Albert Einstein is known to have written to his friend Linus Pauling, “I made one great mistake in my life — when I signed the letter to President Roosevelt recommending that atom bombs be made.” As a result of Einstein’s letter, the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)was established in secret, and this is where Robert Oppenheimer and others in the Manhattan Project created the bombs which were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Alaric Balibrera’s father worked at LANL making documentaries about the Manhattan Project. We received a letter from Alaric recently telling us why he and others worldwide have decided to go on a hunger strike against the LANL’s continued involvement in the development of nuclear weapons. In reading it, one cannot help but recall the words of Joseph Rotblat, the only scientist to have left the Manhattan Project, who went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize, and whp–later in life–nominaed Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu for the Nobel Peace Prize every year from 1988 to 2004: “[T]he first the general public learned about the discovery was the news of the destruction of Hiroshima by the Atom Bomb. A splendid achievement of science and technology had turned malign. Science became identified with death and destruction…..”.
Fellow Manhattan Project Scientist, Hans Bethe, said, ‘I am one of the few remaining such senior persons alive. Looking back at the half century since that time, I feel the most intense relief that these weapons have not been used since World War II, mixed with the horror that tens of thousands of such weapons have been built since that time – one hundred times more than any of us at Los Alamos could ever had imagined…… [I]n some countries nuclear weapons development still continues. Whether and when the various nations of the world can agree to stop this is uncertain. But individual scientists can still influence this process by withholding their skills. Accordingly, I call on all scientists in all countries to cease and desist from work creating, developing, improving and manufacturing further nuclear weapons – and, for that matter, other weapons of potential mass destruction such as chemical and biological weapons.
And so we have this letter from hunger striker Alaric Balibrera calling for an end to the war-related activities of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. His hunger strike commenced on July 16, the anniversary of the Trinity test of the bombs that would be released on Hiroshima and Nagasaki a few weeks later.
Almost 70 years since the atomic bombs. Only a little over a year since the Fukushima nuclear disaster, itself the legacy of the atomic bomb and the work that was done at Los Alamos. Please show your support for Alaric in like actions, or in expressions of solidarity. (See end of article).
LETTER FROM A HUNGER STRIKER
Why do we still have nuclear weapons on high alert nearly 25 years after the end of the Cold War? Why are Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and seven other facilities in the nuclear weapons complex still engaged in research and production of nuclear weapons?
To protest our continued waste of billions of dollars for these genocidal weapons, I have gone on a hunger strike. Thirty other people have joined me so far. I began July 16th (anniversary of the first detonation at Trinity site) in concert with Hiroshima-Nagasaki commemorative events planned from August 3rd-6th by NukeFreeNow, and in collaboration with Nuclear Watch New Mexico, Pax Christi, Occupy, Veterans for Peace NM, Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), and others. While some will be striking in the heart of Los Alamos, others are striking in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Kansas, California, and Europe.
Your support is crucial. The heart of a hunger strike is media exposure. Without it, the hunger strike is pointless.
Why am I doing this?
I grew up in Los Alamos. From 1967 to 1982 my father was the film documentarian for the Laboratory. He made documentaries about the Manhattan Project and the men who created the Atomic Age. He often invited friends – including Nobel Laureates and famous physicists – to our home for screenings. For many years as a child I regularly witnessed images of mushroom clouds exploding on my living room wall.
It was to ride the school bus past life-size models of the most famous WMDs in history; to hear whispers about how our alcoholism and suicide rates were higher than elsewhere; for us all to have fathers who couldn’t talk about what they did; and to be warned not to blow myself up with discarded ordnance while out playing. I realize now that the canyons and streams of my childhood are still contaminated with lethal radioactive waste. Many of the children who played in the canyons, especially from the early days of the Project, developed cancers from playing in the streams. I wonder how my generation will fare.
Now, nearly seven decades after the Bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we are going to let our governments know with as loud a voice as we have that we are tired of living with the threat of nuclear war and the reality of lethal poisons. We are outraged that billions of dollars are still being invested in WMDs while education languishes, social programs die, and corporations like Bechtel make absurd profits (60+ million in 2012) from the production of these genocidal weapons. Per capita Los Alamos is the 2nd richest community in the United States, yet the surrounding counties have the highest child poverty rates in the country. It’s time we turned our priorities around!
Therefore, we strike. Here are our demands:
1) We call for a meeting with our Congressional representatives to share our concerns and our commitment to progressively transform all nuclear weapons work at LANL into clean-up, remediation, and other life-affirming sciences.
2) Due to non-compliance of Executive Order 12699 (violations of seismic safety at LANL), continual and ongoing threat of large-scale tragedy, and the presence of contamination in our drinking water, we call for a moratorium on all work that employs Special Nuclear Materials.
3) We demand LANL’s compliance with the New Mexico Environmental Department’s Consent Order of 2005 that requires the closure of Tech Area G, which is located within half a mile of the town of White Rock and is continually threatened by engulfment in fire (the Cerro Grande fire of 2001 came within 1000 meters). In this area 42,000 barrels of radioactive waste are protected by tents.
4) We call for the creation of thousands of jobs in New Mexico to decontaminate our water and our land, which will provide steady work to hundreds of people for decades to come.
5) New Mexico residents who have suffered illness and loss of loved ones as a result of our state’s nuclear weapons activities must be recognized and compensated; therefore we call for a hearing on the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act (RECA) SB 291, (HT 1490), introduced by Senators Udall and Bingaman, and Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, to move this legislation forward.
6) We call for funding for comprehensive, community-based health studies to document health impacts on residents living in the immediate vicinity of LANL, especially indigenous communities.
7) Finally we call for A Change of Heart. We know that a world of peace and beauty is possible. We call on our scientists to use their brilliance to create this world. Emerging sciences make the previously impossible possible: clean energy, health and security for all, freedom from want, etc. Quantum physics reveals that the universe is a dynamic web of inseparable energies. Humanity is a part of that inseparable web, hence we are all interconnected. In recognition of these scientific revelations we call on LANL director Charles McMillan to draft with us a Statement of Possibilities for the future of science in Los Alamos, specifying how LANL can progressively transform all its life-threatening programs to life-sustaining programs.
We believe this hunger strike will help call awareness to the mounting crisis that threatens all people on earth. The stakes grow higher each day as we careen toward global warming, endless war and profiteering, financial collapse, and toward, from my vantage point here next to Los Alamos, extinction. Time is running out.
The goal of our hunger strike is to shift the narrative in the public awareness away from fear and/or apathy toward hopefulness, empowerment, safety, health, peace, and the inspiration of a better world for our children. In our hearts we know this world is possible, but many people are gripped by the seeming hopelessness of our situation. Hunger striking is a powerful way to raise a voice of hope and strength.
Will you help us shift the global conversation toward peace, hope, and empowerment?
Let’s make 2012 the year the world turned toward peace.
Alaric Balibrera, son of Los Alamos and Hunger Striker
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