Blinded by the Apocalypse: Carl Sagan and Nuclear Winter

By Kurt Weinstein

The Nevada Test Site was the scene of roughly one thousand atomic weapon detonations from 1951 to 1992. Carl Sagan was arrested in the Fall of 1986 for trespassing on the site along with 138 other protesters. These protests were notable for being organized by public health professionals not affiliated with established anti-war groups. The protests were intended to push the United States into accepting the nuclear test ban and joining the Soviet Union in placing a moratorium on nuclear testing. Sagan spoke to the American Public Health Association prior to the 1986 protest and expressed his belief that a ban on nuclear testing would slow the arms race. The APHA were the primary organizers of the protest and an organization which combines scientific investigation, education, and advocacy to improve the health of communities. In February 1986 the APHA Peace Caucus conducted another protest in which Sagan participated and was again arrested. The number of arrested person more than doubled to 438.