Pandemic or pits? » Albuquerque Journal

Currently, the main story in the news is the incoherent and inadequate distribution of vaccines. Vaccinating the country and the world, along with climate change, of which this pandemic is a symptom, is our most important and immediate concern for national security.

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and other national laboratories managed by the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have the resources and intelligence to address these issues. What are you currently doing with most of these resources?

Here in northern New Mexico, LANL is preparing to industrialize the triggers for nuclear weapons known as plutonium mines. Billions of taxpayers’ money are pouring into the lab to fund the proposed pit production mission for 2026-30 and beyond. Construction work and other activities in support of the new mine factory have started at LANL, although the contracted LANL site plan for environmental impacts and the NNSA plan for the production of plutonium pits mandated by Congress have not been made available to the public or as far as we know were sent to Congress or regional governments.

Ironically, on January 22, 2021, the landmark United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons came into force, making nuclear weapons illegal under international law.

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So why continue on this outdated and immoral path? We are being brainwashed to believe that it is in our national interest when, in fact, it is mainly about the pockets (actually vaults) of war profiteers, arms manufacturers, and the military industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about.

Meanwhile, a great deal of effort has been focused on STEM education and recruiting our school children into what is known in the world of national laboratories as the “Nuclear Workforce Development Pipeline” (interesting phrase … aren’t we trying to shut down pipelines?) Nuclear weapons modernization missions.

Do the laboratories fully inform young people about the health risks of these jobs? Everyone needs a job. So if the only choices are nuclear weapons or the military, the labs can actually attract young people. But what if the government also facilitated avenues to medical research and delivery, nurses, technicians, vaccine production, genomic sequencing for contact tracing, and systems for efficient vaccine distribution?

Beyond or in between pandemics, we need cleanup bio-cleanup, solar and other renewable energies, adaptive architecture to address the effects of catastrophic climate change, and other technologies that address our most pressing national security problems.

The government proposed using the military to administer vaccines. Probably not a good plan in this country as there are fears that rights will be lost and the government will go too far. In addition, vaccinating the United States only does not protect us from the pandemic. Just as we see variants travel across oceans and borders, pandemics will continue to spread until the whole world is involved in massive medical expenses. What if we called for a ceasefire for wars and the cessation of military engagements, and instead our soldiers administered vaccines overseas? What could this mean for our standing in the world and the regaining of respect for our so-called humanitarian “ideals”?

What does it take to make these shifts? Answer: political will. The only way to influence this is to have a fundamental wave of people calling for it. “If the people lead, the leaders will follow.” This is the only way to make changes. “First they ignore you. Then they mock you. Then they fight you. Then you win. ”

These are extraordinary times, and they will require extraordinary measures to survive. Why not step up and call for life-affirming alternatives instead of the absurd waste of time and money of spending decades and trillions of dollars starting a new Cold War?

This may sound unrealistic and “pie-in-the-sky” to some, but if there ever was a time when extraordinary measures were required, this is one! We mobilized the Manhattan Project in the 1940s. Why not do something similar now to save the world from a deadly pandemic and catastrophic climate change?

Jean Nichols lives in Llano.

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