A little-known fact we can celebrate during these intense times in early 2021 is that nuclear weapons will become banned worldwide on Jan. 22 with ratification of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. This is huge.

Biological weapons were banned in 1972, chemical weapons in 1993, land mines in 1997, cluster munitions in 2008, and now, with the TPNW being adopted this month, nuclear weapons will be banned for the first time since they were first used 76 years ago. (United Nations)

Through the hard work of over 800 government representatives, thousands of scientists, and many faith communities and NGOs, 122 nations adopted the treaty, (2/3 of U.N. nations). The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for its profound work to accomplish this.

Of course, the nine nuclear-armed countries have not signed: the United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, India, North Korea, Pakistan and Israel. The U.S. is opposed to it, but it’s worth noting that the U.K. spoke in favor of it, and South Africa is a former nuclear-armed country that supports it.

TPNW follows the 1946 Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Nuclear Free Zone movement. Skagit County became a Nuclear Free Zone in 1985, (Skagit County Commissioners' minutes).

President Biden has an opportunity to extend the New START Treaty with Russia that limits nuclear warheads to around 14,000 for five years in February. (The Trident Nuclear Submarine Base at Bangor is home to the largest stockpile of deployed nuclear weapons in the U.S.)

Long term, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will hopefully be a tool to help us rethink, stigmatize, and ultimately change behavior relating to these ultimate weapons.

Julia Hurd


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