By Robert F. Dodge, M.D.
[During the week of January 21] we witnessed two significant and connected events. We remembered and celebrated the visionary champion of civil rights, social and economic justice and nuclear disarmament, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr at the outset and finished the week with the unveiling of the Nuclear Doomsday Clock. Dr. King realized the interconnectedness of these issues and that you could not have one without each of the others.
[A week later] our government [was] reopening as our Progressive Caucus [prepared] to do the people’s work proposing a “Green New Deal,” building a carbon-free economy while providing social and economic justice to workers in this new economy. Yet, as Dr. King acknowledged in 1959, “What will be the ultimate value of having established social justice in a context where all people, Negro and white, are merely free to face destruction by strontium 90 or atomic war?” There is no racial, social, economic or environmental justice as long as this threat exists.
And yet today, the world faces an even greater threat of nuclear war fueled by Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, threatened withdrawal from the INF Treaty and by the new arms race initiated by the United States plan to spend over $1 trillion in the next three decades to rebuild and enhance our entire nuclear arsenal. This plan has been duplicated by every other nuclear nation, not wanting to fall behind in the mythological idea of “nuclear deterrence.”
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists unveiled their nuclear Doomsday Clock last week, leaving the setting at two minutes till midnight with midnight being nuclear apocalypse. This “new abnormal” declared by the group emphasized the increasing existential threats to our planet of climate change and nuclear war. Climate change continues to march ahead increasing scarcity of natural resources and thus increasing global conflict and mass human migration as witnessed in our first climate war in Syria.
Recognizing the connection between climate change and nuclear war and the failure of global leaders to take the necessary immediate and appropriate action, the Clock remained steady at two minutes till midnight, the closest it has been since the height of the Cold War and its inception in 1947. In their announcement they highlighted that citizens can make a difference by demanding efforts to stop our addiction to fossil fuels and simultaneously demanding nuclear weapons abolition. Working with movements like 350.org and Back from the Brink, each of us can support the necessary actions to realize these aims.
Seemingly oblivious to current science about the dangers of even a limited regional nuclear war threatening the entire planet outlined in the Nuclear Famine Report, our elected officials blindingly move forward in this arms race. From this point forward, any politician who invokes the potential use of nuclear weapons or the statement “all options are on the table” must be looked at as a “nuclear dinosaur,” truly ignorant of, uninformed about, or in denial of the consequences of any nuclear war.
Speaking at the conference, the Bulletin’s executive chair, former California Governor Jerry Brown said, “The blindness and stupidity of the politicians and their consultants is truly shocking in the face of nuclear catastrophe and danger. The probability is mounting that there will be some kind of nuclear incident that will kill millions, if not initiating a nuclear exchange that will kill billions. It’s late and it’s getting later, and we have to wake people up.”
Ultimately, there is no greater social, economic, health or environmental threat to our communities, all children and the world than the constant real and present threat of nuclear war either by intent, miscalculation or accident. This threat is heightened today by the vulnerability induced by cyber terrorism. It is not possible to have a “Green New Deal” in a nuclear-threatened world. We must demand our leaders take the immediate and necessary action necessary to prevent further climate change and abolish nuclear weapons. This remains the only option to protect our future and that of future generations.
The Progressive Caucus in the House of Representatives is positioned to take the lead on these issues and realize the connection–if only they will. We the people must inform and support them as we help build the political will transforming the dream into a reality for a just, environmentally sustainable and peaceful nuclear-free tomorrow.
Robert Dodge writes for PeaceVoice, is a family physician practicing in Ventura, California, is the Co-Chair of the Nuclear Weapons Abolition Committee of National Physicians for Social Responsibility. PSR received the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.