Recently, through the courtesy of a Yale alumna, I was able to attend a conference on global nuclear policy issues. The conference was an informative experience which opened my eyes to a surprising gap in our campus discourse. There are myriad ways in which Yale students engage with activism, whether it’s through environmental initiatives, helping the homeless and poor or critiquing national policy on reproductive issues. Yet, one crucial subject that unites all activist efforts is routinely ignored on campus: nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. All of the endeavors of activists will make no difference if our planet is destroyed in nuclear conflagration: The press of a button should not determine whether or not humanity exists. In making this statement, I don’t intend to be a harbinger of doom; the threat of nuclear weapons is something that has not received the amount of attention it deserves. Perhaps our lack of willingness to engage in nuclear activism is due to a perceived high level of expertise needed to interact with nuclear policy. To be sure, the history surrounding nuclear weapons is complex, but it is no more difficult to grasp than any of the other causes Yalies routinely advocate for.
A particular area of concern where Yale students can make an impact is the question of access to nuclear weapons. Looking at our own nation, the President of the United States currently has the sole authority to launch a nuclear strike and can do so at any time he wishes. Trump alarmism might be a cliched theme at this point, but the rhetorical exchanges between him and Kim Jong Un is something that warrants caution. There can be no understating the destructive capability of nuclear weapons. Even if nothing ever comes of the public animosity of the two parties, we cannot afford, at any point, to roll dice with the chance of nuclear war. If we are truly committed to human flourishing, we cannot reduce the value of human life to a calculus of sheer numbers as we did in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
However, America is not the only country facing nuclear tensions. Pakistan and India are in the midst of a nuclear arms race, one that is often not discussed in the West. Russia and the United States’ nuclear arsenals alone can level the world to barren rubble several times over. Israel’s nuclear presence is a source of controversy with other Arab states. These are only a few of the global conflicts brewing over nuclear weapons, and for Yalies, who hold the keys to future positions of social and political importance, these problems will not simply disappear. We will have to be the ones dealing with them, and the responsibility and resources invested in us should be leveraged towards minimalizing such potentially disastrous risks.
After reading all of this, you may be asking yourself what I think students should do about nuclear policy. There are many organizations that work on this issue, most prominently the recent Nobel Peace Prize laureate (the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons). But this isn’t the only organization that fights against this issue. If you are looking for ways to take tangible action in our local community, then I invite you to assist the New Haven Beyond the Bomb campaign. The campaign is currently working to have the city pass a resolution in support of the Markey-Lieu Bill, a piece of legislation in Congress that is intended to prevent the President from launching a first strike without a declaration of war from Congress. It does not in any way impede America’s ability to respond in the event of a prior attack upon us or our allies. Your support — by signing onto this resolution which will be sent to the Board of Alders — is crucial not only to the creation of a safer world, but also to engaging in concern for the welfare of New Haven, a city that nurtures us for at least four of some of our most formative years.
All of our communities are directly impacted by the danger of nuclear weapons. Brinkmanship is no long-term solution. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and many other activists who are now largely forgotten, also worked on issues surrounding nuclear weapons. Their efforts culminated in the second-largest march in the United States, consisting of over one million people. This should not be relegated to the annals of history. If we believe that our voices actually have an impact upon America’s national discourse and its political situation, then it is our duty to take a stand once more against the threat posed by the existence of nuclear weapons.
Lauren Lee is a sophomore in Grace Hopper College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .