Students: How the Nuclear Arms Race Affects You

Peace Advocate June 2022

Henderson Town Hall (August 2019). Photo: Elizabeth Warren Flickr

by Elizaveta Kupriyanova

It has been almost 77 years since the devastating bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Apparently, the whole world has learned nothing from this devastation. Rather, funding and building nuclear weapons continues at a high rate. Due to the escalation of war between Russia and Ukraine and the saber-rattling in many other nations, the world is now closer than ever to a nuclear disaster. In fact, the nuclear threat that currently confronts the world is greater than the one during the Cold War arms race and never has the globe been so close to the brink of extinction. Students everywhere, I ask you to join together to bring the world back from the brink. 

The United States spends around $60 billion annually on nuclear weapons, diverting money that could be used to help with student debt, housing, healthcare and infrastructure such as public transportation. Every single day many of us use public transportation to get to work, or university, or anywhere else where we need to be; a lot of the time we may wonder where our train is and why it’s so old, and if it is safe. The main reason our public transportation is so often unreliable is that the government would rather spend your money on nuclear weapons and expansion of the military budget than on domestic needs and problems. 

Unfortunately for all of us, people—and this includes students— tend not to pay much attention to nuclear weapons or the expansion of the nuclear arsenal; they are simply unaware of how the government’s economic priorities affect their lives and well-being. In fact, the effects of prioritizing development of nuclear weapons and threatening to use them are immediate and devastating. It is time for us to join together to resist the building, storage, and sale of nuclear weapons. Billions are being spent on weapons of mass destruction through a bloated military budget, and nuclear weapons and all the expenses they entail are shouldered by taxpayers—including students and their families. 

Although some of the money ordinary people must pay in taxes is spent on the improvement of infrastructure and other purposes for the general welfare, that portion is only a small percentage of governmental expenditures. If all the tax money that citizens pay were used on the improvement of the challenging circumstances in which most of us live, then we would have the most modern and effective schools, trains, buses, health facilities, public services, and all the other features of a sustaining and sustainable environment; however, it is clear that the government is not going to switch from a war industry to a peace industry without constant pressure from all of us. Every day, many of us, without giving a thought to the military budget or the nuclear weapons it is funding, must use aging subways and buses that need a boost but not even that is done.

When it comes to student debt and affordable housing for students, we face a tremendous problem. About 66% of graduates from public colleges and universities and 68% of graduates from private colleges and universities have graduated with student loans. In total, Americans owe as much as $1.75 trillion in student loan debt. Just think for a minute how huge that amount is. It is more than twice the whole military budget for a year. Thousands of people have to worry throughout their whole lives about how to pay that student debt. In addition to being liable for accumulating student loans, students often find it hard to find affordable housing in universities; very few options are available and the ones that are available are very expensive. 

Currently, it seems that few people are paying attention to the risks of nuclear weapons or considering the importance of nuclear disarmament. It’s time for students and everyone else to pay attention and take action. One might wonder whether one person getting involved in nuclear disarmament is going to change anything, but one person can start a movement. Think of Greta Thunberg! Even beginning baby steps can take us towards a better future, so I call on all students to act now. As a student at Northeastern University, I want to encourage the younger generation to take responsibility for their own futures and start making a change. Remember, you are the ones who will have to deal in the future with whatever threats to survival are being ignored today. Yes, the idea of abolishing nuclear weapons may seem overwhelming, but cutting the budget for those weapons would be a really big step toward decreasing the threat of extinction. Putting pressure on the government to cut the military budget helps create a path towards a nuclear free world. Be part of the movement to a better and safer future.