On Monday, February 18, the NJIT Conference on Nuclear Weapons-Free World hosted a screening of the Stanley Kubrick classic “Doctor Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”. The event was co-hosted by the Murray Center for Women in Technology, Engineers Without Borders, and NJIT Green, and was the first of five events leading up to the conference itself, which will be held on Sunday, April 14. The event was attended by roughly a dozen students who all enjoyed the Cold War satire.
Despite its tackling the serious topic of nuclear war, “Dr. Strangelove” is still a comedy, and plenty of laughs could be heard from the audience during the screening. This is a testament to the film’s quality, as it is able to resonate with people after more than fifty years . It is precisely the film’s relevance today that made it ideal for this event.
As Karina Dsouza, a third-year biomedical engineering student said: “Now, because the Cold War is over, I feel like most people don’t pay attention to the threat [of nuclear war], even though it is still very real.”
The event’s organizers reestablished this point by showing a short video in which Dr. Bruce Blair, one of the experts scheduled to speak at the Conference, discusses his experience as a launch control officer during the Cold War, during which he says that not only was the nuclear attack featured in “Dr. Strangelove” possible, it could actually be done more easily than the film depicted.
This idea that a single person—and not even someone with a position of high authority like a general or the President, but one of the officers trusted with the launching of nuclear missiles—could easily start a series of events that brings about nuclear armageddon is frightening for many. For a number of people in attendance, this served to reinforce the need for global nuclear disarmament, while also highlighting the issues involved with that process.
“I was always against nuclear war and nuclear weapons, but this definitely made me realize how complex it is to disarm,” said Shanee Halevi, President of NJIT Green and co-sponsor of the event. “It’s not as simple as ‘[nuclear weapons] are bad, stop.’” This has been shown to be true; for years the ideas of nuclear deterrence and mutually-assured destruction shown in the film have been promoted as reasons for nations to maintain nuclear arsenals, rather than eliminate them.
Halevi also discussed the reason why NJIT Green, an environmentalist club that usually hosts events involving sustainability and composting, was co-sponsoring a series of events on nuclear disarmament. As she stated, the effects of climate change pale in comparison to nuclear winter—the potentially years-long period of global cooling caused by nuclear explosions blocking out the sun, which could have disastrous effects on the climate, agriculture, and humanity.
“It doesn’t just affect the area where the bomb is dropped,” said Halevi. “It affects the whole planet.”
Screenshot of the trailer of Dr. Strangelove by Tomi Ungerer