African leaders meeting in The Hague for The Nuclear Security Summit should first ask Western countries to dismantle their nuclear weapons. And then propose a world in which solar and wind power are the main sources for energy. And more than that commit to becoming the leaders in the production of solar and wind powered energy.

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Nuclear weapons are designed to kill civilian populations en mass while destroying their civilization and the very earth they live on. No country large or small, Western or non-Western should have nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons in the hands of Iranians are as much a threat as they are in the hands of Russia or the United States. As long the weapons exist, it means that we are living at the mercy of the leaders and political climates, trusting that reason and basic humanism will inform the decision whether to use a nuclear or not.

Atomic Bombs: Hiroshima and Nagasaki

Yet history shows that sometimes the right cocktail of dying troops, economy in shambles, fear and bad leadership can create a climate where the civilian population of a country loses empathy with the civilian populations of the “enemy” country. In 1945, the United States used the atomic bomb against the Japanese killing over 100,000 civilians. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament reports that the bomb “ultimately destroyed 13 square kilometers (5 square miles) of the city [and] almost 63% of the buildings in Hiroshima were completely destroyed after the bombing and nearly 92% of the structures in the city had been either destroyed or damaged by blast and fire.” That is the atomic bomb; a nuclear bomb would have decimated everything.

In 2003 George Bush proposed lifting the ban on nuclear weapons research in order for the United Sates to develop the masculine sounding, Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator but popularly known as “mini-nukes.” The idea was to arm bunk busters with small nuclear warheads in order to get to the Taliban hiding out in Afghani Mountains. He only stopped because of the amount of opposition from anti-nuclear proliferation activists and congress (the US senate was behind the lifting).

The United State foreign military engagement mantra has become “no boots on the ground.” President Obama has been relying on the civilian killing drones to engage US enemies. The drones have slowly been desensitizing Americans against declaring war on civilians. Is it inconceivable that a president on the right of Bush would not use a nuclear bomb against civilian populations if it will mean no “boots on the ground?” Decency is not enough! We have to have a nuclear weapons free world.

But what about nuclear energy? According to the US Environmental Protection Agency “Nuclear power generates a number of radioactive by-products, including tritium, cesium, krypton, neptunium and forms of iodine” and “impacts the environment through fuel emissions associated with the uranium mining and uranium enrichment process as well as the transport of the uranium fuel to and from the nuclear plant.” Nuclear power uses large amounts of water and nuclear waste runoff “can contaminate groundwater and surface water resources with heavy metals and traces of radioactive uranium.” The radioactive Waste then “is shipped to a few specially designed and licensed disposal sites.” If these sites are to ever become vulnerable the fall-out will be disastrous.

Dumping of Nuclear Waste in Oceans

fukushimaRadio active materials have been illegally dumped in the Indian and Atlantic oceans. The BBC reports that according to Nick Nuttall of the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) the 2005 Tsunami, “could have spread illegally dumped nuclear waste and other toxic waste on Somalia’s coast” and that “a preliminary UN report had found that Somalis in the northern areas were falling sick as a result.” The 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, a result of an earthquake is a reminder that there are forces so much stronger than our best defenses, that we cannot foresee or even prevent.

Wind and Solar for Africa

But there is an alternative. There is no reason why African countries cannot take advantage and become leaders in the production of wind and solar energies. While harnessing solar and wind energies might not sound as high tech as going nuclear, it is the most revolutionary act that African countries can undertake. It is literally the future. Uranium like oil is a finite natural resource. Energy from the sun and the wind are infinite provided we do not irreversibly destroy the environment. African countries are on the right side of history when it comes to nuclear weapons.

Ngong Hills wind farm in Kenya
Ngong Hills wind farm in Kenya

The African Nuclear-Weapon-Free-Zone (ANWFZ) Treaty remains one of the most comprehensive anti-nuclear weapons treaties of anywhere in the world.  African countries can also take the lead and show the West that a world in which solar and wind are the main sources of energy is possible.  If indeed human life did originate in Africa, we can contribute it to its longevity.  Then we shall not only be on the right side of history, but also guarantee the future.

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