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Peace Train: January’s nuclear weapons ban brings a bright spot to a dark time

It is past time to end nuclear weapons before they end us

Just around the corner, on Jan. 22, 2021, is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons. It is the day that the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) or Ban Treaty, enters into force.

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and all anti-nuclear weapons activists have seen these bombs as the most inhumane and indiscriminate weapons ever created. It is way past time to end them, before they end us. They have catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences that span decades and cross generations. They breed fear and mistrust among nations, as some governments can threaten to wipe out entire cities in a heartbeat.

Activists for years have cringed at the high cost of the  production, maintenance and modernization of these weapons, realizing the huge diversion of public funds from health care, education, disaster relief and other vital human services. Banning these immoral, inhumane weapons under international law is a critical step along the path to ultimately ending their existence on earth.

With the tentative adoption of the U.N. TPNW on July 7, 2017, the world took a critical step towards making that nuclear weapon-free future a reality. Now 50 countries have said, “No!” both by signing their intent and ratifying their participation in the treaty.

On Jan. 22, 2021, this treaty will enter into force. It is the first legally binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons, with the ultimate goal being the weapons’ complete elimination. After it was adopted by the U.N., it opened for signatures on Sept. 20, 2017, followed slowly, but surely, by ratifications by 50 countries.

For those nations that are party to it, the treaty prohibits the development, testing, production, stockpiling, stationing, transfer, use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, as well as assistance and/or encouragement regarding the prohibited activities. The treaty will provide tremendous leverage to encourage nuclear-armed states to join the treaty. It becomes a potent stigma as more and more of the world’s citizens waken to the idea that it provides a time-bound framework for negotiations leading to the verified and irreversible elimination of nuclear weapons programs. From Austria and Bolivia, to El Salvador, Ireland, Jamaica, Mexico and New Zealand, from Nicaragua, Palestine and, finally, Vietnam, along with 39 more countries are all now family to this vow.

According to the Federation of American Scientists, there are currently 13,400 nukes in world arsenals: with 6,375 in Russian arsenals, 5,800 in U.S. arsenals, between 30 and 40 in North Korea, 320 in China, 290 in France, 215 in the U.K., 160 in Pakistan, 150 in India, 90 in Israel — and several countries are hosting U.S. weapons.

Keep in mind that just one detonated over New York City would cause an estimated 583,160 immediate deaths.

On Jan. 22 nuclear weapons become ILLEGAL.

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