The Cold And The Dark: The World after Nuclear War, by Paul R. Ehrlich, Carl Sagan, Donald Kennedy, Walter Orr Roberts, Lewis Thomas and TTAPS. The Washington Conference on the Long-Term Worldwide Biological Consequences of Nuclear War.
Many years ago I perused this book, but not until now did I read it. It is an effort to make a conference, on the TTAPS report, held in Washington DC on Halloween preceding 1984 available to the public, and to the policy makers in the Capitol. Both of the prime authors were heroes of mine, and most everyone else throughout the 1980s and beyond. These are real people to me because I had the chance to speak, all too briefly, to each of them. Nothing memorable but it gives me a feeling for their humanity when I read their words. The authors and sub-authors of this book are from the very cream of the American scientific establishment. Even the President of Stanford University, Donald Kennedy, who wrote a lengthy Introduction gets only a second billing. It is in the Introduction where Kennedy gives the clearest presentation of what should be done about this looming disaster.
To intensify substantially, without preconditions and with a sense of urgency, efforts to achieve an equitable and verifiable agreement between the United States and the Soviet Union and other countries which have a similar stake in these vital matters;
To take all practical actions that could reduce the risk of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation;
To take all practical measures to inhibit the further proliferation of nuclear weapons to additional countries’
‘To continue to observe all existing arms control agreements, including SALT II; and
To avoid military doctrines that treat nuclear explosives as ordinary weapons of war.
The other authors intentionally steered away from making any sort of political statement, and tried valiantly to present their scientific findings as clearly as possible, and then let the facts speak for themselves. This recommendation was astonishing in its blandness and obviousness, but didn’t ultimately suggest anything helpful to humanity other than having an atomic war would be a bad thing to do.
For example during the question period Mr. Salatun of Indonesia said,”Well, all we can do is pray to God that it will not happen. But meanwhile we should prepare for the worst.” To which Dr. Sagan replied,”In my opinion, you can do a lot more than just pray.” With no follow up, which makes it a meaningless quip, but there were no helpful suggestions. The next response is “… it is important when major studies are done to provide access to the detailed models that have been used in preparing them … .”
Salatun asked, “What is the likelihood of nuclear war?” which considering that this is a conference on Nuclear War there should be some sort of discussion of the likelihood of its occurring and a serious answer. But here is once again a high minded, but flippant answer from Sagan. “Prophecy is a lost art. If there were any accurate way of making that prediction, it would be most important. But look how poorly we can predict even the most minor aspects of world politics, such as which small nation will be invaded tomorrow. To, therefore, expect some exact prognostications about the likelihood of nuclear war, I think is asking too much. It is certainly true that we have gone thirty-eight years without a nuclear war. Who knows, we might be able to survive for some longer period of time. But would you want to bet your life on it? I do not guarantee that this is a perfect analogy, but the situation reminds me of a man falling from the top of a high building, saying to an office worker through an open window as he passes by, “So far, go good.””
That isn’t an answer and seems more intended to get a laugh than to be a serious attempt to give an answer. Sagan accepts the splat at the bottom of the fall and gets his chuckle. However, he nor anyone else so far as I know has made a serious worldwide attempt to provide a backup plan for humanity even though these major scientists, and everyone else, seems to realize there is a disaster coming sooner or later. Everyone seems to be resigned to that, and are just living as best they can until that day arrives. The Lifehaven Project is ultimately the only thing which will lift any semblance of a human species into the next century.