In 1947, former U.S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier published his book Indians of the Americas, in which he spoke of American Indians having “what the world has lost.” He was referring to “this power to live,” “the ancient, lost reverence and passion for the earth and its web of life.” “This indivisible reverence and passion is what the American Indians almost universally had; and representative groups of them have it still,” said Collier.
“Not many years are left,” warned Collier, “to have or have not, to recapture the lost ingredient.” He continued: “This is not merely a passing reference to World War III or the atom bomb—although the reference includes these ways of death, too. These deaths will mean the end if they come—racial death, self-inflicted because we have lost the way, and the power to live is dead.”
“What the world had lost, the world must have again lest it die,” Collier cautioned. His statements seem prescient (future sighted) today, especially in light of the nuclear catastrophe in Fukushima Japan, which has unleashed massive amounts of radiation into the ecosystems of Mother Earth, particular into the Pacific Ocean, the largest ocean on the planet.
Collier’s mention of the “atom bomb” as a potential way of death, “self-inflicted because we have lost the way” has a special resonance now. Clearly, a worst case scenario is unfolding at Fukushima, and only time will tell how bad it will get, and how catastrophically it will affect all life on Mother Earth.
The massive 9.0 earthquake on March 11, 2011 resulted in a tsunami, which caused havoc at the nuclear facility at Fukushima, with its six nuclear reactors. Tokyo Power and Electric Company (TEPCO) lied about the extent of the damage. Yet, it’s in charge of efforts to repair and clean-up what is left of the facility, but the current scenario was never foreseen and never planned for. Why? Quite simply, planners had no ability to conceptualize the scale of the “perfect storm” that struck Fukushima: an earthquake + tsunami.
For generations, we, whose ancestors were given the dehumanizing label “ignorant savages,” have been told incessantly that western science is a form of higher intelligence. Yet, isn’t this the very form of "intelligence" that has brought us to the brink of the abyss? The hubris of the western oriented mind has taken the most deadly form of technology—nuclear technology—and, with a remarkable incapacity for long-range planning, while ignoring clear geological evidence, knowingly placed that lethal technology on some of the worst earthquake faults in the world.
Mind you, the model of “long-range” used by the western European style of thought is not a geological time-frame of thousands of years, even though that is the most sensible way to deal with the life-span of radiation in nuclear power plants and in spent fuel rods. Instead, a “profit-motive time-frame” was used based on corporate calculations designed to realize the greatest possible return on capital investments. In other words, a time-frame of greed ruled the day, and very likely has destroyed the future days of a tremendous amount of life on this gorgeous Earth.
For years now, I have said that the dominating society is destroying the very basis of the fabric of life because of the massive and devastating levels of chemical pollutants and other toxins that it has been dumping into the waterways of the planet, not to mention GMO’s, the Tar Sands and similar life-destroying projects, as well as other pathologies that are the result of the western mind. Unfortunately, what may have sounded like hyperbole on my part is being borne out by some 300 tons of radioactive water per day pouring into the Pacific Ocean, and by the two nuclear reactor cores that TEPCO is unable to even locate, let alone clean up!
Additionally, in Reactor Building #4 there are more than 1400 spent fuel rods in a containment pond, sitting roughly 100 feet high, in an unstable building, that is starting to slowly sink into water-saturated ground. Those highly unstable fuel rods have to be removed by some means without any misstep that could cause them to reach criticality and thereby release even higher amounts of radioactivity. It has been said that it will be a “miracle” if this is accomplished. That’s hardly reassuring.
Taped to my wall are translations of two passages from the Bible by scholar Richard Elliot Friedman (The Bible: With Sources Revealed, 2003). His version of Genesis 1:26 reads, “And God said, ‘Let us make a human, in our image, according to our likeness, and let them dominate the fish of the sea and the birds of the skies and the domestic animals and all the earth and all the creeping things that creep on the earth.” Friedman’s version of Genesis 1:28 reads: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and dominate the fish of the sea and the birds of the skies and every animal that creeps on the earth’.”
This, in my view, is the key problem: the root paradigm of domination is evidently the source of the western European worldview. Hmm, “dominate the fish of the sea”? As a result of the domination of nature called “nuclear power,” think of all the sea life that is now succumbing to, and will continue to succumb to, the radiation released into the Pacific Ocean, which is interconnected with all other aspects of the life-cycle of Mother Earth.
The first law of the western Christian European mind seems to be: Dominate the Earth. What better way to dominate Life and all its creatures than to do so at the atomic level, and using the ability to split the atom as “one hell of a way to boil water” for producing electricity, to quote Albert Einstein. For generations now, Indigenous nations and peoples have been directly on the receiving end of the resulting radioactive pollution because, more often than not, the uranium was mined and stolen from the territories of our nations.
The tragic story of the radiation from Fukushima is still developing, and according to nuclear expert Dr. Helen Caldicott, we will be dealing with the radioactive aftermath for generations to come. The ecosystems and reproductive systems of the planet, and our future generations, are now in peril. Sadly, even if humankind as a whole manages to recover what John Collier called “the lost ingredient,” “this power to live,” “the ancient, lost reverence and passion for the earth and its web of life,” that will do nothing to make the radiation go away. To quote Joni Mitchell’s lyrics from her song ”Big Yellow Taxi”: “Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. They paved paradise and put up” nuclear power plants.
Steven Newcomb (Shawnee, Lenape) is co-founder and co-director of the Indigenous Law Institute, and author of Pagans in the Promised Land: Decoding the Doctrine of Christian Discovery (Fulcrum, 2008).