Dave MeserveAugust 8, 2021 at 9:00 a.m.
It is time to Ban the Bomb.
The 39th annual Arcata Lantern Float, commemorating the deaths from the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, has been cancelled due to the recent surge in COVID. Despite being unable to gather as a community to memorialize those who died in the atomic attacks 76 years ago, we still rededicate our energy to eliminating nuclear weapons.
For the past seven decades, we have been faced by the threat of nuclear holocaust. The severity of the threat has fluctuated, but it has always been there.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, I clearly recall sitting in my school’s multi-purpose room watching the school’s one TV, as the confrontation with the USSR built to a climax. My classmates and I were possessed by fear, conditioned by Cold War media hype and monthly city-wide air raid drills. We all thought that a Soviet nuclear attack was imminent. We would never get to fulfill our hopes and dreams of growing up and living a full life.
That confrontation ended with a secret diplomatic phone conversation between Kennedy and Khrushchev, and further close calls have persisted ever since, some as a result of confrontational policies and some from technical glitches. Future generations should not have to live with this deadly fear.
The threat of nuclear holocaust briefly declined in the 1990s, with the end of the Cold War and with treaties limiting the deployment of nuclear weapons. Now we see policies and news coverage that oppose nuclear diplomacy and demonize Russia and China as threatening adversaries. This has led to increased spending on a “new and improved” nuclear arsenal, which benefits only the military contractors who build the weapons.
As this nuclear buildup occurs, most activist attention is on the very real threat of global warming.
Climate change may kill us all in a matter of decades and certainly occurs because of human choices. Nuclear war can kill us all much more rapidly, and could possibly occur at any moment.
The surest cure for global warming is nuclear winter. A supreme irony. Either one would wipe out life on earth. Both can and must be prevented.
Nuclear weapons create the classic Sword of Damocles. They do not seem to affect our lives, yet hang over us every hour of every day. Maybe not today, but perhaps at any moment, due to unchecked nationalistic power or technical error, they could kill us all.
So as we commemorate the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we must also do everything in our power to get rid of nuclear weapons. Humboldt County and Arcata are leaders in these efforts.
After sailing in the South Pacific in the 1950s to block nuclear bomb testing, the Golden Rule sailboat was beached here on Humboldt Bay. With the support of Veterans for Peace Chapter 56, and the generosity of Zerlang boat works and many others, the vessel was rebuilt. Re-launched in 2015, she’s since been sailing the Pacific supporting nuclear weapon abolition, and will soon embark on an educational voyage around the waterways of the eastern United States and the Great Lakes.
Both Arcata and Humboldt County are Nuclear Weapons Free Zones, with Arcata’s ordinance having been approved by voters in 1989. These laws mandate that nuclear weapons contractors may not do business with the local governments or set up operations within their jurisdictions. In 2019 the Arcata City Council approved a resolution calling for the United States to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and adopt a No First Use policy.
As individuals, for the survival and health of future generations, we must urge President Biden and our senators and representatives to support such measures.
The United States must now sign and ratify the United Nations TPNW (https://www.change.org/p/politicians-should-the-federal-government-support-the-tpnw). In 2017, 122 nations voted to create the treaty, and 55 nations have ratified it, so it is technically in force, but no nuclear weapons states have yet joined the treaty.
We all can support a pledge of No First Use of Nuclear Weapons by the U.S. and all countries with nuclear arsenals.
We insist that the upcoming Nuclear Posture Review back off from confrontational language and include a No First Use policy.
We support positive diplomacy with Russia and China, not a new Cold War.
With our awareness of the threat of nuclear war, sparked by the commemoration of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we must all act to create a nuclear-free, livable, and peaceful world for our children and grandchildren.
Dave Meserve resides in Arcata.