Greenfield Recorder, January 19, 2021
By ANNA GYORGY
Our country is shaken by the attempted take-over of Congress on Jan. 6. The threat posed by armed white supremacists is real. So is the danger of nuclear weapons, even if for most of us, it is out of sight, out of mind.
Yet as we await the Biden-Harris inauguration on Jan. 20, others around the world are preparing to celebrate a different ‘new start’: the so-called “Entry into Force Day.”
The force being entered into is not military or dangerous, but international, civilian and life-protecting. For Jan. 22 is the day that the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons enters into force, becoming law now that 50 of the 122 countries signing in 2017 have officially ratified it.
The treaty calls on them to “never under any circumstances … develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices,” or encourage others to do so.
Not surprisingly, the treaty is opposed by the nine “nuclear” countries.
As AP’s Edith Lederer reported last October, “The United States had written to treaty signatories saying the Trump administration believes they made “a strategic error” and urging them to rescind their ratification.
“The U.S. letter … said the five original nuclear powers — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — and America’s NATO allies ‘stand unified in our opposition to the potential repercussions‘ of the treaty.“ Now that is the kind of international solidarity we can do without!
If the nuclear powers reject and oppose the treaty, many others, from Hiroshima to Berlin, Verona, Italy, to Greenfield, will welcome and celebrate this “entering into force.”
Here’s why: The threat of nuclear war or accidental use is tragically real and present; Nuclear weapons pose existential threats to life, nature and the future of the planet, similar to global heating and climate disruption – but much faster if used; And besides the risks, the financial costs are enormous; Happily, worldwide citizen action has brought us an international treaty to ban nuclear weapons that offers hope for change, and the phaseout of these weapons of mass destruction.
That the treaty exists is a kind of David and Goliath tale, the result of over a decade of work by several hundred non-governmental organizations making up the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons or ICAN.
Launched in 2007, ICAN’s coalition, of “local peace groups to global federations representing millions of people,” was modeled on the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, successful a decade earlier.
Ten years later, ICAN won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for their “work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons” and “ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.”
The 17 countries that ratified the treaty in 2020, enabling its start included: Paraguay, Namibia, Belize, Lesotho, Fiji, Botswana, Ireland, Nigeria, Niue, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Malta, Malaysia, Tuvalu, Jamaica, Nauru, Honduras and Benin. They will have nothing to do with nuclear technology — and wish the same was true for us.
So what does this treaty mean for our community?
Western Mass. has a strong tradition of opposition to nuclear weapons, and its dangerous “twin” of commercial nuclear power.
In the late 1970s the new Traprock Peace Center and its leader, Randy Kehler, helped launch the Nuclear Freeze movement, which after much organizing and nationwide organizing and protests led to important treaties limiting the number and reach of nuclear weapons.
But many nukes remained. And both the Obama and Trump administrations supported their trillion dollar modernization and buildup.
All concerned about these devastating weapons can join the weekly vigil on the Greenfield Common on Saturday, Jan. 23, from 11 a.m. until noon, to unfold banners calling for “Weapons into Windmills” and an end to the nuclear threat.
Related actions in Pittsfield on Jan. 21 and Northampton on Jan. 22 are detailed in our latest Traprock newsletter, available from the opening page of https://traprock.org/
Anna Gyorgy lives in Wendell and is communication coordinator for the Traprock Center for Peace & Justice. She was author-editor of the 1979 classic “NO NUKES: Everyone’s Guide to Nuclear Power.”