AUGUST 2, 2023
This week, as we solemnly commemorate the 78th anniversary of the twin bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that by the end of 1945 killed over 200,000 human beings from heat, blast, and radiation, we have had unprecedented reminders of our horrific nuclear legacy, and the continued key role of health professionals in urging us to eliminate these dread weapons once and for all.
We at PSR welcome this week’s collaboration of numerous medical journals such as JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) promoting the editorial “Reducing the Risks of Nuclear War—The Role of Health Professionals” as a beacon for our continued work to safeguard human existence. Editors of health and medical journals throughout the globe issued this eloquent “call on health professionals to alert the public and our leaders to this major danger to public health and the essential life support systems of the planet—and urge action to prevent it.”
The recent release of the film Oppenheimer has certainly opened up the conversation about nuclear weapons in a dramatic way, vividly focusing on the manifold contradictions experienced by the lead character and his fellow scientists when developing and testing the “Trinity” weapon that ushered in the nuclear age. Unfortunately, as has now been widely commented on, ( see NYTimes op-ed) the film is virtually silent on the Trinity detonation’s woeful acute and long-term impacts on indigenous and other communities exposed to what we now understand was much greater radioactive fallout than originally estimated, and largely covered-up.
In addition, there is little light shed on the actual toll and suffering of the bombed Japanese people, none at all on the countless victims from the subsequent nuclear testing in the Pacific. Similar for other “downwinders” from other atomic blasts, or those victimized by decades of exposure to other components of the nuclear “death-cycle” encompassing the production of nuclear power and weapons, and the radioactive waste bequeathed for generations to come.
As such, it has been alarming at the same time to encounter a renewed focus on nuclear preparedness, evinced in the article “Is the U.S. Ready for Nuclear Attack?” posted last week in MedPage Today, which while dusting-off and updating the all too familiar “duck and cover” nostrums of the Cold War, fails to offer even a glimmer of our need to focus on “primary prevention” of the sort that we at PSR have been advocating for decades. This has been exemplified most recently in our work with the “Back from the Brink” (BftB) coalition whose policy planks toward nuclear abolition have been embraced by numerous municipalities, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and by the American Public Health Association in its 2020 policy statement “Toward a World Free of Nuclear Weapons.”
Our nuclear risks have certainly been magnified by the Ukraine war and its heightened dangers for a nuclear conflict between the U.S. and Russia that could lead to untold millions of short-term fatalities and a “nuclear winter” that could cause widespread deaths from malnutrition for billions more, as highlighted in a the 2022 IPPNW report “Nuclear Famine.”
We hope that health professionals will follow the lead of our major medical journals whereby we can work to transfer the countless billions of dollars wasted in our bloated nuclear weapons and military budgets to rebuild our dilapidated public health system, provide excellent and universal health care to our people, and create a “Manhattan Project” to deal with the climate emergency exploding around us at the moment.
We invite you to join us in this effort, and to please consider joining our SF Bay PSR Nuclear Weapons Abolition committee. We meet (still virtually at this point) on a Thursday evening, every other month, and on August 10, we will be discussing the Oppenheimer film and would love to hear your thoughts about that and our work ahead. To join email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hope to see you there!
Robert M. Gould, MD
President, San Francisco Bay Physicians for Social Responsibility
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August 4 – 9, 2023
Demonstrate Your Support for a World without Nuclear Weapons
All that’s required to participate is to post an origami crane (or a graphic from our toolkit) with the hashtag #CranesForOurFuture on your social media and share why moving closer to a world without nuclear weapons is important to you. Last year the campaign reached millions. Sign up here to receive the initial social media toolkit that is being provided.
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July 21: Oppenheimer the film opened in theaters
August 4: Honoring Daniel Ellsberg: Dismantle the Doomsday Machine: Abolish Nuclear Weapons vigil and video, and a note by Dr. Bob Gould remembering Ellsberg
August 10: SF Bay PSR NWA Committee Oppenheimer film discussion
September 7: Racial Equity Reading Discussion, in-person at Medicine for Nightmares bookstore in San Francisco
September 27: SAVE the DATE: Annual Virtual Gala with Dr. Cheryl Holder, click here to SEE the SAVE-the-DATE
November TBA: Racial Equity Reading Discussion with founders of the UCSF’s REPAIR Project