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Education not Trident! Burghfield Blockade May 19th, 2014. Photo: AWEAction.
Education not Trident! Burghfield Blockade May 19th, 2014. Photo: AWEAction.
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Love, hope and beauty against nuclear weapons

Angie Zelter

24th March 2015

The UK's Trident nuclear missile system has the power of 1,500 Hiroshima bombs, writes Angie Zelter - and to use it would be a monstrous and probably suicidal crime against humanity. Should we spend £130 billion renewing it? Or on schools, hospitals, libraries, social care and cycleways? The inspiring ActionAWE campaign is waking people up to the choice we face.

Our speciality is dramatic and eye-catching actions to highlight and disrupt the illegal, immoral, dangerous, polluting and wasteful use of resources in the building and maintenance of nuclear weapons.

People can be so creative in their protests.

Whether engaged in a little street theatre explaining the problems of assembling nuclear weapons (and careless cleaning up of nuclear spills), or making a cake in the shape of a Trident submarine and getting a Welsh Dragon to eat it at a blockade.

These were two of the early actions organised by Action Atomic Weapons Eradication (ActionAWE) after its launch in February 2013 - fun ways of dealing with extremely serious and life-threatening issues that the public needs to be reminded of - especially as we approach a general election.

We are a UK based grassroots campaign to eradicate nuclear weapons by raising awareness of the humanitarian, health and security consequences of nuclear weapons through education, outreach and direct action.

And our speciality is dramatic and eye-catching actions to highlight and disrupt the illegal, immoral, dangerous, polluting and wasteful use of resources in the building and maintenance of nuclear weapons at the Atomic Weapons Establishments at Aldermaston and Burghfield in Berkshire, only 50 miles west of London.

One of my favourite actions took place just a few weeks ago at the House of Commons - and this one was truly beautiful! About 20 of us quietly entered the lobby of the House of Commons and performed an oratorio called 'Trident is a War Crime', composed specially for the occasion.

The music was so lovely that no one tried to stop us for the full 15 minutes of our performance. We can only hope that any MPs present were listening to the words, which called on them to abandon their support of state terrorism through nuclear weapons.

Video: performance of oratorio in the House of Commons Lobby, 11th March 2015. Produced by Zoe Broughton.

The composer, Camilla Cancantata, afterwards explained: "This piece is not meant to be a passive listening experience. It was not written for a concert hall audience who listen, applaud and then go away and forget.

"The words and music are meant to engage and challenge the people in our society who have the constitutional power to ensure Britain upholds international law and abandons all nuclear weapons. We are using song rather than spoken word because we want to give the words weight, urgency and emotional resonance."

No Trident renewal!

The UK has over 180 nuclear warheads in its current nuclear weapons system, called Trident. The nuclear submarines that carry Trident are getting old, so the government has already started funding their replacement and has pledged to finalise contracts to finish replacing them in 2016.

This new generation of nuclear weapons not only undermines the UK pledges to disarm that were made to the international community in the Non-Proliferation Treaty, but also encourages state terrorism: threatening to use, even for so-called deterrent purposes, 100 kiloton nuclear weapons - eight times more powerful than the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki 70 years ago - is considered as a preparation to commit a War Crime.

ActionAWE is mobilising citizens to take concerted actions against Trident to make it harder for any MPs and political parties that wish to continue to spend our money on replacing Trident to get elected.

Video: 4 minutes 15 seconds of Burghfield Lockdown, 2nd March 2015. Featuring Angie Zelter.

Replacing Britain's nuclear arsenal is completely unnecessary and would be hugely expensive (estimates are that it will cost £130 billion if it goes ahead), at a time of drastic budget cuts to other services, such as health, education, social and disability services, that are vital for people's real security.

People do have the power to stop this terrible waste of resources, it is not a 'done deal', but only if we work together and act visibly over and over again saying "No" to Trident. Active disruption of the ongoing work at Burghfield and Aldermaston is an essential part of this resistance.

Time to ditch our imperial hangover

Britain clings to nuclear weapons as part of an imperialist legacy based on 'punching above our weight' internationally. This mentality means that UK governments spend a higher proportion of public money on military equipment than almost all equivalent governments do.

It also means that UK governments are far more likely to resort to military action and wars (as illustrated recently in Iraq and Afghanistan) instead of investing in less violent (and more effective) ways to resolve conflicts, help oppressed people and build peace.

Britain's involvement in wars and military interventions from Afghanistan to Iraq to Libya has caused thousands of deaths and injuries and untold misery to people living in those countries and has contributed widely to the growing problems of refugees seeking safety.

These wars have also cost the lives of many servicemen and women and and injured many more. Militarism, including the manufacture, deployment and use of weapons, poisons and endangers our environment.

Video: A fluffy protest against spiky problem. 'Wool Against Weapons', produced by Zoe Broughton, August 2014.

This is particularly true of the nuclear chain: from uranium mining, to uranium and plutonium production, warhead manufacture, testing, nuclear power and waste. Nuclear weapons are linked to every major economic, health, environmental, political and moral issue facing us today.

Trident replacement links directly with our major concerns about the climate, poverty and militarism, and our relationships with the peoples and governments over the whole planet.

ActionAWE is providing a space for people to speak out and act against continuing the madness of the UK threatening mass murder and climate change with nuclear weapons.



Angie Zelter is a campaigner and author on environment and peace issues.

Learn more about ActionAWE.

See also ActionAWE's recent book 'World in Chains' by Angie Zelter.

Also on The Ecologist: Review of 'Here we Stand'.


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