In September 1979, “No Nukes: The Muse Concerts for a Non-Nuclear Future” was held in Madison Square Garden by the Musicians United for Safe Energy (Muse) collective. The organizers were Jackson Browne, Graham Nash, Bonnie Raitt and John Hall and featured James Taylor, Carly Simon, Crosby Stills & Nash and Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band, among others. It is more than 40 years since that historic event, and all those musicians and many other peacemakers must be rejoicing as the United Nations’ (UN) Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) came into effect on Jan. 29, 2021.
Adopted on July 7, 2017 during the UN conference, 122 states voted in favor of the treaty and 51 have since ratified it. It is therefore now in force. But the problem is that countries that have most of the nuclear warheads, namely the US and Russia, have rejected the treaty. Other non-signatories include China, France, Britain, Pakistan, India, North Korea and Iran. It is estimated that there are 13,400 nuclear warheads in the world today with the US and Russia owning 90 percent.
The 2021 Doomsday Clock set by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is stuck at 100 seconds to midnight, raising deep concern at the highest level on the threat of humanity. Established in 1947 by the Manhattan Project scientists at the University of Chicago who helped build the atomic bomb but protested using it against people, the Doomsday Clock’s mission is “to equip the public, policymakers and scientists with the information needed to reduce man-made threats to our existence.” Initially, the founders focused on the threat posed by nuclear weapons. The current members have since expanded to other dangers including climate change and new disruptive technologies. In their last deliberation they have included the Covid-19 pandemic as this continues to threaten the world.
Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, explained the closest point to midnight ever, that is world destruction, in a statement sent to Newsweek: “The lethal and fear-inspiring Covid-19 pandemic serves as a historic ‘wake-up call,’ a vivid illustration that national governments and international organizations are unprepared to manage the truly civilization-ending threats of nuclear weapons and climate change.” The future of humanity is uncertain, more so, when world leaders do not trust each other.
Politicians and all, let us heed the call of singer-activist John Hall when he sang these words in “No Nukes”: “I know that lives are at stake/Yours and mine of our descendants in time/There’s so much to gain and so much to lose/Everyone of us has to choose.”