Joseph Rotblat‘s life’s work after leaving the Manhattan Project (the only invited scientist to do so) was nuclear disarmament and this NFB documentary centres on this strangest of dreams. The formation and directing of the Pugwash Conferences in 1957 provided a powerful and revolutionary (in the best way) forum to counter the insanity of nuclear arms build-up. To honour this organization, Rotblat donated his 1995 Nobel Peace Prize medal to the town of Pugwash, Nova Scotia where it all started.
In this post cold war world it is sometimes difficult to see just how close to nuclear annihilation we came. The odds against Hiroshima and Nagasaki being the only uses of atomics as a weapon were astonishing small considering the fact that there were 65,000 active weapons in 1985, the most insane point. Through the tireless efforts of groups like Pugwash these have decreased to the current level of about 8,000 active nuclear warheads and 23,300 non-active.
One of the scary points brought up in the film is that the building of a nuclear weapon is now just a technical matter. It can be accomplished by an engineer or technician now. Most of what you need in the way of ‘plans’ can be found online. I wonder if this is true, however. I hope not. Surely some watchdogs at the Pentagon or MI6 or the EU or somewhere are searching the internet for that kind of information.
We had a panel discussion following the film. It was revealed that current discussion between the U.S. under the Obama administration and the Russian government may result in the reduction of their nuclear arsenals (they have 95% of these weapons) to 1,500 each. This order of magnitude miracle would truly be a large step forward in achieving Rotblat’s dream and is reason enough, IMHO, for Obama being awarded the Nobel Peace prize too.
For those who want to learn more about nuclear disarmament or about the life of a true humanist and exceptional physicist this movie is highly recommended.
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