From NYC to Sitka, this Alaskan is taking on nuclear disarmament

(Photo courtesy Shelby Surdyk)

On Wednesday’s Juneau Afternoon, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons was a topic of discussion as host Sheli DeLaney sat down with nuclear disarmament advocate Shelby Surdyk.

Nuclear disarmament became Surdyk’s cause when she was in high school in Skagway and met a new teacher who had previously taught at the U.S. military base on Kwajalein Island in the Marshall Islands. The central Pacific Ocean nation was the site of U.S. nuclear testing between 1946 and 1958.

The teacher educated students about the history and impact that nuclear weapons testing had on the Marshallese people, and their story left a lasting impression on Surdyk.

“I think that once you become connected to people whose lives have been touched by nuclear weapons testing, it’s a path you can’t turn back from,” she said.

Today, Surdyk is the project manager for HOPE: Alaska’s Youth Congress for the Global Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, a five-day conference for high school students to be held in Sitka in April 2020. The idea for the youth congress was introduced by Veterans for Peace, an organization that opposes the proliferation of nuclear weapons as part of their philosophy.

Surdyk recently attended the 2019 NPT PrepCom, a conference held at the United Nations headquarters in New York City this spring. She will be speaking about her experience over a brown-bag lunch hosted by Veterans for Peace this Friday at noon at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center.

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