The Nuclear Age is 65 years old. The first test of a nuclear device took place on July 16, 1945 at the Alamogordo Test Range in New Mexico’s Jornada del Muerto Desert. The Spanish name of this desert means “Journey of Death,” a fitting name for the beginning point of the Nuclear Age. Just three weeks after the test, the United States destroyed the city of Hiroshima with a nuclear weapon, followed by the destruction of Nagasaki three days later. By the end of 1945, the Journey of Death had claimed more than 200,000 human lives and left many other victims injured and suffering.
Over the past 65 years, the Journey of Death has continued to claim victims. Not from the use of nuclear weapons in war, but from the radiation released in testing nuclear weapons (posturing). We can be thankful that we have not had a nuclear war in the past 65 years, but we must not be complacent. Our relative good fortune in the past is not a guarantee that nuclear weapons will not be used in the future. Over the years, the power of nuclear weapons has increased dramatically. They have become capable of ending civilization and complex life on the planet. What could possibly justify this risk?
We remember the anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as cautionary tales. The survivors of the bombings, the hibakusha, have been strong proponents of “Never Again!” They have spoken out about what they experienced so that their past does not become our future. They have warned us repeatedly, “Nuclear weapons and human beings cannot coexist.” We must choose: nuclear weapons or a human future. The choice should not be difficult. Humanity should shout out with a single voice that we choose a world free of the overarching nuclear threat, a world free of nuclear weapons.
The people must lead their leaders, choosing hope for a far more decent human future. The United States alone has spent more than $7.5 trillion on nuclear weapons over the span of the Nuclear Age. The world currently spends more than $1.5 trillion annually on weapons, war and the preparation for war, while spending only a small portion of this on efforts to meet human needs and achieve social justice. Clearly, change is needed. Bringing about this change could begin by joining together to eliminate the nuclear weapons threat to the human future.
The future is now. Sixty-five years of nuclear threat to humanity is enough. We continue to rely upon the theory of deterrence at our peril. The theory requires rationality from leaders who are not always rational. The higher rationality and greater good for humanity would be to eliminate the threat by eliminating the weapons. The time to raise our voices and demand a world free of nuclear weapons is now, before it is too late. On this demand we must be both insistent and persistent.