The explosion was
1,500 times more powerful than those which
destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined, and ten
times more powerful than all munitions detonated
during the entirety of World War Two. Its mushroom
cloud was 42 miles high, over seven times the height
of Mount Everest. It was 59 miles wide. It
yielded 50 megatons, but could have been rigged
to yield twice as much with technology that was
available at the time.
The footage is a sight to behold, and serves as a
sobering reminder that not only have we been living
on the same planet as these horrible things for many
generations, but the only reason any of us are still
around is by sheer dumb luck. We’ve come inches away
from total nuclear war not once,
times during the last cold war due to
miscommunications and technical malfunctions, which
could have easily gone the other way if things had
been just a tiny bit different.
And now America is heading into rapidly
escalating new cold war tensions with not
two nuclear-armed nations, and flirting with
armageddon hasn’t gotten one iota safer. People like
to think of nuclear standoffs as the leaders of
nuclear-armed nations each hovering a finger over
“the button”, but in reality
there are thousands of individuals in the world
who have the ability to independently start a
nuclear war, any one of whom could easily do so
because of confusion, miscommunication, or other
unforeseen circumstances amid heightening tensions.
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Nuclear brinkmanship has so very, very many
moving parts, with so very, very many things that
could go wrong. It’s an impossible situation to
retain control of.
report published in the journal Earth’s
Future found that it would only take the
detonation of 100 nuclear warheads to throw 5
teragrams of black soot into the earth’s
stratosphere for decades, blocking out the sun and
making the photosynthesis of plants impossible. This
could easily starve every terrestrial organism to
death that didn’t die of radiation or climate chaos
first. China has hundreds of nuclear weapons; Russia
and the United States
We are in trouble. The only reason we don’t
realize it is because Anderson Cooper and Chris
Wallace aren’t telling us we’re in trouble on a
daily basis like they would be doing if mainstream
journalism existed. We’re in at least as much
trouble as in 1961; we just think we’re safer
because we got lucky during the last cold war.
With that in mind, I’d like to offer a thought
Imagine you feel a tremor right now and go to
look out the window, and you see a mushroom cloud
growing on the horizon.
Really try to imagine what that would be like,
just for the moment.
Really put yourself there, and at your own pace
go through the following questions:
What are you feeling?
Where’s the first place your mind goes?
How are you feeling about your loved ones?
Are you happy with how much time you’ve been
spending with them lately?
Are you happy with how you’ve been treating them?
Are you satisfied with how you’ve been living
Would you say that your priorities have been
where they should have been?
Over the last month, have you been spending all
your time and mental energy in a way that you now
Have you been spending your time and mental
energy in the way you would have been spending it if
you’d been mindful of the fact that a nuclear war
could erupt at any moment?
Because–and this is the end of the thought
experiment–a nuclear war could erupt at any
It is important to reckon with this fact. Living
on the same planet as armageddon weapons and a
global contract of mutually assured destruction
should be something that you are acutely aware of,
and something you have grappled with on an
existential level to the fullest extent possible.
Because it threatens your life, and the life of
everyone you know, in every second that ticks by.
You should be aware of this, and that awareness
should change you. It should change the way you
live. It should change the way you spend your time
and your mental energy. Because you are not
guaranteed a single second beyond the one you are
reading this sentence in.
Failing to grapple with the reality that nuclear
annihilation is hovering over our heads at every
instant is the same as failing to grapple with the
existential realities of your own mortality. It is
that personally relevant to you. It’s as negligent
as failing to reckon with your childhood traumas or
your place in the universe. If you haven’t truly
contemplated the reality of nuclear standoff even as
the empire you inhabit hurls itself into new cold
war escalations, you aren’t being real with yourself
This is about you. Personally. As much as
anything else in your life is about you. Because it
has every ability to end your life and everything in
it at any time.
Ignoring this reality is as absurd as ignoring a
stranger following you around with a gun to your
head every moment of your life. If you feel like
another thought experiment, put yourself in that
situation for a minute, because it’s the same as
what’s happening now. Only difference is if that gun
goes off, it doesn’t just kill you. It kills
Pursue a life of excellence and live each moment
like it could be your last, because of course it
could. And above all make sure you do everything in
your power to raise awareness and oppose the
insanity of the situation we now find ourselves in.
If God forbid we ever do see that mushroom cloud out
our window, we want to at the very least be able to
say we did everything we could, and we made the most
of the time we had here.
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