Editorial: Monday mix on Nobel Peace Prize; school garden; ‘hurricane kitties’

  • Ira Helfand FILE PHOTO

Published: 10/15/2017 11:42:38 PM

Sharing in a Nobel Peace Prize was not new for Dr. Ira Helfand of Leeds when it was announced Oct. 6 that the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) had won this year’s award. Helfand is co-president of the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, which was awarded the Peace Prize in 1985.

The latest recognition is a testament to Helfand’s commitment to warning about the dangers of nuclear weapons and working to curb their proliferation. But the awards 32 years apart show that much work needs to be done to rid the world of the nuclear threat.

Helfand believes the danger of nuclear war is at its greatest since the early 1980s. “This helps to emphasize to people how critically important it is to eliminate nuclear weapons from the world’s arsenal,” he says of the attention drawn by the Peace Prize.

The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War established ICAN seven years ago. Helfand, a doctor at the Family Care Medical Center in Springfield, is a member of the campaign’s steering committee. He was at the United Nations in New York City on Sept. 20 when 50 countries signed the landmark Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

The treaty for now only prevents the spread of nuclear weapons because the current nuclear powers — the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, Israel, China, India, Pakistan and North Korea — have not joined.

“This prize is really a tribute to the tireless efforts of many millions of campaigners and concerned citizens worldwide who have, ever since the dawn of the Atomic Age, loudly protested nuclear weapons, insisting that they serve no legitimate purpose and must be forever banished from the face of our Earth,” said Beatrice Finn, executive director of ICAN, a coalition of 468 nongovernmental groups from more than 100 countries.

Among those tireless campaigners is Helfand, who has written a report titled “Nuclear Famine: Two Billion at Risk?” examining the impact of even limited nuclear war. It suggests a “catastrophic worldwide climate disruption and global famine” because of the soot released to the atmosphere.

We hope that the efforts of Helfand and hundreds of other activists involved in ICAN distances the world from the possibility of that grim outcome.

* * *

The Jackson Street School garden project shows that a little seed money can blossom into a terrific learning experience.

Starting in 2009, the school received three consecutive $3,000 annual grants from the Northampton Education Foundation to pay for a consultant from School Sprouts Educational Gardens that designs teaching gardens in the Valley. The Jackson Street School students grow flowers and many vegetables.

Their gardening season traditionally has ended with the school’s Harvest Festival, which this year is Oct. 19. However, it will be extended now that parent volunteers have built a greenhouse next to the garden.

“Jackson Street always maintains a strong connection with the outside world, so the greenhouse is about strengthening that bond,” says Michael Charland-Tait, one of the parent volunteers. “It’s also about recognizing that Northampton is surrounded by farmlands and there should be a strong connection between that and the schools.”

And it demonstrates that at the Jackson Street School, the classrooms are not just inside the building.

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Hurricane Maria’s devastating impact on Puerto Rico has left many animals, in addition to people, in need of help. The Dakin Humane Society has stepped up to find new homes for some of those displaced pets, as it did after hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit the mainland.

Last week, two “hurricane kitties,” Flan and Gus, were up for adoption at Dakin’s center on Montague Road in Leverett. They were among the 18 adoptable dogs and cats Dakin staff retrieved from a plane load of animals flown to New Jersey.

“There are no state lines during a disaster,”says Carmine DiCenso, executive director of Dakin, which also has an adoption center in Springfield. “We work together as one for the best possible outcome.

“Before the storms hit, we already had many animals in our adoption centers, and over the past six weeks we have taken in another 83 dogs and cats from parts of Texas, South Carolina, and now Puerto Rico.”

Anyone interested in adopting an animal may contact Dakin by visiting its website at www.dakinhumane.org or calling 413-548-9898.

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