2,870 cities in 134 countries. That's how many cities have committed themselves to not being a nuclear target by joining the U.N.-associated Mayors for Peace.
"Being in favor of nuclear disarmament is a no-brainer for cities. Atomic weapons were developed to destroy cities," Aaron Tovish explained to me over coffee at the United Nations.
He would know. He is a senior staffer at Mayors for Peace.
In August 1945, atomic bombs instantaneously reduced the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to rubble, taking hundreds of thousands of precious lives. It was on a scale of the Tsunami in Indonesia, but unlike the wave, done intentionally. Never again.
To prevent any repetition of the A-bomb tragedy, the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki have continually sought to tell the world about the inhumane cruelty of nuclear weapons and have consistently urged that nuclear weapons be abolished.
Having studied in Japan, I made a pilgrimage years ago to Hiroshima - to see for myself what humanity is capable of. I was sick to my stomach. My own nation had used atomic weapons against a city full mainly of women, children, and the elderly.
At a Special Session on Disarmament held at the U.N. in 1982, Hiroshima's former Mayor -- Takeshi Araki -- proposed a new program to promote the solidarity of cities toward the "Total Abolition of Nuclear Weapons."
The current mayor of Hiroshima, Tadatoshi Akiba, is president of the organization today.
This proposal offered cities a way to transcend national borders and work together to press for nuclear abolition. Subsequently, the mayors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki called on mayors around the world to support this program. Almost 3,000 have now.
The Mayors for Peace 2020 Vision Campaign is the main vehicle for advancing the agenda of Mayors for Peace - a nuclear-weapon-free world by the year 2020. Vienna-based Aaron Tovish directs the 2020 Vision Campaign.
"The survivors are dying off, and we should and can achieve a nuclear-free world in their lifetime," Aaron said.
The main focus of the work of the 2020 Vision Campaign has been the signature drive for the Cities Appeal in support of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki Protocol.
This important Protocol embeds the objective of the 2020 Vision Campaign in a realistic framework of treaties and agreements to be signed and then implemented. In do-able pieces.
As a protocol to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), it seeks to challenge national governments to follow through on the commitments they already made in Article VI of the Treaty.
It is hard for me to really grasp the magnitude of destruction possible. According to the Federation of the American Scientists, there are around 26,000 nuclear warheads that together have a total yield of almost half a million times the 15 kiloton Hiroshima bomb.
What does that really mean? Can we even imagine nuclear war today? The impact of 100 nuclear weapons launched today are unimaginable, yet scientifically predictable.
100 million people would be killed instantly by the nuclear blast.Total catastrophe. Wise world leaders know we need to end this madness as soon as possible.
Soot would cloud the sun, shortening growing seasons, bringing global crop failures. Hundreds of Millions more would starve within a decade.
Those that survived would be weakened by radiation and hunger. Pandemics making swine flu look mild would sweep the earth.
"Barack Obama told the crowd last month in Prague that a nuclear-free world would exist, but maybe not in his lifetime. But it can. It must," Aaron said.
Might Barack really feel the same way? Immediately after this discouraging line from the written text for the speech, he injected his signature line, "Yes we can!" - to the delight of the European throng.
"This might have been the so-called Tipping Point, where humanity begins to move toward getting that we can live without nuclear weaponry," Aaron said.
My organization, Orphans International Worldwide, has built or is building programs in Manado (Indonesia), Galle (Sri Lanka), Moshi (Tanzania), Delhi (India), Lome (Togo), outside Santo Domingo (D.R.), and Jacmel (Haiti).
Delhi, Lome, Galle, and Santa Domingo belong to Mayors for Peace. The others need to join. Our kids are at risk. Check "My city is not a member of Mayors for Peace."
Cities in the developing world are not the only municipalities that need to get on board. 134 US cities are affiliates, including major metropolis such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, Denver, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, and Atlanta. Missing in action: New York and Washington.
An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by a crane, such as long life or recovery from illness or injury. The Thousand Origami Cranes has become a global symbol of world peace.
When I left Japan, the children I had known there presented me with a sebazuru in the hopes that I would always remember to build bridges wherever I traveled towards world peace. It hung for years at one of our orphanages where it inspired our own children.
It is possible to disarm all nuclear weaponry by 2020. It is do-able. For the sake of my son Mathew, for the sake of our orphans in Haiti and Sri Lanka and Tanzania, for the sake of your own families' children, let us commit ourselves to believing this.
And then taking the necessary steps towards making it happen. Go on-line and confirm that your own city's mayor belongs. And if not, call and ask -- for the love of children -- why not?
With Margo LaZaro.