A WORLD BEYOND HEALING: The Medical Implications of Nuclear War by Nicholas Wade

A WORLD BEYOND HEALING: The Medical Implications of Nuclear War

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Despite the subtitle. Wade goes far beyond medical matters in this roundup of current knowledge and theory concerning the consequences of a nuclear war. He also includes the latest thinking on the impact of such a war on human social organization, on the US and world economic structure and on the entire environment of our planet. He further more traces the development of nuclear strategy in the US and Soviet Union. A New York Times science writer, Wade concedes that the ""nuclear deterrent"" has prevented a ""conventional"" war between the two superpowers. He, however, concludes that ""with the new knowledge of the consequences of nucler weapons, the United States and the Soviet Union must reconsider the calculus of terror and strive for a form of coexistence that does not require the world's destruction as its guarantee."" The knowledge he refers to involves the ""nuclear winter"" theory as well as the possible total destruct ion of the ozone shield from nitrogen oxides released by nuclear blasts and resulting ""superfires,"" plus disruption of entire electrical systems by electromagnetic pulses produced by nuclear blasts. Even a temporary nuclear winter (caused primarily from the soot of firestorms) could wipe out much of the world's plant life. The failure of a single year's harvest could produce world starvation on an unprecedented scale. The loss of the ozone shield would expose the planet to potentially lethal doses of ultraviolet radial ion, thus possibly destroying all land life and much marine life. Electrical networks are, of course, the central nervous systems of industrial nations, without which they are virtually paralyzed. The medical problems following a nuclear exchange are horrifying enough. Some theorists posit up to 165 million American dead within 30 days of an all-out war. Estimates on a ""limited"" attack (missile silos and control centers, bomber bases and missile submarine ports) might produce from one million to 20 million dead. The surviving doctors and hospitals, needless to say, would be overwhelmed by the wounded. This book makes for grim reading, made even more terrifying by the knowledge that the analysts and computers that spew out the doomsday (and rare moderately ""rosy"") scenarios are really dealing with huge unknowns. The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs are mere firecrackers compared to the 10,000 that can be delivered by the strategic missile arsenals of the USSR and US. In compiling this information and presenting it dispassionately, however, Wade serves up a necessary, if painful, reminder that we mere mortals can destroy ourselves and much of our planet if we are unable to control the nuclear weapons at our disposal.

Pub Date: March 23rd, 1987
Publisher: Norton