Sixty-seven years ago an atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The explosion killed approximately 70,000 people. Many more later died from burns and radiation poisoning – their flesh literally rotting from their bones.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) is a grassroots movement aiming to ensure nothing like this happens again. Despite memories of WWII and the Cold War fading into the past, over 20,000 nuclear weapons still exist across the globe. ICAN sees this as “the greatest immediate threat to the future of civilisation.”
James Norman, from the ICAN Australia office in Carlton, says a global movement such as ICAN is only as effective as people make it.
“Everyone knows nuclear weapons exist,” he says.
“But I don’t think many people know there are around 23,000 of them. I think part of the attempt is to get people to see this as just as much of a threat as climate change. We have a real window of opportunity at the moment to make progress on this issue.”
Mr Norman recently attended an ICAN conference in Tokyo, which brought together participants from over 30 countries. Various workshops were held, with hundreds of Japanese schoolchildren making paper cranes to be sent to world leaders – including Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Mr Norman says it was an opportunity to exchange practical ideas about how to work toward a ban on nuclear weapons.
“Australia is one of the biggest uranium suppliers in the world and that brings with it great responsibilities. Uranium mining is dangerous, dirty and has an impact on local indigenous communities.”
He said he hopes people will continue to think about both the realities and alternatives to nuclear weapons. This is particularly poignant considering the theme of the next ICAN conference is going to be ‘Open Your Eyes’.