Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Sep 05th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

No Nukes Is Good Nukes

Film_CountdowntozeroS4'Countdown To Zero' an urgent wake-up call for nuclear disarmament
What with the economy, the still-bleeding ulcer of wars in the Middle East, the horrific Gulf oil spill, and the ongoing crisis of global warming, it's tough to make room on one's plate for any more urgent issues. But instead of trying to scrape open a little wedge on that plate, you might as well grab an ice cream scoop and plop the issue of nuclear disarmament smack on top of all the others, according to Lucy Walker's profoundly disturbing and persuasive documentary, Countdown To Zero.

Even global warming still needs a little time (although not much) to wipe us out. But the issue of nuclear weapons is so volatile, one mishap (intentional or otherwise) could destroy upward of tens of millions of human lives in minutes, and render most of the remaining real estate uninhabitable. Walker saves the scary statistics until the end of her film: everything within a two-to-five-mile radius vaporized in temperatures "hotter than the sun," oxygen-consuming fire raging outward in all directions, asphyxiating and incinerating everything in its path, toxic atomic clouds polluting the atmosphere. Imagine if the epicenter is in, say, San Francisco (as the graphics in Walker's film often do) and consider the devastation. But Walker assumes her audience already knows what a nuclear holocaust would be like. Most of her film is devoted to telling the much more frightening story of the global proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials, and the ease with which they can be stolen, smuggled, and/or built—by anyone with a grudge against anyone else. Her reference point is a speech given by President John F. Kennedy in the early '60s about the "sword of Damocles" of nuclear weaponry hanging over the earth's population that might be triggered at any moment by "accident, miscalculation or madness." Things have not improved much since then. Most of us perceive that the nuclear arms race has been downsized since the fall of the Berlin Wall, but 23,000 nuclear weapons still exist in the world, and the potential to build more increases every day. In the "madness" category of JFK's warning fall the new generation of virulent terrorist extremists, who have wrought plenty of destruction with non-nuke bombs over the last decade in places like Madrid, Bali, London, Mumbai, Oklahoma City, and New York City. Says outed ex-CIA op Valerie Plame Wilson, "If terrorists could acquire nuclear weapons, there's no doubt they would use them."
Film_countdowntozeroThank heavens nukes are secure, right? As if. Harvard grad students can build a nuclear bomb out of spare parts, lacking only the highly enriched uranium (HEU) to detonate them. Materials like HEU and plutonium, stockpiled in Russia since the Cold War, are warehoused under lax security ("Potatoes are better guarded," we're told), accessible to any factory worker who wants to make a few rubles on the black market to buy a new refrigerator—or a Lamborghini. Smuggling nuclear materials across the Russian border into Georgia is the express route to markets in Afghanistan and Iran.

Smuggling uranium is disturbingly easy; a simple lead pipe will shield it, while expensive monitors erected at all U. S. ports of entry are more likely to detect kitty litter than nuclear material. The only way to stop the traffic in uranium, Robert Oppenheimer once said, is "with a screwdriver"—to open every container that comes into a city. And, as one of the crew of nuclear physicists, political scientists, investigative reporters, military personnel, intelligence ops, and politicians interviewed by Walker opines, "If you can get hold of nuclear material, it doesn't take a Manhattan Project to make a bomb." It doesn't take malicious intent to explode one, either. Walker trots out a dismaying roster of near-catastrophes: nukes mistakenly loaded onto the wrong plane, aircraft lost or downed with nukes aboard, ships lost or sunk to the bottom of the sea, their nukes never recovered. Government "safeguards" often go awry; in 1995, a U.S. research plane launched from Norway nearly triggered an armed response from Russia. At command central at NORAD, other "false alarms" have been triggered by a flock of geese, and the moon. Embracing a no-nukes-is-good-nukes philosophy, Walker's experts advocate phased reductions (as were used to eradicate chemical weapons), and the film steers viewers toward the Demand Zero movement and website. Walker's lucid film resurrects a critical issue many of us complacently assumed was as dead as the bomb-throwing anarchists of old.

COUNTDOWN TO ZERO ★★★ (out of four) A film by Lucy Walker. A Magnolia Pictures release. Rated PG. 90 minutes. Watch film trailer >>>
Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

You Are What You Post

Online personality algorithms put astrological profiles to shame, but UCSC psychologists are raising questions about sharing personal data

 

Venus Direct, Mercury Retro Soon, Honoring Our Labors

As Burning Man (nine days, Aug. 30-Sept. 7 in the sign of Virgo) burns in the hot white desert sands, a petal of the rose created by retrograde Venus and the twelve-petaled Sun in Virgo’s petals unfold. All of us are on the burning ground (Leo) in the womb (cave of the heart) of the mother (Virgo), gestating for humanity once again (each year) a new state of consciousness. Both Virgo and Cancer, feminine (receptive energies) signs, are from our last solar system (Pleiades). When humanity first appeared on Earth we were nurtured by the mother, a matriarchy of energies (on islands in the Pacific). Eve, Isis and Mary are part of the lineages of our ancient Mother. Overseen by the Pleiades, the Earth (matter, mater, the mother) in that last solar system was imbued with intelligence (Ray 3). As we move toward autumn, another mother, Ceres realizes she has mere weeks left with her beloved daughter, Persephone. Persimmon and pomegranate trees prepare for autumn, their colors signs of hope as the light each day continues to dim. Sunday, Venus in Leo turns stationary direct, yet continues in her shadow until Oct. 9 (when retrograde Mercury turns direct). Slowly our newly assessed values emerge from the Venus retrograde. We thought in Venus retro how to use our resources more effectively. Mercury retrogrades Sept. 17. Monday is Labor Day. Let us honor the labor of everyone, all life a “labor.” Let us honor Labor Day and all those who have “served” (labored for) us this past year. We honor their labors. We honor the labor of our parents, those who have loved us. We honor our own labors, too. We are all in service, we are all laboring. We are all valuable.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of September 4

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sushi Garden

Local sushi empire expands to Scotts Valley

 

Do you overshare online?

I don’t think so. I just post things about my life, like successful things. Sometimes I just like sharing different news that I find interesting, or favorite artists, clothes, music. I like to post photos. Natalia Delgado, Santa Cruz, Server

 

McIntyre Vineyards

I recently met up with three friends for dinner at Sanderlings at Seascape Beach Resort. We chose to eat outside so we could watch the sun set over the ocean, but the Aptos fog rolled in and swallowed it up.

 

Sustainable Supper

The Homeless Garden Project’s Sustain Supper series supports its award-winning programs