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Thinking in terms of the lifetime of humanity

June 24, 2019

A new article in an American Heart Association journal draws a compelling analogy between preventing sudden cardiac death and preventing nuclear war. That the three authors are long-time members of IPPNW should come as no surprise. In “Cardiac Events and Nuclear War: Prevention by Cardiovascular Specialists,” in the June 4 issue of Circulation, James Muller, John Pastore, and Amir Lerman relate the risks of heart attack to the risks of nuclear catastrophe.

“Although cardiac risk may be low in any given year, cardiologists act on the basis of cumulative risk over a decade or a lifetime. For the nuclear threat, which has a low annual risk, we must think in terms of the lifetime of humanity. A 1% annual risk of nuclear war, started by intention or by accident, rises to a 50% risk over a 70-year period.”

Both sets of risks, they argue, require changes in behavior.

“Prevention of cardiac events in most cases requires a change in behavior: cessation of smoking, taking medications for hypertension, weight loss. …[T]he prevention of nuclear war also requires a difficult change in high-risk and potentially modifiable behavior. We  must recognize that in the nuclear era destructive force can no longer be the ultimate guarantor of security.”

The authors cite the work of IPPNW, its US affiliate Physicians for Social Responsibility, and ICAN, and recommend participation in the Back From the Brink campaign. The US campaign, co-sponsored by PSR, calls for specific concrete steps to reduce the risks of nuclear war, including renouncing first use of nuclear weapons; ending the sole, unchecked authority of any president to launch a nuclear attack; taking US nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert; cancelling the trillion-dollar program to rebuild the US nuclear arsenal; and pursuing an agreement with the other nuclear-armed states to eliminate all nuclear weapons.

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