Friday, June 04, 2010

Blast from the future

Evil comes from humans, never from nature. Unless human beings, especially those in power, wake up to this reality, the future of planet Earth and its inhabitants will remain balanced on the sharp edge of the knife - Stanley Koh

Thu, 03 Jun 2010
By Stanley Koh

“A gleaming explosion will transform the Earth into a glowing white cloud of gas in less that five one-hundredths of a second, while the chain reaction will run into free space with the speed of light to transform everything into gas and destroy it through exploding and burning up.

“Everything that will be pulled into the gleaming mass will fall into destruction with the speed of light and vaporize without the possibility of stopping.”

Thus writes Eduard Meier in his book Existing Life in the Universe (1978). It is his hypothetical description of a nuclear-triggered holocaust, a grotesque scenario of unimaginable devastation in which millions of human beings perish within seconds.

The threat of a global nuclear war hangs like the sword of Damocles over mankind.

“It is important to remember that while the world is concerned over the impact of global warming, starvation in too many countries, worldwide pandemics and threats of terrorism or biological weapon attacks, only nuclear weapons have the capacity to obliterate entire cities with one bomb and entire countries in massive nuclear exchanges, and perhaps destroy most life on earth,” said John D Isaacs of the Council for a Livable World a paper he presented recently at an international conference on US foreign policy held in Kuala Lumpur.

Albert Einstein was one of the most brilliant and wisest men who ever lived. After the invention of the atomic bomb, he said, “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything, save our modes of thinking. And we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophes.”

Isaacs said that before the election of Barack Obama, hawkish president George Bush was promoting a policy that made nuclear weapons a central tenet of American national security and acted not only to preserve thousands of nuclear warheads, but would have built a new generation of nuclear weapons.

“Fortunately Congress denied funding this,” he said.

“Sixty-five years after the dawn of the atomic age and despite many international negotiations to deal with the problem of nuclear weapons, there remain an estimated 23,000 nuclear weapons held by nine nuclear powers.”

The United States and Russia own more than ninety per cent of the 23,000 atomic bombs, most much larger than those that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

Isaacs, who has devoted most of his life to stopping the nuclear arms race, said our planet still faced the threat of nuclear destruction although the Cold War ended 20 years ago.

The risks and fear of a nuclear attack by warring nations or by terrorists are a global problem.

No escape for anyone

Isaacs said a Malaysian journalist recently asked him why Malaysia should care about this issue. “Isn’t the nuclear threat a problem for the United States and not here?”

Many Malaysians would probably harbour the same sentiment.

In answer, Isaacs quoted former US Senator Sam Nunn, who said:

“If you were trying to draw a circle to mark the overall impact of the blast—in social, economic and security terms—the circle would be the equator itself.

“No part of the planet would escape the impact.”

Even if a relatively minor nuclear explosion occurs, life would change drastically because people everywhere would fear another, perhaps stronger, blast. Travel, international trade, capital flows, commerce would initially stop, and many freedoms we come to take for granted would quickly be eroded in the name of security.

According to Isaacs’ paper, Malaysia had played a positive role in trying to prevent such a disaster. It has passed a law aimed at blocking illicit nuclear trade by countries such as Iran, Pakistan and North Korea.

There were indications of danger in 2003 and 2004 when it was reported that smugglers had used Malaysia as a transhipment point to ferry parts useful in making nuclear bombs.

The offending shipping container bore the label of a Malaysian company, but Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak has said the government was not involved.

“Malaysia is committed towards ensuring that nuclear materials and technologies do not fall into the wrong hands,” Najib said recently in address at the Nuclear Security Summit held in April and attended by the leaders of 47 countries.

On the part of the US, Obama has been forthright about the dangers of nuclear weapons.

“I state clearly and with conviction America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.

“As the only nuclear power to have used a nuclear weapon, the United States has a moral responsibility to act. We cannot succeed in this endeavour alone, but we can lead it, we can start it,” Obama said in April last year.

Evil comes from humans

However, the going will not be easy for the Obama administration.

“The North Korean nuclear challenge, along with the Iranian nuclear issue, is going to be a litmus test for the Obama administration’s determination and capacity in realizing the objectives of non-proliferation (of nuclear weapons),” said Professor Choi Kang, director general for American Studies of the Institute of Foreign Affairs and National Security (IFANS) in Seoul.

Nevertheless, a nuclear holocaust is not the only threat against a world that is already overpopulated.

The likelihood of a runaway global warning getting worse and the probability of regular “super” storms, human exploitative activities inclining toward desertification, massive floods, more frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and the melting of glaciers are just some of the threats brought on by human stupidity and the selfish use of the earth’s resources.

Evil comes from humans, never from nature. Unless human beings, especially those in power, wake up to this reality, the future of planet Earth and its inhabitants will remain balanced on the sharp edge of the knife.

Stanley Koh is a Free Malaysia Today contributor

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