Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Struggle for Democracy

Big things have been happening in Kansas City, Missouri over the past few months. For decades, the Kansas City Plant has manufactured the vast majority of non-nuclear components for the US nuclear arsenal. For the first time in the long history of nuclear proliferation around the world, a new plant was proposed that would be effectively owned by a city, financed through $815 million in municipal bonds. An inspiring group of citizens, calling themselves the Kansas City Peace Planters, has resisted this proposal with a welcome degree of success thus far.

The Peace Planters have engaged in civil disobedience at the construction site of the new plant, calling for the new plant to engage in green energy work instead of destructive nuclear weapons work. This has brought media attention to the issue and has increased public awareness of the outrageous proposal to build new nuclear weapons facilities 20 years after the end of the Cold War.

Monday, August 29, 2011

International Day Against Nuclear Tests

Craters from nuclear tests
at the Nevada Test Site
Today, the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s Geneva branch hosted a seminar commemorating the International Day against Nuclear Tests in conjunction with the UN Mission of Kazakhstan. The International Day against Nuclear Tests – August 29 – was  adopted by the United Nations General Assembly last year at the urging of Kazakhstan.

Today’s seminar looked at the history of the Semipalatinsk test site in Kazakhstan, where the Soviet Union conducted 456 nuclear tests, causing untold damage to the land and downwind inhabitants. Kazakhstan closed the Semipalatinsk site 20 years ago today. The seminar also examined the importance of ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which still needs ratification from a few key nations, including the United States, to enter into force.

I am traveling to Las Vegas in October for the fall meeting of the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability. As part of our meeting, we will take a tour of the Nevada Test Site, where the United States conducted 1,021 nuclear detonations between 1953 and 1992. The pictures of the Nevada Test Site (like the one above) and the testimony of those living downwind from the Nevada Test Site are shocking and sad. I’m sure that a visit in person to the test site will add another layer of strength to my belief that nuclear testing must be stopped forever, and a just compensation paid to the victims of nuclear testing around the world.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Power of Voice

As some of you know we are just around the corner from the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s 17th annual Sadako Peace Day. While this day holds special significance for us at the Foundation, it also serves as a reminder of our role as a human race to wage peace and use our voices as a source of power.

When we think back about the great peace leaders in history they all seem to recognize one thing: the power of voice. I mean think about it- What would the world be like if on August 28th 1963 Martin Luther King Jr. only thought, “I have a dream.” What about if in 1873 Susan B. Anthony decided that giving a speech on women’s right to vote would be better left unsaid? After all, she had just been arrested for casting an illegal vote in the presidential election.

German-Swiss poet and novelist, Herman Hesse, once said “Everything becomes a little different as soon as it is spoken out loud.” And he’s right; the power of voice is the best tool we have to stand up for what we believe in. It is able to transcend time, promote social change, and advocate a safer nuclear-weapons free world for generations to come.

So I have to admit, when I first learned about the power of voice I was skeptical. I thought, 'sure it must be easy to inspire and unite the masses once you have perfected the art of oratory like John F. Kennedy or Malcom X, but most of us have not mastered the skills of communication.' That is where Sadako Sasaki comes in.

Sadako Sasaki was only two-years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. Ten years later she was diagnosed with leukemia and made it her dying wish to spread peace on the wings of 1000 paper cranes. This courageous little girl said, “I will write peace on your wings, and you will fly all over the world.” Sadako was not a professional speaker or wizard of words, but she was able to able to leave her legacy through her heartfelt message and compassion for humanity. And like the great peace leaders throughout history, she recognized the power of her own voice.

Since Sadako’s death, children and adults from countries all over the world honor her spirit by creating paper cranes as symbols of peace. Many of them even travel to the Children’s Peace Monument in Hiroshima where they bring their own folded paper cranes as a message of peace and desire for the abolition of nuclear weapons. In memory of Sadako let us be reminded that we can protect our world through the power of our own voice, no matter how average that voice may be.

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