Nearly twenty years after the Cold War has ended, humankind is still faced with the genuine risk of instant extinction without representation.  Even worse, this possibility could occur by accident as a single computer miscalculation or mechanical error could lead to a civilization-ending nuclear war.  The 9/11 attacks killed some 3,000 people causing enormous destruction, chaos, and grief.  In comparison, a purposeful or accidental nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia would unquestionably kill tens of millions in the short-term, and untold millions in the long-term. Therefore, the threat of nuclear war is the most serious potential health, environmental, agricultural, educational and moral problem facing the human race.

          Recently, President Barack Obama stated, "I will make the goal of elimination of nuclear weapons worldwide a central element of U.S. nuclear weapons policy." Without question, this is the most promising nuclear disarmament statement by a U.S. president in recent history.  However, the road to abolition will not be an easy one.  The president will face many hurdles, given the financial and political power of the corporate/military nuclear weapons complex, and he must obtain strong grassroots support to convince members of Congress to endorse a comprehensive international disarmament regimen required to accomplish that goal.

          Insufficient intellectual and political activity concerning nuclear disarmament, especially at the local level, is occurring in this country and the rest of the world.  Despite the recent encouraging statements by well-known political figures both here and abroad, and excellent work by numerous non-governmental organizations, nuclear war prevention continues to rank low on the list of immediate citizen concerns.  Additionally, most educators, clergy and social activists who normally focus on preventive measures regarding other deadly human problems, have seriously defaulted on the world's most pressing issue of survival.  Nuclear war will not merely warm the planet, it will "sizzle" it.

          It is with these educational, religious, and social activists in mind that Jared Gassen and I have written this book.  I am an educational psychologist and adjunct professor of Peace Studies at the University of Missouri-Columbia and have been working towards nuclear abolition for nearly 50 years.  I am also a member of the Speakers Bureau of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation of Santa Barbara, California.  Previous teaching assignments were at the Universities of Iowa and Southern Illinois-Carbondale, as well as Prescott College in Arizona.  While at Iowa between 1973 and 1975, I was College Program Coordinator of the College of Law's Center for World Order Studies.  From 1981 to 1985, I served as executive director of the Washington, D.C. based World Federalists Association.  At that time, I was an early leader in the U.S. Nuclear Freeze movement. Later, I served as the manager of nationwide training courses for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  In 200l, I received the Gandhi, King, Ikeda Peace Award from the Martin Luther King, Jr. International Chapel at Morehouse College, Atlanta, Georgia. All first-person statements in this book are my own, all of which are personal examples of what actions have, and have not, worked over the years.

          Jared Gassen is a graduate student at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism.  Without his efforts, this book would not have been completed. His work included writing about 35 pages to strengthen the arguments in the first four chapters, editing, fact-checking and updating information, and assembling and reformatting the manuscript into its current form.

          Within the following pages, we have attempted to equip activists with the tools needed to engage in ending nuclear weapons.  We have concisely revisited the nuclear weapons issue and included a step-by-step roadmap for the abolition of nuclear weapons.  Details of the roadmap, and related ideas, were secured from the writings of well-known nuclear weapons abolitionists Jonathan Schell, David Cortright, David Krieger, and the late Randall Caroline Forsberg. We have also described various social and psychological obstacles to education and action related to nuclear disarmament.  The written works of Jerome D. Frank, Marc Pilisuk, Jamie Rowen, Judith Eve Lipton, and David Barash have informed this discussion.  Moreover, inspiration for moral and environmental content regarding nuclear destruction and degradation was taken from the writings of our University of Missouri colleagues Steven Starr, director of the University's clinical science program, and from John Kultgen, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy.

          One of the most important topics we address is "The Dialogue for Nuclear Disarmament."  The late Dr. Theo F Lentz, director of the renowned Peace Research Lab in St. Louis, MO, originated this dialogue process.  It is a simple, democratic conversation technique that is used to fully engage individuals or small groups in careful, thoughtful exploration of various problems, obstacles, and solutions pertaining to the threat of nuclear war, and often results in the acquisition of substantial time, money and energy on behalf of nuclear disarmament.

          Separate chapters are devoted to the role of education, religion, media, and the local community on behalf of nuclear weapons abolition.  A unique feature of the book is the educational philosophic underpinning for instructional course development, with an emphasis on curriculum construction for academic institutions, faith communities, and local civic organizations.

          The chapter on the media argues for the inclusion of a wider range of voices from the community and a more critical treatment of official sources.  These conclusions are informed by a media content analysis using the Minot-Barksdale incident as a case study.

          The chapter on religion makes the case that nuclear weapons, whether used or threatened, are grossly evil and morally wrong, regardless of religious affiliation. The discussion of religion's role in nuclear disarmament has an extended description of the National Religious Partnership on the Nuclear Weapons Danger, founded by the late Rev. William Sloan Coffin, former Yale University Chaplain and Executive Director of the nuclear disarmament organization, Sane-Freeze.

          The final chapter describes a number of techniques for mobilization and civic participation in a variety of settings in which individuals and groups can provide and promote efforts on behalf of nuclear disarmament education.  Numerous tips are also offered to conduct and organize public events such as "town meetings," public demonstrations, and non-violent direct action.

          Bill Wickersham


November, 2009