Reviewed by B Martin.
Review published in The Australian Physicist, Vol. 21, November 1984, page 242
With the great expansion in the Australian peace movement and of media and public interest in war and peace, there is an enormous outpouring of materials about these issues. How is one to delve into the mountain of evidence and the many arguments? Reading this book is probably as good a way as any for gaining an initial overview on a range of perspectives.
The emphasis is mostly on Australia, and especially on the consequences of nuclear war for Australia. There are quite a few chapters treating technical issues, notably the ones on the atmospheric and medical effects of nuclear war and on the state of the arms race and its relevance to Australia. But the non-technical contributions, such as Nancy Shelley's discussion of the role of men and science in war, may well be more thought-provoking for scientists.
The strength of the book is its diversity, but its weakness is the lack of dialogue between the different views presented, for example concerning the likely attacks on Australia in the event of global nuclear war. There are also some gaps: while the economic and social impacts of arms and nuclear war are treated, there is no discussion of possible political upheavals.
Finally, what should be done about nuclear war? There are various recommendations from the different contributors, including education, influencing governments, nonviolent action, and self-examination. More than most academic contributions to the debate, this book has a chance of stimulating some form of active response.