The most effective way to start a revolution in the 21st century is with a video camera and an internet connection.
A 17 year-old high schooler from Santa Barbara has just shown why. He had the winning entry in the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's national video contest. Take a look.
Erik Choquette created the remarkable animated video above to claim the $1,000 first prize in the 2009 Swackhamer Disarmament Video Contest. The amazing thing is that he won for the second year in a row. Yes, that means he was 16 when he took first last year.
The top three videos, as well as the four receiving honorable mention, can be viewed on line.
Three minutes long, the winning video uses inventive graphics to connect nuclear weapons history with a way to "get the nuclear genie back in the bottle" through public participation in the democratic process.
"I focused on a call to action and how this issue has influenced our society for so long," said the 17-year-old winner Choquette. "It's an issue that many people simply ignore, never fully realizing, or wanting to realize, the possible effects of using a nuclear weapon again especially in our modern society."
The skeptics may say -- What can a video with a good idea do compared with the destructive might of nuclear weapons?
My answer is that ideas are the only things potent enough to counter the power of nuclear weapons to corrupt and destroy. After all, bombs are only good for killing people, fighting wars and threatening harm.
Yet ideas build society, culture and even the world order.
Here's an example of what I mean.
Last century, the United States and other nuclear nations created an international power system based on the perverse idea that we could keep our countries safe by developing and deploying weapons of mass destruction that target large numbers of civilians.
This century the fallacy of that argument has become apparent.
Proliferation has become the norm while nuclear security grows more and more problematic. Developing nuclear power is deemed a right of all countries and yet it is also the first step on the path to developing nuclear weapons. There is a sense of increasing danger and vulnerability.
As the world becomes more unstable under the influences of poverty, injustice, environmental degradation, resource scarity and climate change, the post-modern idea of a nuclear weapons defensive "umbrella" grows more ridiculous and risky.
These weapons can only do harm -- whether through being detonated or by detonating arms races around the world as new nations push to join the Nuclear Bullies' Club. This is no protective umbrella, but the means to seed clouds of destruction with black rain.
So the first step is to discard the old idea of nuclear weapons as essential to the world order. Cold War thinking that nuclear weapons protect us must be identified for what it is- -- old-fashioned, misguided and just plain false.
Nuclear weapons proponents cite the fact that there hasn't been a nuclear weapon used in aggression since the U.S. bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Deterence works, they say. We've had more than 50 years of safety.
But their logic is based on a very short-term analysis. Fifty years is nothing compared to humanity's long-term goal -- the sustainablity of the planet earth over millennia. Proponents of nuclear weapons ignore the risks we run everyday with thousands of weapons on high alert. They ignore the close calls (like the Cuban Missile Crisis) and the proliferation of nuclear weapons since 1945 (if there is nuclear war between India and Pakistan, the whole world will most likely suffer a nuclear winter).
The nuclear-armed nations are like the gang of bullies who claim to have maintained order when all they have spread is fear and insecurity -- which is, of course, the best way to encourage more bullies.
We need the public to embrace new ideas. Here are three:
- The only safe number of nuclear weapons is zero.
- It is possible to create a global regime to verifiably reduce and then eliminate nuclear arsenals.
- It will take international cooperation to achieve the goal.
Critics focus on the last point as a deal-breaker. But this is another case of being short-sighted. Over the long term, humanity must unite across borders or face the end of life on Earth as we know it. International cooperation is no longer a dream only for people who live in geodesic domes and speak Esperanto, it is a practical strategy for human survival.
Oh, and here is another idea -- from a guy named Barack Obama. He was speaking this April in Prague.
"I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons. I'm not naive. This goal will not be reached quickly -- perhaps not in my lifetime. It will take patience and persistence. But now we, too, must ignore the voices who tell us that the world cannot change. We have to insist: Yes, we can."
Please let the President's staff know that we would welcome a entry from him for next year's Nuclear Age Peace Foundation video contest. Watch our website www.wagingpeace.org for details early in 2010.