WPSR President's Update September 2016

There are two – and only two – issues that threaten all life on the planet: climate change and a nuclear exchange. These are, therefore, the two main issues that WPSR and our cadre of health professionals and other members are working to avoid.

We are not bit players on either issue. WPSR has emerged to play strategic roles on both issues. This is a consequence of the mission we have defined and the value-driven commitment from both our leaders and our members, now over 800 strong in WA. Allow me to elaborate.

We all recognize that a warming planet is already producing serious health problems, both regionally and globally. Climate scientists have determined that at least 75% of the known fossil fuel reserves need to remain in the ground if we hope to prevent a tipping point. WPSR is fully engaged in reaching that goal regionally by working collaboratively to enforce the “thin green line” (to quote Sightline Institute) between massive coal deposits (Wyoming and Montana) and Bakken crude oil (North Dakota) and shipping terminals for export on the West Coast. As part of a sophisticated alliance of community and advocacy organizations, WPSR is the leading WA health voice empowering local communities and policy makers to stop the construction of these facilities, thereby preventing the burning of these carbon fuels.

The results so far have been astounding and unprecedented. In spite of the immense power of the fossil fuel industries, six of six proposals for new terminals have been defeated to date. This is nothing short of amazing. The health risks from these export terminals and related transport – together with their inevitable contributions to health problems from further climate change – have been core arguments in stopping their construction. WPSR has led the effort to highlight these health risks. Our role in this strategic campaign illustrates that we are not playing at the margins. We are effectively engaged at the deepest levels to combat the plans contributing to climate change in our region.

On the issue of nuclear weapons, enlightened analysts argue that the risk of a major nuclear exchange is greater now than at the peak of the Cold War. Partly this is because more countries house nuclear weapons, but also because the risks from rogue nations and terrorists complicate the supposed logic of two-nation “deterrence.” The policies of the major nuclear nations are stuck in the sclerotic and unexamined hair-trigger positions of the 50-year Cold War.

The new and sobering wrinkle, however, is that the President and Congress are moving ahead with proposals to “modernize” our entire nuclear arsenal – the triad of intercontinental ballistic missiles, submarines, and bombers – at a projected cost of $1 trillion over the next 30 years. If these dangerous, illegal, financially irresponsible and immoral proposals are not stopped, the U.S. and other nations involved in this new nuclear arms race will put the world at risk of annihilation for decades to come.

WPSR, with our cadre of members who are experts on nuclear issues and still fervently involved with them, has taken a strategic position that “modernization” must be stopped. We have expanded our nuclear weapons task force, met with WA members of Congress to urge opposition, put new resources into rebuilding a Northwest coalition of organizations to pressure our members of Congress, and successfully argued that national PSR step up its work to defeat these proposals. Further, recognizing that the three West Coast states have some of the most progressive members of Congress, we are leading a 3-state, 5-chapter campaign to enlist Congressional “champions” against the modernization. It is arguable that our chapter has the strongest capacity of any of the 20-plus PSR chapters on this issue, and our leadership is recognized and appreciated by our national organization and by other peace, faith, labor, and advocacy organizations in the Northwest.

I have felt I was overdue bringing our members up to date on our strategic program work. Our current leadership team is truly remarkable. It is a pleasure for me to report this and to acknowledge the impressive efforts of our staff, board, and task force leaders.

I need to clarify that we also have a third priority program: income inequality, and the related issue of paid parental leave. The only reason I am not discussing it further here is that, while it impacts huge numbers of people and families, it does not represent the global threat to humanity that this letter is focused on.

We need to grow our membership. We need to expand our financial resources to fully and proportionally support the programs I’ve outlined above with appropriate staff and technology. Please do all you feel you can to pitch in, either with your time and participation or with your checkbook.

We deeply appreciate these various means of support, which provide a stronger foundation for our continuing advocacy.

Bruce Amundson, MD