Courtesy photo

Longtime Taos resident Judith Rane is an activist who walks the walk, literally. In 1986 she marched with others across the United States as a member of the Great Peace March to abolish nuclear weapons. Afterwards, she walked throughout Leningrad and Moscow with American and Soviet peace activists.

These days, she continues her activism alongside Jean Stevens, director of the Taos Environmental Film Festival.

On Sunday (Aug. 8) from 2 to 9 p.m. there is a Taos Peace Forum and Pilgrimage at Taos Center for the Arts theater, at 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte.

The Peace Forum is a day-long event of film and programming which will feature six leadership panelists from New Mexico's Peace and Justice community who will discuss the threat of mass extinction presented by nuclear weapons and the urgent need for their abolishment. The event is free and open to the public.

Tempo caught up with Rane and Stevens and asked them a few questions.

Why do we need a Taos Peace Pilgrimage?

Stevens: I have lived long enough to know that massive peace gatherings have happened in the past and had a powerful effect on policymakers. We need to see that now more than ever. Many of the younger generation were born after the Cold War. Older adults grew up with "duck and cover" or were traumatized by a national television event that occurred in 1983 with the broadcast of "The Day After." The young will soon be the majority at the voting booths and it is my hope they will vote with fully informed knowledge of the disastrous effects on humankind the nuclear industrial complex presents.

Rane: Here are two definitions of "pilgrimage":

A pilgrimage is a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance.

A journey undertaken with a specific objective. For decades New Mexicans have pilgrimages annually to Ashley Pond in Los Alamos to attend a Vigil In Remembrance of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - 1945.

Is it possible to attain the abolishment of nuclear weapons and the existential global threat of mass extinction they present?

Stevens: We need to look at the meetings that took place between former President Ronald Reagan (who had previously been a nuclear arms race hawk until he saw the movie, "The Day After") and the former leader of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev (1985-1991). Together they strove to rid the world of nuke bombs. We must study their diplomacy for inspiration and guidance:

On Jan. 14, 1986, Gorbachev sent Reagan another letter. The recent correspondence between the two leaders had mostly rehashed debates from the Geneva Summit. This letter, however, was different - in it, Gorbachev presented "an unprecedented program to completely eliminate nuclear weapons" by the year 2000. The proposal included three stages. The first stage was to last five to eight years, covering a 50 percent reduction in Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), mutual renunciation of space weapons testing, and removing all nuclear weapons from Europe. The second stage, to last five to seven years, would involve the cessation of all nuclear testing and further liquidation of medium-range nuclear weapons.

The other nuclear states (Britain, France and China) would be included at this stage. In the third and final stage, all remaining nuclear weapons would be liquidated, so that "by the end of 1999 no more nuclear weapons [would] remain on Earth. Gorbachev also urged a universal agreement that these weapons shall never be resurrected again. Gorbachev wrote that if the US were to join in the moratorium, the USSR would consent to mutual on-site inspections, something that had previously been a point of contention.

Rane: Hopefully it is not impossible to abolish war, poverty, hunger, disease, climate calamity and nuclear holocaust. These are goals that all countries, all generations and all humankind will always strive for … it's in the DNA. Step by step. The strategy is information and education.

Why is it important to keep the 'Remembrance of Hiroshima and Nagasaki - 1945' on our collective radar?

Stevens: Along with historic events that must never be forgotten are the catastrophic events that never happened because somebody, reasoning and listening to their inner soul, prevented a colossal disaster from happening. These acts, too, must never be forgotten.

It is important to educate humanity about the existential dangers we now face with the New Cold War, Space Forces, computer hacks and various other dangers. We have survived for almost 76 years with nuclear weapons of mass extinction. How much longer will our luck last?

Rane: Let's ask that question in the reverse. Do you want to forget and thus not remember nor never know about The Civil War, Nazi Germany, The Holocaust, Indigenous Injustices, The Dust Bowl, earthquakes or other tragic events that mankind has faced?

Or we could also ask: Do you not want to be reminded of various annual religious holiday celebration days? How about your birthday? Or the day you got married? Or the day a child was born? Are not these reminder days ... days not only to take stock of the passage of time, but days to take pause to ponder and meditate upon the founding of one's country, the solace in one's sorrows and the fermenting of one's joys. Let me ask you, how could you not demand that Hiroshima and Nagasaki -1945 never be forgotten? That they continue to be remembered and commemorated?

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