Nuclear matters are having a moment in media…

… and this is the media’s moment to speak out.

By Cristopher Cruz, member of the CTBTO Youth Group and co-Founder of Nuclear Free Schools

My name is Cristopher Cruz Colorado. I was born in El Salvador, the smallest country in Central America and a non-nuclear weapons state but was raised in the country that fathered the atom bomb, the United States of America, in 2003. I’m actively fighting for a world free of nuclear testing and nuclear weapons, but I wasn’t always a communicator on the subject; in fact, I forayed into the atomic realm after watching lots of nuclear related media growing up.

The nuclear subject has figured large for much of my life, either as pop culture references (in the case of Godzilla), or shadowy allusions meant to reassure us about safety and security (in the case of nuclear weapons).

The past few years for me have elicited reactions of incredulity as the world teeters on an arms race between three nuclear powers. But the term arms race has become a taboo of sorts as the three largest nuclear states (Russia, the United States, and China) operate these gargantuan efforts under the guise of modernization for peace and security.

Experts from all corners of my nuclear policy circles are raising the alarm, whether it be as a hawkish knee jerk reaction to China’s expedited arsenal build up or disarmers concerned that the U.S. is temporarily foregoing its Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) commitments with AUKUS through the use of convenient legal interpretation. But these reactions remain largely siloed from the rest of the world outside of five-minute-long segments in television broadcasts and the occasional click-worthy digital article.

Godzilla was Cristopher’s earliest pop culture inspiration to work on the nuclear subject. (Spiral breath
By CyotheLion, CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 Deed)

Upon seeing the nuclear media phenomenon come and go, I now realize that for all the debates on gridlock and youth inclusion, there is a vital component that is being overlooked: communication.

The media is complicit in the societal negligence that is feeding the new nuclear arms race.

I am not attributing malice to this phenomenon but I chalk it up to incompetence born out of a lack of proper education and training in the journalism world.

Entertainment has made nuclear concerns a mainstay for popcorn munchers and inadvertently become a focal point of information for general audiences—simultaneously increasing awareness while feeding disinformation. In an online discussion recently, I reached the conclusion that the reach of documentaries (i.e. HBO, PBS/Frontline) bridge the best of both worlds: the feature length immersion of film with the gripping narrative of traditional journalism. Why? Because as a society we’ve developed a fatigue over the Cable News Format where we’re bombarded by information 24/7.

We need to look no further as partisan politics in the United States have led hawkish politicians like Congressman Mike Turner to make unfounded declarations that are more at home in a James Bond movie provoking mass hysteria that is both rightful since a nuclear arms race is a bad thing to kick off as well as irresponsible since no such “space nukes” exist.

These observations have led me to conclude that there needs be an earnest effort to explain nuclear matters to the public by connecting with experts from dedicated NGOs and coalitions to counteract the normalization of a nuclear arms race—and it needs to be backed by big name entities like HBO to make a splash on the mainstream consciousness.

The current nuclear discussion is disconnected from the current climate crisis, attacks on democracy and the biggest transfer of wealth from the world’s poorest to the world’s richest. And ensuring in the muzzling of these outcries to abolish nukes is the erosion of nascent pipelines and funding opportunities that were preparing the next generation of leaders to take up the mantle and address the nuclear problem head on as members of the nuclear policy community.

A new anti-nuclear approach must be found, not more activists and diplomatic niceties but strong and clear voices to providing a third pillar to an anti-nuclear triad to renew and finally get the public much more involved. And the perfect way to do that is to bring the focus back to a people-centered focus—the people affected by the development of these weapons have as much as a stake in this conversation as the people that built them. It is up to us, young generations must revive the intersection of health, climate, economic and humanitarian concerns surrounding the existence of nuclear weapons.

Read also Cristopher Cruz’s article “I’m an immigrant antinuclear activist. Here’s why I love Godzilla” published on March 22, 2024 by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Cristopher Cruz is a recipient of Youth Leader Fund, an initiative launched by the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs & with sponsorship from the Japanese government. He is also an active member of the CTBTO Youth Group and co-Founder of Nuclear Free Schools since age sixteen. Cristopher runs his own bilingual blog called The Atomic Scholar, where he writes about his adventures in the nuclear field as a Salvadoran-American. When not canceling nukes, he can be found roaming museums and parks or watching Godzilla movies.

The views expressed by the author are their own.