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Friday, March 18, 2011

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(Published in on 18th March, 2011, retrieved from

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First, the earthquake in Japan set tsunami alerts ringing across the world. Then, the rating of the subsequent nuclear emergency began to increase every day. While the television beams voyeuristic scenes of trauma and dread into our living rooms, the newspapers carry detailed reports of diplomatic discussions and critical precautions.

The worry of radioactivity in Japan, arguably the most in-control nation in the world today, has set such a wave of panic in motion that our e-mail and phone inboxes are filled with cautionary bulletins about the prospect of acid rain and nuclear danger. However, the world does not seem to see this as a situation where our thirst for nuclear power has to be questioned.

While comics have made mutant superheroes interesting, and movies have made mutant predators horrifying, the only emotions pictures of the victims of the Chernobyl tragedy evoke are pity and concern. Some of these victims were born decades after the actual accident, which itself occurred years before the nuclear arms race became a global contest.

‘If that didn’t serve as a warning to the world, what will?’ one may ask. Perhaps the fact that we don’t live in times when America could get away with dropping the atom bomb on Japan. Yes, America has been accidentally killing civilians all over the Middle East, but if Saddam’s imaginary weapons of mass destruction were anything to go by, the threat of nuclear power is no deterrent.

The world today is full of powerhouses that have loaded guns pointed at each other, so that a deadlock may be facilitated just in case a duel is called. Worse, each country that possesses nuclear weapons, and is conducting nuclear research, claims that it is seeking a method of power generation to replace fossil fuels.

Incidentally, the only controlled nuclear fusion reaction that the earth has access to – the one that’s going on in the sun – is already being harnessed successfully as a clean alternative. We all know that we won’t stop using fossil fuels till we run out of supply.

While Japan tries to recover quickly from a series of related catastrophes, and several countries along the Pacific coast are reviewing their safety mechanisms and keeping their fingers crossed, it’s time the question of nuclear disarmament was taken more seriously.

Since the turn of the century, we’ve seen natural disasters of mammoth proportions nearly every year – Tropical Storm Allison in 2000, the Bhuj earthquake in 2001, Hurricane Katrina in 2004, the tsunami of 2004, the Kashmir earthquake in 2005, the Java earthquake of 2006, the Sichuan earthquake of 2008, the Australian heat wave and resulting bushfires of 2009, the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption in Iceland in 2010, and the Pakistan floods of 2010 come to mind at once.

In this year alone, the earthquake and tsunami in Chile was quickly followed by floods in Australia and an earthquake in New Zealand, before the horror in Japan.

With our current carbon footprint doing nothing to decrease the threat of global warming, several astronomical marvels being predicted that could alter the forces acting on the earth, and naturally occurring tectonic shifts in the offing, it is only to be expected that we’ve not seen the last – or the worst – of natural disasters.

While the drop of a bomb could wipe out entire nations, a leak from a reactor can damage millions of lives, many of which won’t be conceived for years to come.

As we face the very real danger of this in Japan, shouldn’t we focus less on the implications that the paralysis of a booming economy has for the business world, and seriously think about nuclear disarmament? I’m not talking about stopping expansion here, because that isn’t enough. It’s time the world as a whole thought about dismantling its nuclear apparatus.

Of course, there will be objections, and of course experts will argue against the logic of such a drastic call. Governments will assure us that they have the right safeguards in place. But unless we intend to fight a war to end all wars yet again, we’re only setting ourselves up for a cataclysm to destroy life as we know it.


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