By Kalyan Bhakta Mathema
In 1938 a brilliant scientist named Otta Hahn discovered nuclear fission of uranium. This discovery was an important event in human history as from this knowledge man could unleash a profoundly large scale of energy from a relatively small amount of fissile material. Hahn however was later so horrified by his discovery that he was to said have thought of committing suicide after throwing all the uranium in his position into the ocean. Leo Szilard, another brilliant scientist demonstrated a chain reaction of nuclear fission in 1939. This discovery was a quantum leap for producing an atomic weapon. Szilard too later regretted his work and declared “I knew the world was headed for sorrow”(Lens 1982:8). In 1942 the United States of American formed Manhattan Project in order to develop atom bombs. The same year scientists at the University of Chicago produced the first ever controlled nuclear chain reaction in a nuclear pile. This greatly enhanced the Manhattan Project. The scientists of the Chicago University who discovered this technological breakthrough however drafted a petition to President Harry S. Truman warning that atomic weapons should not be used against any country. In 1945, however two nuclear bombs were exploded at Hiroshima and Nagasaki two densely populated cities of Japan. This was the first time in human history that nuclear weapons were used in war.
Nuclear and health
The World Health Organization has made it clear that if there is but a single nuclear explosion in any part of the world then the combined medical and health services from everywhere in the globe will be incapable of dealing with the victims. The power of nuclear weapons are such that a single nuclear weapon contain more explosive power than the combination of the power of all the weapons human beings ever used in all the wars in human history. Nuclear technology involves ionizing radiations which releases harmful poisons. Radiations are capable of permanently damaging our DNA and causing cancer. The victims of nuclear radiation not only suffer from damaged DNA and cancer but will also pass them on to the next generation. There are many medical reports which give evidence that people especially the children living within the 5 km radius of anuclear power plant are most likely to suffer from leukemia or blood cancer. Some scientists even claim that they have found evidence of high level of leukemia among children living within the 50 km radius of nuclear power reactors.
The Nuclear Winter
In 1980s a team of elite scientists discovered that even if only 100 among the thousands of nuclear weapons were used then it would ignite enormous fire that would generate dark black smoke which would blanket the entire planet, thus preventing much of the sunlight getting to the earth. This will darken the planet and cause the temperature to fall to a freezing degree, causing what scientist call ‘nuclear winter’. Such smoke being beyond the reach of the rain will exist on the higher atmosphere for at least a decade and will block the solar heat from reaching the earth. The ‘nuclear winter’ will also reduce rainfall and make the growing of agricultural plants difficult. The supplies of agricultural seeds and fertilizers will be disrupted and it will further lead to the reduction in the production of agricultural products throughout the planet. Scientists estimate that under such harsh condition, the grain stock that the world has in store would be able to feed the world’s population for only about two months. Persisting threat Although the World War II ended after the use of nuclear weapons on the two Japanese cities, it was soon followed by a period of Cold-War when relations between the Western power led by the United States and the Soviet bloc led by the then USSR remained cold and hostile. The world became very vulnerable to nuclear threats during this period as the two rival superpowers who were armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons engaged in various proxy wars around the globe. The most dangerous period during this era was the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 in which the United States and the Soviet Union had a showdown, almost leading to all-out war between the two countries. With the end of the Cold-War in the early 1990s the threat of global nuclear war has been greatly reduced. Nonetheless, there are still believed to be about 25,000 nuclear warheads around the world. If nuclear technology and some of the warheads fall into the hands of some extremists, they could bring about enormous harm to mankind. The use of nuclear weapons could destroy in few hours what we human beings have leaned and built over thousands of years. Misuse of nuclear technology endangers not only the human species but all the life forms in this planet. In 1947 Albert Einstein wrote, “Since the completion of the first atomic bomb nothing has been accomplished to make the world more safe from war, while much has been done to increase the destructiveness of war”(Einstein 1950:190). Einstein’s concern is still relevant today. Another great pacifist Martin Luther King Jr said, “ We must transform the dynamics of the world power struggle from the negative nuclear arms race which no one can win to a positive contest to harness man’s creative genius for the purpose of making peace and prosperity a reality for all of the nations of the world”(King 1964). These wise words from Martin Luther King have not yet received the support they deserve from world leaders.Nuclear against humanism In his 2009 Prague speech, President Barak Obama, arguably the most powerful man in the world stated, “Just as we stood for freedom in the 20th century, we must stand together for the right of people everywhere to live free from fear in the 21st century”(Obama 2009). This declaration cannot come true as long as the world remains under the shadow of threat of nuclear weapons.
We humanists around the world must take initiative and spread the message about the enormous destructive capability of nuclear weapons to as many people as we can. Then we must continue to engage the audience in a healthy debate about the need to impress upon the world leaders to make an end to the threat of nuclear holocaust. The continued proliferation of nuclear weapon of mass destruction speaks of human selfishness and the possibility of crime against humanity in future. It is not a technology to deter war but a technology to threaten the sentiments of mankind. It was human intelligence that gave birth to these diabolic weapons and it must be brought to end through human reasoning and effort. It is therefore the duty of every rational human being to get involved in the struggle to eliminate nuclear weapons.The voice against nuclear weapons and nucleartechnology is not borne out of sentimentalism. It is a rational voice raised for a dignified life for oneself and for others. This struggle for nuclear weapons- free world must continue until every human can understand the suicidal irrationality of nucleartechnology. Once rationality dawns on men, inhumanity melts and so will the threat ofnuclear explosion.
The author teachers Sociology at Tribhuvan University, Nepal and works to promote Critical Thinking movement in Nepal. Currently, he doing his second master degree in human rights and democratization from the University of Sydney.
Einstein, Albert. 1950. Out of My Later Years. New York: Philosophy Library. King, Martin L., Jr. 1964. ‘The Quest for Peace and Justice’, Nobel Prize.http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1964/king-lecture.htm… (accessed March 3, 2011).
Lens, Sidney. 1982. The Bomb. New York: E. P. Dutton.
Obama, Barack. 2009. ‘The Remarks by President Barack Obama’. The White House.http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_office/Remarks-By-President-Barack-Obama-In-Prague-As-Delivered/(accessed March 3, 2011).
Mathema, K. B. (2011, March). Humanism against nuclear technology. Youth Speak, (3), 3. Retrieved from http://www.iheyo.org/files/March final issue.pdf
Mathema, K. B. (2011, March). Humanism against nuclear technology. Youth Speak, Retrieved from http://www.iheyo.org/node/1129