Category Archives: nuclear

How One Nuclear Skirmish Could Wreck the Planet

c.f., Nuclear Winter the Human Effects at The Anthropology of Human Survival –
https://13c4.wordpress.com/2006/01/12/the-anthropology-of-human-survival/

http://feeds.wired.com/~r/wiredscience/~3/14yCAzP8Kmk/

WASHINGTON ­ Even a small nuclear exchange could ignite mega-firestorms and wreck the planets atmosphere.

New climatological simulations show 100 Hiroshima-sized nuclear bombs ­ relatively small warheads, compared to the arsenals military superpowers stow today ­ detonated by neighboring countries would destroy more than a quarter of the Earths ozone layer in about two years.

Regions closer to the poles would see even more precipitous drops in the protective gas, which absorbs harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. New York and Sydney, for example, would see declines rivaling the perpetual hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica. And it may take more than six years for the ozone layer to reach half of its former levels.

Researchers described the results during a panel Feb. 18 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, calling it a real bummer that such a localized nuclear war could bring the modern world to its knees.

No, it is not a cure for global climate warming–

We see significantly greater cooling than other studies, perhaps because of ozone loss . Instead of a globally averaged 1.3-degreeCelsius drop, which Robocks atmospheric model produced, its more like 2 degrees. But we both see a 7 percent decrease in global average precipitation in both models. And in our model we see a much greater global average loss of ozone for many years, with even larger losses everywhere outside of the tropics.

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Anthropology in a climate of change, war, and internecine environments 1

[In process]

Background*
Part 1**
Part 2*** [separate post]

* Background

I think there is a need for anthropological perspective in any issue of human existence.

It is a sad irony that the discipline (science) which is most comprehensive and fundamental (science is a human activity and the basic science of human activity is anthropology) has often seemed through its profession association to be narrowly focussed and consequently irrelevant.

Last month, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) accompanied the chairwoman of the Disaster Recovery subcommittee, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) to another hearing, in Anchorage, about the few places in Alaska designated for US Army Corps of Engineers environmental management [sic].

The anthropologists are about to have their annual conference in Washington DC and will be exercised about the U.S. Army recruiting anthropologists (Human Terrain Systems). On the other hand, Barack Obama is hip to Margaret Mead “Obama demonstrated that he understood the reasons why America for decades (think of the Bay of Pigs invasion) has made gravely serious national security decisions based on laughably inaccurate intelligence.”

Meanwhile, none of our western Alaska or Mississippi deltas is taken seriously. “Rush Limbaugh adds Alaskan to polarizing efforts.”

The best the state of Alaska has done so far is issue an official pass to a non-existent mass disease shelter in the region’s pandemic preparedness exercise this year (flu shot clinic).

I think if Governor Palin actually had a scientific advisor to her environmental sub-cabinet especially from rural Alaska or if Landrieu and Stevens could earmark enough funding out of the millions for the Corps mission in Alaska to pay for scientific support for the Unorganized Borough [over half of Alaska’s area, 970,500 km² (374,712 square miles), an area larger than France and Germany combined], this actually would be more effective than the endless photo-op and news stories about polar bears without ice.

How do we bring attention to the need for comprehensive analysis, assessment, and action on environmental change? No one would think of building a levee without an engineer, why are we doing relocation and reconstruction of communities — in Alaska and Louisiana / Mississippi — without a human scientist / human ecologist (anthropologist)?

[This analogy would work better if I didn’t already know that someone in DC thought of managing emergencies with a horse show announcer.] At the very least we need to aggregate the existing knowledge that we know full well must be included, whether for a northern or a southern delta.

It may not be a direct plus for NOLA– my records precede Katrina and I read Voices of New Orleans. If all the people and power and money there can’t get trailers that the Feds are allowed to inspect — but I think the imaginative scale in Alaska would be easier to actually test many of these concepts and approaches.

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regional nuclear war climate change?

In 1985 I put together a panel of scientific experts to identify what the human effects of a nuclear weapons exchange might mean (as far as I know, still the only such report) and then assisted in the discussion in New Zealand.

I moved from the antipodes to the antipodes.

Star Wars or the Strategic Defense Initiative of the Reagan era moved north to Alaska (“north to the future” or the last gasp of yesterday?)

Missile defense system alters an outpost
Four years after President Bush ordered a limited missile defense system to be built and nearly a quarter century after Ronald Reagan first proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative, this sub-Arctic outpost, once a Cold War training site and still a cold-weather training site, is where progress on the long-embattled missile system is perhaps most evident, military officials say….

Eleven interceptor missiles are installed in underground silos here, buried beneath the snow and a former forest of black spruce. This summer, when North Korea signaled that it planned to fire an intercontinental ballistic missile, Fort Greely, which has never fired a test missile, was put on alert status, ostensibly ready to respond if necessary….

Fort Greely’s missile defense system has not been declared fully operational.

Even as questions persist about capability, the missile defense program is pushing forward at a cost of at least $9 billion a year…. Fort Greely is better situated to interrupt the likely flight path of a missile from Asia or the Middle East….

As noted previously, southwestern Alaska and the Aleutians are the (only) areas of the USA which are within range of missiles which might be tipped with the newest set of nuclear weapons.

Two updated research reports on the global effect of even a regional nuclear weapon explosion or exchange has been released. The original report was known as the TTAPS report, after the initials of its authors. The climatic effects were known then as Nuclear Winter. Two of those authors contribute to this newest modelling report. The first set of references below are to the three, slightly different press releases. Below them are how these press releases were followed up by the news media.

Like all models (even our own idea of how winter should progress each year) they are only good as predictors as our assumptions. However, most models, like our idea of winter weather, are designed to help us plan and be ready; to see the larger picture; to play experiment beyond our imagination. Modelling in the natural world isn’t causative; doesn’t cause the event to happen just because we think about it [despite what some academics believe.]

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Regional nuclear war would trigger mass death, devastating climate change

Even a small-scale regional nuclear war could produce as many fatalities as all of World War II, disrupt the global climate for a decade or more and impact nearly every person on Earth, according to two new studies by University of Colorado at Boulder, Rutgers University and University of California, Los Angeles researchers.

Presented at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco Dec. 11 and published Nov. 22 in the online journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions, the two studies represent the first quantitative assessment of the consequences of a nuclear conflict between small or emerging nuclear powers, said CU-Boulder Professor Owen “Brian” Toon. Toon led the studies, working with UCLA Professor Richard Turco, Rutgers professors Alan Robock and Georgiy Stenchikov, CU-Boulder doctoral student Charles Bardeen and former Rutgers student Luke Oman, now a postdoctoral researcher at Johns Hopkins University.

“Considering the relatively small number and yields of the weapons, the potential devastation would be catastrophic and long term,” said Toon, chair of CU-Boulder’s atmospheric and oceanic sciences department….

The results represent the first comprehensive analysis of the consequences of a nuclear conflict between smaller nuclear states, said Toon, who noted even the smallest nuclear powers today likely have 50 or more Hiroshima-sized weapons. In addition, about 40 countries possess enough plutonium, uranium or a combination of both to construct substantial nuclear arsenals. “A small country is likely to direct its weapons against population centers to maximize damage and achieve the greatest advantage,” Toon said….

The second paper, titled “Climatic Consequences of Regional Nuclear Conflicts,” looks at the effects of the smoke produced in a regional war between two opposing nations in the subtropics, said lead author Robock. The researchers modeled the effects on each country using 50 Hiroshima-sized nuclear weapons to attack the most populated urban areas of an enemy nation.

Because of the complexity of the problem and limited amount of data available, the research team assessed uncertainty factors at each step in their analysis and emphasized further research is needed to improve the paper’s predictions.

Regional nuclear war could devastate global climate

NEW BRUNSWICK/PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Even a small-scale, regional nuclear war could produce as many direct fatalities as all of World War II and disrupt the global climate for a decade or more, with environmental effects that could be devastating for everyone on Earth, university researchers have found.

As in the case with earlier nuclear winter calculations, large climatic effects would occur in regions far removed from the target areas or the countries involved in the conflict.

When Robock and his team applied their climate model to calibrate the recorded response to the 1912 eruptions of Katmai volcano in Alaska, they found that observed temperature anomalies were accurately reproduced.

The papers are: “Atmospheric Effects and Societal Consequences of Regional Scale Nuclear Conflicts and Acts of Individual Terrorism,” O. B. Toon, R. P. Turco, A. Robock, C. Bardeen, L. Oman and G. L. Stenchikov, and “Climatic Consequences of Regional Nuclear Conflicts,” A. Robock. L. Oman, G. L. Stenchikov, O. B. Toon, C. Bardeen and R. P. Turco.

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Regional nuclear war could spark climate change

12 Dec 2006 Source: Reuters, By Adam Tanner

SAN FRANCISCO, Dec 11 (Reuters) – New scientific modeling shows that a regional nuclear conflict between countries such as India and Pakistan could spark devastating climate changes worldwide, a team of researchers said on Monday.

“We are at a perilous crossroads,” said Owen Toon of the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences. “The current combination of nuclear proliferation, political instability and urban demographics form perhaps the greatest danger to the stability of society since the dawn of humanity.”

Toon was one of the scientists who warned in the 1980s of a “nuclear winter” should the United States and Soviet Union engage in a nuclear conflict.

The demise of the Soviet Union has reduced such a threat, but using supercomputing analysis not available two decades ago, the team calculated a devastating impact from the exchange of 100 nuclear weapons — an amount they said represented the potential of India and Pakistan….

“This is not a solution to global warming because you have to look at the devastating climate changes,” said Alan Robock of the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers, who has studied the impact of climatic change from regional nuclear war.

“The main point here is that while most people think that we are on a path of reduced probability of war with the build down of the superpowers and we are on a trend toward a peaceful century, we actually have the opposite situation going on.”…

Scientists say even a regional nuclear war could do severe environmental damage

(2 comments; last comment posted Today 04:26 pm) By ALICIA CHANG | Associated Press, December 11, 2006
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) – Some of the scientists who first advanced the controversial “nuclear winter” theory more than two decades ago have come up with another bleak forecast: Even a regional nuclear war would devastate the environment…. Using modern climate and population models…

Some climate experts not connected with the research questioned some of the assumptions made in the studies.

For example, the studies assume that smoke is mostly made up of soot. But other organic particles could cause smoke to scatter and not stay aloft in the atmosphere as long, lessening the impact…

The late astronomer Carl Sagan and four colleagues developed the nuclear winter theory…

The cooldown would shorten the growing season by about a month in parts of North America, Europe and Asia. Normal rainfall patterns such as summer monsoons in Africa and Southeast Asia would be disrupted, possibly causing huge crop failures.

In addition, the ozone layer, which keeps out harmful ultraviolet radiation, would shrink more than 20 percent, with the poles seeing a 70 percent reduction.

Small nuclear conflict could affect globe, report says

By John Johnson Jr., Times Staff Writer, December 12, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO — Even a small nuclear conflict could have catastrophic environmental and societal consequences, extending the death toll far beyond the number of people killed directly by bombs, according to the first comprehensive climatic analysis of a regional nuclear war…

While a small nuclear exchange might not trigger a life-ending “nuclear winter,” it could cause as much death as was once predicted for a nuclear war … “These results are quite surprising,” Toon said…. Regional nuclear conflicts “can endanger entire populations” the way it was once thought only worldwide conflict could…

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There are other papers, too at the “ACPD – Papers in Open Discussion”, including one on Asian dust composition (which also reaches southwest Alaska

American Geophysical Union


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New Zealand after Nuclear War

Anthropological Aspects of “New Zealand after Nuclear War” [1987-1988]

Comments on the findings of the book, NZ after NW, are due to the Minister of the Environment by 27 November 1987. Written ideas for an anthropological submission to the Ministry are needed by 5 November to M. Pamela Bumsted.

References and background material are located in the Piddington library, main library, or UGRR.

At the Women and Anthropology Group open meeting three reasons were identified for including anthropology in policy discussions

  • we have resources and expertise to help develop the vocabulary and appropriate context for consideration of this topic by the public
  • we have specific information on how humans adapt or fail to cope, especially relevant to New Zealand (and the Pacific)
  • we should raise issues relevant to expertise from other disciplines which we feel are important (e.g., ethics of emigration and immigration policy)

Continue reading

The Anthropology of Human Survival

Originally (1985) the discussion focussed on Nuclear Winter. But the basics of what it means to be human are relevant to tsunamis, earthquakes, and hurricanes among other tragedies. The late 20th century as in the late 14th century (and in the 20 centuries before then) saw entire communities of people massacred by their neighbors. Such catastrophes continue into the 21st century. Yet we continue. What can we learn?

NucWinter cover

Preface

This document records the only exposition of Nuclear Winter that focuses explicitly on humans. We consider our discussions beginnings, not conclusions, to an anthropological assessment of Nuclear Winter. The arguments are based on our existing knowledge of human systems. Thus, the inferences we draw and the degree of impact are not dependent on the outcome of any particular model of Nuclear Winter. The impetus for organizing this panel session came from a resolution against nuclear war that was considered by the 1984 American Anthropological Association annual meetings. My own, very strong reaction was that anthropology should go further—should be actively and effectively involved and should explicate the effects of Nuclear Winters physical reality on human relations. Without participation by anthropologists, the world can realize only a small part of the human costs of nuclear weapons use.

My reaction stemmed from these significant aspects of my studies.

  • Findings from studies of earlier populations must be accessible to and understood by contemporary society. Without such necessary knowledge, we will never have a fundamental understanding of human biology … nor a greater understanding of social change.
  • The people I live and work with at Los Alamos National Laboratory are real people, with the same dreams and fears all humans experience. Among other tasks, the Laboratory has a responsibility mandated by law and by heritage to provide the best scientific and technical advice possible pertaining to nuclear weapons and their effects. Encouragement of diverse basic and applied research, including the anthropology of the long-term consequences of nuclear weapons use, is part of that responsibility.
NUCLEAR WINTER: THE ANTHROPOLOGY OF HUMAN SURVIVAL
Proceedings of a session at the 84th annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association, December 6, 1985, Washington, DC
M. Pamela Bumsted, Organizer

SUBJECT GUIDE
Note to Readers iii
Preface iv
Subject Guide v
Panelists vii
Introduction 1

Jones: Definition of Nuclear Winter 5
Patterns of smoke distribution
Factors considered in predicting temperature changes
Reality of Nuclear Winter as cause of temperature decrease

Dirks: Long-term effects of famine on human societies 11
Reduction of crop yields leading to starvation
Social and cultural effects of scars of hunger
Child-parent relationships
Patterns of and attitudes toward eating
Increased male dominance and male/female distancing

[Audience: What the hell…! Talking about the unthinkable makes it inevitable!]

Armelagos: Biological consequences of Nuclear Winter 23
Absurdity of government plans for survival
Impact of nuclear attack on health patterns
Alteration of immune system Infectious disease increase, radiation effects
Psychological stress and genetic damage
Effect on Southern Hemisphere of incapacities of Northern Hemisphere

[Audience: Anthropological discussion of current issues commended and criticized.]

Bateson: Reasons for discussion and study of Nuclear Winter 31
Need to disseminate information about Nuclear Winter
Obligation of anthropologists to carry such discussion forward
Fantasies and realities of life after nuclear war
Task of anthropologists to provide a modeling of human relations to parallel the climatic model of the physical sciences

[Audience: We should question our political conditioning.]

Nader: Discussion of Nuclear Winter seen as ritual talk 39
Need for anthropologists to examine the consequences of Nuclear Winter in order to counter current fantasies
No model available for life after Nuclear Winter
Recognition that the most important decisions are made by a very few people
Need to de-isolate the experts and specialists

Audience/Panel Discussion 45
Notes 61
Figures 63
References cited and recommended reading 81

References Cited and Recommended Reading

1) Abrams, H. L. and W. E. VonKaenel 1981 Medical Problems of Survivors of Nuclear War. New England Journal of Medicine 305:1226-1332.

2) Armelagos, George J. and Elizabeth Schueler 1985 Biological Consequences of Nuclear Winter. Amherst: University of Massachusetts. [Copies of the complete paper are available from the authors.]

3) Bee, Ronald J., Carl B. Feldbaum, Banning N. Garrett, and Bonnie S. Glaser 1985 Implications of the Nuclear Winter Thesis. Prepared by the Palomar Corporation for the Defense Nuclear Agency Contract #001-84-C-0257 (June 24). [Contains an extensive bibliography of scientific and general news media literature. The Defense Nuclear Agency (DNA) is a go-between for Department of Energy and Department of Defense on research aspects of nuclear defense.]

4) Broad, William J. 1985 Star Warriors. NY: Simon and Schuster.

5) Carrier, George F. 1985 The State of the Science: Nuclear Winter. Issues in Science and Technology. Winter: 114-117.

6) Crutzen, P. J. and J. W. Birks 1982 The Atmosphere after a Nuclear War: Twilight at Noon. AMBIO 11 (June): 114-125. [Also in Peterson 1983]

7) Dirks, Robert 1980 Social Responses during Severe Food Shortages and Famine. Current Anthropology 21:21-32.

8 ) Emergency Planning Digest 1985 Nuclear Winter and Associated Effects: The Royal Society Report. Response of the Government of Canada. Emergency Planning Digest (of Emergency Planning Canada, Ottawa, Ontario) 12(3): 2-11.

9) Fried, Morton, Marvin Harris, and Robert Murphy, eds. 1968 War: The Anthropology of Armed Conflict and Aggression. Garden City, NY: The Natural History Press. [Based upon the plenary session, 66th annual meeting, American Anthropological Association, November 30, 1967, Washington, DC.]

10) Harlow, Harry F. 1959 Love in Infant Monkeys. Scientific American 200(6): 68-74.

11) Harwell, Mark A. 1984 Nuclear Winter: The Human and Environmental Consequences of Nuclear War. NY: Springer-Verlag.

12) Harwell, Mark A., Thomas C. Hutchinson, Wendell P. Cropper, Jr., Christine C. Harwell, and Herbert D. Grover 1986 Environmental Consequences of Nuclear War: Vol. II. Ecological, Agricultural, and Human Effects. NY: John Wiley & Sons. [Harwell et al. 1986 and Pittock et al. 1986 are known as the SCOPE Report (Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment) of the International Council of Scientific Unions (ICSU).]

13) Heizer, Robert F. 1974 The Destruction of the California Indians. Santa Barbara, CA: Pregrine Smith.

14) Heizer, Robert F. n.d. The New Orleans Paper. unpublished ms.

15) Jones, Eric M. and Robert C. Malone 1985 An Overview of Climatic Effects of Nuclear Winter. Los Alamos National Laboratory document LA-UR-85-2686. [Available from the authors.]

16) Kroeber, Theodora 1961 Ishi in Two Worlds: A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America. Berkeley: University of California Press.

17) Laughlin, C. and I. Brady 1978 Extinction and Survival in Human Populations. NY: Columbia University Press.

18) Leaning, J. and L. Keys 1984 The Counterfeit Ark. Cambridge: Ballinger.

19) Malinowski, Bronislaw 1922 Argonauts of the Western Pacific. (1984 Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, Inc.)

20) Malone, Robert C., Lawrence H. Auer, Gary A. Glatzmaier, Michael C. Wood, and Owen B. Toon 1985 Influence of Solar Heating and Precipitation Scavenging on the Simulated Lifetime of Post-Nuclear War Smoke. Science 230:317-319.

Malone, Robert C., Lawrence H. Auer, Gary A. Glatzmaier, Michael C. Wood, and Owen B. Toon 1986 Nuclear Winter: Three-Dimensional Simulations Including Interactive Transport, Scavenging, and Solar Heating of Smoke. Journal of Geophysical Research 9(D1): 1039-1053.

21) May, Michael M., Albert Gore, Jr., George W. Rathjens, Ronald H. Siegel, Theodore A. Postol, and Richard L. Wagner, Jr. 1985 Strategic Significance: Commentaries. InNuclear Winter. Issues in Science and Technology. Winter: 118-133.

22) Nader, Laura, et al. 1980 Energy Choices in a Democratic Society. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

23) Naroll, R., G. Michik, and F. Naroll 1976 Worldwide Theory Testing. New Haven, CT: Human Relations Area Files.

24) National Research Council 1985 The Effects on the Atmosphere of a Major Nuclear Exchange. Washington, DC: National Academy Press. [Also known as the Carrier committee report.]

25) Peterson, Jeannie, ed. 1983 The Aftermath: The Human and Ecological Consequences of Nuclear War. NY: Pantheon Books. [Based on a special issue of AMBIO 1982 11(2-3), published by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.]

26) Pittock, A. Barrie, Thomas P. Ackerman, Paul J. Crutzen, Michael C. MacCracken, Charles S. Shapiro, and Richard P. Turco 1986 Environmental Consequences of Nuclear War: Vol. I. Physical and Atmospheric Effects. NY: John Wiley & Sons.

27) Powers, Thomas 1984 Nuclear Winter and Nuclear Strategy. Atlantic. November: 53-64.

28) Scheer, Robert 1982 Americans Would Not Be Helpless: U.S. Could Survive War in Administration’s View. Los Angeles Times, January 16. Reprinted in Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Arms Control, Oceans, International Operations and Environment of the Committee on Foreign Relations, United States Senate, Ninety-Seventh Congress, Second Session, March 16 and 31, 1982. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.

29) Sparks, Brad 1985 The Scandal of Nuclear Winter. National Review November 15:28ff.

30) Turco, Richard P., Owen B. Toon, Thomas P. Ackerman, James B. Pollack, and Carl Sagan 1983 Nuclear Winter: Global Consequences of Multiple Nuclear Explosions. Science 222:1283-1292. [Also known as the TTAPS Report.]

31) Turco, Richard P., Owen B. Toon, Thomas P. Ackerman, James B. Pollack, and Carl Sagan 1984 The Climatic Effects of Nuclear War. Scientific American 251(2): 33-43. [Written by TTAPS.]

32) Turnbull, Colin 1972 The Mountain People. NY: Simon and Schuster.

33) Weinberger, Casper W. 1985 The Potential Effects of Nuclear War on the Climate: A Report to the United States Congress. March.

34) Weisner, J. 1984 Introduction. In Leaning and Keys 1984: xiii.

35) Willens, Harold 1984 The Trimtab Factor: How Business Executives Can Help Solve the Nuclear Weapons Crisis. NY: Morrow, William, and Co., Inc.

36) Wolf, Eric A. 1980 They Divide and Subdivide and Call it Anthropology. N.Y. Times Sunday, November 30.

37) Woolsey, R. James 1984 Nuclear Arms: Ethics, Strategy, Politics. San Francisco: Institute for Contemporary Studies.

Introduction
This is session 2-002 of the American Anthropological Associations annual meetings. This session is hosted by the AAA Program Board and by the Biological and General Anthropology Sections. I’m Pamela Bumsted, organizer for a panel-audience discussion of the long-term consequences of nuclear winter on human existence.

Our purpose in today’s discussion is to stimulate anthropology’s contributions to the scientific issues of Nuclear Winter. Over the past 40 years, the immediate and local effects of nuclear weapons have been documented. These effects are simply awful. Recently, the term Nuclear Winter has been coined for the global climatic effects following nuclear weapon exchange. … we will have a synopsis of the latest climate models shortly.

There will, of course, be secondary impacts from a Nuclear Winter that will affect humans. Long-term environmental consequences are under current examination by groups such as the Institute of Medicine, Swedish Academy of Sciences, and SCOPE, or the Scientific Committee on Problems of the Environment. [see Recommended Reading] The focus of these studies has tended to be on the non-human environment, although consequent trophic level effects such as agricultural sufficiency, fuel, and communication have been mentioned. However, effects have been evaluated for only some segments of human society, such as economics.

There has yet to be a holistic examination of human consequences, one which would account for interactions within the human system. We do not yet have an examination which is broad enough in scope to assess effects on nonindustrialized societies.

Anthropologists have generally not participated in the scientific and technical issues of nuclear war and nuclear peace. We are not usually part of the institutional communities or other sciences which are involved. Additionally, our research results and conclusions tend not to be oriented to other communities or to broader issues.

I believe anthropology can contribute its expertise concerning the cultural and biological adaptability of humans. We can point out the comprehensive nature and evolution of human existence. It is important that the consequences of a nuclear exchange not be underestimated nor made unrealistic. For example, we know that Nuclear Winter, to whatever magnitude, will not mean a return to the Dark Ages, as one economic researcher has said. We cannot just go back to some mythic Rousseauan past and start over. We cannot comfort the survivalists who may think Nuclear Winter is a 5-year camping trip. We know that human existence is more than the minimum daily allowance of food, water, and shelter from the elements (radioactive and otherwise).

Can we today begin to define some of these components of human existence? How will they be affected after a Nuclear Winter? Would a world after Nuclear Winter be like anything in our past 6 million years, or is it entirely new?

….Today’s discussion will not deal with the immediate consequences of Nuclear Winter nor with the effects of nuclear weapons, themselves. The technical issue or the physical models of Nuclear Winter are not the topic of discussion….

The strategic role of Nuclear Winter is more appropriately discussed elsewhere. Although for purposes of discussion we will assume there are survivors of Nuclear Winter, our purpose today is not to predict the outcome of a nuclear exchange. We will not predict the likelihood nor the how-to of surviving a Nuclear Winter.

….I hope the session could summarize some of the components of human existence that should be systematically examined in studies of Nuclear Winter, and secondly, point out where our existing knowledge of human patterns is weak or absent and needs directed research. Finally, I hope an anthropological perspective of the issues can remind ourselves and the rest of the public what is at risk in a nuclear exchange—for human existence is far more colorful, complex, and worthwhile than any two-dimensional crayon drawing can suggest. *

    *The Peace Shield ad, run on Washington, DC, television stations in early November 1985 portrays the complexities of the scientific and policy issues involved in the Strategic Defense Initiative (Star Wars) in a 30-second animated child’s drawing. The commercial is summarized in Ellen Goodman’s column (The Crayola Defense, Boston Globe, November 5, 1985), described by Lloyd Grove (The Star Wars Soft Sell, Washington Post, November 4, 1985) and by John J. Fialka (Combative General is a political Godfather of Star Wars Plan,Wall Street Journal, November 12, 1985), and parodied by Herblock (Washington Post, November 8, 1985) and Gary Trudeau (Doonesbury, November 22, 1985)

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Published as LA-UR-86-370 Nuclear winter — the anthropology of human survival: proceedings of a session at the 84th Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association, December 6, 1985 3.6MB


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