Ban Advocate Profile: Cycling for a nuclear weapons-free world

Mar 14, 2023 | News

By Jesse Boylan

Before he turns 80, John Stace wants to ride 80 km a day for 80 days—and he is well on his way.

A former doctor, Stace began practicing emergency medicine in the 1960s in Papua New Guinea (PNG). There, he treated sick children and trained Papuan students, who would go on to work in rural health centres.

After eight years in PNG, he worked at Perth Children’s Hospital and then in the Kimberly and Pilbara regions of Western Australia.

Stace has always been concerned about war and its impacts on humanity He has written a book about World War I and the devastation it caused the people of New South Wales.  He now has eleven grandchildren and is worried about what kind of future they will inherit. “I’m well aware of the huge human consequence of war,” Stace told me over the phone, as he was preparing to fly to Adelaide. “And I don’t want that to happen to my kids and grandkids.”

“Just over 100 years ago,” Stace said, “Europe sleep-walked into a war it didn’t want, and millions of people died in that conflict. I worry that the world is sleep-walking into a war with China which would devastate many countries including Australia. If nuclear weapons are used, then billions of people could die of starvation in the subsequent nuclear winter. We need to find the answers to this question: ‘How can we communicate and negotiate with China and Russia so there is no war?’”

In 2022, Stace completed the first leg of the tour—a 2700 km solo ride across the Nullabor, from Perth to Adelaide, which took him twenty-eight days. Once he reached Adelaide, he could see that the entire East Coast of Australia was drenched, so he called the rest of the ride off until a more suitable time.

The next leg of his journey begins this week and will see him pedalling between Adelaide and Sydney. He’ll start by winding up through the Adelaide Hills, then East to the Murray River, then along the Murray Valley to Mildura, Swan Hill, Echuca, and Albury-Wodonga. He’ll then ride through the Snowy mountains to Canberra, then Cowra, before arriving in Sydney sometime in the next four to six weeks—where he will “dip the bike’s front wheel in the Pacific Ocean at Bondi Beach.”

As well as wanting to visit his grandchildren, Stace’s bike ride also stems from a deep concern about nuclear weapons and the potential for nuclear war. Along his journey he will be championing ICAN as a Nuclear Weapon Ban Advocate. Whenever he meets friendly folk—as he does often—Stace will promote the importance of banning nuclear weapons, and the need for Australia to get on with signing the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW).

Travelling with him are two philosophies that guide him. The first is from the Jewish philosopher, Hillel the Elder, which states: “If not me, then who? And if not now, then when?” The second is from Nelson Mandela, who said: “In any social cause, it always seems impossible until it’s done.”

“I think they’re useful philosophies to go by,” Stace said.

This is the first in a series of profiles on our Ban Advocates—ordinary people all over Australia working for a world free of nuclear weapons.

You can follow John Stace’s journey by joining the Facebook page John’s 80/80/80