Don’t Mention Nuclear War

This week’s reflection is a poem by Ken Ingham. It was written in 1981—yup, more than 40 years ago—though it feels like it was written today, with its mention of abortion and inflation. And with the continued silence around nuclear war. The odds of nuclear war are higher today than at least since the end of the cold war—possibly higher than even at points during then. And yet, it’s hard to get people engaged on this topic.

Women’s rights, gun violence, climate change, all of these cloud out the nuclear threat. And yet if the nuclear issue explodes, all the rest won’t matter. So I invite you to read Ingham’s astute poem and then, without delay, write to your political representative and ask them to lend their support to the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. For those in the US, this is a longer letter template that includes additional asks to reduce the risk of nuclear war. (You can find your senators and representative here.) For those outside of the US, here is the standard ICAN letter, which you can add to if you want. Few officials have signed it—just 11 representatives in the US, no senators—so your words can make a difference.

Go with Gaia,


Hopefully this is just a one-in-a-million chance, but shouldn’t we work to get this down to no chance at all? (Image of the largest US nuclear test from US Department of Energy via Wikipedia)

Cocktail Conversation

by Ken Ingham

Ask “How’s it goin” and “What ya been doing”?

Trivial questions galore

Mention the weather, tell a good joke

Listen to tales of yore

Bitch about taxes, inflation, the dollar

Pollution, abortion, welfare, and more

Lament the lack of mass transportation

But don’t mention nuclear war

No – mustn’t remind us of nuclear war.

Declare what you wish on religion or science

And politics – whatever you say

Incidentally, if you don’t mind my asking

How much do you weigh?

With such an array of meaningful options

Why touch on a subject of horror?

Have another drink and I’ll have one too

If you don’t mention nuclear war

Not yet – not nuclear war.

Elaborate on children, your neighbor’s, your own

Decry the condition of the schools

What do you think they’ll do when they’re grown

If the future is left to the fools?

Take pride in their latest athletic achievements

Be sure to remember the score

And when you’ve exhausted your final excuse

Only then mention nuclear war –

Say it softly – Nuclear War.

Don’t give the impression of over concern

Be thoughtful, sincere, don’t get sore

Nor hang your head in helpless defeat

Breathe deep, and finish the chore

Remember your aim and stay on the mark

Suppress that terrifying roar

The only issue demanding attention

Is the threat of nuclear war –

Eliminate Nuclear War!

Sure, you could spend 10 minutes arguing that writing an email to your elected official is a waste of your time because it won’t do any good, or you could spend 10 minutes writing and sending that email. (Photo from National Nuclear Security Administration / Nevada Site Office via Wikipedia)
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7 Responses

  1. Catherine Folio

    I abhor this kind of Reflection, Eric. You are bringing back nightmares for me, especially with those pictures!! I lived during the cold war, when me and my friends would stand on the street wondering what fall-out would look like raining down upon us. We had nuclear drills in the schools where we would run into the coat room, put our coats over our heads, and huddle on the floor. The teachers told us NOT to look at the window facing towards NYC because that’s where the blast would originate. Do you understand what it was like growing up like this?! We were completely traumatized by it, and I suffer PTSD from that and other horrors from my childhood.

    I joined the Gaian Way because Gaia is my solace in a world gone mad. I NEED/REQUIRE peace in my life as I approach my 70th birthday. I need peace because I cannot deal with what “normal” society throws at us all the time. I will go mad if I pay attention to all of it anymore.
    If you are going to post Reflections like this one, I am going to unsubscribe from your site. Reflections like this do not support the “Gaian Way” to me.

  2. Erik Assadourian


    I’m sorry that this essay triggered childhood traumas. Nuclear war is as serious a threat now as it was when you were growing up–perhaps worse, especially as the world destabilizes during the climate collapse era.

    I could have skipped the shocking photos but thought they added a gravitas that was necessary. Only three of us found the time to join the letter writing exercise last week. And talking with friends who are anti-nuclear advocates they find it difficult to mobilize any attention to their work. Ken’s poem–from 1981–captures perfectly our desire to avoid thinking about or discussing this very real threat.

    It seems very Gaian to me to grapple with what is probably the most serious (even if hopefully a remote threat) facing Gaia. Gi will tolerate and maybe fully bounce back from climate change probably within ten million years or so. I guess technically Gi could bounce back that quickly from a nuclear war. (as it did from this asteroid impact: Then again, it could take far far longer.

    My point with this poem was to draw attention to this issue and nudge our community to write to their representatives and senators. Sorry that it instead triggered trauma for you.


  3. Lyle Troseth

    The presence of nuclear weapons is the greatest and starkest threat to Mankind, and most other large animals, who live on and with Gaia.
    We live with an overwhelming number of dangers, problems and predicaments. I have read in at least one place it being described as a “Poly crises”. A fair description, in my opinion.
    Yet, of them all, the one Mortal Threat that would not be a slow motion disaster is Nuclear War.
    Every time I read of people who spent their professional lives involved with this monstrosity of Nuclear Weapons,
    they all, upon reflection, express surprise that a catastrophe has not yet occurred.
    And yet… we are, still expecting us to be an exception to statistical odds and chaos theory.
    Thank you for the reminder to write my Representative and Senator. I can at least do that.

    • Erik Assadourian

      Thanks Lyle! I appreciate you taking the time to write, both this comment, and to your elected officials!

  4. Lyle Troseth

    While this is not directly applicable to this particular Reflection of yours, I just saw a bit of news that I think is relevant to this website/blog.
    James Lovelock has passed away on his 103rd birthday.

  5. George Larkin

    We can’t hide under our desks- like duck & cover in the 50’s. Remember – we had nuclear drills. Having meaningful conversations with congressional reps and other keeps the discussion active and not go dormant. Things are tense in Ukraine and China.
    Conversations prevent escalation.

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