The fate of humanity and that of all other inhabitants of the planet rests far too comfortably in the hands of a small number of national leaders (currently all male) who have the self-ordained authority to launch nuclear weapons. They hold in their hands the fate of every man, woman and child on the planet. On one sunlit morning or afternoon any one of these powerful individuals could launch his country’s nuclear weapons, triggering retaliatory responses. The skies would darken with the ash and soot rising from burning cities and create a nuclear winter. Even a small nuclear war could cause a nuclear famine, leading to the deaths by starvation of some two billion of the most vulnerable people on the planet.
Those with the power and control over nuclear weapons could turn this planet, unique in all the universe in supporting life, into the charred remains of a Global Hiroshima. Should any leader hold so much power? Should we be content to allow such power to rest in any hands at all?
Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein painted the starkness of our dilemma six decades ago in the Russell-Einstein Manifesto: “There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge, and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.”
Humanity has a choice to make. We can continue with business as usual, standing in the dark shadows of apathy, conformity, ignorance and denial, or we can take action to abolish nuclear weapons. Doing nothing all but assures that nuclear weapons will spread to other countries and eventually again be used by accident or design. Doing all we can to move the world to Nuclear Zero is our only chance to save the planet and assure a human future. We can start by changing apathy to empathy, conformity to critical thinking, ignorance to wisdom, and denial to recognition of the threat posed by nuclear weapons. The time is short and what is at risk is all we love and treasure.