The people of Hiroshima live with the devastating legacy of nuclear war, juxtaposed with the city’s dedication to working for world peace. A mindful American visitor to Hiroshima can’t avoid asking: Are people in the United States too comfortable with the existence of nuclear weapons? How do you motivate the public to care about the nuclear threat and instill the hope to work toward change?
At times it seems that a good jolt of fear might be the answer. Maybe then we would finally wake from denial and do something about the dangers of nuclear arms: the risk that one of the nuclear powers may choose to use the ultimate weapon of mass destruction, the bomb’s distortion of power relationships among nations, the potential for accident or terror to unleash some catastrophe.
The difficulty of imparting a vision that enables change is brought home by "Countdown to Zero," a 2010 film on the dangers of nuclear arms. "Countdown" goes down a dramatic Hollywood path, using fear as a catalyst for action. The film’s publicity line, “More than a movie. It’s a movement,” promised it would focus public concern on nuclear arms in the way "An Inconvenient Truth," by the same filmmakers, did for climate change. "Countdown" failed to revitalize popular support for nuclear disarmament, but it did provide an insight into the pitfalls of crafting an urgent warning about pervasive danger.
By the end of "Countdown," wrote Jeannette Catsoulis of The New York Times, “all most of us will want to do is duck and cover” — exactly the concern of some of the country’s eminent experts and campaigners for nuclear abolition.
“I think that fear shuts people down,” says Jacqueline Cabasso, executive director of Western States Legal Foundation, which monitors U.S. nuclear weapons programs.