Many Americans cite the economy as the most important issue today, but I believe that the environment and the dangers of Donald Trump’s proposed $1 trillion “upgrade” of the nuclear weapons system are the most critical issues we face.
The Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb (MOAB) dropped on Afghanistan April 13 is the most powerful conventional weapon, delivering a force of 11 tons of TNT. The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 killed at least 215,000 civilians and had a force equal to 15 and 18 kilotons, respectively.
In contrast, the most common warheads in the U.S. arsenal, the W76 and W88, have an explosive power of 100 and 475 kilotons, 6 to 30 times the destructive force of rudimentary atomic bombs, and 9,000 to 43,000 times the force of the MOAB. America’s submarines carry 890 of these, and land-based Minuteman III ICBMs are armed with another 400, each one 300 to 500 kilotons.
A 2016 study found that a nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan, which has been threatened, would cause a nuclear winter severely reducing Asian monsoon rains and grain production, causing the starvation of 100 million or more people. And their weapons are less fearsome than America’s.
By most estimates, North Korea has about 20 nuclear weapons with the destructive power of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. The United States has about 6,800. Russia has about 7,000, and China has 260.
The United States currently spends more on its nuclear weapons program than all other countries combined. The first draft of the United Nations treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons, supported by over 120 nations, was presented May 22 and is expected to be voted on by the UN in July. The U.S. rejects the UN deliberations.
Aside from the nuclear peril, the dangers posed by anthropogenic climate change, and the massive amounts of pollutants dumped into our atmosphere, water and soil, are clear. If we continue to foul our own nest, as we are doing, there will be no economy as an issue.
The governments of the world and the common people here and all over Mother Earth need to demonstrate and take urgent action, doing everything we can individually and collectively to reverse these twin, interrelated threats to our existence.
Barry Barnett is a writer, health professional and musician living in Santa Rosa.
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