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‘I’m rather apocalyptic,’ remarked Edward P. Thompson, historian and anti-nuclear activist, in a recent interview. ‘I think we are either going to see the terminal war or see rather a dramatic transformation in the world such as we can’t even dream of. And I think that will happen, if it does, within five years.’

If we look back over the last five years, we find it difficult to disagree with this assessment. Increasing public awareness and discussion have brought to light issues — accidental nuclear war, nuclear winter, the psychological effect on youth — which have awakened the public out of its twenty-year sleep following SALT I in 1963. The sense of urgency is felt on both sides of the nuclear debate, and it is not clear which side will prevail as we march towards the crisis envisaged by Thompson. One can only hope that as an increasing number of us speak out on the basis of our expertise, we will find ourselves at the end of this tortured century ready to build a world on a foundation of peace and justice ‘such as we can’t even dream of.’

As SIP president Anatol Rapoport put it recently, ‘A realistic appraisal of the present state of affairs offers hardly a gleam of hope. On the other hand, hope can be kindled only if sufficiently many believe that there are good prospects for stopping or even reversing the arms race. It behooves us, therefore, to examine the possible sources of hope, no matter how slim.’

— Ed Barbeau, Editor

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