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Activists from New York-based direct action group Rise and Resist and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) took to the streets to announce the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on January 22, 2021 by holding illuminated letters that read #NUCLEARBAN in front of iconic New York landscapes. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Doomsday and Hope

We must recognize that our global problems and shared threats will be solved not by war but through diplomacy, cooperation and collaboration and finally by appropriate foreign aid providing infrastructure, medical and educational aid, not weapons.

Robert Dodge

On this 75th anniversary of their Nuclear Doomsday Clock, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists unveiled their 2022 setting, keeping the time steady for the past 2 years at 100 seconds until midnight. The graphic representation of apocalyptic global catastrophe is the closest point since the introduction of the clock.

There truly is actual international hope that comes from the people around the world who are acting and demanding their governments undertake bold actions to abolish nuclear weapons and end the continued destruction of our planet and its dependence on fossil fuels.

The minute hand on the clock has moved this close to midnight this past two years due to the continued twin existential threats of climate catastrophe and nuclear war coupled with other disruptive technologies such as cyber terrorism and attack noting that each of these are man-made threats and can also be solved by mankind, if only there exists the will.

The Bulletin cited cautious hope in the absence of concrete action over this past year. This included the extension of the New START Treaty, the initiation with Russia of a diplomatic dialogue on strategic security, the reiteration of the Reagan/Gorbachev principle of,  "A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought," by Presidents Biden and Putin, and the holdout for some positive direction on the Nuclear Posture Review due out this next month. This expectation of the Nuclear Posture Review is in spite of the apparent capture of the process by nuclear hawks, the Pentagon and pressure from congressional nuclear advocates who have been bought and paid for by the nuclear weapons manufacturers.

The seeming pass given to the Clock setting was also presented with articulation of the significant concerns. These include Russian, U.S. tensions over the Ukraine crisis with a looming threat of war, the Taiwan/China tensions, ongoing global modernization of and expansion of nuclear arsenals, tensions between India and Pakistan and North Korea's nuclear program combined with the continued crisis multiplier of climate change with the absence of concrete coordinated international actions to combat it. All this is happening simultaneously as we deal with the continued global pandemic which has no end in sight.

Are we really as secure this year as last? Admittedly, the intent of the annual Clock review is not meant to paralyze and overwhelm us but rather to motivate us as a call to action. As such, maybe that is the rationale for attempting to maintain hope with this year's steady reading. To that end there truly is actual international hope that comes from the people around the world who are acting and demanding their governments undertake bold actions to abolish nuclear weapons and end the continued destruction of our planet and its dependence on fossil fuels. They recognize that we are one interdependent human family on all issues of survival and sustainability. They have moved beyond the 20th century thinking of "other" and to the recognition of oneness. They know that these issues are too important to leave to the old guard cold warriors caught in a time and information warp of 20th century thinking.

This weekend celebrates the first anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons that has now been ratified by 59 nations and signed by 86 nations. In the United States a vast coalition movement is coalescing. Back from the Brink is endorsed by over 300 local and state elected officials from 41 states, 56 cities, 6 state legislative bodies and 387 organizations and calls on the United States to lead a global effort to prevent nuclear war by:

—Actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear-armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals

—Renouncing the option of using nuclear weapons first

—Ending the sole, unchecked authority of any U.S. President to launch a nuclear attack

—Taking U.S. nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert

—Canceling the plan to replace the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal with enhanced weapons

We must recognize that our global problems and shared threats will be solved not by war but through diplomacy, cooperation and collaboration and finally by appropriate foreign aid providing infrastructure, medical and educational aid, not weapons. Absent these changes in our thinking we will realize Einstein's prediction that "The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and thus we drift towards unparalleled catastrophe."

Hope motivates us and is necessary at this moment in history as we address these critical issues. In the words of Vaclav Havel, "Hope is not the conviction that something will turn out well but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out." Together we can bring forth a peaceful, just and sustainable world.


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Robert Dodge

Robert Dodge

Robert Dodge, a frequent Common Dreams contributor, writes as a family physician practicing in Ventura, California. He is the Co-Chair of the Security Committee of National Physicians for Social Responsibility and also serves as the President of Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles.

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