By KIERAN FINNANE
Little Oren Rosalski (above) is too young to know what the signs around him mean but he is a big part of what motivated his mother Kate Muir to join in this year’s commemoration of Hiroshima Day.
Mother and son were among the new faces to turn up to the annual event on Friday, 6 August, joining a group of around 25 on the Uniting Church lawns.
Their gathering, like others around the world, marked 76 years since the world’s first atomic bomb was dropped on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, on 9 August, in what was hopefully the world’s last deployment of an atomic bomb, the city of Nagasaki was targeted.
An estimated 70,000 people were killed in Hiroshima, and 40,000 at Nagasaki, with these estimates at the lower end of the scale and not accounting for those who died in the long aftermath.
Numbers like these can be difficult to relate to. So picture this: 192 children were at Motokawa Primary School, just half a kilometre from Hiroshima’s ground zero, that fateful morning. All of them died. A little further out, 134 students from two schools had been organised into “patriotic work parties” clearing firebreaks. All of them died.
The savagery of these weapons is indiscriminate.
Many children orphaned by the bomb later died from starvation. In the devastated city there simply wasn’t enough food to go round.
The image of a loved, healthy child today underlines their tragic fate and focusses the hope of those who work for “a nuclear free future”.
With the entry into force, in January this year, of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, there is some real momentum towards this goal, with 55 nations having already ratified. Among them are many of our Asian and Pacific neighbours, including New Zealand. A total of 86 have signed the treaty, a step towards ratification, representing a growing global consensus.
While the treaty means that nuclear weapons are now banned, “we cannot become complacent”, says Jonathan Pilbrow, convener of the the Alice Springs Peace Action Think Tank (ASPATT).
“The threat of nuclear weapons remains a present and real threat of our times.
“There are still nine countries who possess a total of around 14,000 nuclear weapons and disturbingly, 2000 of the weapons are able to be launched within minutes.”
Australia is not a signatory to the treaty. We do not have our own nuclear weapons but, of course, have powerful friends who do. And one of them conducts their business very close to home for us in Alice Springs. Pine Gap plays an important role in the USA’s nuclear-fighting capability.
“The most powerful way to honour the victims and survivors of nuclear weapons” is to work towards their elimination, says Mr Pilbrow. “This treaty is the key to our future: a world without nuclear weapons.”
This has direct implications for Australia’s hosting of Pine Gap, as has been analysed in detail by Professor Richard Tanter in these pages.
Photos courtesy ASPATT. The group made paper cranes or flowers in remembrance of the victims of the bombs and observed a minute’s silence.