NORTHAMPTON – After 45 years of fighting to eliminate nuclear weapons around the world, a local doctor believes a solution could be no more than 10 years away.
Dr. Ira Helfand, a retired physician who most recently worked at the Family Care Center in Springfield, is the recipient of Morehouse College’s Gandhi-King-Ikeda Builder Award for creativity and activist work with Back from the Brink.
While being honored with the award, which is designed to recognize someone who promotes peace and social transformation in a positive and non-violent way, Heland said he hopes the award will help support efforts to end nuclear weapons. He will be the keynote speaker at the April 13 awards ceremony at the Atlanta College.
“Nuclear weapons are not going to save us. They are the biggest threat to our security and we must remove them.” “The message of our question never went away after the Cold War.”
The question of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine returned to the forefront this year. One week ago, President Vladimir Putin announced that he would move nuclear weapons near the border with Belarus and in February warned the West to impose sanctions on Ukraine, a border crossing for nuclear weapons.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has meant that we can no longer deny the threat of nuclear war,” Helland said. “We have a very short window of opportunity to get rid of these weapons – before they get rid of us. But we can do it. We made these weapons with our own hands. We know how to take them apart. We just need to create the political will to do it.”
The example has already been set. He said that negotiations on disarming nuclear weapons, even in hostile countries, had occurred in the past.
Threats of nuclear war in the 1980s prompted Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev to propose talks with US President Ronald Reagan. More than two years of negotiations and disagreements led to the historic 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty that required both countries to reduce their nuclear weapons.
In 2017 the International Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was signed, bringing the world another step towards eliminating nuclear weapons.
The world has about 13,000 long stretches across nine countries. The leaders of the various leagues have already destroyed 5,000.
But this is simply not enough. There have been at least six different real threats to nuclear war in the past and the consequences of one will be horrifying and felt worldwide, he said.
Helland said the two biggest threats to the planet are climate change and nuclear weapons, which has a much simpler solution.
“I think we can do this for 10 years,” he said. “It will take two to three years of negotiations and six to seven years of disarmament.”
The talks would require all nine countries that currently have nuclear weapons to agree to unilateral disarmament and could be led by the United States, Russia and China.
“Nuclear weapons do not make us safe. They are the biggest security threats and we must remove them.”
A Northampton resident, Helland thanked many of the area’s politicians who worked with Back on the Brink, noting that U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, who represents Northampton, led the Senate in the US House to abolish nuclear weapons. Co-sponsored by US Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, and 12 others.
Helland now hopes that Massachusetts Senones. Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren will introduce their Senate partner to the US Senate.
Local politicians also joined the effort. thanks to the Acts of the State Sen. Jo Commerford and state Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa for help in getting policies through state laws. In addition, 63 states and cities across the country, including major cities such as Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia, Chicago and Los Angeles, supported the resolutions.
Statewide, Boston, Worcester, Springfield, Northampton, Holyoke, Easthampton and 14 other states and cities have approved nuclear weapons, he said.
Back from the Brink project in Northampton in 2017 shortly after the adoption of the Nuclear Weapons Prohibition Treaty. It grew out of a conversation between Helfand and Sean Meyer, then working for the Union of Caregiving Scientists.
Helland is also a long-term member of the International Steering Committee for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, which received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017. He is also co-president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War. Nobel Peace Prize in 1985
Helfand, who worked as an emergency medicine physician at Dickinson Medical Center in Northampton before being president of Cooley Dickinson Medicine, said he now spends about 45 hours a week on nuclear disarmament activism. He lives in Deborah Smith with his wife.