70,000 Cranes For Peace – Migration to the Cradle of the Bomb
by Rivera Sun for Campaign Nonviolence
“I have folded a thousand cranes,” Virginia Simson writes, “and they are about to migrate.”
70,000 Cranes for Peace are being folded and sent on a migration to Los Alamos, New Mexico. In August, they will congregate with hundreds of human beings at Ashley Pond to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with vigils for peace and a renewed citizen commitment to nonviolence and nuclear disarmament. The delicate paper symbols of peace are being sent to Los Alamos (the cradle of the atomic bomb) from across the nation and many other countries, including Canada, the Netherlands, Honduras, Sweden, Mexico, and Japan. Children, elders, Buddhist Zen Centers, Christian churches, artists, teachers and more are folding cranes as a way to create a visible symbol of peace and to acknowledge the horrific destruction caused by the United States on Aug 6 & 9th, 1945.
The cranes will be brought to the peace vigils at Ashley Pond – the exact spot where the atomic bomb was built. Seventy years ago, military shacks and warehouse-like buildings surrounded the park. The entire research facility was secret, constructed on land taken from the surrounding pueblo tribes. Today, Ashley Pond has undergone radioactive waste clean-up, but the contaminated canyons – in which scientists and lab workers used to routinely dump waste – wash toxic runoff into Santa Fe’s watershed, making one of the arid city’s water sources unusable.
The shadow of nuclear weapons looms large. In 2015, seventy years after the United States dropped Fat Man and Little Boy on the Japanese cities, the US alone holds enough atomic bombs to blow up the world several times over. And, Los Alamos is poised to build more.
The preferred euphemism is “refurbishment” – a term that evokes images of dusting off equipment and polishing the warheads. In reality, refurbishment is a one trillion dollar project that involves overhauling the nuclear arsenal (bombs, silos, stations, submarines, naval ships, and so on) to add tailfins and computers in an effort to create “smart bombs”. Today’s modern bombs are sixty times more powerful than the two dropped seventy years ago. The only “smart” thing to do with these bombs is to dismantle them. But, Los Alamos National Laboratory is maneuvering to contribute to the refurbishment program by overhauling old plutonium pit reactors and producing new ones. Currently, no facility in the nation is set-up to do this task, holding the entire nuclear arsenal overhaul at a standstill.
The national dialogue around nuclear weapons is clouded by the oft-touted theory of nuclear deterrence – that, by having enough nuclear weapons to blow up the world six times over, Russia and the US hold each other in balance, and our mutually assured destruction places prudence in the military and politicians to refrain from launching another atomic bomb. This theory currently justifies the overkill of the US nuclear arsenal; it was also recently debunked by Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist, James Doyle. Doyle’s article was yanked from public viewing, his pay was docked, his security clearance revoked, and eventually, Doyle was fired from the laboratory. He will be speaking at the Campaign Nonviolence National Conference that bridges the two peace vigils at Los Alamos with nonviolence training and education.
For many reasons, this is a critical year for making a public declaration of one’s opposition to nuclear weapons. The Obama Administration allocated one trillion dollars over the next thirty years for nuclear weapons. The President’s nuclear negotiations with Iran have been headline news. Pope Francis has publicly stated that it is immoral to use or have nuclear weapons. Escalated US-Russia tensions over the Ukraine brought up the specter of warring, nuclear-armed superpowers. And, around the world, ordinary citizens are preparing peace vigils and actions for the 70th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Ken Butigan, Director of Campaign Nonviolence, and featured speaker/trainer at the Campaign Nonviolence National Conference, says, “There are only two places to be on Aug 6 & 9th this year: Japan, where the bombs were dropped; or Los Alamos, where the bombs were built.”
The tentacles of the atomic bomb are vast. Some calculate that the secret, WWII era construction of the facilities necessary to build the bomb were one of the United States’ largest construction endeavors, including the facilities at Hanford, in California; Oak Ridge, in Tennessee; Los Alamos National Laboratory and the test site in Alamogordo, NM, among others. Today, the list has expanded along with the nuclear arsenal, brushing uncomfortably close to all of our lives. When hundreds of people arrive in New Mexico for the conference and peace vigils, they will land next to what some say are 4,500 nuclear bombs being stored right next to the Albuquerque airport.
The 70,000 Cranes for Peace project is a reminder to our communities and children that we are a civilization on a mad race toward destruction. As our local towns struggle to keep schools open, our tax dollars are building bombs that should never, ever be used. We hover “three minutes to midnight”, according to the Doomsday Clock put out by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. This is not a metaphor. It is a scientific description of how close we are to planetary destruction.
Author/Activist Rivera Sun is the social media director for Campaign Nonviolence and Pace e Bene. She is the author of three social protest novels, The Dandelion Insurrection, Billionaire Buddha, and Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars. She is the cohost of Occupy Radio and the cofounder of the Love-In-Action Network. Her essays on social justice movements appear in Truthout and Popular Resistance. Rivera Sun lives in an earthship house in Taos, New Mexico. www.riverasun.com