Nobody’s ‘nuclear moment’


I’m a bit older than Jacinda Ardern and I’m a bit young to remember the Ban the Bomb protests in the 1960s, although I do remember it to some extent so I wanted to do a comparison with our former generation’s ‘nuclear moment’ and hers because there are some interesting comparisons that I would like to address.

First of all the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament resulted in massive protests across the western world often resulting in violence and arrests. The protests were attended predominantly by young people. Hippies most of them. It was a serious issue, a life-threatening issue, an issue that could have destroyed the planet.

Once the Vietnam War was over most of the protests came to an end. It is worth pointing out that nuclear weapons have not been used in combat since 1945. They were never used in Korea or Vietnam. In fact nuclear weapons have been the biggest contributing factor to peace since the end of the Second World War. All through the Cold War years, the Cuban Crisis, and the conflicts in the Middle East, our biggest fear has always been some tin-pot regime getting hold of nuclear weapons. We have that situation now and no one is quite sure where the situation in North Korea will end.

And that is my point. There was no nuclear moment. There were protests, violence, tear gas, and arrests?? but nothing ever happened. No nuclear weapons were destroyed as a result of the Ban the Bomb movement. There are more nuclear weapons in the world today than there were in 1970. Absolutely nothing was achieved.

Nothing to be proud of, really.

Did she mean David Lange’s stand against the Americans and their nuclear-powered warships? Was that our proudest moment? There was nothing to be proud of there either. The whole thing was shambolic. Diplomats from the USA and New Zealand, behind the scenes had worked out a way to get around the issue. Then David Lange decided to hole up in the Pacific (because he couldn’t face the music) without briefing anyone back home about the agreed course of action and when he got back the whole thing had spiralled out of control. Relations with the USA were damaged for decades until John Key took steps to form a friendship with Barack Obama.

It is hard not to do comparisons with Jacinda here. When things are not looking good, go and visit a kindergarten. When you need to front up to the people of Taranaki to explain why you have just devastated their region, fly off to Europe. Leave someone else to take the heat.

Ban the Bomb was different. Nuclear weapons really could destroy the planet. Climate change? Unlikely.

Crop production expands at warmer temperatures. Some countries lose land and some increase it. Even if you are a believer this is not an exacting science. Climate change happens naturally. It is impossible to say how much of mankind’s activities cause climate change. Jacinda, along with her Greenie mates has decided to blame humans for all of it. Her attitude is incorrect and does more damage to humankind than the fossil-fuel alternatives.

So, this is not Jacinda’s generation’s ‘nuclear moment’. Mainly because the young people of the 1960s never had a nuclear moment. Everything they did achieved absolutely nothing. They realised that nuclear weapons were dangerous but they did nothing to stop them from being used. Only the responsible governments of the day managed that. They didn’t use nuclear weapons because they knew the effects could be catastrophic.

I didn’t wholly agree with David Lange’s stance at the time but there was a little more to it, the question was one of sovereignty. We should have the right to say whether or not nuclear-powered warships come into our ports so, while the whole thing could and should have been handled better, there was an aspect of David Lange’s actions that was supported by all. We didn’t want to be pushed around by our bigger neighbours.

But this, now, is not the same at all. This is not a sovereignty issue. Jacinda’s efforts are merely symbolic. It is pure and simple virtue signalling. We use about 0.17% of the world’s oil and produce only about 11 million barrels a year. We are minnows in the hydrocarbon economy. Like Ban the Bomb, this move will achieve absolutely nothing except to?devastate a productive region?and wreck the livelihoods of the people living there. And all for what?

This is nobody’s ‘nuclear moment’.