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Why We Need to Get Youth Involved in Nuclear Disarmament

By Lesly Tobon, senior student at Alliance Dr. Olga Mohan High School (ADOMHS) in Los Angeles.

PSR-LA was delighted to meet Lesly and her fellow students and faculty at ADOMHS this summer and learn about their efforts to declare their school a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone. Lesly is a member of ADOMHS Nuclear Nonproliferation Club, which gave her the opportunity to attend a Critical Issues Forum conference on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation education in Nagasaki, Japan. This experience helped expand her knowledge about the horrors of nuclear weapons and urged her to influence the youth to engage in urgent matters such as nuclear disarmament. Most of all, Lesly wants to pursue journalism as a means to change the world.

Lesly Tobon, senior student at Alliance Dr. Olga Mohan High School in Los Angeles

It’s a tragic reality to face and many people aren’t fully informed (or perhaps just oblivious), but in the event of a nuclear war, the vast majority of the population will die immediately or within a few days. The physical impact of any nuclear bomb detonation jeopardizes numerous lives, all throughout its three main stages: the blast wave, the firestorm, and the radiation. Just the light of the explosion itself is enough to severely impair or damage one’s vision. Nearly every building in the city will collapse, trapping thousands of innocent people under the debris. Moreover, the flying debris from the blast wave is expected to cause additional injuries such as penetrating wounds, impalement, broken bones, or even death.

Hospital building will crumble to the ground and surviving doctors and nurses would be mentally shocked and more concerned about the safety of their own families or perhaps shattered because of the loss of them, resulting in the lack of medical staff to treat people. During all this chaos, there will be no paramedics, firefighters, water, electricity, roads, cell phones, or gas. Our loved ones will be lost or killed among the crowd of thousands of people all trying to find safety. Even if one miraculously survives all the stages of a nuclear detonation, any survivor would have to suffer the repercussions of the immediate and long- term nuclear fallout. Cancer from radiation exposure would increase for those who survived ten to twenty years after the bombing. In short, the world as you know it would be gone.

A nuclear detonation would shatter thousands of lives equally, and no one would be safe. Victims would range from our precious carefree children to our honorable war veterans – none would escape. In an event of a nuclear war, wealth, status, race, and gender wouldn’t matter. Nuclear weapons would kill indiscriminately. Fallout would not abide by political views and national borders. Radioactive fallout would affect the global population, impacting agriculture, water, and global health.

We are all equally vulnerable to the destruction, and so we are all equally responsible for taking action to achieve a world without nuclear weapons. Achieving a world without nuclear weapons isn’t simple, but it’s possible. However, rather than simply waiting any treaties or action plans to be ratified by our governments, it’s essential to change society’s perception on nuclear weapons.

ADOMHS Vice Principle Andrew King, ADOMHS student Cris Cruz, Dr. Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, and ADOMHS student Lesly Toban in Nagasaki, Japan.

In particular, our youth who are tomorrow’s future leaders. In this day and age, we tend to glorify nuclear war especially the youth who perceive nuclear destruction as glorious. They are not at fault since growing up we are constantly bombarded with nuclear weapons within movies, television, videogames, and books. In our saturated media, nuclear weapons are always perceived as a glorious special effects gifts, or a deus ex machina solution to save the world from alien overlords.

Even when the nuclear weapons are in the hands of the antagonists, storylines always find a way to “disarm the bomb” or “de-escalate” the situation. Rarely does the narrative push for nuclear disarmament or ask the question “would this problem even exists if we just got rid of all our nuclear weapons?” But in reality, it’s not just visual effects, or a plot point. We all suffer the consequences. It’s essential for the youth to no longer perceive nuclear weapons as common and glorious; we must inform them of the dire implications of that continues to ignore the threat of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons themselves are proven to be unreliable. And combined with the unpredictability of the people in charge of them, it is alarming to believe that the majority of Americans are not actively demanding a reduction in our overstocked nuclear arsenal.

We must inform the youth that there are currently over 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world today, and the United States and Russia maintain approximately 1,800 on high alert status. We must inform the youth that there have been numerous incidents where the U.S has nearly been involved in a nuclear war because of an accident or miscalculation. We believe that if we make the society aware of the real consequences of nuclear war, they will stop ignoring this dire issue. We must educate the youth so that they can turn civil society into a force for nuclear disarmament.