The people who have influenced me the most with respect to nuclear weapons policy, impact and history are Carl Sagan, Dr. Richard Rhodes, Daniel Ellsberg and the photographer Robert Del Tredici. I believe my interest in this subject came from growing up in a very spiritual family which took moral, humanistic and religious responsibilities very seriously. In the late 1970s, at the age of 10, I was deeply impacted by the ABC mini-series The Holocaust, which dumbfounded me with its imagery of genocide and families suffering together. My feeling of near-infinite safety from growing up in the loving family I had I realized was something of an illusion.
What deepened my interest in nuclear weapons was, in 2011, losing our son Alexander. Death and devastating loss changed from an unreal, abstract concept to a reality which I knew intimately. Gone also were my illusions that the worst will never occur. Extrapolating my own pain, grief and loss to what I imagined would come from a nuclear war motivated me to use my energy, resources and The Reader Magazine to fight against the insanity of these weapons.
The hidden reality…is that for over fifty years, all-out thermonuclear war– an irreversible, unprecedented, and almost unimaginable calamity for civilization and most life on earth– has been a catastrophe waiting to happen.
No policies in human history have more deserved to be recognized as immoral. Or insane. The story of how this calamitous predicament came about and how and why it has persisted for half a century is a chronicle of human madness. Whether Americans, Russians, and other humans can rise to the challenge of reversing these policies and eliminating the danger of near-term extinction caused by their own inventions and proclivities remains to be seen. I choose to join with others in acting as if that is still possible.
— Daniel Ellsberg, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner
“…at this moment, over [13,500] nuclear weapons are, with fine premeditation, aimed at specific targets. Some of those “targets” have millions of people in them. In the nosecones of missiles and in the bomb racks of aircraft the weapons wait– faithful, obedient servants awaiting orders…the machinery of mass murder still waits, purring and attentive. It is no exaggeration, no hyperbole to say that billions of people are at risk. It is a little early for complacency.”
— Carl Sagan, Richard Turco, A Path Where No Man Thought: Nuclear Winter and the End of the Arms Race
In his final address to the United Nations, John F. Kennedy told the world we must abolish nuclear weapons before they abolish us. Ronald Reagan said, “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought”.
And yet more recently, Republicans and Democrats have both failed to lead the world away from this clear and present danger. Despite telling a crowd in Prague that he would work for a world without nuclear weapons, Barack Obama presided over a trillion dollar nuclear weapon expansion. During the Trump presidency, the doomsday clock, established in 1947 to scientifically measure the threat of humanity ending (represented by midnight), came closer to midnight than ever before, largely because of the threat of nuclear war.
We have now reached a defining moment. According to global scientific consensus, we have left what has been 10,000 years of ecological stability, a stability that has enabled us to build human civilization. Our new reality will be ecological and economic volatility with massive, abrupt changes, including much greater scarcity of food and water. These changes do not necessarily foretell the end of humanity, but rather the end of how we have lived up to now. These changes also guarantee greater geo-political instability and greater probability of conflict and war, including terminal nuclear war.
And yet new opportunities now exist for reducing the threat of nuclear war which must be seized. In 2021, following in the footsteps of banning landmines and chemical weapons, the majority of nations signed a landmark UN Treaty that essentially makes possessing or producing nuclear weapons illegal. And yet the actual threat of nuclear war has not diminished because no nuclear-armed nation has yet agreed to sign and abide by the treaty.
I believe the United States, the world’s financial, economic and military leader, will ensure its people’s economic prosperity and survival, increase global security, and create a sustainable future by being the first nuclear armed state to join the UN Treaty to bolish nuclear weapons while ensuring a real defense and security for Americans.
What I Will Do
In the US Senate, I will build on my advocacy for the total elimination of nuclear weapons by presenting the medical, humanitarian, environmental, and economic impact of our current nuclear weapons policies. This will include televised opportunities for the American people to hear testimony from people who have been part of the nuclear story in America and abroad, including survivors of Hiroshima, former US military officers in charge of nuclear weapons, and others.
I understand the opportunity America has to reform its nuclear weapons policies, to change the world’s thinking about these weapons and to lead the world in the abolition of these weapons.
As I did for communities of Californians as Publisher of The Reader, I will ensure that all Americans are aware of our policies regarding nuclear weapons. Most Americans are unaware that the United States has refused to sign a commitment to not be first to launch a nuclear attack. To remedy this, I will work to create public and private media alliances that massively increase the level of information the public has on America’s nuclear weapons policies so that that our policies are in alignment with the public will.