Friday, March 27, 2015

The Detritus of War

We owe a debt of gratitude to the folks who put the Great Plains Writer's Conference and the recent Harding Distinguished Lecture together at South Dakota State University. What powerful evening presentations we heard!

Kristen Iverson, the author of Full Body Burden, was featured the first night. Hers was the story of growing up near the Rocky Flats, CO, nuclear weapons plant. Her remarks wetted my appetite for the full story, so I purchased the book. In the book, the secrecy, stalling, denial and duplicity of the national security state we live in, is revealed in all it's starkness. 

It becomes obvious that when the lives of the average citizen need to be sacrificed for the sake of the military industrial complex, in the name of national security, they are! All those who worked in the plant and lived around it, risked their lives and the lives of their children's children on the sacrificial altar of the nation state, often without the full knowledge of how and why.

Why in heavens name should the U.S. government, in the name of national defense, produce 70,000 plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons, in the hope they will never be used? And the debris and detritus from those triggers polluted a huge populated area for generations, for thousands of years to come. 

The Rocky Flats story illustrates how the principalities and powers (St. Paul's language), like the huge corporations running the plant, the real estate industry interested in developing the contaminated land around the plant, and the government agencies and politicians in collusion with those powerful economic interests, all work together to crush the seekers of truth and the truth tellers, like the county health director, fired for doing his job of protecting people's health.

It's a story we see in so many places these days. The fruit of killing others, or even preparing to do so, is to hurt ourselves. The detritus of nuclear war preparations is cancer, big time! We will never know all of those who died from the contamination at Rocky Flats, although we get lots of names in the book. We can also thank Hanover, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Pantex, Savannah River, the Waste Isolation Pilot Project, the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory, the Feed Materials Production Center, the Nevada Test Site, and all of those other places where "accidents" in preparation for nuclear war leave their mark on us. And that detritus remains in the air we breathe, the soil we plant, the water we drink.

And then I heard the same story, repeated, with a different cast of characters and a different principality and power, the next night.

Dr. Vandana Shiva presented her take on "Who Really Feeds the World?" It was a different point of view from the one we normally hear from industrial agriculture. She begins in a very different place, since she sees the world and everything in it as connected and related. So if you decide to use Round Up on your yard or your fields, there are complex consequences. It might kill the weeds in the field. But the eventual by product may be super weeds, super bugs, and cancer.

Interestingly, as Dr. Shiva spoke, the World Health Organization had just announced that glyphosate, the primary ingredient in Monsanto's Round Up, was probably carcinogenic. Other studies, like the Seralini study, indicated the same thing. As the head of the cellular neurobiology laboratory at the Salk Institute stated, "There are a number of independent, published manuscripts that clearly indicate that glyphosate … can promote cancer and tumor growth. It should be banned."

We want to kill weeds, so we end up developing chemicals that kill ourselves and our children. And it's another story of secrecy, stalling, denial and duplicity. Monsanto has been a leader in working the revolving door in Washington, purchasing educational institutions, buying off GMO labeling efforts and monopolizing markets. 

So almost all of the corn, most of the soy and much of the cotton in the U.S., is genetically modified to tolerate Monsanto's Round Up. Their killing detritus is all around us.

Organic farmers around the world are demonstrating that organic agriculture works for people and the environment. Dr. Shiva's own farming community in India is a model. The food is more nutritious, the originally depleted soil is now rich and fertile, and the crops are fruitful and tasty without chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Glyphosate is currently under review by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It should be banned. Then watch the howls of protest from our S.D. Congressional delegation. They will call it Obama administration over reach. They will say it's taking away a person's freedom to farm. 

We need to say to them, our health and that of our children is more important than anything. We need to tell them no more plutonium triggers. Ban nuclear weapons along with the glyphosate. We need to say we're tired of raising money for cancer research to help our cancer riddled children. Stop producing the stuff that causes it!

Kristen and Vandana tell a sustainable story, about love for horses and pets, about love for the soil and it's rich and complex organisms. Working in harmony with the sustenance nature gives us, we can construct a different more life affirming reality. If only we have the will.

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