At dozens of locations around the world – in missile silos buried in our earth, on submarines navigating through our oceans, and aboard planes flying high in our sky – lie 15,000 objects of humankind’s destruction.
Perhaps it is the enormity of this fact, perhaps it is the unimaginable scale of the consequences, that leads many to simply accept this grim reality. To go about our daily lives with no thought to the instruments of insanity all around us.
For it is insanity to allow ourselves to be ruled by these weapons. Many critics of this movement suggest that we are the irrational ones, the idealists with no grounding in reality. That nuclear-armed states will never give up their weapons.
But we represent the only rational choice. We represent those who refuse to accept nuclear weapons as a fixture in our world, those who refuse to have their fates bound up in a few lines of launch code.
Ours is the only reality that is possible. The alternative is unthinkable.
The story of nuclear weapons will have an ending, and it is up to us what that ending will be.
Will it be the end of nuclear weapons, or will it be the end of us?
One of these things will happen.
Nobel Laureate William Faulkner said when accepting his prize in 1950, that “There is only the question of ‘when will I be blown up?'” But since then, this universal fear has given way to something even more dangerous: denial.
As the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the first ever anti-nuclear weapons organisation to win this prize, said on this stage in 1985:
“We physicians protest the outrage of holding the entire world hostage. We protest the moral obscenity that each of us is being continuously targeted for extinction.”
Those words still ring true in 2017.
We must reclaim the freedom to not live our lives as hostages to imminent annihilation.
Man – not woman! – made nuclear weapons to control others, but instead we are controlled by them.
They made us false promises. That by making the consequences of using these weapons so unthinkable it would make any conflict unpalatable. That it would keep us free from war.
But far from preventing war, these weapons brought us to the brink multiple times throughout the Cold War. And in this century, these weapons continue to escalate us towards war and conflict.
A choice between the two endings: the end of nuclear weapons or the end of us.
It is not naive to believe in the first choice. It is not irrational to think nuclear states can disarm. It is not idealistic to believe in life over fear and destruction; it is a necessity.
No nation today boasts of being a chemical weapon state.
No nation argues that it is acceptable, in extreme circumstances, to use sarin nerve agent.
No nation proclaims the right to unleash on its enemy the plague or polio.
That is because international norms have been set, perceptions have been changed.
And now, at last, we have an unequivocal norm against nuclear weapons.