A Minimum Deterrent Earth Day StrategyApril 19, 2017
Earth Day is a good time to reflect how the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, an organization formed by Manhattan Project physicists concerned for the world's fate after splitting the atom, created and set the adjustable Doomsday Clock at three minutes to midnight to symbolize the threats mankind foists upon ourselves. Unchecked climate change and the world's aging nuclear arsenals caused the iconic clock to be reset from five minutes to midnight back to three in 2015. President Trump's inauguration caused the Doomsday Clock to tick thirty seconds closer to midnight, placing Mother Earth's destruction closer than any time since the first hydrogen bombs were tested in 1953, due to the President's support for alternative facts, a reinvigorated nuclear arms race, and further nuclear proliferation beyond current rogue nations like Pakistan, India, and Israel.
The President's aide-de-camp carries a forty-five pound aluminum briefcase wrapped in black leather containing the codes, war plans, and communication tools needed to relay an order to launch up to 1,400 weapons from our nuclear triad of bombers, intercontinental ballistic missile silos, and submarines. Today's nuclear weapons are thousands of times more powerful than those that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, so first consider that Little Boy's original target city of Kyoto was thankfully spared last minute for its steep arts culture that exemplifies humanity and Kokura because a nearby firebombing obscured the bomb bay door prompting the bombardier to almost whimsically release Fat Man through a hole in the clouds on the neighboring city. Now consider that in February, photos appeared on social media of a retired investor and the aide-de-camp posing for photos with the Presidential Emergency Satchel at President Trump's Mar-a-Lago golf resort while the President and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe discussed over dinner the Korean Peninsula potentially cooking off, the almost guaranteed deaths of the 28,500 American service members near the demilitarized zone, and the ensuing onslaught against Seoul's ten million inhabitants. The reality that an understandably frightened man with only limited information and even less time could implement an absurd horror strategy resulting in megadeaths, multigenerational radiation poisoning, and a nuclear winter blanketing the earth for ages is even more ludicrous given that throughout human history only our social constructs have held back man's xenophobic, raping, and murderous nature.
Whatever can happen will happen with complex systems and it is miraculous that none of America's 70,000 nuclear weapons ever detonated by accident given their designs prioritized detonating on command over not detonating by mistake. The impressive spheres within spheres of detonators, explosives, and fissile interstellar materials are just an illusion of safety with each weapon we possess risking a catastrophic accident. Even before the decades of deferred modernization of our sixty-year-old long-range bombers, derelict missile silos, and floppy disk run command and control systems, accidents have caused armed bombers to melt into radioactive heaps before takeoff, a missile silo to explode almost erasing Arkansas from the map, and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) almost launching retaliatory strikes in response to forest fires, volcanic eruptions, and the moon rising over Norway. President Obama received the Nobel Peace Prize for desiring a nuclear weapon free world, yet pursued spending $1 trillion over thirty years to modernize the nuclear triad that exists solely due to inter-service rivalries, the military industrial complex, and phallus envy. America should decommission our aging intercontinental ballistic missiles, that would be destroyed in any preemptive nuclear strike, and our bombers, that would not have airfields to return to after a retaliatory strike, and adopt a minimum deterrent strategy of just twelve newly minted Columbia-class submarines that are far less likely to be used in a first strike, allow for a composed response, and whose jointly stored nuclear weapons would scatter their plutonium during an accident only across the port it made harbor or the depths of the ocean.
Ever since man stood upright, we have harmed our habitats, initially by exploiting animals for game, forests for agriculture, and mountains for minerals, and today with invasive species, ocean acidification, and global warming. Extinction is neither natural nor obvious with beliefs that bones of strange creatures never seen before washed ashore from Genesis' Great Flood, a brick sized molar unearthed in upstate New York in 1705 belonged to a giant, and explorers Meriwether Lewis and William Clark would discover beasts five to six times larger than elephants roaming the continent. Revolutionary France's Jean-Leopold Nicolas-Frederic Cuvier challenged the prevailing view that species were links in an unbreakable chain as remains were unearthed near the surface resembling familiar creatures, like an elk with enormous antlers in Ireland, a gigantic Cave Bear in Germany, and an outlandishly oversized sloth near Buenos Aires. Cuvier did not just preach extinction, but of a catastrophic event that entombed in limestone nightmares from just before history, like a monstrous fish lizard with a four-foot-long skull and a needle-nosed pliers shaped jaw (ichthyosaur), an even wilder demonic reptile with the body of a serpent and paddles of a whale (plesiosaur), and the colossal jaw of a god (iguanodon). With scientists now contending melting permafrost caused the abrupt megafauna extinction due to their grasslands suddenly becoming bogs, the evolutionary descendants of the rats that may one day inherit the earth may have Cuvier's same realization upon discovering our remains if we allow the Doomsday Clock to strike midnight.
Time is what gives life meaning. Long before John the Baptist, fire breathing prophets have preached the end is nigh due to deteriorating morals instead of constructively addressing the threats we foist upon ourselves. While the specter of limited nuclear destruction hangs over the Pacific Rim, firefighting foam, that would have hopefully extinguished a burning nuclear armed B-52 bomber stationed at Pease Air Force Base, leaches into one of southern New Hampshire's most productive aquifers harming our quality of life. Whether it be the Great Bay's hidden coast or New Hampshire's actual coast, take some time this Earth Day to appreciate the natural beauty we still have.