The world changed dramatically in the 20th century, a century of unprecedented violence. We humans learned how to release the power of the atom, and this led quickly to the creation and use of nuclear weapons. At Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this terrible new power was unleashed at the end of a bloody and costly war. Tens of thousands of persons, including large numbers of women and children, were killed in the massive explosion and radiation release of these new tools of destruction. A new icon was born: the mushroom cloud. It represented mankind’s murderous prowess. In the years that followed, nuclear weapons multiplied in a mad arms race. We achieved the possibility of creating a global Hiroshima and ending most life on Earth.
If, one hundred years from now, you read this message, humanity will probably have succeeded in freeing itself from the scourge of nuclear weapons. That will be a great triumph. It will mean that we have met the first great challenge to our survival as a species. It will mean that we have learned and applied the lesson that the hibakusha, survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, worked so diligently to teach us, that human beings and nuclear weapons cannot co-exist.
There is an alternative possibility, that of no civilization or human beings left alive one hundred years from now. Such a future would mean that we failed completely as a species, that we could not put away our primitive and violent means of settling our differences. Perhaps we would have simply stumbled by a combination of apathy and arrogance into an accidental nuclear conflagration. It would mean that all the beauty and elegant and subtle thought of humans that developed over our existence on Earth would have vanished. There would be no one left to appreciate what was or might have been. No eyes would read this letter to the future. There would be no future and the past would be erased. Meaning itself would be erased along with humanity.
We have a choice. We can end the nuclear weapons era, or we can run the risk that nuclear weapons will end the human era. The choice should not be difficult. In fact, the vast majority of humans would choose to eliminate nuclear weapons. Today, a small number of individuals in a small number of countries are holding humanity hostage to a nuclear holocaust. To change this situation and assure a future free of nuclear threat, people everywhere must exercise their rights to life and make their voices heard. They must speak out and act before it is too late. They must demand an end to the nuclear weapons era.
If this message reaches one hundred years into the future it will mean that enough of my contemporaries and the generations that follow will have heard the messages of the hibakusha and will have chosen the paths of hope and peace. Humanity will have conquered its most terrible tools of destruction. If this is the case, I believe that your future will be bright.