Saving Chain Reaction

If you've ever visited Santa Monica and driven past the Civic Center, you've likely seen Pulitzer Prize-winner Paul Conrad's iconic "Chain Reaction," a towering, 26-foot sculpture portraying a nuclear mushroom cloud made from chains.

I was first awed by "Chain Reaction" more than 15 years ago when I moved to Los Angeles. It has remained my favorite public sculpture ever since, an unforgettable and poignant reminder of the never-faded threat of nuclear weapons.

Many may feel the world is safer since the end of the Cold War, but the truth is that the danger of nuclear weapons actually being used somewhere in the world is even greater today. At least 17,300 nuclear weapons remain in the world's arsenals, more than 800 warheads still stand at high alert attack readiness in both the U.S. and Russia, and much fissile material remains extremely poorly guarded around the world.

The famed Doomsday Clock, devised by concerned Los Alamos atomic scientists in 1947 to signal our distance from the advent of nuclear disaster, today stands at just five minutes to midnight.

Our awareness and our need to actively work to counter this threat to all life on earth has never been more urgent.

But for almost two years, the city of Santa Monica has been contemplating something awful and mystifying: dismantling "Chain Reaction" for alleged safety concerns. The Los Angeles Times has an excellent, searing dismissal of the very arbitrarily chosen criteria here.

But the fact remains that for "Chain Reaction" to survive to educate and awe future generations, concerned citizens from all over Los Angeles must now step up. The effort already includes entertainment industry luminaries Norman Lear and Martin Sheen, and leading nuclear disarmament advocates Dr. Helen Caldicott and John Isaacs.

If you'd like to get involved, point your browsers to the Save "Chain Reaction" Campaign. The next public gathering is taking place November 17.