If You Love This Planet, Dr. Helen Caldicott

Best of 2008/2009: Prof. Hugh Gusterson on the psychology of nuclear weapons designers, and U.S. nuclear hypocrisy


Photo Credit: Department of Energy (courtesy Natural Resources Defense Council)

If You Love This Planet continues to replay some of our most popular programs through February 2010, as well as offering some new episodes. In March 2010, If You Love This Planet will start a whole new season of programs. Here is Dr. Caldicott’s September 29, 2008 interview with respected anthropologist, author and lecturer Professor Hugh Gusterson from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in which they delve into the psychology of nuclear weapons scientists and designers. Drawing on his extensive field research at U.S. weapons laboratories Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos, Prof. Gusterson discusses with Dr. Caldicott the moral and emotional approach of the weapons designers; the terminology used among the scientists which is not only thick with metaphors of birth and fertility, but also denies death (weapons victims would be “carbonized,” not incinerated); and the present recruitment by the Department of Energy of anthropologists to be involved in counterinsurgency. His books include Nuclear Rites: A Weapons Laboratory at the End of the Cold War, People of the Bomb: Portraits of America’s Nuclear Complex and Why America’s Top Pundits are Wrong.

Hugh Gusterson

Hugh Gusterson

Prof. Gusterson and Dr. Caldicott also cover the hypocrisy and veiled racism of the U.S. government and attendant media in demonizing other countries which want to build atomic bombs, while the U.S. retains an enormous arsenal of bombs and continues to make more. They also consider why traditionally right-wing voices such as Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, and four former British foreign or defense secretaries, now want to abolish nuclear weapons. Prof. Gusterson cites many encouraging successes on the road toward global nuclear disarmament, to discredit the idea that “the nuclear genie can never be put back in the bottle”. Read Prof. Gusterson’s columns on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists page. For updated information on what the U.S. nuclear weapons labs are up to, visit the Web sites of Tri-Valley CAREs and Western States Legal Foundation. See the February 1, 2010 Tri-Valley CAREs press release, Administration Budget Plan Contradicts Obama Pledge. Read Dr. Caldicott’s February 2, 2010 article in The Huffington Post about President Obama’s increased spending for nuclear weapons, despite his earlier disarmament pledges, and his enthusiastic support for nuclear power.

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