Peace In a Time of Intersecting Crises

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Oregon PSR approaches the work of our Peace Program with an acknowledgement of the interconnected nature of the multiple public health crises that we now face. We work for peace knowing that there can be no real peace without justice, and that systemic failures in our society must be met with strategic thinking, innovative ideas, and direct engagement with our communities.

Working in coalition with our many partners, we bring the trusted voice of health to bear on nuclear disarmament, building peace and anti-militarism, ending gun violence, and supporting the movements for racial justice, immigrant justice, and police accountability. That all of these intersecting societal ills are severe public health threats means that health professionals and public health advocates can play a vital role in creating a more just and peaceful future.

Ending the Nuclear Threat

We express our appreciation to all who attended, supported, and cosponsored 75 Years Later Is Now: Hiroshima, Nagasaki, & Ending the Nuclear Threat, an online memorial event honoring the lives lost to nuclear weapons and exploring how we can create a world free from the threat of nuclear weapons. Our guest speakers included Tricia Pritikin, a Hanford Downwinder, legal advocate, and author; Harvey Thorstad, an Atomic Veteran and peace activist; and Oregon PSR Advisory Board members Chisao Hata, a Japanese-American performing artist, educator, and community organizer, and Yukiyo Kawano, an artist and third-generation hibakusha (atomic bomb survivor). Our opening land acknowledgement statement was delivered by Cathy Sampson-Kruse, an enrolled member of the Walla Walla Tribe, and our event emcee was Kyle Iboshi, an investigative reporter with KGW News.

Our speakers shared their own deeply personal accounts of the impacts of nuclear weapons on their own lives and of the inherent injustice of nuclear weapons production, testing, and use. These powerful stories remind us of the urgent need to abolish nuclear weapons and to invest in healthy and resilient communities instead of funding these dangerous weapons of indiscriminate mass murder. In case you missed it, or to hear these poignant first-hand accounts again, please view video of our August 6th online memorial event.

In addition to our own online memorial, we were involved with the #stillhere movement to mark the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, reaching a huge international online audience to honor the lives lost, draw attention to the progress being made towards nuclear abolition, and bring forward the perspectives, voices, and leadership of those most impacted by 75 years of nuclear weapons. We also helped gather hundreds of signatures for the Appeal of the Hibakusha for the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons at the request of the atomic bomb survivors in Japan. We’ve also supported the ratification of the UN’s Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was ratified by the 50 nations needed to enter into force on October 24th of this year, making nuclear weapons illegal under international law, and other legislative and diplomatic efforts towards international nuclear disarmament.

Nuclear abolition has become a local issue, as we’ve also recently engaged in a new campaign upon learning that Oregon State University (OSU) has received a $4.3 million grant from the National Nuclear Security Administration to work on computer simulations relative to ensuring the safety and security of the United States’ nuclear weapons stockpile. We need your help to encourage OSU to consider dismantling the US nuclear stockpile in their simulations, as the safest way by far to secure nuclear weapons is to dismantle and dispose of them altogether. Please sign the petition on our website today urging OSU to use this opportunity to direct their respected scientists and researchers to work towards true nuclear safety and security by mapping out a path for the US to join the world community and embrace nuclear disarmament, the safest and most realistic way to prevent further nuclear injustice and a catastrophic nuclear war.

Police Violence as a Public Health Threat

In the wake of the police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Oregon PSR has stepped up our work to learn more about racism as a public health issue and explore how we can best support the movement for Black Lives. We’ve also taken steps to address increasingly militarized police violence as a public health threat. We’ve been actively participating in a network of groups concerned about these issues in Portland, and have provided testimony to the City of Portland and the state legislature about the health effects of chemical munitions, such as the tear gas that’s been deployed against peaceful demonstrators, and other forms of police violence. We’ve also connected our partners at Physicians for Human Rights with medics and activists on the ground for their report on dangerous crowd control weapons use against protesters and medic sin Portland, and we’re supporting Measure 26-217, which authorizes a new, independent police review board in Portland.

Planning for Peace

Members of our Peace Work Group have been gathering virtually over the last month to discuss strategic planning for our Peace Program, with considerable progress already having been made. To ground this process in a responsiveness to the needs of our community, we have conducted a series of surveys of our members, the members of our Peace Work Group, and representatives of dozens of the community partners with whom we have collaborated closely in recent years. Guided by our volunteers and staff and with these survey responses in mind, we are assessing our strengths and ascertaining challenges, identifying key stakeholders and allies, discussing intersections with our other program areas, and charting our work for the coming year and beyond.

In addition to our strategic planning work, we’re also planning something new with our 2021 Greenfield Peace Scholarship, which engages Oregon’s youth on some of the most pressing issues of our time. We believe that our new approach will make the scholarship more equitable for Oregon’s students, and we very much look forward to hearing their thoughts and being inspired by their ideas. Our new Program Assistant and Quaker Voluntary Service Fellow, Katy Morrow, will be leading this planning process in collaboration with members of our Peace Work Group, and we’ll be letting you know more soon as the planning for this year’s scholarship opportunity develops.

Get Involved!

With your support and involvement, we will continue to bring the voice of health, the energy of our amazing and dedicated volunteers, and a clear strategic framework to these and other pressing issues. We have our work cut out for us like never before, but by working together, we can create a world that is more just, healthy, and peaceful for everyone who calls this planet home. We welcome you to join us in this critically important work, and I hope that you will contact me today at sean@oregonpsr.org to learn more and get involved. We very much look forward to working with you soon!

This article was written by Sean Tenney, Oregon PSR’s Associate Director.