This weekend, anti-nuclear weapon activists will congregate on campus to discuss how to make the atomic bomb a thing of the past.
The Global Zero Summit, called “Reaching Zero: Student Summit at Yale 2012,” will bring students, activists and experts from across the world to Yale for a two-day discussion about eliminating nuclear weapons. Harrison Monsky ’13 and Matt Shafer ’13 collaborated with Global Zero, an anti-nuclear weapon nonprofit advocacy organization, in organizing this weekend’s events. Global Zero co-founder Matt Brown LAW ’01 and Monsky said they hope to spread awareness and galvanize student movements in support of Global Zero’s mission through the summit.
“This is an issue that speaks to our generation, born right after the end of the Cold War,” Shafer said. “This is a truly international issue, a global movement.”
Monsky and Shafer, co-presidents of Yale’s Global Zero Chapter, said the conference will feature speeches by an array of prominent experts on the politics of nuclear weapons, including ex-CIA operative Valerie Plame Wilson and John Sheehan, the former commander-in-chief of United States Allied Command.
Global Zero, which counts more than 450,000 members worldwide, started as the brainchild of co-founders Brown and Bruce Blair SOM ’84. Brown and Blair met in December 2006, Brown said, and realized that they shared a belief that it was time for a new international movement for the total elimination of nuclear weapons. Together, they reached the conclusion that young people, especially college students, would have to be the driving force behind this movement.
“Most movements, the truly big policy changes throughout history, have been led by the young people at the forefront of them,” Brown explained. “Young people need to push to be creative, bold, and grab the world by the collar and shake it, saying that 20 years after the Cold War, it doesn’t make sense to have nuclear weapons.”
Brown added that the ultimate aim of Global Zero is the multilateral reduction in nuclear arsenals, which would be enforced by some monitoring mechanism able to verify and detect any attempts to build nuclear weapons. International diplomacy is not capable of dealing with the threat of nuclear weapons in the long term, he said, and the only solution is to eliminate the weapons completely and verifiably.
Monsky and Shafer said significant public support is needed to convince world leaders that reducing their nations’ nuclear arsenals is necessary. In the midst of a rapidly growing landscape of student movements, they said they viewed Yale as a great location for grassroots student activism.
Shafer added that in addition to raising awareness and sparking discussion about further action on Yale’s campus, the summit will have a broader impact, reaching political communities outside of the University. He cited the broad range of countries that will be represented in the 300 students who will attend the summit, including Pakistan, Australia and Germany.
Though five Yale students interviewed said they were not planning to attend, they praised the conference’s aims.
“I‘m always in favor of more intelligent discourse and I support the general principle of nonproliferation.” Zac Krislov ’15 said.
The summit will be jointly hosted by Global Zero, the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization and its director, Ernesto Zedillo GRD ’81, the former president of Mexico.
Events will kick off at 9 a.m. on Saturday and conclude at 2 p.m. on Sunday. They will be held either at the Yale University Art Gallery auditorium or Linsly-Chittenden Hall and are open to the public with a $10 registration fee for Yale students and $20 registration fee for New Haven residents.
Correction: Feb. 17
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Matt Brown LAW ’01 and Bruce Blair SOM ’84, the co-founders of Global Zero, met at Yale.