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The Dawn Of A New Nuclear Era?

The Nuclear Security Summit marks the emergence of a new global conscience, a new morality where human life, and life in general, becomes a worldwide priority. Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images hide caption

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Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

The Nuclear Security Summit marks the emergence of a new global conscience, a new morality where human life, and life in general, becomes a worldwide priority.

Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images

Because the nuclear security summit starts today in D.C., we at 13.7 decided to write about some of the issues involved. I'd like to start by quoting from an old post of mine from mid-february, slightly edited:

The collective history of humankind was redefined after August 6th, 1945, when "Little Boy" was dropped in Hiroshima. For decades after, Cold War mentality functioned to sustain a fragile balance, based on the fear of mutually-assured destruction. The playground logic goes as follows: if Jimmy can punch me as hard as I can punch him, we're better off keeping our hands down. Even though this somewhat mad detente policy worked for more than 50 years, as more kids get into the playground, chances are someone will eventually get punched. Tempers vary, and motives can be made to satisfy all kinds of twisted political and — abysmally — religious reasons. If you believe life has no value due to some grand dream of eternal salvation, it's that much easier to push the button and contribute to the arrival of doomsday. Having the power to destroy, as so many inglorious episodes in history illustrate, makes it all the more tempting to use it.

Current estimates put the number of US nuclear warheads at about 5,000+ by 2012. That's a large improvement from the insane 32,000 max in 1966, but still with the capacity to obliterate the world as we know it several times over. Russia has an even larger stockpile of weapons. Even with all the pressing issues that we face these days — the economy, climate change, natural disasters, diseases like malaria that kill more than one million people a year — we should never forget that our future rests upon an extremely unstable nuclear detente. In so many ways, no issue is more pressing.

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Critics may say that Obama's policy is too soft, that more is needed to stop nuclear proliferation and terrorism. However, he is actually doing something, and, to me, this is a huge step forward.

It's not just politics that is at stake. It's the emergence of a new global conscience, a new morality where human life, and life in general, becomes a worldwide priority. Globalization goes beyond having world-wide internet access and news. It's also about the understanding that our survival as a species is up to all of us collectively. Steps may be too slow for many people, from weapons specialists to peace activists. But serious steps are finally being taken. To me, this is cause for celebration. It's high time humanity started to evolve beyond the morals of cavemen.