by Murray Thomson, Ottawa (2016). See endnote for order information.
This slim paperback is a must-read for anyone troubled by the recent revival of cold-war rhetoric between the US and Russia. The United Nations is anticipating a Campaign for a Nuclear Weapons Convention this fall. The goal is to produce a comprehensive, multilateral treaty outlawing nuclear weapons, a process with a timetable, strict measures for verifying progress and eliminating cheating, and with a clearly defined end-date.
Most people would support any measures aimed at abolition: especially those who are aware of the horrendous effects of radioactive poisoning suffered by the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Also the people living near nuclear test and waste-disposal sites—the Aleutians, the Marshall Islands, Moruroa, Montebello, Semipalatinsk (Kazakhstan), Mayak (South Urals), Novaya Zemlya (the Russian Arctic), Lop Nur (China), Kahuta (Pakistan), Pokharan (India), Dimona (Israel), Sellafield (UK), Nevada Test Site, Hanford and Rocky Flats (USA). Many of these areas will remain uninhabitable for several centuries.
Cynics might think efforts to get rid of nuclear weapons, stocked and ready to be deployed, are futile; given the fact that agreements such as the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT) were ratified by the Soviet Union, US and UK as early as 1968 and endorsed two years later by 40 other nations. Half a century later, nuclear weapons states are now modernizing their arsenals and ramping up the risk of another deadly global war.
Minutes to Midnight, however, proposes a way out of this dilemma. Murray Thomson, an untiring peace activist for decades and himself a recipient of the Order of Canada, explains why over 800 prominent Canadians—also recipients of the Order of Canada—are calling for the abolition of nuclear arms as the only alternative to a perpetual arms race.
Mini-profiles of a selection of these outstanding citizens include some well-known Canadians; but the reader may be surprised to learn of lesser known women and men from vastly different backgrounds, who share in the conviction that ridding the world of nuclear weapons is vital for humanity and the preservation of this planet. The views of these individuals should motivate our Parliamentarians to follow up on a motion passed unanimously in the House in 2010 (Annex A). Ottawa has done precious little since then to advance the cause of Disarmament at the United Nations.
Here is an opportunity to adopt an active role in the General Assembly to negotiate a Nuclear Weapons Agreement. If enough citizens write to their MP supporting the issue, the government will be compelled to act. This could clear a path to real progress and even enhance Canada’s prospects of gaining a seat in the Security Council!
Reviewed by Subir Guin, an editor of Peace.
Minutes to Midnight is available as a free download at pugwashgroup.ca/images/documents/2016/MurrayT-BOOK-Minutes-to-Midnight.pdf. Order print copies from the author at 358-43 Aylmer Avenue, Ottawa, ON K1S 5R4 (email firstname.lastname@example.org).