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Comment: Wake up — it is two minutes to midnight

Wake up! According to the Doomsday Clock, we have 120 seconds left until the end of the world as we know it.

Wake up! According to the Doomsday Clock, we have 120 seconds left until the end of the world as we know it.

The clock was established in 1947 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists as a way of showing how close we are to a human-made nuclear catastrophe. Even during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War, the risk was not as high as it is now. Most people are unaware of this fact, although the North Korean situation has forced us to think about the unthinkable.

Seventy-three years ago this week, the United States dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan. The world’s first, and only, nuclear attacks at Hiroshima on Aug. 6, 1945, and then at Nagasaki three days later, killed an estimated 214,000 people by the end of that year. Thousands more died over the following years from radiation-associated cancers, and from the effects of more than 2,000 nuclear tests conducted by other nuclear-weapons states.

In July 2017, the United Nations adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This was a landmark treaty, as it was negotiated by countries and civilian organizations that recognized the horrendous effects of any nuclear explosion of any size — either deliberate or accidental.

The appalling humanitarian effects of nuclear weapons have provided a rallying call that has led to the adoption of the ban treaty. The treaty preamble included a direct reference to the “unacceptable suffering” of the victims of those nuclear attacks.

The treaty was adopted by 122 countries and is moving toward ratification and becoming international law.

In a recent Japanese survey of nuclear-bomb survivors (known as the hibakusha), 81 per cent urged their government to sign the landmark treaty.

Japan, which relies on the United States for its presumed security, has declined to sign it. Under similar pressure from the United States, Canada not only did not participate in the negotiations but has also refused to sign.

Nevertheless, when 50 ratifications are received, the treaty will become law, and it will be morally and legally unacceptable to belong to the nuclear club or be an affiliate member.

On Thursday, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Cameron Bandshell in Beacon Hill Park, you are invited to come and remember the hibakusha and sign the ban treaty — for yourself and for everyone.

Jonathan Down is a member of Physicians for Global Survival and the Vancouver Island Peace and Disarmament Network (

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