The Need for Peace: Fukushima and Technology

Many people dismiss the call for global peace as an unrealistic dream of the naive. I do believe that we must uphold high ideals if we hope to achieve anything in this world. But at the same time, there is a practical reason why we cannot afford to contemplate war any more. The cause is none other than the unprecedented acceleration in the rate of technological change. 

When Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell released a manifesto on July 9, 1955 calling for peaceful solutions to international conflicts in light of the development of nuclear weapons, they assumed that nuclear weapons would be used a future conflict and called for a rational abandonment of war.

Although there have been many conflicts since that day, it is true that a world war has not occurred yet. Perhaps because of exactly that fear of nuclear conflict. Although nuclear war remains a threat to us all, we must reconsider the the manifesto in light of technological evolution, a phenomenon  that goes beyond nuclear weapons.

The Manifesto states:

“The abolition of war will demand distasteful limitations of national sovereignty. But what perhaps impedes understanding of the situation more than anything else is that the term ‘mankind’ feels vague and abstract. People scarcely realize in imagination that the danger is to themselves and their children and their grandchildren, and not only to a dimly apprehended humanity. They can scarcely bring themselves to grasp that they, individually, and those whom they love are in imminent danger of perishing agonizingly. And so they hope that perhaps war may be allowed to continue provided modern weapons are prohibited.”

Modern weapons go far beyond nuclear weapons today, of course, but there is yet another important point. Let us consider the recent nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daichi Nuclear Plant in Japan. This disaster is far from over and, as I have stated before, I expect that the cleanup will require an international effort and will go on for 50-100 years.

But let us imagine for a moment if there had been a war going on in Japan at the time of that nuclear accident. What if the plant had been shelled and it was literally impossible to approach it or make any repairs. Imagine just how serious a meltdown that situation would have generated. With the spread of nuclear power and other dangerous technologies  which can produce environmental problems beyond the capacity of current technology to resolve, we literally cannot afford to have conflicts. This reality is quite hard for us to grasp, and some of us many anticipate that disagreements will be resolved through conflict inevitably. But in fact a fundamental evolution is required of mankind.  Perhaps we are up to the task.


2 responses to “The Need for Peace: Fukushima and Technology

  1. Emanuel Pastreich December 14, 2011 at 1:59 pm

    Although Fukushima is relatively peaceful, the possibility of a military conflict taking place near a major nuclear power plant is not particularly outlandish at all. We may get the full consequences of nuclear war (maybe even worse) without ever having a nuclear bomb dropped.

  2. Emanuel Pastreich December 14, 2011 at 11:39 pm

    Noam Chomsky chomsky@mit.edu
    7:49 AM (46 minutes ago)

    Couldn’t agree with you more about the mounting hazards, particularly as the government and Tokyo Electric are slowly releasing the facts about the catastrophe – e.g., that even before the Tsunami, the earthquake had caused terrible damage to the reactor, meaning that almost all reactors are at serious risk.

    Noam

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