By Jim Hannah

Did you feel that flutter a few weeks ago?

You might call it the “Ban the Bomb butterfly effect,” more evidence that small actions can have outsized impact.

The stir came when this year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to ICAN, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons.

The Nobel citation commends ICAN “for its work to draw attention to the catastrophic human consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for its groundbreaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons.”

The Norwegian Nobel Committee called ICAN “the leading civil society actor in the endeavor to achieve a prohibition of nuclear weapons under international law,” noting ICAN’s active role in development of this year’s Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. That treaty has been signed by 53 nations and ratified by three nations since July; when ratified by 50 nations it would become the first legally binding treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons.

In a time of heightened awareness of the nuclear threat, as North Korea and the United States square off with threats and counter-threats, it is particularly significant that the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to a civil society organization advocating nuclear weapons abolition.

ICAN is a coalition of non-governmental organizations from more than 100 nations, advocating in the United Nations this past decade for a nuclear weapons ban.

A statement on ICAN’s website underscores the urgency of the moment: “This is a time of great global tension, when fiery rhetoric could all too easily lead us, inexorably, to unspeakable horror. The specter of nuclear conflict looms once more. If ever there were a moment for nations to declare their unequivocal opposition to nuclear weapons, that moment is now.”

Among the voices leading the opposition have been those of a former Independence, MO, couple, Matthew Bolton and Emily Welty. Both instructors at Pace University in New York City, they have been active supporters of ICAN’s treaty efforts.

In an interview with the Independence Examiner, Matthew said, “When we hear the current administration threatening to use them (nuclear weapons), what many citizens forget is what that really means—thousands of deaths, toxic land, multi-generational harm.”

His remarks echo those of ICAN: “The belief of some governments that nuclear weapons are a legitimate and essential source of security is not only misguided, but also dangerous, for it incites proliferation and undermines disarmament. All nations should reject these weapons completely—before they are ever used again.”

Could nuclear weapons ever be delegitimized, and banned? Many might say no, but a creative minority of civil society actors have a different message:

Yes, ICAN! Yes, WE can!