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Grandmothers for Peace seeks local support to eliminate nuclear weapons

The Northland chapter members urged the Superior City Council to sponsor a resolution to urge the U.S. to eliminate its nuclear arsenal.

Government Center in Superior
Government Center, Superior, Wisconsin.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — Grandmothers for Peace Northland Chapter is hoping to enlist the support of local officials in its effort to eliminate nuclear weapons in the world.

Local chapter members Dorothy Wolden, Christine Olson and Karen Barschdorf urged the Superior City Council on Tuesday, Nov. 15, to consider sponsoring a resolution to show the city’s support for eliminating nuclear weapons.

“Grandmothers for Peace International has a close connection to Superior,” Wolden said.

The organization was founded in 1982 in Sacramento, California, by Barbara Wiedner, who was born and raised in Superior.

“She learned that 1,500 nuclear warheads were located at an air base 15 minutes from her home, enough to destroy all human life,” Wolden said. “And she was inspired to start a movement.”

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In 1983, Wiedner convinced her sister, Jan Provost, to start the Northland chapter in Superior, Wolden said.

“Jan’s motto was peace begins at home and she worked hard to build peace here in Superior through gift drives; nonviolent toys for local children; raising money for scholarships for students committed to peace and social justice; serving on the sister city commission and many other efforts,” Wolden said. “She led our chapter for 37 years until her death in April 2020.”

The resolution the organization drafted and presented to the council was dedicated in Provost’s name.

Wolden urged the city council to take up the resolution to urge the United States to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, making it illegal under international law to develop, test, produce or otherwise possess or stockpile nuclear weapons.

“In St. Paul, the city council just passed a resolution two months ago,” Wolden said.

The United States spends about $84,000 per minute on nuclear weapons, Olson said. That’s $5 million an hour — every hour of every day. She said in 2020 alone, Superior residents paid $6 million for nuclear weapons, money that could be put to better use for affordable housing, schools, the environment and other needs to improve lives.

“Over the next 20 years, the plan is to enhance the entire nuclear arsenal at a cost of at least $1.7 trillion — more than $1 trillion dollars on weapons that must not be used,” Olson said.

“We do need to do something,” Barschdorf said. “It affects all our lives, everyone in Superior, everyone in this country, and every country.”

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Barschdorf said nuclear weapons have posed a threat since World War II, when bombs were dropped in Japan and killed thousands upon thousands of people.

“Since then, we have developed new weapons … and it has made our lives less safe,” Barschdorf said.

“In the recent past, other treaties between nuclear-armed nations have resulted in the verified destruction of nuclear weapons,” Wolden said. “It can be done. We know how to do it.” She said while 50,000 nuclear weapons have been dismantled, 15,000 remain among nine nations.

Council President Jenny Van Sickle, who invited the Northland Chapter members to give a presentation to the council Tuesday, said she didn’t understand the gravity of the resolution when she was approached for possible sponsorship.

The resolution wasn’t on Tuesday’s agenda for consideration, and no councilors stepped forward immediately to sponsor it.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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