"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." — Elie Wiesel

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dealing with the Nuclear Genie


July 16th marked the day 66 years ago when the United States let the nuclear genie out of the lamp. 

On July 16, 1945, at 5:29:45 AM at the Alamogordo Test Range, on the Jornada del Muerto (Journey of Death) desert, in the test named Trinity, the experimental device known as the "Gadget" was detonated, creating a light "brighter than a thousand suns." A mere 6 kilogram (13.2 pound) sphere of plutonium, compressed to supercriticality by the surrounding high explosives, created an explosion equivalent to 20,000 tons of TNT (20 Kilotons).

Was this, as thought nuclear physicist Robert Oppenheimer, the beginning of the end? These scientists had "become death", and they had created what could become (quite literally) "the destroyer of worlds."  Oppenheimer quoted a verse from the Bhagavad Gita which read "I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."  The nuclear genie was out of the lamp and now, 66 years later, we have one final wish left. Will it be for the genie to return to the lamp?
Less than one month after the Trinity test, the United States dropped two atomic bombs - on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - that killed over 100,000 people in less time than it took me to type a few of these words. As many as 220,000 were dead from the effects of radiation by the end of 1945. Even today, 66 years later, survivors and subsequent generations suffer the effects of radiation.

So began a journey (with the test known as Trinity) that has led humanity down the perilous road of preparation for its own destruction. Scientists have continued to seek the power of gods, creating ever more destructive nuclear devices over the years, and many in our government and others continue asking for more of these awful weapons in every shape and form (and method of delivery).

Today the U.S. government is building new bomb-making facilities at Kansas City and Oak Ridge, while it develops new nuclear capable bombers and ballistic missile submarines (just to name a few key projects).  What message do you think this sends to other nations contemplating developing or building more nuclear weapons???

Our leaders, including President Obama, are forging ahead towards nuclear darkness, and it is up to the people to call for an end to this madness that consumes vast quantities of economic capital while preparing for the end of life as we know it.  We can participate on many levels, from advocacy to nonviolent direct action, from our hands to our feet - there is something everyone can do to help put the genie back in the bottle.

It is no simple task, and many people would say that we are naive to think such a thing is possible.  We will never know if we don't try.  Even the U.S. Conference of Mayors, at its recent meeting, called for the abolition of nuclear weapons. 

Get involved in an upcoming event commemorating the anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Many cities have ceremonies commemorating these events.  Click here for events occurring around Puget Sound.  Take one of many advocacy actions, including cutting the 2012 nuclear weapons budget, at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation or any number of other organizations (see the list of "Hot Links" in the right hand column of this blog).

After 66 years it is high time we put the nuclear genie back in the lamp.



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