What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Glenn Carroll

“When the power of love is greater than the love of power the world will know peace.”

bikiniExplosion in the Bikini Islands. Photos of Dr. Tom L. Edmondson from collection of Patrick Edmondson

I was recently present for an astonishing conversation that worked its way from near-death experiences to the Bikini hydrogen bomb test in the South Pacific. More than one man in our group had a father who had participated, in some historic way, with nuclear weapons. A fond acquaintance, Patrick, whose father, Dr. Tom L. Edmondson, saved his life when he was 10 years old said, “The house I grew up in had my father’s first-hand photographs of the Bikini mushroom cloud hanging in the kitchen.”

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Without one word of public debate the world woke up on an August day to the staggering face of atomic energy. On that day, 600,000 nuclear workers were institutionalized in secret cities building nuclear bombs. The decades which followed would see trillions of tax dollars lavished to build a nuclear industry with classified budgets kept even from Congress.

The horror of nuclear weapons was sold to the people as saving lives by winning the war quickly. The hydrogen bomb, which started the Cold War by obliterating the island of Bikini in 1946, was effectively glossed over by fun, scanty new bathing suits and an explosion of consumerism blasted into orbit by sexy advertising and easy credit — the American Way of Life.

Factories in a chosen few countries cranked out a half-million pounds of atomic gold, that is, plutonium, of which only 15 pounds can make a bomb like the one that destroyed Nagasaki. Soon our home planet had 30,000 atomic weapons aimed at it, each with the destructive force of 1,000 Hiroshimas. The government-sponsored nuclear industry operated in secret and without environmental oversight for decades until uranium from what neighbors thought was a dog-food factory turned up in an Ohio resident’s well and widespread contamination at the nation’s vast complex of nuclear weapons factories came to light.

Heavily subsidized and protected from liability, the nuclear industry also built over 400 nuclear reactors around the globe to produce electricity, and several full-scale nuclear meltdowns are being endured by Earth’s inhabitants as well as contamination from mining and manufacturing at every step of the uranium fuel chain.

How can ordinary citizens possibly bring the powerful and secretive atomic age to a safe closure?

Public response to the fact of uranium, plutonium and hydrogen bombs that could destroy whole cities was swift and clear. The grassroots Ban the Bomb movement started from the heart of radical Christians who could see that nuclear weapons threaten all life on God’s earth and who refused to accept from the start the abomination spawned by the military industrial complex.

Spiritual leaders stood at the forefront of a citizens movement which challenged the morality and legality of nuclear weapons in the courts of justice. Ordinary people joined priests and nuns to get arrested for acts of creative nonviolence and civil disobedience such as hammering a solid gold replica of a nuclear weapon in General Electric’s corporate office or blocking a train transporting nuclear weapons. These simple acts of human resistance to nuclear annihilation bore fruit in 1996 when the International Court of Justice found nuclear weapons possession and threat of use to be illegal.

The Bomb itself contains important lessons. The pictures of the whole Earth which inspired an environmental movement were sent from rockets developed to deliver nuclear weapons which could destroy the other side of the Earth. The powerful mushroom cloud showed us that we are all in it together. And the atom itself teaches us the power that is expressed in a critical mass.

Although the nuclear industry seems entrenched and intractable, it is not even 70 years old, less than one human lifetime. For all its power and captive adherents, nuclear is beginning to crumble under its own unnatural weight. Wholesale production of nuclear weapons on our planet has ceased. The last nuclear weapons test occurred 20 years ago. The trend for nuclear power is steadily downward due to reactor aging and even if the most optimistic version of the so-called “nuclear renaissance” is produced, it will not be enough to overcome the trend. Meanwhile, solar and wind power are sprinting ahead and shaping a much more wholesome future for our planet.

Martin Luther King Jr. testified clearly about the power of love when he said, “Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for mankind to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Mankind must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

Nuclear Watch South and Georgia WAND are fine examples of the proverbial “small group of thoughtful, committed people who change the world.” Nuclear technology represents an extreme of a dangerously outmoded way of living based on fear and competition. When we swing back towards love and cooperation a new world will be possible.

Join us in protesting, marching, meeting, testifying and organizing to create a nuclear-free future! Mobilizing our hearts, minds, and bodies we will unleash the power of love in the people as we sing the immortal Georgia WAND song, “if we can only start a chain reaction of the human heart what a wonderful world this will be!”

Glenn Carroll is coordinator of Nuclear Watch South. This blog originally appeared at Georgia WAND on 1/31/12.

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This Is the Time to Reject Nuclear Arms

Glenn Carroll

Without a word of public debate, nuclear weapons became a seemingly inevitable fact of life and death on our planet. After World War II ended with two single bombs destroying the JapaneseLove_Your_Mother cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, The Bomb became big business with vast factory complexes on government reservations in several states across the country.

A government agency, now called U.S. Department of Energy, was formed to oversee private contractors who churned out no less than 30,000 nuclear warheads over the next four decades and established the nuclear industry as an economic force in human affairs.

A people’s movement to “Ban the Bomb” formed instantly in response to the wartime bombing of Japan, and to the “test bombings” on the lands of the Western Shoshone Nation in Nevada and Utah and the Pacific islanders of the Moruroa Atoll.

From protests on the street to civil disobedience at weapons sites, the public has been vocal and insistent that our only reasonable option is to abolish nuclear weapons. Indeed, in 1996 the World Court issued a landmark decision defending this basic ethic when it declared the manufacture, possession or use of nuclear weapons to be illegal.

The Cold War bomb factories were built in secret in the 1940s and 1950s. They operated without public oversight until the Cold War ended in 1991, when crumbling Russian and U.S. nuclear bomb factories and reactors were forced to shut down.

With the Cold War’s end, shocking security issues and environmental contamination throughout Russia and the U.S. bomb complexes were discovered.

Huge inventories of U.S. nuclear waste and weapons-grade plutonium had piled up and were stored in slipshod, temporary containers — even cardboard boxes tossed into landfills.

The U.S. is for the third time seeking permission from its people to rebuild the nuclear weapons complex. There are eight sites that would be involved in the current DOE vision: Savannah River Site near Augusta, Oak Ridge in Tennessee, Los Alamos and Sandia labs in New Mexico, Pantex in Texas, the Kansas City Plant, Lawrence Livermore in California and the Nevada test site.

There are literally dozens of facilities proposed to be spread around at these eight sites, and the sites are being pitted against each other to lure DOE to set up the new facilities there. SRS, for example, is competing against Los Alamos for a consolidated plutonium center.

Thanks to the National Environmental Policy Act, DOE is now required to hold public hearings for an environmental impact statement before it can build new bomb factories. The public has spoken clearly and unequivocally at each opportunity that we reject nuclear weapons under any and all circumstances.

It has been nearly 20 years now since our country has manufactured new nuclear weapons. Momentum is on the side of nuclear disarmament and the final abolition of weapons of mass destruction. Our national security lies down the path of nuclear waste management, environmental restoration and securing the bomb materials from dismantled weapons.

We have a rare window of opportunity to establish a turning point in human history — to publicly express the vision and goal that may inspire our country to lead the world in ending the global nuclear nightmare.

Nuclear weapons are a human artifact and it is humanly possible to turn away from the wasteful path of nuclear madness. We can turn our hearts and minds to a new frontier of human ingenuity — honoring treaties to dismantle nuclear weapons, managing radioactive nuclear waste and securing weapons-grade plutonium and uranium from future use as nuclear weapons.

We are standing at a choice point in history. If it is human nature to learn from our mistakes, then it is wise for us to remember that it was the Bomb itself (and the rockets we developed to deliver them to the other side of our Earth) that showed us the stark and glorious revelation that our planet is finite, fragile and destructible and — most important of all — that we are all in it together.

Glenn Carroll of Decatur is coordinator of Nuclear Watch South. This editorial originally appeared in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution on 3/3/2008 and reprinted at Common Dreams. “Love Your Mother” artwork ©2007, Glenn Carroll.