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Reawakening to Threats of Nuclear Weapons: An Issue for Prevention

March 6, 2012

Are we at the1 More for Zero logo early stages of a re-awakening led by health professionals? Three major developments give me hope.

Preparedness experts know that there is no effective response for a nuclear weapons detonation, so we must call for prevention. Most of the world has forgotten about the threat. What are these developments that suggest the greater medical community is waking again to this serious issue?

  1. A group of 34 prominent and respected deans of schools of medicine and public health have signed an open letter calling for nuclear weapons abolition. A related scholarly piece, “A Prescription for Survival: Prevention of Nuclear War,” is being published in the March 2012 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
  2. This letter follows the decision by the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies to adopt a resolution for nuclear weapons elimination and to call on their affiliates to conduct educational campaigns about the unique and catastrophic humanitarian consequences of nuclear war.
  3. A major study on global impacts of a limited nuclear war on agriculture, food supplies, and human nutrition or “nuclear famine” will be released within a few months. This research indicates that potentially 1 billion people would be at risk of starvation from even a limited nuclear exchange in South Asia.

If this reawakening comes to fruition, future generations will look back on the current period as a moment of historic importance, comparable to that of 30 years ago. At the height of the Cold War, health professionals rose up, calling for prevention from the fundamental danger facing our world from nuclear weapons and their testing. Their valuable nonpartisan insights shocked many and inspired others to take effective action. They helped launch a movement to effectively stop nuclear testing and reduce nuclear arsenals that historians agree changed the world.

Today, in the Journal, health professionals remind us that this issue should go beyond national borders and partisan politics and be a rallying cry for all citizens of this planet to act together. This will not happen automatically or immediately, but it must take place soon if we are to survive.

We don’t want to wake up the day after a mushroom cloud has changed our world forever and wish we had done more. Instead, we can join together now and declare these weapons to be what they truly are—an affront to all we hold dear, to all the beauty of the past, and to all the potential of a limitless future.

Don’t miss this important article in the journal. Read it and share it with others, but don’t stop there. Find ways to engage in the growing international movement. The short video at can introduce you to this diverse movement.

Is this the start of a reawakening for health professionals?  It can be if you and others spread the word, take action, and help make history.

– Catherine Thomasson, MD, Executive Director, Physicians for Social Responsibility

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