Out of sight, out of mind. Since the end of the Cold War, the dangers of nuclear weapons have ebbed from public awareness. It has often been difficult to convince Congress or the public that reducing the risk of a nuclear attack is as urgent today as it has ever been. Having worked for disarmament for decades, I am grateful to see a new era of unprecedented opportunity to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons.
Today, the first-ever nuclear security summit begins in Washington DC, convening 47 countries with the goal of securing all loose nuclear material within four years. Last week, President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitri Medvedev took a modest but critical first step toward reducing the risk of nuclear weapons by signing the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). In addition, the Nuclear Posture Review was released, pledging that the US will not produce new nuclear weapons and narrowing the circumstances under which it would use them.
These initiatives indicate meaningful progress toward nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, and while short of what we had hoped for, are steps in the right direction that would not have occurred without tremendous efforts from many organizations and individuals. PSR-LA would like to thank you for being a part of this movement and helping us demonstrate strong public support for nuclear disarmament.
Of course there is more – much more – that must be done to ensure the safety of humanity and the planet. The NPR did not declare a “no first use” policy, we still have thousands of nuclear weapons on alert, and the global nuclear arsenal is still far too large.
Even the implementation of this week’s tenuous policy improvements are not guaranteed. In order for the new START agreement to take effect, it must be ratified by a 2/3-majority of the US Senate and will face significant opposition from Senate Republicans. It is essential that we continue to make our voices heard so that representatives on both sides of the aisle know that their constituents urgently support a world free of nuclear weapons and the steps needed to achieve it.
PSR-LA is using the unique voice of the physician to carry our message that when it comes to nuclear security, prevention is the only cure. In the past two years, our Peace and Security Ambassador program has provided nuclear policy and advocacy training to a committed group of health professionals who are now taking this message to government agencies, elected officials, media, and public.
As members of a profession dedicated to human health and well-being, physicians have a unique ability to communicate in detailed fashion the grotesque devastation that would be caused by even one nuclear detonation anywhere in the world, and that nuclear weapons do not make us safer – they are instead a grave liability. The credible, authoritative voice of the physician can help ensure that this truth is heard. When an organization recently requested a PSR-LA speaker at their event, the organizer said, “We want a physician to speak. People will believe us then.”
We have seen significant progress this week toward improving nuclear policy, but much more much be done to ensure our security. Even a small, distant nuclear exchange in Pakistan/India, Iran/Israel, North/South Korea or an Improvised Radiological/Nuclear Device using conventional explosives would have serious human, environmental, and economic consequences — greatly impacting everyone on the planet.
We must increase the scale and intensity of our efforts to match the many opportunities before us now, and in order to do that, we need your help. Please take action to protect human life and health from nuclear disaster and donate to PSR-LA today.
Schedule a PSR-LA Ambassador to speak to your professional or community group.
Donate to PSR-LA’s Peace and Security Ambassador program.