The mission of Hibakusha Stories is to pass the legacy of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to a new generation of high school and university students, to empower them with tools to build a world free of nuclear weapons. ‘Hibakusha’ is the Japanese word for atomic bomb survivors, who, in their advancing age, have a very limited opportunity to share their first hand witness.
Young people today are growing up with scant awareness of nuclear dangers. In the 1980s young people in the US, and in many countries across the globe, engaged in proactive conversations, curriculum was developed, demonstrations were staged.
In 1982, over one million people gathered in New York City’s Central Park to call for nuclear disarmament. This was the time of the US television film The Day After which depicted a fictitious Kansas City under nuclear attack, the bomb exploding and its aftermath. Elsewhere, other countries were taking the nuclear issue to popular culture through a host of films, plays, comic books, curricula and TV programs.
When the Cold War ended and the Berlin Wall came down, so too fell an awareness of nuclear dangers. These dangers continue to grow. Although there are far fewer nuclear weapons on the planet, there are still an estimated 19,000, enough to destroy our world many times over. And unlike the superpower arms race, dominated by the US and former Soviet Union, nuclear proliferation has long-since spread from the original five (US, Russia, UK, China and France) to India and Israel, Pakistan and North Korea.
Author activist and Hibakusha Stories supporter Joanna Macy, argues that “the danger constituted by nuclear weapons is greater now than at any time in our history. We do an immense disservice to young people and their future, unless we provide them with a confident understanding of nuclear issues.”
Are students discussing these grave and present dangers, the very problems that they will inherit? Are they addressing nuclear weapons and their close relatives nuclear power and nuclear waste? The nuclear fuel chain requires basic comprehension from today’s youth. Where disarmament education and nuclear studies are missing in the curriculum, Hibakusha Stories fills that gap. Following the basic guidelines of NYS Standards base education and the Common Core Curriculum, we introduce disarmament education so it will become a mainstay in standard curriculum for secondary school students; better providing young people with a ‘confident understanding’ of the nuclear threat. We call it Reading, Writing and Radiation.
We can only address dangers that we know and understand; and in the case of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, dangers that we learn to remember. Former IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei has warned that many people have forgotten the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki — and for this reason we might be closer to the use of nuclear weapons than at any other time during the brief history of the Atomic Age.
We live on a planet in peril. Our survival in the 21st century will be dependent upon knowing the nuclear threat and finding the power to abolish these planet-destroying weapons before they are used again.
Hibakusha Stories offers a novel approach to disarmament education because we provide the means and resources for students to pro-actively respond to the real dangers of nuclear weapons through art, science and culture. We pair students with musicians, playwrights, architects and artists in a variety of disciplines. In this way we are developing a flourishing, multi-generational arts-based community that is directly contributing to the movement for nuclear disarmament.