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Chain Reaction: A New Moment – Ploughshares Fund 2019

Ploughshares Fund annual event took place this year in San Francisco

Members of DAVIS CAN participated in the Ploughshares Fund’s annual event entitled “Chain Reaction: A New Moment” on June 10, 2019 in San Francisco.  The event was an evening of conversation and inspiring presentations on reshaping the national debate on nuclear strategy. Ploughshares has been working since 1982 to support efforts to reduce and eliminate the dangers posed by nuclear weapons.  

Keynote speaker Beatrice Fihn, winner of a 2017 Nobel Peace prize for her work on the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), emphasized that the stark truth about nuclear weapons and their potential to destroy humanity needs to be told, and not a sanitized version.  She noted the world is woefully unprepared to treat the catastrophic number of burn victims that would result from any use of nuclear weapons. On the positive side, she noted 2 of the world’s largest pension funds have banned companies producing nuclear weapons from investments.  

Nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein provided a demonstration of NUKEMAP, an interactive online map that models the anticipated effects of a nuclear explosion on any city in the world.  He noted we are currently entering a new era of nuclear proliferation and a new nuclear arms race.  

Joe Cirincione, President of Ploughshares, explained why he believes we are at a moment in history where we have a window of opportunity to make significant progress on nuclear disarmament.  He noted several conditions, including: 1) US nuclear deterrence policy has failed, creating a policy vacuum, 2) the recently elected Congress includes a number of young progressives who may be motivated to take action on nuclear disarmament, and 3) the budgetary crisis and need for funding for programs like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All make cuts in spending on nuclear weapons necessary if any of these other objectives are to be achieved, since the U.S. government is currently planning to spend $2 trillion over the next 30 years to rebuild our nuclear arsenal.  

Governor Jerry Brown was a surprise guest speaker.  He remembered being seven years old when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, and recalled marching in Berkeley in the 1960’s against atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons.  He noted the only two current threats with the capacity to end the earth’s ability to support life as we know it are climate change and nuclear war. The problem is threats to end the world don’t make the “news of the day”.  What make the news of the day are President Trump’s tweets. Brown stressed that a key to ending nuclear proliferation is the U.S. President must engage in dialogue with Russia and China, and today that is not happening. He noted Churchill and Stalin worked together because of the common horror of the Nazis, and the nuclear threat, which could end all humanity, is worse than the Nazis.

Eric Schlosser, author of “Fast Food Nation” and “Command and Control” facilitated a panel discussion on how to seize the moment and remobilize at the grass roots and grass tops levels to make progress.  

Ben Rhodes, deputy National Security Advisory to President Obama, recalled riding in a securitized vehicle with President Obama and the briefcase holding the nuclear codes.  Today it is Donald Trump and John Bolton riding in that vehicle, and they are doing everything they can to undue non-proliferation treaties like the Iran agreement. He has trouble sleeping when he thinks how the fate of the world lies in the hands of such deeply insecure men.

Attendees were reminded one action we can all take right now is to sign petitions urging the U.S. to adopt a “No 1st Use” policy on nuclear weapons, and urging every candidate and office holder to do so.

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