Nuclear Disarmament and the Anthropocene
Voices from Pacific Island Countries

Nuclear Disarmament and the Anthropocene

Humans are altering the Earth system in unprecedented ways, affecting its climate, geosphere, biosphere, and biodiversity. Recent studies have marked the beginning of the Anthropocene, this epoch of human-driven changes to Earth’s very chemistry and geology, with the Trinity Test of 1945 and the spread of radioactive fallout from hundreds of subsequent nuclear weapons tests. The Pacific has suffered an unproportionate burden from these changes. The communities there must be heard.

Why Pacific Island Countries?

From 1946 until 1996, over 315 nuclear tests were conducted in the Central and South Pacific, and Australia. This included atomic, hydrogen, atmospheric and underground tests. Radioactive fallout contaminated uninhabited islands and spread through the ocean and winds. Underground testing contaminated the marine environment. Island residents and their descendants have been dealing with the health consequences ever since.

The peoples of the Pacific Island countries are severely impacted by the Anthropocene. Pacific Islanders are still grappling with the repercussions of fifty years of nuclear weapons testing. They are extremely vulnerable to global climate change, including from droughts and water scarcity, typhoons and flooding, rising sea temperatures, and other anthropogenic-induced environmental changes.

It’s time for the people impacted by these changes the most to be heard.

The voices and views of the Pacific people have been marginalized in global nuclear policy debates. The concerns and perspectives of Pacific Island countries and the region’s Indigenous communities need to be articulated more widely. This discussion requires perspectives by those on the front line: those who suffer the ongoing consequences of nuclear weapons testing and mounting risks from climate change, and who can highlight the immorality and injustice of policies that perpetuate nuclear threats and privilege military spending above human and environmental priorities.

APLN is asking communities of the Pacific Islands to share their experiences and concerns –through creative expression in art, literature, film, and more – on the relationship between the Anthropocene, climate crisis, the legacy of nuclear weapons testing in the Pacific, and contemporary nuclear weapons policies and practices, including the ethical dimensions. We’re seeking to work with individuals, organizations, and civil society groups across the Pacific Islands to spark a broader dialogue on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, by amplifying the voices from the Pacific Island countries, perspectives that have been left out of this conversation for far too long 

The project aims to:

  • Elevate and empower voices from the Pacific, including marginalized groups, by providing a platform for them to draw international attention to the injustices and inequities inherent in the Anthropocene;
  • Raise global awareness of the shared responsibility and available tools to address human and environmental security challenges in the Pacific Islands; and
  • Highlight the illogic and injustice of channeling resources into weapons programs that directly and indirectly exacerbate existential risks, including climate change.

The main project activities include:

1. Pacific Islands Creative Competition – an open call to individuals, educational institutions, NGOs, and community groups in Pacific Island countries to submit oral and written essays on the theme of “Nuclear Weapons and the Climate Crisis” and award prize money to contest winners.

2. Voices from the Pacific Island Countries – a forum to connect the project contributors and to facilitate engagement with other members of the wider network across the region and globally.

3. Events – virtual and in-person events where winners of the Pacific Islands Creative Competition can share their winning entries and discuss challenges related to the Anthropocene.

4. Publicationstimely, compelling, and policy-relevant publications that resonate with a diverse audience, including winning submissions from the creative competition. 

This project is sponsored by the Ploughshares Fund, through its diversity and equity initiative, Equity Rises, which seeks to identify and foster transformational ideas, encourage experimentation, and support a stronger and more diverse pipeline of leaders who are new in their careers or to the nuclear field.

For more information about the project, please contact:

    Elaine Natalie, Policy Fellow, APLN                 Tanvi Kulkarni, Policy Fellow, APLN