For such a small organization, Global Zero at Boston College (GZBC) has a monumental goal: to completely eliminate all nuclear weapons by the year 2030.
Thankfully, they’re not alone. GZBC is one of hundreds of Global Zero chapters in eight countries around the world working for the same thing. The group, which was officially recognized as a registered student organization at BC this year, hosted its first set of events this week.
“We just want people to know about it,” said Andy Hu, president of GZBC and A&S ’14, of the threats nuclear warheads pose. “There’s too little dialogue.”
The dialogue at BC started on Monday night in the Fulton Honors Library with a lecture titled “How Hiroshima and Nagasaki Transformed Japanese Society.” The event was co-sponsored by the Japan Club of Boston College and Asian Caucus and was to feature talks by Shigeko Sasamori, a survivor of the Hiroshima nuclear bomb, and Franziska Seraphim, an associate professor in the history department. However, Seraphim was unable to participate due to a personal emergency.
Sasamori talked about how her life had changed as a result of the bombings, poignantly supporting Global Zero’s mission. She was only 13 when the bomb fell and remembers pointing out the Enola Gay as it flew overhead and dropped the bomb. Sasamori spent five days after the bombing desperately repeating her name and district in the hopes that someone would hear her and give her water. In 1955, Sasamori and 24 other Japanese women, nicknamed the “Hiroshima Maidens,” came to the United States to receive treatment for their bomb-related injuries and illnesses. Struck by the “love and happiness” she found in the U.S., Sasamori moved to New York to begin training as a nurse.
“She firmly believes that this world will be a world not just free of nuclear weapons, but also free of warfare because she sees the love and spirit of people,” Hu said after Sasamori’s talk.
On Tuesday, GZBC hosted a panel discussion about the cost of nuclear weapons. The discussion was co-sponsored by the BC organizations Americans for an Informed Democracy and the Political Science Association and moderated by Charles Derber, professor in the sociology department. Its three panelists were Bruce Blair, co-founder of Global Zero; Joseph Cirincione, president of the global security group Ploughshares Fund; and Aron Bernstein, professor emeritus of physics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“The world has been living on past investments in nuclear weapons,” Blair said. “We cannot modernize that force without basically bankrupting the defense budget.”
He said that there’s no reason to modernize anyway. “We [at Global Zero] have the support of the U.S. military,” he said.
Cirincione addressed the opportunity cost of nuclear weapons. “The nuclear budget is a big fat honeypot [worth] $700 billion in the next 10 years,” he said.
Given the current state of the economy, a cut of any amount in that “honeypot” would result in more money available for programs for the elderly, student loans, and fighting climate change.
Bernstein offered the audience encouragement and advice at the end of the talks. “Look for a place where you an elect a person into Congress, and when they get there, support them,” he said. “Give them suggestions and ideas.”
Global Zero acknowledges that total disarmament is going to be a struggle, especially if the U.S. and Russia keep their arsenals strong. Other countries, such as Pakistan, are leery of disarming because they believe that the threat of nuclear weapons is their only defense against much powerful nations. But this fledgling RSO still hopes to make a difference.
“The young people of the U.S. are finding a new voice,” Derber said.