In the basement of my Missouri high school we had a bomb shelter.
Cases of emergency food rations lined one wall. Large drums for water also had their place in the large windowless room.
As a student I wondered if someone would actually think of filling them in the chaos of the few minutes early warning expected before a nuclear strike.
At noon on a Saturday once a month, all the local air raid sirens atop schools, fire halls and other public buildings would shriek their warning.
Actually this test had some practical value.
In addition to giving us time for a last prayer before an impending thermonuclear holocaust, the shrill cry of the sirens also alerted the city to the very real threat of tornados, which plague the region every year, particularly in June.
The end of the Cold War might have dulled our atomic angst.
We don’t think about the need for bomb shelters anymore.
However, the reality of this modern plague remains.
North Korea, Iran and the threat of their hypothetical mini-arsenals have attracted attention and certainly generated a lot of politically motivated fear mongering over the last few years.
The persistent menace of the stockpiles of the current eight nuclear powers, however, should generate real concern.
“Today, the potential for an accidental or inadvertent nuclear exchange between the United States and Russia remains, with both countries anachronistically maintaining more than 1,000 warheads on high alert, ready to launch within tens of minutes,” according to an online issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
Estimates vary widely on the total number of nuclear weapons that the United States and Russia have at their destructive disposal.
Depending on which source you quote, collectively they hold between 11,000 and 26,000 weapons.
China, Britain and France together possess another 1000.
India, Israel and Pakistan combined have half that many.
Last week an Associated Press release stated that Russia “tested an intercontinental ballistic missile that Moscow said could elude any defence system.”
Clearly this act is in response to the planned deployment of missiles in Central Europe by the Bush government. Like the rockets planted in those enormously expensive silos in Delta Junction, Alaska, the US missiles to be sited in Europe are purportedly intended to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles from ‘rogue’ states.
Russian president Vladimir Putin sees these as potentially sparking a new, dangerously spiraling arms race. He has not been shy about making this view know to his fellow G-8 leaders gathered at Heiligendamm, Germany this week.
The last thing the world needs now with the myriad problems facing it is another arms race.
The current trillion-dollar waste of global wealth on arms expenditures annually must been seen as a crime against humanity and theft from future generations.
Spending more only furthers this insanity.
Whether with nuclear arms or greenhouse gasses we must fundamentally rethink how we solve our problems.
Somehow we must reconnect with each other in markedly new ways that truly sees our own political, social and economic security as contingent on the similar welfare of others globally.
“Engaging in collaborative communities means ceding some control, sharing responsibility, embracing transparency, managing conflict and accepting that successful projects will take on a life of their own,” argues Don Tapscott in Wikinomics.
Maybe we should consider Tapscott’s recipe for economic growth as one for political and social renewal as well.
Whatever the path chosen, though, we have to make common pledge to renew the planet, a planet freed from the threats of all weapons of mass destruction.
By rethinking, reconnecting and renewing we might just have a chance.
The Eagle meets the Condor First Nations cultural exchange project with Peru is launching a fundraising project in co-operation with Bean North Coffee Roasting (667-4145).
A special blend of coffee called Pachamama is being sold for $15 a pound.
The Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition is hosting a community barbeque on Thursday, June 14th from 6 to 7 p.m. at the United Church 601 Main Street.
Bring a salad or dessert to share if you can. All are welcome. For information call 334-9317.