The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was founded in 1945 by bomb scientists who could not remain aloof to the consequences of their work. Every year, the Bulletin calculates the probability of global nuclear and climate catastrophe and announces in January where they predict the hands of the Doomsday clock are. For the last two years, the minute hand of the clock stayed set at three minutes before the hour. This January, the Bulletin warned, "The probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon." They set the clock at two and a half minutes to midnight and said, "Wise public officials should act immediately, guiding humanity away from the brink. If they do not, wise citizens must step forward and lead the way."
Wise citizen activists from 20 states recently participated in the Alliance for Nuclear Accountability's DC Days. Two of us from Boulder were part of the group of about 75 activists from nuclear weapon sites across the U.S. A generous Boulder donor enabled more than 12 young activists to attend because they were awarded scholarships.
We were from communities near nuclear weapons research, production and waste sites, such as Hanford, Wash., where there had recently been a tunnel cave-in that had 4,000 workers scrambling for safety; Lawrence Livermore labs in California; Colorado's Rocky Flats; and the Los Alamos labs, Sandia labs and the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico; a Kansas City plant that manufactures thousands of non-nuclear parts for weapons; Pantex in Texas; Oak Ridge facilities in Tennessee; and the Savannah River Site in South Carolina. Each has its own toxic, grim history.
We urged policymakers to cut wasteful, dangerous weapons programs and accelerate warhead dismantlement. With accountability and public oversight, taxpayers could save billions that could be redirected to cleaning up the enormous toxic mess at these sites. We would be far more secure than we would be by building new bomb plants or modernizing nuclear weapons, which the U.S. government plans now.
The 12-plus young activists learned a tremendous amount. They learned about the U.S. nuclear legacy and current plans, and they were trained in the most effective ways to lobby. One said, "It seemed as though lobbying the government and positively influencing legislation are impossible. This trip has told me otherwise."
The Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center's "Peace Train" runs every Friday in the Colorado Daily.