Hiroshima Day, 2007

Today is the 62nd anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. I wanted to share with you this op-ed which appears in the Halifax Daily News, written by one of my freinds in the Halifax Peace Initiative.

Nuclear weapons greater threat than global warming
The Daily News (Halifax)
Monday, August 6, 2007
Page: 11
Section: Perspective
Byline: Heidi Verheul

Despite the overwhelming evidence and popular knowledge that nuclear weapons and global warming threaten life on the planet as we know it, little has been done by our elected leaders to protect and lead us away from these very serious threats.

Are we really still talking about flicking off lights?

There is a very important distinction to be made between these threats. The loss of life and the devastating changes to environments around the world due to global warming will have serious and tragic implications that will create more political instability. But global warming on its own will not end life on Earth. Nuclear weapons have the capacity to render this planet completely uninhabitable. It is the difference between life-changing versus life- obliterating.

While discussion about climate chaos and its solutions are a hot topic, the spectre of mushroom clouds and radiation sickness has faded from public consciousness.

Yet at this very moment, there are 27,000 nuclear weapons in the world. There are approximately 4,000 nuclear weapons that can be launched within minutes by the United States and Russia. There are also 480 nuclear weapons controlled by the United States that are stationed in Europe as part of NATO’s outdated Cold War policies.

Hypocritical stance

The United States is hypocritical in its stance against North Korea and Iran’s nuclear pursuits, as the U.S. is developing new nuclear weapons in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

During the 50th Anniversary of the Pugwash Peace Conference in Nova Scotia last month, Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba of Hiroshima described the unique role that cities can play to help eliminate nuclear weapons.

Mayors for Peace is an initiative that was started in 1982, and offers cities a way to transcend national borders and work together to press for nuclear abolition. As of July 30, membership stood at 1,698 cities in 122 countries and regions. In Canada, the mayors of Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Ottawa and Montreal are members of Mayors for Peace. Currently, no mayor in Nova Scotia has joined Mayors for Peace.

As Nova Scotians, we need to urge our mayors to join this critical campaign to achieve a nuclear-weapon-free world by 2020. In his speech for the Pugwash Peace Exchange last month, Akiba challenged people to answer this question: Are you doing everything in your power to pursue nuclear disarmament?

As long as nuclear weapons exist, they will one day be used. This year, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists adjusted the Doomsday Clock to five minutes to midnight and stated that the greatest threats to humankind are climate change and the prospect of nuclear annihilation.

We must do all we can to stop these threats.

Today, shadows will appear on sidewalks of Halifax and Dartmouth to commemorate the people who were vaporized by the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Take a moment and consider how a nuclear attack would devastate our community. Rain date is Aug. 9.

Invitation

During the afternoon, we invite people to join us for the third Annual Peace Day in HRM at the Peace Pavilion on the Dartmouth Waterfront near Alderney Landing from 3 to 4:30 p.m. for a special youth performance of the play A Thousand Cranes, paper-crane folding and songs by the Raging Grannies. In case of rain, it will be held inside Alderney Landing.

Please, flick off the lights when you leave a room. But do not remain in the dark about the nuclear threat to the survival of the only planet we can call home.

Heidi Verheul is a member of the Halifax Peace Coalition and the organizer of the Shadow Project. She has a bachelor of science degree in biology, and is completing her bachelor of education degree.

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