October 8, 2014 | By Joshua Higgins
With ongoing crises ranging from terrorism to Ebola, policymakers, the media and the public are overlooking a threat that could wipe out the entire human race, a 1985 Nobel Peace Prize nominee said at a National Press Club Newsmakers news conference on Wednesday.
That issue, Helen Caldicott said, is nuclear war.
Escalating tensions between the U.S. and Russia over conflict in Ukraine pose a worldwide nuclear risk, according to the Australian physician and civil activist who also is the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary.
Both the U.S. and Russia have access to the button that could launch nuclear missiles at Washington, New York, Boston, and other urban centers, she said, adding that the threat goes beyond politics and foreign policy to the health of the global population.
“It’s a medical issue,” Caldicott said at the Newsmakers event. “And it will create the final epidemic of the human race.”
Caldicott, who helped establish Physicians for Social Responsibility, warned some U.S. strategies could do more harm than good, given that Russia holds a large arsenal of nuclear weapons.
“You don’t provoke paranoid countries armed to the teeth with nuclear weapons,” she said, making the case for education through the media as a critical way to expose the issue.
Public awareness can generate enough political capital for leaders in the science and health communities to inform policymakers about the risks to public health and to the global ecosystem that stem from nuclear arms.
“I honestly don’t know how we’re all still here,” Caldicott said.
Still, she said the U.S. can “lead by example” by generating a dialogue on nuclear weapons and urging international disarmament efforts.
While President Barack Obama has expressed support for nuclear disarmament, global challenges such as the Islamic State terrorist threats and Ebola outbreaks have prevented him from acting, Caldicott noted.
“We’ve got a good man,” she said. “But the forces have overwhelmed him.”