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Support Global Zero: Help rid the world of nuclear arms

By Jonathan Elias, Special to CNN
Battered statues of Buddha remain in the ruins, days after an atomic bomb obliterated Nagasaki, Japan, in August, 1945.
Battered statues of Buddha remain in the ruins, days after an atomic bomb obliterated Nagasaki, Japan, in August, 1945.
  • Jonathan Elias laments that there are about 24,000 nuclear weapons in the world
  • Elias: Nuclear proliferation is one of the defining issues of our time
  • Ridding the world of nukes is a responsibility we all share, he writes
  • Support Global Zero's efforts to rid the world of nuclear arms, Elias says

Editor's note: Jonathan Elias is an Emmy-winning and Grammy-nominated composer. His recent work, "A Prayer Cycle: Path To Zero," features Sinead O'Connor, Sting, Bono, Salif Keita, Angelique Kidjo, Joanne Shenandoah, and many others. It will be released by Across The Universe/Downtown Records and proceeds will be donated to Global Zero.

(CNN) -- Consider this: There are about 24,000 nuclear weapons in the world. It's a sobering thought. When I was confronted by the magnitude of this, I found myself awestruck.

I have no real qualification to examine such a daunting issue. I didn't go to school for physics, I'm not in the political world and I have never been an outspoken activist. The reality is, my two children and I make our home on the same planet as these devastating weapons, and that's justification enough for me to feel compelled to take action.

We recently saw the catastrophic meltdown of a peaceful nuclear reactor in Japan. We have also seen Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. It's a technology we seem to barely understand. Clouds and currents of radiation don't care what country they float past; we all feel helpless in the face of imminent danger.

As a parent I feel it is crucially important to make people aware that nuclear proliferation is one of the defining issues of our time. Yet the subject has been relegated to the shadows of our policymaking. I thought, how can that be? Aren't we all exposed and all in danger?

Jonathan Elias
Jonathan Elias

Global Zero agrees with me. Its members and supporters Mikhail Gorbachev, R.E.M., Queen Noor and Jimmy Carter agree with me. There are people who feel this cause is worth fighting for. It's not a blue state vs. red state fight. It's about recognizing that we have only one planet and we all share a common responsibility for it. Ronald Reagan once said, "I call upon the scientific community in our country, those who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents now to the cause of mankind and world peace: to give us the means of rendering these nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete."


J. Robert Oppenheimer, called the father of the atomic bomb, famously said he was reminded of a line from Hindu scripture: "Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds" after the first nuclear bomb detonated in a test in 1945. Later, he lobbied for international control over nuclear proliferation, even becoming chief adviser of the United States Atomic Energy Commission. He lost his security clearance in 1954 during the Red Scare.

I think Einstein summed it up best when he said, "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

How do we keep 24,000 nuclear weapons safe and secure? How do we keep track of all these weapons to make sure they don't end up in the hands of political or religious zealots? Is it just a matter of time before our worst fears are realized?

In 1982, the United Nations held its Second Special Session on Nuclear Disarmament. The first session, held in 1978, failed to render any significant developments in the U.N.'s effort to address the overwhelming threat posed by the arms race. "The increase in weapons, especially nuclear weapons, far from helping to strengthen international security, on the contrary weakens it," read the declaration. "(It) heightens the sense of insecurity among all states, including the non-nuclear-weapon states, and increases the threat of nuclear war." How much progress have we yet to make?

The Native American Iroquois tribe believes we are caretakers of mother earth, and must think of the impact on children born seven generations into the future when making decisions. This is a responsibility we all share and a promise we make to our children. Global Zero is the only international network dedicated to ridding the world of those 24,000 weapons. You can't change the world overnight, but you can get involved. As a parent, supporting this organization and its urgent message is the least I could do.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Jonathan Elias.