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Hiroshima witness urges New Zealand to lead nuclear weapons elimination 

Stuff,  LAURA WALTERS , June 28 2018,   When the United States dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945, Taeko Yoshioka Braid watched from the second-floor window of herclassroom, 60 kilometres away.

Braid, who moved to New Zealand in 1956 and now lives in Hastings, travelled to Hiroshima the next day with classmates to look for her family members and take supplies to the victims.

Yoshioka Braid said it was hard to talk about the horrors she saw as a 13-year-old in Hiroshima, including children separated from their parents, and people dying from burns from the blast and the radiated water.

On her second trip to the town at the epicentre, she felt something sticking to her shoes. She eventually realised it was human skin, which had melted off, following the blast.

…….. At a time when the international rules-based order is being challenged, and nuclear weapons remain a global issue, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has reinstated the Cabinet portfolio of disarmament and arms control. Ardern announced Winston Peters would take up the ministerial role, during her first foreign policy speech in February.     In September last year, New Zealand was one of the first countries to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons at a ceremony during the United Nations General Assembly.

The treaty is a landmark legally-binding international instrument prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons and related activities.

In July last year, it was adopted by the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination.

Yoshioka Braid’s comments came during the international treaty examination, at a Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Select Committee hearing on Thursday. Something that needed to take place before New Zealand ratified the treaty.

“If anyone went there the day the bombed dropped, I’m sure they would all think like me: never again…

“I don’t want those same sorts of things to happen anywhere in the world; anywhere in the world.”

Alternative NZ submission by stuffnewsroom on Scribd….(included on original) ..

It was difficult to describe the experience, she said, adding that the bomb was so strong, some people died instantly, others were alive but too injured to move or talk.

Her daughter, Jacky Yoshioka Braid said New Zealand needed to take a leadership role in the elimination of nuclear weapons.

“We need to stop the fighting, and stop this fantasy around a nuclear war that we possibly could survive – it won’t happen.

“We saw what happened in Hiroshima, we’ve seen the after effects of what happened there and in Nagasaki. They were tiny compared to what could happen today.”

New Zealand created a world-leading anti-nuclear policy in 1984, after seeing what happened in Hiroshima, Nagasaki and the cold war years.

“I think it’s really important that New Zealand takes this leadership role and helps guide these other young people around the world who want to stop the nuclear proliferation,” she said……….. https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/105072027/hiroshima-witness-urges-nz-to-lead-nuclear-weapons-elimination

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June 29, 2018 Posted by | New Zealand, PERSONAL STORIES, Reference, weapons and war | Leave a comment

New Zealand could lead the way in getting nuclear weapons OFF the global agenda

Hiroshima witness urges NZ to lead nuclear weapons elimination, Stuff,  LAURA WALTERS , June 28 2018 “………Last month, former Green party candidate, and disarmament campaigner, Thomas Nash said “for technology that hasn’t been used in conflict since 1945, nuclear weapons sure have a knack of getting on to the global agenda”.

But it wasn’t surprising given they posed the greatest existential threat to humanity next to climate change, he said.

Nash also spoke to the select committee on Thursday, urging New Zealand to take a leadership role in eliminating nuclear weapons and global disarmament, in general.

“This treaty has a humanitarian purpose, this is rather distinct from previous international deliberations on nuclear weapons, which have tended to be about big power politics between countries weighing up the grand game and the balance,” he said.

Nash painted a picture of “Cambridge grads, strutting around in operations rooms, thinking about deterrents and game theory, missile silos and sleek nuclear submarines”.

“I think it’s important to think about bringing back this human element of the impact of nuclear weapons, because violence, militarism, relies on a dehumanisation of violence; abstracting it away from us.

“And I think if we’re going to move away from that, we have to acknowledge the human face.”

On behalf of New Zealand Alternative, Nash recommended New Zealand ratify the treaty next month, adding that early ratification would signal New Zealand’s commitment to eliminating nuclear weapons and to making genuine progress on international disarmament work.

Nash was part of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, which was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize last year after the group of Geneva-based activists was recognised for its role in pushing for a United Nations treaty declaring the weapons illegal.

ABOUT THE TREATY

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a landmark legally-binding international instrument prohibiting the use of nuclear weapons and related activities.

In July last year, it was adopted by the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination.

In September last year, New Zealand was one of the first countries to sign the treaty, at a ceremony during the United Nations General Assembly.

At the time, then-foreign minister Gerry Brownlee said it represented an important step towards a nuclear-free world, despite no countries that currently hold nuclear weapons signing the treaty.

New Zealand’s signing of the treaty was consistent with the country’s long-standing commitment to international nuclear disarmament efforts.

“It establishes the first global prohibition on nuclear weapons and provides the international legal framework for a world without these weapons,” Brownlee said at the time.

New Zealand joined over 120 other states in supporting the adoption of the treaty at a United Nations conference in July last year.

The treaty would come into force once 50 states have ratified it. At this stage 10 countries have ratified the treaty, according to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/105072027/hiroshima-witness-urges-nz-to-lead-nuclear-weapons-elimination

June 29, 2018 Posted by | New Zealand, weapons and war | Leave a comment

New Zealand’s Antarctic veterans are advised on effects of their exposure to nuclear radiation

New Zealand warns its Antarctic veterans about radiation risks from leaky US Navy reactor  https://www.stripes.com/news/new-zealand-warns-its-antarctic-veterans-about-radiation-risks-from-leaky-us-navy-reactor-1.533546  By SETH ROBSON | STARS AND STRIPES  June 19, 2018

The New Zealand government is warning personnel who worked in Antarctica in the 1960s and ‘70s about radiation from a leaky U.S. Navy reactor.

Alerts were posted online by the New Zealand Defence ForceAntarctica New Zealand and other government entities in January and reported by local media last month.

They advise people to contact the New Zealand Office of Radiation Safety or their doctor if they think they may have been exposed to radiation from the reactor used to power McMurdo Station, Antarctica, from 1962 to 1979.

The U.S. Department of Defense has assessed the risk of radiation exposure for those who worked near the power plant as low.

However, the Department of Veterans Affairs ruled in November that retired Navy veteran James Landy’s “esophageal, stomach, liver, and brain and spine cancers, [were] incurred in active duty service.”

Landy worked at McMurdo as a C-130 flight engineer from 1970 to 1974 and from 1977 to 1981 before dying at age 63 in 2012, said his widow, Pam Landy.

He had pain in his kidneys and went to the doctor and they sent him to an oncologist who said he had cancer from radiation exposure,” she said in a phone interview Monday from her home in Pensacola, Fla.

Veterans who served in Antarctica should have been warned about the radiation risk, Pam Landy said.

“The government knew that thing was there. If they had given people a heads up he could have been diagnosed early and might have a shot at being alive,” she said. “I got a payout from the VA, but it’s a pittance compared to a life.”

The McMurdo reactor had many malfunctions, but personnel might also have been exposed during its decommissioning when soil and rock from the site was trucked through the base to be shipped off the continent, she said.

Peter Breen, 64, was a New Zealand Army mechanic about 2 miles from McMurdo at Scott Base from 1981 to 1982. Rock and soil from the reactor site was taken to a wharf in open trucks, and Breen fears he could have been exposed to contaminated dust blown by the wind or on ice harvested from nearby cliffs.

He’s campaigning for New Zealand Antarctic veterans to be recognized with a medal and offered health checks.

“It is not compensation that guys are after,” he said in a phone interview from his home in Tauranga, New Zealand. “They want a health-check program.”

robson.seth@stripes.com
Twitter: @SethRobson1

June 20, 2018 Posted by | ANTARCTICA, health, New Zealand, weapons and war | Leave a comment

There’s be no escape from the horrible consequences of nuclear war – not even in New Zealand

According to various experts, New Zealand would indeed likely be the best place to be in the event of a nuclear holocaust. But “best” is a relative term, and this belies just how hellish life could become on one of the world’s last inhabitable countries.

It’s a reminder that whatever happens on June 12 and at future global nuclear negotiations, New Zealand is not a disinterested bystander – and neither are those around the globe who want to treat this country like their own personal bomb shelter. No one gets to opt out of nuclear war.

What happens to NZ if global nuclear war breaks out?  News Hub, 4 June 18 Anxiety over nuclear annihilation is lodged in our collective psyche. And fair enough: we’ve blundered our way to the precipice of nuclear warfare so many times by this point that it’s a wonder how we never made it over the edge.

This month, Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un will, all going well, attempt to alleviate these fears somewhat, in what is arguably the best opportunity in decades to end conflict in the Korean peninsula and drive nuclear tensions down. But even if North Korea successfully de-nuclearises and the US stops its sabre-rattling, the world won’t be safe from the threat of future catastrophe: there remain around 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world today, nearly 14,000 of which are held by Russia and the United States, two countries currently experiencing a renaissance of mutual loathing.

Of course, the question on everybody’s lips is: should global nuclear war break out, what will happen to New Zealand? We after all currently enjoy the status of being the “bolt hole” for the world’s terrified billionaires, and our geographic distance and general disentanglement from the rest of the world’s geopolitical jostling suggests that should the worst happen, we at the very least won’t be in the firing line.

This is a small consolation. According to various experts, New Zealand would indeed likely be the best place to be in the event of a nuclear holocaust. But “best” is a relative term, and this belies just how hellish life could become on one of the world’s last inhabitable countries.

……… some have tried to map out a potential aftermath. In a 2014 paper for Earth’s Future, a team of scientists attempted to model the effects of a limited, regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan that would see each country use 50 warheads, each with a yield of 15 kilotons, about the same as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.

The results weren’t pretty. Even a “limited” war like this would send five megatonnes of smoke into the stratosphere, heating it by up to 100degC and wiping out most of the earth’s ozone layer for as long as a decade. This means the average burn time in the sun would halve for humans, while the resulting surge of UV radiation would wreak havoc on the world’s vegetation and sealife, including, in the latter case, disrupting the entire food chain of the ocean and damaging marine life in its early, developmental stages.

More alarming is the fact that the colossal amount of black carbon sitting up in the stratosphere would cause a global nuclear winter, the coldest average surface temperatures in 1,000 years. That means shorter growing seasons and the destruction of crops by killing frosts, which Brian Toon, one of the authors of the report, has said would reduce yields of corn, wheat and rice by 10-40 percent for years afterwards.

And this is just for a “limited” war.

“After a full scale nuclear war, temperatures would plunge below Ice Age conditions,” Toon explained to a TED audience earlier this year. “No crops would grow. It’s estimated 90 percent of the population of the planet would starve to death.”

Where does New Zealand fit into all this? Based on what several experts have told me, there’s good news and bad news.

The good news is, we would likely be spared the worst consequences of all this. Experts like Toon and Brian Martin, a social scientist at the University of Wollongong who has a PhD in theoretical physics, say that we’d have little to fear from radiation drifting our way. The most harmful isotopes would decay before reaching our shores, and even fallout drifting over from a potential attack on Australia would likely be blown eastward, where it would be rained out.

It’s a similar story when it comes to surface temperature. According to the 2014 study, the scenario it’s based on would produce a drop of around somewhere between 1 and 1.5 degrees – nothing to sneeze at, but substantially less than the 5-7 degrees below normal predicted in the centres of North America and Eurasia.

“In New Zealand, you can still be growing crops,” says Michael Mills, an atmospheric scientist at the National Centre for Atmospheric Research, and another of the study’s authors.

Brian Toon, however, sees a less cheerful forecast in the case of a full-scale nuclear war. “It would cause low light levels and winter conditions in New Zealand for several years, perhaps up to a decade,” he says. “No one has evaluated the impact directly on New Zealand, but I would imagine nothing would grow for several years.”

……… It’s a reminder that whatever happens on June 12 and at future global nuclear negotiations, New Zealand is not a disinterested bystander – and neither are those around the globe who want to treat this country like their own personal bomb shelter. No one gets to opt out of nuclear war. https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2018/06/what-happens-to-nz-if-global-nuclear-war-breaks-out.html

June 4, 2018 Posted by | New Zealand, weapons and war | Leave a comment

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Just Stood Up to One of The Most Powerful Industries in The World

No more drilling. Af, CARLY CASSELLA, 13 APR 2018   Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is doing everything in her power to wean New Zealand off fossil fuels.

This week, the New Zealand government announced it will no longer grant any new offshore oil exploration permits. The 22 permits that have already been issued are set to expire in 2030.

The new Prime Minister, who took office last year, says this is all part of her aggressive, long-term plan to move towards a carbon-neutral future.

“When it comes to climate change, our plan is clear,” said Ardern, according to The New York Times.

“We are committed to the goal of becoming a net zero emissions economy by 2050.”

Ardern added that her ultimate goal is to switch the country’s electricity system to 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.

….. Ardern’s government has promised that “no current” jobs will be lost as a result of the change, which still honors “all agreements with current permit holders.” https://www.scienceaf.com/new-zealand-prime-minister-jacinda-ardern-offshore-drilling#.WuFOjDvAQh0.twitter

April 27, 2018 Posted by | climate change, New Zealand | Leave a comment

New Zealand’s new government to ban future offshore oil and gas exploration

FT 12th April 2018 , New Zealand has become one of the world’s first countries to ban future offshore oil and gas exploration in a move heralded by environmental campaigners as a symbolic blow to “Big Oil”.

“There will be no further offshore oil and gas exploration permits granted,” said Jacinda Ardern, New
Zealand’s prime minister, on Thursday. “We must take this step as part of
our package of measures to tackle climate change,” she said.

The South Pacific nation’s ban is an important policy move at a time when nations are
exploring how to comply with their requirements under the Paris climate
change agreement.France, Belize and Costa Rica have already announced bans
on either fossil fuel exploration or production, although these are largely
symbolic as none are ma jor oil producers.

However, the policy shift announced by Prime Minister Ms Ardern marks a change in direction for
New Zealand, which under the previous conservative government prioritised
fossil fuel exploration to help the economy grow.
https://www.ft.com/content/d91e9864-3ded-11e8-b7e0-52972418fec4

April 14, 2018 Posted by | climate change, New Zealand, politics | Leave a comment

New Zealand looks to accepting climate change refugees

New Zealand considers creating climate change refugee visas https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/31/new-zealand-considers-creating-climate-change-refugee-visas   Minister says experimental humanitarian visa category could be introduced for people displaced by rising seas, Guardian, Charles Anderson, 31 Oct 17, New Zealand’s new government is considering creating a visa category to help relocate Pacific peoples displaced by climate change.

The new category would make official the Green party’s pre-election policy which promised 100 visas for those affected by climate change.

As part of the new Labour-led coalition government, the Green party leader James Shaw was given the role of climate change minister.

He told Radio New Zealand on Tuesday that “an experimental humanitarian visa category” could be implemented for people from the Pacific who are displaced by rising seas resulting from climate change.

“It is a piece of work that we intend to do in partnership with the Pacific islands,” Shaw said.

 Before the election, the Greens also proposed increasing New Zealand’s overall refugee quota from 750 each year to 4,000 places over six years.

Shaw’s announcement comes after the New Zealand immigration and protection tribunal rejected two families from Tuvalu who applied to become refugees in New Zealand due to the impact of climate change.

The families argued rising sea levels, lack of access to clean and sanitary drinking water and Tuvalu’s high unemployment rate as reasons for seeking asylum.

The tribunal ruled they did not risk being persecuted by race, religion, nationality or by membership of a political or religious group under the 1951 refugee convention.

International environmental law expert Associate Professor Alberto Costi, of Victoria University, told the Guardian that the current convention could not accommodate environmental refugees. “The conditions are pretty strict and really apply to persecution. These people who arrive here hoping to seek asylum on environmental grounds are bound to be sent back to their home countries.”

In 2014 Ioane Teitiota, from Kiribati, made headlines after he applied in New Zealand to become the world’s first climate change refugee “on the basis of changes to his environment in Kiribati caused by sea level rise associated with climate change”.

The case was dismissed by New Zealand’s supreme court and Teitiota was deported the following year.

Costi acknowledged Shaw’s proposal would allow that gap in the refugee convention to be filled but said the problem would be legally determining whether an environmental migrant was still able to live in their home country.

“I have sympathy but legally it creates a big debate. There needs to be clear guidelines.”

Costi said there would be a difference in an application from someone from Tarawa in Kiribati, where conditions are obviously worsening every year, to those whose countries are only affected seasonally.

“It’s an idea to be explored. I would welcome more clarity.”

November 2, 2017 Posted by | climate change, New Zealand | Leave a comment

New govt in New Zealand plans for 100% renewable energy

New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern signs coalition deal, names Winston Peters Deputy PM, ABC News 24 Oct 17,  New Zealand’s incoming Government is hoping to make the nation greener by planting 100 million trees each year, ensuring the electricity grid runs entirely from renewable energy, and spending more money on cycle ways and rail transport.

Key points:

  • Incoming prime minister Jacinda Ardern signs coalition deal with NZ First and the Greens Party
  • Ms Ardern says the country aims to generate 100 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2035
  • She also plans to raise the minimum wage by 27 per cent

Prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern and NZ First Leader Winston Peters — who will serve as deputy prime minster and foreign affairs minister in the new Government — signed the coalition agreement on Tuesday and outlined their priorities……

Ardern aiming for 100 per cent renewable energy

Ms Ardern’s plan is for New Zealand to reduce its net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by the year 2050.

Some of the targets will require only incremental changes.

New Zealand already generates about 85 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources including hydroelectric, geothermal and wind.

Ms Ardern plans to increase that to 100 per cent by 2035, in part by investigating whether solar panels can be used atop schools.

She said the country would need to double the amount of trees it plants each year, a goal she said was “absolutely achievable” by using land that was marginal for farming animals.

Her plans also call for the Government’s vehicle fleet to be green within a decade……http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-10-24/new-zealand-jacinda-ardern-signs-coalition-deal-outlines-plans/9082140

October 25, 2017 Posted by | climate change, New Zealand, politics, renewable | Leave a comment

Education on nuclear disarmament – New Zealand is the leader

New Zealand Educates Youth on Nuclear Disarmament, https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/en/news/editors/5/nzeducatesyouthonnucleardisarmament/index.html – Hiromi Kurosaka, New Zealand is a staunch advocate of abolishing nuclear arms. Its policy coalesced in the 80s after strong opposition. And as a new generation grows up, the country is still committed to educating them about the horrors of nuclear weapons.

A commemoration of the victims of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima takes place annually in staunchly anti-nuclear New Zealand. The country adopted an anti-nuclear policy decades ago. Opposition had grown over the years as France repeatedly tested its nuclear weapons in the region’s waters. New Zealand’s policy bans the country from possessing nuclear arms or bringing them into its territory. Nuclear power isn’t used in the country either.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the policy. A school focusing on teaching students the importance of disarmament invited survivors of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima to recount their painful experiences.

15-year-old Yasmin Clements-Levi, who heard the accounts of survivors for the first time, said “I’m really glad that I learned now, really exactly what they’ve gone through and how it affects them to this day.”

The school held a debate to help students think more deeply about the issue. Some of the students were against nuclear weapons. “It’s just horrible — the fact that so many people can die. It’s generally not worth it to have them in the world at all.” “If a terrorist group like ISIS were to get nukes, they could cause infinite destruction.”

Others maintained that they’re necessary. “If you talk about

October 7, 2017 Posted by | New Zealand, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Auckland commemorates 30 years of nuclear-free New Zealand

Aucklanders celebrate anniversary of nuclear-free New Zealand, 11/06/2017, Newshub staff   It’s been 30 years since New Zealand became the first country in the world to declare itself Nuclear Free.

On Sunday, hundreds formed a human peace symbol at the Auckland Domain, similar to the one made in 1983, in order to commemorate the anniversary of the passing of the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act. …….

The anniversary comes just days before a United Nations conference involving 132 countries which will negotiate a treaty to ban nuclear weapons. http://www.newshub.co.nz/home/new-zealand/2017/06/aucklanders-celebrate-anniversary-of-nuclear-free-new-zealand.html

June 12, 2017 Posted by | New Zealand, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Nuclear free New Zealand to hear pioneer antinuclear hero, Helen Caldicott

Helen did not hold back, explaining that nuclear war means “blindness, burning, starvation, disease, lacerations, haemorrhaging, millions of corpses and an epidemic of disease”. Helen’s dramatic and blunt style reduced many in her audiences to tears. She always ended her talks with a call to action – especially to parents – as she strongly believes that nuclear disarmament is “the ultimate medical and parenting issue of our time.”

To those who would claim New Zealand was not a target she had a short reply: “Trident submarines in ports are targeted. They are a first strike target. It is much easier to destroy subs when they are in dock than it is when they are submerged in the ocean.”

The new Labour Government of 1984 passed the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act in 1987, the world’s first national nuclear-free legislation. Dr Helen Caldicott’s influence had culminated in the passage of the cornerstone of New Zealand’s foreign policy.

Caldicott,-Helen-4Marilyn Waring on the Australian hero of nuclear-free New Zealand http://thespinoff.co.nz/society/14-11-2016/the-australian-hero-of-nuclear-free-new-zealand/  November 14, 2016 The former National MP whose decision to support anti-nuclear legislation led to the 1984 snap election writes on the transformative influence of the passionate Australian physician Helen Caldicott, who speaks in Auckland this week

If you were growing up in New Zealand and Australia post World War II, there’s a chance you knew about the United States using the Marshall Islands as a nuclear testing site from 1947 until 1962. In an agreement signed with the United Nations, the US government held the Marshall Islands as a “trust territory” and detonated nuclear devices in this pristine area of the Pacific Ocean – leading, in some instances, to huge levels of radiation fall-out, health effects, and the permanent displacement of many island people. In all, the US government conducted 105 underwater and atmospheric tests. You would have also known that the British conducted seven atmospheric tests between 1956 and 1963 on traditional Aboriginal land, in Maralinga, Australia.

It may be that you read Neville Shute’s 1957 novel On the Beach, in which people in Melbourne, Australia wait for deadly radiation to spread from a Northern Hemisphere nuclear war. This book made a memorable impact on Helen when she read it as a teenager.

Both Helen and I saw Peter Watkin’s The War Game, a BBC documentary drama about nuclear war and the consequences in an English city. In New Zealand the film was restricted for children unless accompanied by an adult, so I had to get my father to take me. The War Game won the Oscar for the best documentary in 1965.

France began its series of over 175 nuclear tests at Mururoa, in the South Pacific, in 1966. At least 140 of these tests were above ground. In 1973, the New Zealand and Australian governments took France to the World Court for continued atmospheric testing, and forced the last tests underground. The testing finally came to an end in 1976.

In New Zealand the US Navy made regular visits between 1976 and 1983 with nuclear-powered and, most likely, nuclear-armed, ships. These visits produced spectacular protest fleets in the Auckland and Wellington harbours, when hundreds of New Zealanders — in yachts of all sizes, in motor boats and canoes, even on surf boards — surrounded the vessels and tried to bring them to a complete stop. By 1978, a campaign began in New Zealand to declare borough and city council areas nuclear-free and, by the early 1980s, this symbolic movement had quickly gained momentum, covering more than two-thirds of the New Zealand population.

Helen Caldicott and I had not met up to this point, but these were shared parts of our history and consciousness when Helen visited New Zealand in 1983. Helen Caldicott graduated with a medical degree from University of Adelaide Medical School in 1961. She moved to the United States, becoming an Instructor in paediatrics at Harvard Medical School and was on the staff of the Children’s Hospital Medical Centre in Boston, Massachusetts. In the late 1970s, Helen became the President of Physicians for Social Responsibility. This group was founded when Helen was finishing medical school, quickly making its mark by documenting the presence of Strontium-90, a highly radioactive waste product of atmospheric nuclear testing, in children’s teeth. The landmark finding eventually led to the Limited Nuclear Test Ban treaty, which ended atmospheric nuclear testing.

But it was the Three Mile Island accident that changed Helen’s life. An equipment failure resulted in a loss of cooling water to the core of a reactor at the Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania, causing a partial meltdown. Operator failure meant that 700,000 gallons of radioactive cooling water ended up in the basement of the reactor building. It was the most serious nuclear accident to that date in the US Helen published Nuclear Madness the same year. In it she wrote: “As a physician, I contend that nuclear technology threatens life on our planet with extinction. If present trends continue, the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink will soon be contaminated with enough radioactive pollutants to pose a potential health hazard far greater than any plague humanity has ever experienced.” In 1980, Helen resigned from her paid work positions to work full time on the prevention of nuclear war.

In 1982, Canadian director Terre Nash filmed a lecture given by Helen Caldicott to a New York state student audience. Nash’s consequent National Film Board of Canada documentary If You Love this Planet was released during the term of US President Ronald Reagan, at the height of Cold War nuclear tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. The US Department of Justice moved quickly to designate the film “foreign propaganda,” bringing a great deal of attention to the film. It went on to win the 1982 Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject. That same year, Helen addressed about 750,000 people in Central Park, New York in the biggest anti-nuke rally in the United States to that date.

In 1983, I was serving as a member of the New Zealand parliament, having been elected eight years earlier at the age of 23. Our parliament established a Disarmament and Arms Control Select Committee to conduct hearings on the possibility of making New Zealand a nuclear-free zone. During this critically important time, Helen was invited to New Zealand on a lecture tour. The documentary If You Love This Planet was shown at her speaking engagements.

I did not get to meet her, nor hear any of her lectures in person, as I was working in parliament every night. But I did follow the media coverage.

Helen told the Listener about having observed five-star generals in US congressional and senate committees complaining that the Russian missiles were bigger than the American ones. “The Russian missiles are very big [and] inaccurate and clumsy. America has very small, very accurate missiles, which are better at killing people and destroying targets,” she explained. A frequent message in her talks to New Zealand audiences was the redundant overkill capacity of both superpowers. Caldicott noted to her audiences that “The US has 30,000 bombs and Russia 20,000.”

I had sat in a New Zealand parliamentary committee hearing some months earlier, when a government colleague, brandishing a centrefold of a Russian submarine, excitedly called for us to “Look at how big it is.” I had thought that no one would believe me if I had repeated such an inane banality – when an adult male was more impressed by the size of the submarine than its capacity to destroy life on this planet.

Helen’s public addresses were grounded in the potential impact of nuclear weapons. “Imagine a 20-megaton bomb targeted on Auckland,” she told audiences in New Zealand. “The explosion, five times the collective energy of all the bombs dropped in the Second World War, digs a hole three-quarters of a mile wide by 800 feet deep and turns people, buildings and dirt into radioactive dust. Everyone up to six miles will be vaporised, and up to 20 miles they will be dead or lethally injured. People will be instantly blinded looking at the blast within 40 miles. Many will be asphyxiated in the fire storm.”

Helen did not hold back, explaining that nuclear war means “blindness, burning, starvation, disease, lacerations, haemorrhaging, millions of corpses and an epidemic of disease”. Helen’s dramatic and blunt style reduced many in her audiences to tears. She always ended her talks with a call to action – especially to parents – as she strongly believes that nuclear disarmament is “the ultimate medical and parenting issue of our time.”

To those who would claim New Zealand was not a target she had a short reply: “Trident submarines in ports are targeted. They are a first strike target. It is much easier to destroy subs when they are in dock than it is when they are submerged in the ocean.”

In 2015, I asked Helen how she managed to deliver such bad news and yet keep her audiences with her. “Being a doctor helps because you have to learn to negotiate with a patient and with language they can understand,” she explained. “You have to convert the medical diagnosis and treatment to lay language. I also have to keep them awake sometimes by letting them laugh because it relieves their tension and because the stuff I say is pretty awful.” Helen told me that she practises “global preventative medicine”.

Helen’s tour through New Zealand in 1983 had a huge, and lasting, impact. At one stop, Helen addressed over 2,000 people at a public event in Auckland. The librarian with whom I corresponded looking for old newspaper reports of Helen’s visit, wrote to me: “Her chillingly detailed description of the effects of a nuclear device detonated over the hall in which we were sitting remains rooted in my psyche to this day! …The other message I most recall is the dichotomy she evoked between the destructive drive of ‘old men’ rulers, the instigators of war, versus the procreative energy of mothers most impelled to oppose them — which, however reductive, retains the compelling logic of a truism!”

Helen’s approach was transformative in New Zealand. Helen’s speaking events packed auditoriums, and overflows of audiences had to be accommodated using loud speaker systems. People responded strongly to this woman, whose life work involved caring for children, speaking about medical effects of fallout, and speaking without the use of the clichéd military and defence ideological rhetoric that treated people as if they were simpletons who couldn’t understand. Her speeches inspired people to act. After Helen spoke, the volume of mail delivered to my parliamentary office increased—particularly from women.

On May 24, 1983, 20,000 women wearing white flowers and armbands and holding banners with peace signs marched quietly up a main street in Auckland to hold a huge rally and call for New Zealand to be nuke-free. It was one of the largest women’s demonstrations in New Zealand’s history. In her book, Peace, Power and Politics – How New Zealand Became Nuclear Free, Maire Leadbetter writes: “I am one of many activists who think of Helen Caldicott’s visit as the point when the peace movement began to grow exponentially … Helen had a magical ability to motivate previously passive citizens to become activists.”

Shortly after Helen’s visit to New Zealand, in 1984, I advised that I intended to vote for the opposition-sponsored nuclear-free New Zealand legislation. This prompted conservative Prime Minister Rob Muldoon to call a snap election. Muldoon told media that my “feminist anti-nuclear stance” threatened his ability to govern.

The new Labour Government of 1984 passed the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act in 1987, the world’s first national nuclear-free legislation. Dr Helen Caldicott’s influence had culminated in the passage of the cornerstone of New Zealand’s foreign policy.

This essay is one of 28 stories by notable women about remarkable women peacemakers, When We Are Bold: Women Who Turn Our Upsidedown World Right, to mark the 10th anniversary of the Nobel Women’s Initiative. Dr Caldicott speaks at AUT on Tuesday November 15.

November 14, 2016 Posted by | history, New Zealand | Leave a comment

New Zealand moves ahead to ratify Paris climate agreement

NZ takes final step on historic climate change agreement, NZ Herald, 

New Zealand’s ambassador in New York, Gerard van Bohemen, was to take the formal step to ratify the agreement at the United Nations overnight.

Climate Change Minister Paula Bennett said it was earlier than anticipated but had been fast-tracked with support of Opposition parties.

That was done to beat the European Union and ensure New Zealand was one of the countries to ratify before the threshold at which the agreement will come into force.

To come into force, at least 55 countries accounting for at least 55 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions have to ratify it.

Bennett said the European Union was initially not expected to ratify until next year, but had now moved to do so within the next week. The EU’s entry would push it over the 55 per cent of emissions required.

As a result New Zealand moved its own date forward from November when it had aimed to ratify in time for the next major climate change summit in Marrakesh.

“That means we are part of the first tranche. It is as much symbolic as anything else, to be part of that first tranche. But there have been noises that the ’55-club’ may be able to sit in different committees that are deciding accounting processes round forestry and international trading and that sort of thing.”

As of Tuesday night, 62 of the 191 countries to have signed the Paris Agreement had ratified, accounting for 51.89 per cent of total global greenhouse gas emissions.

They included major emitting countries such as China, the United States, India and Brazil……….http://www.nzherald.co.nz/environment/news/article.cfm?c_id=39&objectid=11722496

October 6, 2016 Posted by | climate change, New Zealand | Leave a comment

New Zealand is proud of its anti nuclear stance, with its victory over USA

N.ZealandNew Zealand set to mark anti-nuclear victory over the United States, ABC News 14 Aug 16 By Veronika Meduna in Wellington New Zealand’s anti-nuclear campaigners are claiming victory against a Goliath.

Key points:

  • The NZ public overwhelmingly supports its anti-nuclear stance
  • The US suspended its ANZUS obligations to NZ after its destroyer was denied access in 1985
  • Peace protests expected when non-nuclear ships visit NZ in November

When the NZ Navy celebrates its 75th birthday in November, US warships will be there. It will be the first time any American military ship has entered a New Zealand port since the country’s controversial anti-nuclear legislation was passed in 1987.

“What this means is that any ship that comes here will be coming on New Zealand’s terms,” says investigative journalist Nicky Hager, a key figure in the anti-nuclear movement at the time.

“Our terms were set 30 years ago with the nuclear-free policy.”

Peace campaigner and former Green MP, Keith Locke, agrees. “It is recognition that most of the New Zealand public does not want nuclear ships and the US cannot get around that,” he says.

Anti-nuclear stance strains relationship with US

The stand taken by the comparatively tiny nation caused a rift between the allies which has lasted three decades, and has been likened to a mouse that roared.

New Zealand’s anti-nuclear movement was spurred to action when France tested nuclear weapons at Mururoa Atoll in French Polynesia in the 1960s. More than 80,000 New Zealanders signed a petition calling for a nuclear-free Southern Hemisphere.

“It was the biggest petition anywhere since the Suffragettes’ campaign of the 1890s,” Mr Locke says.

The anti-nuclear mood gripped the nation. Visiting US warships powered by small nuclear reactors sparked massive protests in the 1970s and 1980s, drawing thousands onto the streets…….

The nuclear ship ban has been a central pillar of New Zealand’s foreign policy ever since.

Warships from other nuclear-weapons states, such as the UK and China, have docked in New Zealand ports because they were prepared to declare their vessels “nuclear-free”.

However, the US stuck rigidly to its policy of “neither confirming nor denying” if a ship was nuclear-armed or powered. And that has kept American naval vessels out…….http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-08-13/new-zealand-celebrates-anti-nuclear-victory-over-united-states/7731644

August 14, 2016 Posted by | New Zealand, opposition to nuclear, politics international | Leave a comment

New Zealand has maintained its anti nuclear stance

N.ZealandNZ’s nuclear resolve, Otago Daily Times, 25 Jul 2016 “……In 1987, Labour passed the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament and Arms Control Act, meeting an election promise.

In a largely symbolic response, the US Congress retaliated with the Broomfield Act, downgrading New Zealand’s status from ally to friend.

Former prime minister David Lange said if the security alliance was the price New Zealand must pay to remain nuclear-free, it was the price the country was prepared to pay.

In 1989, 52% of New Zealanders indicated they would rather break defence ties than admit nuclear-armed ships. By 1990, National had signed up to the anti-nuclear stance.

There the situation has remained until Mr Biden accepted an invitation for the US to send a ship to the Royal New Zealand Navy’s 75th birthday in November……..

New Zealand is consistently said to have made a difference in peace-keeping activities around the world, being an independent thinker when it comes to solving complex security issues.

New Zealand is part of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network.

Although New Zealand is not seen as reliable as Australia as an ally, it does have qualities which it can bring to any situation.

So despite the urging of Mr Key, the return to New Zealand waters by a US ship in November cannot be taken lightly. It is a win for the resolve of Kiwis to keep this country nuclear free.

It is not known if the US ship will be a warship or something tamer.

Under New Zealand’s law, Mr Key has to sign a declaration he is satisfied the ship complies with New Zealand law, something he says he has done about 40 times since he became prime minister.

Publicly available information will make it possible for watchers of maritime issues to identify if the ship is nuclear-armed or nuclear-powered……..http://www.odt.co.nz/opinion/editorial/391403/nz-s-nuclear-resolve

July 25, 2016 Posted by | New Zealand, politics international | Leave a comment

New Zealand has been well served by its nuclear-free policy

N.ZealandNuclear-free has ‘served us well’ – Geoffrey Palmer, Radio New Zealand, 22 July 16 An architect of New Zealand’s once contentious anti-nuclear law says it remains the right approach for the country.

The law is in the spotlight as preparations begin for the first visit by an American warship since the landmark legislation was passed in 1987.

Under the law, the Prime Minister must make an assessment of whether the ship will breach New Zealand’s ban on nuclear weapons and nuclear power.

The US has not sent a naval ship since 1983, as it refuses to say whether its ships are nuclear-armed, as required by New Zealand’s nuclear-free law.

The deputy prime minister at the time the nuclear-free law was passed, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, told Morning Report the policy, and the law behind it, was sound…….http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/national/309192/nuclear-free-has-‘served-us-well’-geoffrey-palmer

July 22, 2016 Posted by | New Zealand, politics | 1 Comment