Cycling through the green hills, surrounded by stately gums and wattle blossoms, it’s hard to believe that nuclear weapons pose a threat to everything we hold dear. Yet nine nations cling to 14,500 nuclear weapons, enough to annihilate our planet many times over.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recently shifted the hands of the Doomsday Clock to two minutes to midnight, the closest it has been since 1953, signaling their grave concern that we are entering a new nuclear arms race.
The risk is real and growing. We know from the Red Cross Red Crescent movement that any use of nuclear weapons would have catastrophic humanitarian consequences and be impossible to respond to. This is something we cannot risk.
Driven by deep concern for the humanitarian impacts of nuclear weapons, a global majority of nations are taking action.
Chemical and biological weapons have long been outlawed by international treaty.
Last year, 122 nations united to put nuclear weapons in the same legal category. In July, they voted to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at the United Nations. This is the first agreement to clearly outlaw nuclear weapons, setting a standard for all nations and providing a legal pathway for their total elimination.
The Australian-founded International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was awarded the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for our role in helping to achieve this treaty.
Regrettably, Australia hasn’t yet signed on to the ban. Our government is a proud signatory to the treaties prohibiting landmines, cluster munitions, biological and chemical weapons, but is resisting signing the nuclear weapon ban treaty. This must change, to reflect the will of the vast majority of Australians who do not want weapons of mass destruction used in their name.
A diverse group of ICAN supporters is cycling the Nobel Peace Prize medal and a giant copy of the nuclear weapon ban treaty from Melbourne to Canberra to share this story with communities, and highlighting the imperative for Australia to join the ban.
We’re sleeping in church halls, sharing potluck dinners with locals and hosting events in Benalla, Albury and Gundagai.
Our journey culminates in Canberra on September 20, the first anniversary of the nuclear weapon ban treaty opening for signature at the UN. We’re hitting the road with our hand-sewn flags, Nobel medal in the backpack, to cycle a little closer to a future free of nuclear weapons.
Gem Romuld is Australian director of ICAN. Lavanya Pant is Nobel Peace Ride co-ordinator.
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