Creating a Nuclear Free World and

Women's Lives in Northeast Asia from the viewpoint of a US Woman

 

 

 

By Eleanor LeCain

- CEO, The Breakthrough Way, Founding Member of Women's Action for New Direction(WAND) -

 

 

I am delighted to be here with you today! It is a pleasure to be united with you for a nuclear-free peaceful world.

 

 

First, let me appreciate all the hard work, fortitude, expense, time, and courage it has taken Gyung Lan Jung and the women’s organizations of Korea to organize this conference. It is a huge undertaking. Thank you for bringing us together. And thanks to all of you for being here, especially those who journeyed from afar. How many of you crossed more than one time zone to attend? Please stand up. How many of you have taken some action to stop nuclear energy or nuclear weapons? Please stand up. Everyone please turn to the person next to you, introduce yourself, and say, “Thank you for being here!” WE are the change we wish to see in the world, as Gandhi shared with us.

 

 

We are here because we want a nuclear-free peaceful world! We know it is possible and we are working together to make that vision a reality.

 

 

We gather at an amazing time in human history. Old forms are collapsing, from the fall of the Berlin wall to the end of apartheid in South Africa. A new world is possible, but not inevitable. Creating a new world depends on what WE choose to do.

 

 

Across the globe, people are taking action for a new world, from Arab spring to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Communities are creating micro-enterprises, supporting local agriculture and neighborhood gardens, bartering and delinking from the traditional economy. The World Social and Economic Forums over the last ten years in Nairobi, San Paolo, Atlanta and elsewhere have created amazing global networks for democratic participation from below.

 

 

In the United States, we are doing our part. Tens of millions of US citizens like me want peace and a nuclear free future!

We are - -

 

 

organizing

testifying

broadcasting

lobbying

teaching

donating

divesting

dancing

marching

singing

occupying

 

 

and taking action in ways small and large to build alternatives to nuclear energy, nuclear weapons, and to war.

 

 

We have work to do. Despite the obvious dangers of nuclear energy shown by the nuclear disasters at Three Mile Island in the U.S. in 1979, the Chernobyl disaster in the Ukraine in 1986, and Fukushima last year, some people are pushing to build more nuclear energy plants! The United States anti-nuclear movement succeeded in preventing any new nuclear plants in over 25 years. However just last month, the US government gave approval to build the first new nuclear plant in decades. And there is a push by corporations to build many more nuclear plants.

 

 

It is amazing that they can see in Fukushima just one year ago the loss of human lives, the destruction of whole towns, the contamination of food, and the radiation spreading around the world through air and water, and still say, “Let’s build more of those!’ It is the height of arrogance to think they can keep playing with nuclear reactors and NOT have another horrible disaster!

 

 

Not only should they NOT build any more nuclear energy plants; they should plan to shut down the nuclear plants currently operating!

 

 

We in the U.S. have an expression, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The best way to prevent a nuclear disaster is to not produce nukes in the first place!

 

 

We are working around the clock to prevent the revival of nuclear energy. We have allies. In an extraordinary dissenting vote, the Chairman of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Gregory Jaczko, opposed granting the license for the new nuclear reactors. He said, “I cannot support issuing this license as if Fukushima never happened.”

 

 

The new plant reactors in the US would be built by Westinghouse Electric, a company that is majority owned by the Japanese multinational Toshiba Corporation. Let us join together with our sisters in Japan and the U.S. to put pressure on these companies and governments to stop these new nuclear plants from being built!

 

 

Some say we need nuclear energy because it is less of a problem for global warming than burning fossil fuels. To them I say two words ? renewable energy! We can get all the power we need from the sun, the wind and the water, without the risk of catastrophe that goes with nuclear reactors. Many U.S. cities, state governments and utility companies understand that and are taking action. Renewable energy is being proposed and funded in more than 23 states in the U.S. The U.S. public is also reducing their energy consumption. The environmental and peace movements are working together on a daily basis to educate and organize more and more Americans.

 

 

Of course, nuclear energy was created to put a friendly face on nukes. President Eisenhower in his “Atoms for Peace” speech to the United Nations in 1953, called for using atomic power for peaceful purposes. There was a campaign, “Project Plowshare,” to convince the Japanese that “nuclear” could be a good thing as a source of energy: it worked and Japan built many nuclear energy plants. But “Atoms for Peace” masked a big build up in nuclear weapons during the Eisenhower years and beyond. It is well known that there are now enough nuclear weapons to kill all humanity.

 

 

Initially, nuclear weapons were seen as an inexpensive way to have massive power. But nuclear weapons have been not only very dangerous but also very expensive. Jackie Cabasso, a leading nuclear abolitionist in the U.S., points to a study by the Brookings Institute reporting that the U.S. spent $5.5 Trillion dollars on nuclear weapons from 1940?1996 (in constant 1996 dollars). Ms. Cabasso says that nuclear weapons spending during this period exceeded the combined total federal spending for education; training, employment, and social services; agriculture; natural resources and the environment; general science, space, and technology; community and regional development, including disaster relief; law enforcement; and energy production and regulation.

 

 

We always need to be careful to see how much rhetoric matches with reality. President Obama has spoken about his commitment to a world free of nuclear weapons. Yet his budget provides more money for nuclear weapons than ever in history. Jackie Cabasso wanted you to know that, “According to a White House fact sheet:“The plan includes investments of $80 billion to sustainand modernize the nuclear weapons complex….”and“well over $100billion in nuclear delivery systems to sustain existing capabilities and modernize some strategic systems” by the year2020.” (Western States Legal Foundation, Information Brief, fall 2011)

 

 

Many years ago, I participated in direct action to protest nuclear weapons at Livermore Labs in California, one of the two places in the U.S. where nuclear weapons are designed and developed. I took a stand against nuclear weapons because they would cause horrific damage to huge numbers of people ? civilians, including women and children - and destruction of the land, air and water for generations to come. As deadly as they were, the bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were baby bombs compared to the level of destructiveness now possible. For me, it is important to take a moral stand against this kind of death and destruction. There is no circumstance where the use of these weapons is morally justified. I do not want these weapons to be developed in my name. I take a stand against them and say “Not in my name!” When enough of us take this stand, we can stop nuclear weapons.

 

 

The women of northeast Asia have experienced first hand the nuclear horrors. From Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Fukushima, you have seen the horrors of nuclear gone wrong. Thank you for your leadership in stepping up and saying No More nuclear weapons or nuclear reactors!

 

 

President Obama announced in Prague his support for a world free of nuclear weapons. Having the president support the elimination of nuclear weapons is a big boost to the legitimacy of nuclear weapons abolitionists like us here in this room and elsewhere. I am glad that President Obama convened the 2010 Washington Nuclear Security Summit to address the dangers of nuclear materials. It is important to get nations talking to each other about nuclear security, and to create momentum and overcome inertia and doubts about a nuclear weapons free world. President Obama himself said at a press conference that the Nuclear Security Summit was one step towards realizing his vision of a world free of nuclear weapons. There are many forces allied against him who wish to bring him down. We may not agree with him on all issues, but we need to applaud, fortify and strengthen such efforts.

 

 

Now it is time to take the next step: recognize that we will never have real nuclear security until we eliminate all nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons! Cut the funding for nukes. As long as we have nuclear plants, we have the danger that non-state actors could use those materials in a deadly attack.

 

 

When we live in a nuclear-free world, we will live in greater peace and security, no longer in the shadow of the nuclear threat where bombs may deliberately or accidentally explode, and where nuclear reactors might accidentally melt down. We will get our energy from the sun in solar power, the wind with wind power, the water with hydro power, and the land with geothermal power. Our children will grow up in a world where the air is fresher and the land is greener, where the food is safe to eat and the water is safe to drink. We will live a more healthy and free life.

 

 

This nuclear-free world is possible, in our lifetimes. We can make this vision real!

We the women of Asia and women of the world will make this vision come true!

 

 

There are more opportunities now to make change in the world than at any time in human history.

 

 

In the US, I am happy to report that …

? Global Zero, an international initiative launched in 2008 to promote the elimination of nuclear weapons, has proposed a comprehensive plan that would eliminate nuclear weapons in 20 years. The Global Zero framework includes a phased withdrawal and verification for the destruction of all devices held by official and unofficial members of the nuclear club. Global Zero is building support for the elimination of nuclear weapons among leaders and citizens around the world, a movement with 120 chapters and growing.

? Over the past twenty years (1989?2009), the United States and Russia retired and destroyed twice as many nuclear warheads (40,000+) as this action plan proposes (20,000+) over the next twenty years (2009?2030).

? I am a founding member of a group now called Women’s Action for New Directions originally called Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament (WAND). We are dedicated to empowering women to act politically to reduce violence and militarism and to redirect excessive military resources toward unmet human and environmental needs. We have a long-term strategy to elect more peace activists to elected office, and to educate elected officials on our issues and priorities. We now have 1 in every 4 women state legislators as a member of WAND! We help these women get elected to Congress, and now have a growing number of WAND women in the US Congress. Our members are growing in influence to reshape federal priorities for peace.

 

 

? The international consensus for the elimination of nuclear weapons is reaching a critical mass!

 

 

So we can create this positive future of a nuclear-free, peaceful world. It is up to us. We can continue to work and expand our ranks.

 

 

We know that women have been leaders to protect our families, our nations, and nature. Women activists led to the UN Security Council passing Resolution 1325, calling for the inclusion of women in the prevention and settlement of conflicts. 1325 opens new possibilities for the movement toward peace and security, recognizing and enhancing the vital role women play in preventing and resolving conflict and promoting peace.

 

 

I am pleased to report that the US government completed its National Action Plan to implement 1325 in December 2011. An organized group of citizen activists, the U.S. Civil Society Working Group on Women, Peace, and Security, was involved in shaping the plan, and is pushing for its implementation. The working group prepared “10 Recommended Action Points in the First 150 Days” and is pushing for its implementation.

 

 

So we are on the move!

 

 

Here is what I call a Recipe for A Nuclear free World:

? Feel our PERSONAL and COLLECTIVE POWER! Know there is tremendous power in being peace and speaking the truth. Your presence matters. In a large dark hall, it only takes one person to light a candle to light up the whole room. And there are many of us taking action, all of us together lighting the way to a nuclear free peaceful world.

 

 

? Get more ECONOMIC POWER! Sometimes women are held back because our economic dependence on our husbands and fathers makes us reluctant to speak out and to act. As we strengthen our economic independence, we can strengthen our independence in other areas as well. I am currently putting together a program that will help women increase our economic power. We can use the financial power we have and invest it to reflect our values. If everyone delinks from companies with nuclear holdings, we can have a huge impact. This is what the Occupy Wall Street movement did launching a “Move our Money” campaign where over 4 million people took their funds out of big financial institutions and put it into local community banks.

 

 

? Get more POLITICAL POWER! Have the courage to actively engage in the political process, including running for elected office.

 

This is our recipe for a nuclear-free peaceful world!

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