Best of 2018: New voices on nuclear weapons, climate change, and more

By Dawn Stover | December 22, 2018

Youth Climate March in Washington, DC, on July 21, 2018. Credit: Instagram/Zero Hour

Young people had something to say in 2018. On the issue of school shootings and gun control, for example, Americans heard the voices of student activists like Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. On climate change, 21 young Americans continued in their legal quest to hold the federal government accountable for its failure to prevent destabilizing climate change, despite repeated attempts by the Trump administration to dismiss or delay their case.

Arguably the most powerful and authentic voice of 2018 was that of Swedish 15-year-old Greta Thunberg. In her televised speech at the recent UN climate conference in Poland, she shamed negotiators for doing too little to prevent catastrophic climate change. “You only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess, even when the only sensible thing to do is pull the emergency brake,” she said. “You are not mature enough to tell it like it is; even that burden you leave to us children.”

On issues such as nuclear risk and disruptive technologies, though, the media paid little attention to the concerns and voices of young people. Emerging experts who wrote for the Bulletin this year helped to fill some of that gap. Here are a few of the year’s best “Voices of Tomorrow” essays on nuclear weapons and other existential threats to humanity:

American students aren’t taught nuclear weapons policy in school. Here’s how to fix that problem.

By Erin Connolly and Kate Hewitt

The authors of this award-winning piece expected students in colleges and high schools near Manhattan Project sites to have some foundational knowledge of nuclear weapons, their history, and current issues. They were wrong. And they did something about it.

War-related environmental disaster in Ukraine

By Kristina Hook and Richard “Drew” Marcantonio

An important story overlooked by the mainstream media: The “forgotten war” in eastern Ukraine has heightened the potential for an ecological catastrophe that could be worse than Chernobyl.

Doomsday Slam

By Senn Arts

At an annual poetry slam tournament for youth in Chicago, the largest of its kind in the world, a team from Senn High School made it to the semi-finals with their poem about the Bulletin’s Doomsday Clock. We think you’ll enjoy the choreographed performance as much as the poem’s text.

“Business as usual”: from nuclear defense to climate change

By Emma Scotty

The phrase “business as usual” once referred to civil defense: It was an encouragement to keep America functioning despite the threat of nuclear war. Today, though, “business as usual” is the very thing that is threatening to make our planet’s climate unlivable.

Young voices on peace with North Korea

By Alicia Sanders-Zakre and Catherine Killough

The authors interviewed young people around the world who had something to say about the Trump-Kim summit but were largely ignored by media covering the event. They spoke of their hopes for reuniting Korean-Americans with family members in North Korea, crafting a nonaggression pact for the Korean Peninsula, and preventing nuclear war.

START from the basics to maintain nuclear stability

By Aaron Bonovitch

Allowing New START to expire in 2021 would be a catastrophic mistake, according to this author, who serves as a missile operator in the US Air Force. Few people understand the dangers of forging ahead without a new US-Russian agreement enabling US inspectors to have boots on the ground in Russia.

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