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Nuclear Options

Do nuclear weapons threaten the human species?

Does anyone at ASU care?
Siddhanth Paralkar
Although I had no clue what those long colossal cylinAs a child, I was in awe of nuclear weapons.

ders were capable of, I was thrilled and convinced that

They made me feel safe and strong. I remember at 9

nuclear weapons were good for my country. This

years old during the Indian Independence Day, my

filled me with a sense of power and supremacy over

father turned on our television to the national news

our arch-rival Pakistan.

and my entire family stayed glued to it for hours.

I knew of the tensions between India and her

People on the screen dressed in the saffron, white or

neighbors Pakistan and China. Nuclear weapons

green, colors of the Indian tricolor flag stood still, de-

would keep our enemies at bay, I thought as a child. I

spite the cold wind, saluting the flag and singing the

believed in nuclear weapons for years, until I joined a

Indian national anthem. My heart soared with pride

Buddhist organization, Soka Gakkai International, a

when our Indian Prime Minister, Mr. Atal Bihari Va-

few years ago.

jpayee, gave the nation hope for the future of the coun- The society taught me about the agony of nuclear war

and the terrible consequences that could result from

The event was broadcast live from New Delhi to tele-

nuclear weapons. About 105,000 people perished in

vision screens all over the country, including our

Hiroshima and Nagasaki after atomic bombardments

home in Mumbai.

by the United States during World War II. The moth-

After the speech, the televised parade began. The mili- ers who survived the Japan bombings gave birth to
tary marched to a brass band. Then the crowd ap-

children with disabilities. Seventy years later, survi-

plauded with great pride as the Indian army began pa- vors still suffer from radiation sickness.
rading the nuclear Agni missiles past them.

Nuclear war and a sustainable future

scientist, environmental attorney and a Professor of

A nuclear war would prevent a sustainable future,

Civil and Environmental Engineering, and of Law

writes David Krieger, a founder of the Nuclear

at Arizona State University.

Age Peace Foundation, a non-profit global or-

The biggest threat to sustainability, he told me,

ganization that opposes nuclear weapons and con-

remains nuclear weapons. Its not climate change,

sults with the United Nations. A sustainable

its not changes in biodiversity, its not nitrogen,

world is a necessity for the people of the future

and its not phosphorus its nuclear weap-

who are not yet here to speak and act for them-

ons. Nuclear war, he said, is the only

selves. It is the responsibility of those of us now

planetary system that could potentially destroy

living to speak for them and to do what we can to

life as we know it.

pass this planet on intact to the generations that

The problem is that almost 70 years since

follow us, Krieger writes.

the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, people are

Braden Allenby is an American environmental

forgetting about it.

While in the military during the Cold War,

tween the countries fluctuate, there is a high possi-

Allenby worked with nuclear technology. He un-

bility of a nuclear war.

derstands that the geopolitical incentives to pos-

The people in both these nations live in fear of a

sess a nuclear force are strong. He added

terrorist attack or a major blitzkrieg attack at the

that most nuclear weapon states will not give up

borders of India and Pakistan, either of which may

their nuclear arsenals in fear of losing status, pres-

escalate to a nuclear confrontation.

tige, and bargaining power with potential adversar-

Will bilateral or multilateral talks between the na-


tions help mitigate these fears or will such talks

When asked whether the world will ever be free of

further add impetus to the competition?

nuclear weapons, he explained that nuclear weap-

The outcomes are uncertain.

ons can be managed but will not be whisked away.

Meanwhile, the nuclear arms race has taken on an

We cant push that genie back in the bottle, he

unprecedented pace across the rest of the world,

told me.

with more than 16,000 nuclear warheads reported

Uncertain outcomes

by the Federation of American Scientists.

Barely 30 years after the Japan bombings,

Although today the tensions between the US and

amidst the Cold War, India conducted its first un-

Russia have decreased and chances of a nuclear

derground nuclear test. My country deployed her

war seem quite low, the risk of accidents or illegal

first nuclear missile Prithvi-I in 1994. Currently,

use of the huge nuclear stockpiles is persistent.

India has around 75-110 nuclear capable missiles.

An informal survey of ASU students

In response to India's second nuclear test

Now, as a student at ASU, when I tell my fellow

(Operation Shakti), Pakistan detonated five nuclear

students about the nuclear-themed Independence

devices in 1998.

Day parade in India, they seem amazed. They

Today India and Pakistan both have more than 100

have never heard of such an overt display of nu-

nuclear weapons and are continuously expanding

clear power, and they seemed fuzzy on the history

their arsenal. As political and military tensions be-

of nuclear weapons.

Late in the fall of 2014, I decided to conduct a

out them.

decidedly informal survey on campus by design-

My Buddhist organization, Soka Gakkai Interna-

ing a questionnaire to gauge just how aware ASU

tional, started a 2011 campaign called, Our New

students are of nuclear weapons.

Clear Future. With the primary goal of complete

When asked about the exact number of nuclear

nuclear weapon abolition by 2030.

warheads in the world, only 19.4 percent of the 37

Since the programs inception, members of the or-

respondents gave the correct answer.

ganization have conducted 176 anti-nuclear confer-

Fifty percent believe that the abolition of nuclear

ences, events and exhibits in different states. In

weapons is possible.

2010, atomic bomb survivors from Japan shared

While a little over half of the students said they

their experiences during a conference aimed at

were taking actions to improve world peace, only

deepening motivations to achieve world peace.

a third of the students said they wanted to get in-

Soka Gakkai International has also collaborated

volved in activism to abolish nuclear weapons.

with movements like the International Campaign to

I really dont know where Hiroshima and Na-

Abolish Nuclear Weapons, initiated by Interna-

gasaki are and have no clue of when the bomb-

tional Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear

ings took place, one student told me.

War. The way to lasting peace can only be achieved

Unending tensions

through sincere and compassionate dialogues. Thus

In India, we are acutely aware of nu-

the students of Soka Gakkai International in the

clear weapons. Pakistan and China continue to

United States have been spurred to create a ground-

geopolitically pressure India, and so the nuclear

swell of public consensus toward nuclear abolition

arms race continues.

by 2015, when the next Nuclear Non-Proliferation

Being in the United States, though, I feel I

Treaty Review Conference is due to be held.

have the resources and foundation to at least

We hope to achieve the complete abolition of nu-

make younger generations aware of what nuclear

clear weapons by 2030.

weapons can do, so we can live in a world with-