Austrian Pledge to cooperate with all relevant parties in efforts to stigmatize, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons in light of their unacceptable humanitarian consequences and associated risks. (Sign here:

Relevant Quotes 

Christians might keep the nuclear threat in mind as they decide what they will do this Lent. Everyone can consider the calls implied in the following quotes:

Jesus: Put away your sword; Father, forgive them; Whatsoever you do to anyone, you do to me; . . . for I was hungry and you fed me . . . .

Albert Einstein: You can’t solve problems with the same level of consciousness that created them.

Buckminster Fuller: You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.

Abraham Lincoln: The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him [sic] a friend.

Pope Paul VI: If you want peace, work for justice.

Cornelia Connelly: Actions not words.

Which quote(s) might help you respond to your call to reverse the nuclear threat and create a better future? Your comments are most welcome!

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