Guest columnist Rev. Peter Kakos: The other earthquake 


Published: 02-16-2023 8:31 PM

As the death toll on the borders of Turkey and Syria surpasses 40,000, millions more reel from the shock, as they are made aware of their loved ones suddenly gone before awaking. Addressing this kind of heartbreaking loss, a geologist once commented in an article in the National Geographic that: “Civilization exists by geological consent, subject to change without notice.”

As the dust of a mountain of rubble settles, is there anything we can salvage, anything redeemable from these now uninhabitable villages? Permit me to suggest four points.

First, it is heartening to see virtually every neighboring and regional nation send crews and resources of all kinds to rescue and aid grieving survivors. Putting aside political and even religious differences, they have rolled up their sleeves to do all they can.

Needless to say, catastrophes of this magnitude strain already limited resources at hand. Should a similar seismic shift occur, God only knows what help would be available. Nonetheless, given this inevitable possibility, we must all remain ever thankful for the impulse to act compassionately, considering all the while that there but for the grace of God go I, as the venerable maxim reminds us.

Second, like Chernobyl in 1986, we are shaken by the rude awakening that any nation with an arsenal of nuclear warheads can by itself also inflict unthinkably monstrous damage, with even a limited barrage of launches, according to an analysis by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Physicians For Social Responsibility, and similar findings of the Union of Concerned Scientists (of Doomsday Clock fame).

Given the global radioactive cloud that would hover over virtually every continent, the actual death of civilization, or omnicide, would only be a matter of time, with no “act of God” clause to blame.

Third, ever thankfully, there is a path to a hopeful future: the U.N.’s Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Since 2017, it has been ratified by over 68 nations, making the manufacture, possession and distribution of these unimaginatively destructive warheads a violation of international law.

Presently nine nations are fully armed, our country and Russia far ahead of the rest. Putin’s recent murmurs of employing them if need be should send a chill up everyone’s spine. Even so, hard as it may be to enforce the treaty, the fact now remains that peacemaker nations have the means at their disposal to put pressure on the nine.

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Fourth, on Jan. 30, our own U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern filed H. Resolution 77, calling upon Congress to take the steps necessary to abide by the treaty, if it cannot see the way formally to ratify it. We applaud him for his brave leadership in a matter an unexaggeratedly hundredfold times worse than the ruinous collapse of southeastern Turkey and bordering Syria, already scarred by ongoing conflict. Please assure Rep. McGovern of your unwavering support!

To paraphrase the insightful geologist: Civilization is on notice about the earthquake whose fault would be ours alone to bear.

The Rev. Peter Kakos lives in Northampton.