We've Gone Nuclear
The most disturbing topic for me in this class turned out to be the nuclear concerns, of both weaponery and power.
*10 Nuclear Myths:
1) Nuclear weapons were needed to defeat Japan in World War II;
2) Nuclear weapons prevented a war between the United States and the Soviet Union;
3) Nuclear weapons prevent nuclear terrorism;
4) The United States needs nuclear weapons for its national security;
5) Nuclear weapons make a country safer;
6) No leader would be crazy enough to actually use nuclear weapons;
7) Nuclear weapons are a cost-effective method of national defense;
8) Nuclear weapons are well protected and there is little chance that terrorists could get their hands on one;
9) The United States is working to fulfill its nuclear disarmament obligations;
10) Nuclear weapons are needed to combat threats from terrorists and "rogue states."
*From our classroom text, Approaches to Peace, A Reader in Peace Studies, by David P. Barash (Pgs 83-86)
I read Full Body Burden ~ Growing up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats, by Kristen Iversen this semester. A memoir and autobiography in some regards, the book gives a snippet of the lifestyle of growing up in America in the 50s and 60s. Rocky Flats was a big boon to the area west of Denver, and the small towns surrounding the nuclear weapons plant benefitted economically by that presence. The author lived in Arvada, very near the plant, and rode her horses around the fenced periphery. This book is well-researched and well-written. It makes a very difficult topic easy to read about and understand.
There were two major accidents at Rocky Flats and hundreds of minor ones over the years. The one in 1957 likely caused the largest release of plutonium. Here's a chart of the area of pollution from that accident.
The other major incident took place on Mother's Day, May 11, 1969. This may be the best documented occurance of the closest we have come to complete nuclear meltdown. The writer deeply investigates the level of secrecy, in the name of national security, that was in place before, during and after the event. Many of the documents from the years that Rocky Flats was in production are now declassified. It is horrifying to see how lackadaisical the day-to-day plant operation was done, with very little information shared with the workers about the risks involved in their employment.
The visit to our classroom by Chris Hormel caused me to feel physically sick. It reminded me of the day in 4th grade when there was a little blurb in our history book about the Holocaust. I had to leave school, sick to my stomach. How could something like this happen? I feel the same way about nuclear concerns, both in war and in commerce. Chris is on the Board of Trustees at Naropa, has followed the nuclear issues since the 70s, and has been especially focused on exposing Rocky Flats concerns. He bravely shared about his own sense of desolation and doom, and the resultant depression, when the Fukushima power plant in Japan was hit by the tsunami there. He knows how bad it is, and what it means for the pollution of the planet. And this is just one incident.
The safe storage of waste products from nuclear industry is not possible, due to the length of time it is toxic. We've been so short sighted about how our war culture and the disregard we have for the environment will play out in future generations. I just don't see how there can be a good outcome over time. I hope there is some brilliant young person (or many brilliant young people!) who will prove me wrong. I pray for that.
It is a really stupid animal that dirties it's own nest, and that is exactly what humans have done. We can be in denial about this, attempt to assign blame, which is a total waste of precious time, or we can focus on how to clean up the messes and save a few of us somehow. Other species are, of course, at the mercy of these messes and it would be nice to save a few of them, as well.
I know things are worse than we are being told at Fukushima. I am broken hearted and overwhelmed by this most urgent issue.
I have to fall back to my most basic mantra, that I learned from an inmate at FCI Bastrop: "Oh, welllllllll." Good thing I believe that Soul is eternal or I'd REALLY be pissed off!
"The wonder is this: that, as we walk it, the path becomes clear. We have
only to trust it into action, then truth reveals itself, shining all
the brighter for the darkness of our time." ~ Joanna Macy
Joanna Macy's book, Planetary Perils and Psychological Responses: Despair and Empowerment Work offered one of my most favorite readings of the semester. She mentions three responses or reactions to the perils of our time: disbelief, denial and double life. (Pg 33 - 34) She shares about still being in disbelief that atomic bombs exist, that they have been used in war, that they are even in our world: instruments of destruction that would end the world as we know it, if released. Having disbelief, it makes it easier to also be in denial. We deny, not just the danger of what has been created, but even more so, what is at stake. "Stunned by the prospect of so immense an atrocity, the human mind is tempted to acquiesce to the triviality of its own existence." Macy describes 'double life' as how we live our lives as if nothing has changed, while knowing that everything has changed. On one level, we maintain a rather up-beat ability to carry on with our 'normal' life, while also knowing that our world becomes more and more endangered by the minute. She states that, "Until we find ways to acknowledge and integrate that level of anguished awareness, we repress it; and with that repression we are drained of the energy we need for action and clear thinking."
As a tantric educator, I was struck by Macy's writing about the Sense of Separate Existence (Pg 40). "Assuming that all our drives are ego-centered, we tend to wonder if feelings of despair for our planet are not manifestations of some private neurosis. Thus we are tempted to discredit those feelings that arise from solidarity with our fellow-beings, dismissing them as some kind of personal morbidity."
We live in our Western culture of individualism and are encouraged to focus on our own needs instead of the needs of the collective. We tend to exclude global and social concerns from the relevant domain of psychotherapy, and if we take these concerns to a therapist, we are directed back to our own needs and issues. Tantric world view offers the possibility that there is only One of us here, and that what happens to one of us, happens to all of us. When we make decisions for the good of the whole, rather than just for ourselves, the world will change quickly, and much for the better.