Why You Should Care About Abolishing Nuclear Weapons

(Photo above by Micotino / Pexels)

It is 90 seconds to midnight, according to the Doomsday Clock, a symbol representing the prospects of a human-made global catastrophe.

The metaphorical clock was devised in 1945 by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, a group that included Albert Einstein and the University of Chicago scientists who helped develop the first atomic weapons. The clock, updated annually, is a strong reminder of the dangers we, as a global community, must address if we are to survive.

In our current climate, with very real threats to world security playing out in the daily news, the necessity to change public thinking on abolishing nuclear weapons is critical.

Nuclear abolition is an issue that is key to Buddhists because nuclear war represents the exact opposite of what Buddhism strives to protect: the dignity of all life.

But how can we, as ordinary people, act on our goal for a nuclear weapons-free world?

Nuclear abolition is an issue that is key to Buddhists because nuclear war represents the exact opposite of what Buddhism strives to protect: the dignity of all life.

First, we can educate ourselves.

By deepening our understanding of the imminent danger caused by nuclear weapons we can help people gain an awareness of this issue and communicate our wish for the U.S. to lead other nuclear weapons states in eliminating this existential threat. Resources include:

  • International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons is an international coalition of nongovernmental organizations (including the Soka Gakkai International) that promotes adherence to and implementation of the United Nations nuclear weapons ban treaty. In 2017, the group was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and its work to achieve a treaty prohibiting their use.
  • Such efforts culminated in the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), the first legally binding international agreement to prohibit nuclear weapons, which was ratified by 122 United Nations member states in July 2017 and entered into force in January 2021. This treaty makes the development, testing, stockpile and use of nuclear weapons illegal.
  • Back from the Brink is a U.S.-based coalition of individuals, elected officials and organizations (including the SGI-USA) that aims to push U.S. lawmakers to adopt policies that lead to the abolition of nuclear weapons.

This coalition works to bring communities together to advocate locally in their city or town for complete nuclear disarmament. It also hosts seminars and discussions to educate the public about the danger of nuclear weapons and connect the production and testing of nuclear weapons to other key issues such as climate change, poverty and racism.

This grassroots effort aims to inspire citizens to voice their opposition to the existence of nuclear weapons to their elected officials, who can in turn help shape policies that lead to the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons.

Creating a movement of public opinion is the most direct path to abolishing nuclear weapons.

This action corresponds to the heart of second Soka Gakkai President Josei Toda’s injunction in September 1957 calling for the abolition of such weapons:

I hope that, as my disciples, you will inherit the declaration I am about to make today and, to the best of your ability, spread its intent throughout the world. Although a movement to ban the testing of nuclear weapons is now underway around the world, it is my wish to attack the problem at its root, that is, to rip out the claws that are hidden in the very depths of this issue. … We, the citizens of the world, have an inviolable right to live. Anyone who tries to jeopardize that right is a devil incarnate, a fiend, a monster.

The Human Revolution, pp. 1779–80

Mr. Toda used strident language to highlight the destructive human impulses that underlie these weapons: the desire to dominate and bend others to our will, destroying their lives and livelihoods should they resist.

This declaration, which represents the starting point of the Soka Gakkai’s peace movement, has grown into a decades-long movement to bring attention to the threat of nuclear weapons.

Daisaku Ikeda, who, more than anyone, inherited the will of Mr. Toda to eradicate nuclear weapons, has written tirelessly in the form of peace proposals and editorials, and held countless dialogues with leading thinkers about this issue. In his 2019 peace proposal, he explains:

Why have I focused so single-mindedly on finding a resolution to the nuclear issue? This is because, just as Josei Toda discerned, so long as nuclear weapons exist the quest for a world of peace and human rights for all will remain elusive. Turning the tide of public opinion against nuclear weapons is our hope to create lasting changes affirming the dignity of life. As everyday people, we must believe in our ability to be the change the world wants to see. In the words of the American cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

The World Ahead: An Anthropologist Anticipates the Future, p. 12

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