Saturday February 24, 2024

Teachable moment

August 06, 2022

Seventy-seven years ago the US nuclear bombing of Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945 and three days later, Nagasaki, resulted in immediate deaths of approximately 120,000 majority civilians and by year’s end over 210,000. This legacy continues to this day in large part through the voices of the hibakusha, atomic blast survivors, and through having planted the seeds of the first man-made existential threat, nuclear war.

The global response to the end of World War II and the nuclear bombings was the formation of the United Nations in 1945. From the outset it’s mission was to work to maintain international peace and security, give humanitarian assistance to those in need, protect human rights, and uphold international law. In recent years, the UN has established sustainable development goals for 2030, noting the added and connected existential threat of climate change with its disproportionate burden on poor and island nations.

Simultaneously, the United States and Russia began the nuclear arms race, currently in its second iteration, with 12,700 nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the nine nuclear nations with the US and Russia possessing 90 per cent. These weapons threaten our very survival as a species, and indeed all living things every moment of every day.

This global threat to which the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists kept their Doomsday Clock setting at 100 seconds to midnight in January was heightened this year with the invasion of Ukraine on February 24 by nuclear-armed Russia in its war of aggression and acquisition.

 This conflict has brought us closer to nuclear war than at any point in the nuclear age. Hardly a day goes by without one side reminding us of their nuclear capabilities and the potential for nuclear war. Nuclear weapons do not make us safe and have not prevented war but rather have brought us closer to realizing the catastrophic outcome of nuclear war either by intent, miscalculation or accident. The fact that this has not happened to date boils down to pure luck and luck is not a security policy.

Incredulously, the nuclear states have continued their magical thinking of deterrence, modernizing, rebuilding and enlarging their nuclear arsenals. They remain oblivious to, or ignorant of, the prevailing scientific evidence demonstrating the catastrophic global effects of even a limited regional nuclear conflict, such as one that might occur between India and Pakistan using less than 1/2 of 1 per cent of the global arsenals ultimate resulting in 2 billion deaths from the nuclear famine that would follow such a conflict. Upcoming reports will show that this risk too is actually even greater.

Excerpted: ‘Hiroshima and Ukraine – an Existential Teachable Moment’. Courtesy: