David T. Hanson






critical quotes



David T. Hanson

Sanskrit Text Bhagavad-Gita Oppenheimer Quote

If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One. . . . I am become Death, the shatterer of worlds.1

Dr. Robert Oppenheimer,

quoting from the Bhagavad Gita

when describing the explosion of the

world’s first atomic bomb.

When I was 16 years old my father taught me to sing some of the songs that talk about the land. . . . One day, I went fishing with Dad. As I was walking along behind him I was dragging my spear on the beach which was leaving a long line behind me. He told me to stop doing that. He continued telling me that if I made a mark, or dig, with no reason at all, I’ve been hurting the bones of the traditional people of that land. We must only dig and make marks on the ground when we perform [rituals] or gather food.2

Galarrwuy Yunupingu,

son of the Australian Aboriginal artist Munggurrawuy.

This, finally, is the punch line of our two hundred years on the Great Plains: we trap out the beaver, subtract the Mandan, infect the Blackfeet and the Hidatsa and the Assiniboin, overdose the Arikara; call the land a desert and hurry across it to get to California and Oregon; suck up the buffalo, bones and all; kill off nations of elk and wolves and cranes and prairie chickens and prairie dogs; dig up the gold and rebury it in vaults someplace else; ruin the Sioux and Cheyenne and Arapaho and Crow and Kiowa and Comanche; kill Crazy Horse, kill Sitting Bull; harvest wave after wave of immigrants’ dreams and send the wised-up dreamers on their way; plow the topsoil until it blows to the ocean; ship out the wheat, ship out the cattle; dig up the earth itself and burn it in power plants and send the power down the line; dismiss the small farmers, empty the little towns; drill the oil and the natural gas and pipe it away; dry up the rivers and the springs, deep-drill for irrigation water as the aquifer retreats. And in return we condense unimaginable amounts of treasure into weapons buried beneath the land that so much treasure came from—weapons for which our best hope might be that we will someday take them apart and throw them away, and for which our next-best hope certainly is that they remain humming away under the prairie, absorbing fear and maintenance, unused, forever.3

Ian Frazier,

Great Plains.

On October 15, 1988, the New York Times reported on the Feed Materials Production Center in Fernald, Ohio (where uranium is processed for use in nuclear weapons parts and fuel for military reactors):

Government officials overseeing a nuclear weapons plant in Ohio knew for decades that they were releasing thousands of tons of radioactive uranium waste into the environment, exposing thousands of workers and residents in the region, a Congressional panel said today. The Government decided not to spend the money to clean up three major sources of contamination. . . . Runoff from the plant carried tons of the waste into drinking water wells in the area and the Great Miami River; leaky pits at the plant, storing waste water containing uranium emissions and other radioactive materials, leaked into the water supplies, and the plant emitted radioactive particles into the air.4

On December 3, 1984, in the world’s worst industrial disaster, the poisonous gas methyl isocyanate leaked from a Union Carbide pesticide plant in Bhopal, India, killing an estimated 8,000 residents of the impoverished community and injuring at least 300,000 others. Blindness, lung damage, and psychological problems persist in many of the survivors, with more injuries becoming apparent over time. The Indian Government filed suit for $3.3 billion in damages on behalf of 500,000 claimants, charging poor maintenance, design flaws, and willful negligence at the plant. After four years of litigation, Union Carbide agreed to settle all claims for $470 million—the average victim eventually received about $300. The U.S.-based multinational corporation shut down its Bhopal plant and has refused to clean up the abandoned site and its extensive contamination. India had filed criminal charges of “culpable homicide” against Union Carbide as a corporate entity and ten of its officials, including Carbide’s chairman Warren Anderson, who was arrested in India and posted bail, fled the country, and remains an unextradited fugitive from justice.5

* * * * *

Of the nearly half-million hazardous waste sites spread across the United States, those resulting from nuclear production have the most deadly and long-lasting effects on the land and its inhabitants.6 The unlikely coalition of political conservatives, industry representatives, and environmental advocates who support nuclear energy rarely discuss with any honesty the massive destruction of the earth caused by the mining of uranium, which is only the first stage in the long, waste-intensive process of producing nuclear fuel. Few of these supporters acknowledge that the development of nuclear fuel also requires massive amounts of conventionally generated electricity. For example, when operating at full capacity, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Reservation in Tennessee (one of the largest nuclear production facilities) consumes more electricity than the entire city of New York.

Some of the largest uranium mines in the United States are located in central Wyoming’s Wind River Basin in the Gas Hills area. These mines have transformed over one hundred square miles of native grasslands and buttes into a vast network of pits, waste ponds, uranium mills, and tailings piles. The mines and tailings have greatly increased the levels not only of uranium in the soil and water but also of the toxic elements selenium, arsenic, and molybdenum—these four elements react with one another to create significantly higher levels of toxicity. Ground water, surface water, and air spread the contamination. Cancer rates in the area are unusually high. On a ranch in the region owned by the geologist David Love, there has been a 700% increase in the level of uranium in a local creek; this increase is solely attributable to occasional flood waters. Contaminated wildlife spread the toxins farther afield in the environment and food chain. Since the 1950s, ranchers in the area have been regularly compensated by the mining companies for dead livestock. Some unfenced waste ponds are so poisonous that many antelope and stray cattle that drank from them died before they had gone more than half a mile.7

The writer Winona LaDuke has pointed out that nearly all of the uranium mined in the world today—primarily in North America, Australia, South Africa, and Namibia—is located on the small remaining land bases of the indigenous peoples of these areas. Two-thirds of all uranium in North America is located on or adjacent to Native American reservations. The same figures are true for Aboriginal Australia. LaDuke has described, in very different terms from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] documents, the effects on a Native American community of one of the radioactive spills at United Nuclear Company’s uranium mill in Church Rock, New Mexico (a site included in the photographic series Waste Land):

The United Nuclear Company’s Churchrock accident [on July 16, 1979], which followed Three Mile Island by four months, occurred when an impoundment dam busted open. One hundred million gallons of highly radioactive water and 1,100 tons of mill tailings were immediately released into the Rio Puerco River, near Grants, New Mexico. The company had known that the dam was faulty; it had cracked two years prior to the break. The Dine community of Churchrock was immediately affected by the spill. Animals became so contaminated with radiation that their internal organs completely deteriorated. Since the Dine depended on the animals, particularly the sheep, for their subsistence, their supply of food as well as water was eliminated. Young children were brought to Los Alamos for radiation counts, but the studies were conducted inappropriately and inadequately. Despite the fact that it was the worst spill of radioactive materials in U.S. history, the Churchrock accident received minimal press coverage. Perhaps the press and Kerr-McGee thought that because the accident occurred in an area of low population, where radiation levels were already quite high, it was not really news. If the same spill had happened in a wealthy white community, the media might have responded differently.8

Since 1943, the Hanford Reservation, a U.S. Department of Energy [DOE] facility with nine nuclear reactors in Richland, Washington, has processed uranium into weapons-grade plutonium and has reprocessed nuclear fuel. Occupying 560 square miles, Hanford also stores most of the United States’ high-level radioactive waste, much of it in large, deteriorating and leaking tanks located in an area of moderate earthquake activity heavily marked by faults. The plutonium reactors and waste storage tanks are not designed to withstand an earthquake, and significant seismic activity could severely damage the tanks or cause enough vibration in their sensitive waste to ignite a hydrogen explosion. During the past 50 years, Hanford has become the most polluted and radioactive site in the nation, with over 1,500 radioactive waste dumps and contaminated buildings. Nearly 4 billion gallons of chemically contaminated waste have been dumped directly onto the ground, and 120 million gallons of high-level radioactive weapons waste have been directly discharged into the soil. On one occasion, when tank storage space ran out, 30 million gallons of high-level radioactive waste were pumped directly into unlined trenches. In addition, 200-450 billion gallons of low-level nuclear waste have been stored in a variety of pits, ponds, and basins throughout the Reservation.9 By the 1970s, so much plutonium had been dumped that officials feared that a critical mass ready to fission had accumulated underground. As late as 1987, Hanford was still disposing 7 billion gallons of wastewater a year into ponds and ditches. Springs and wells in the area, along with the Columbia and Yakima Rivers that border the Reservation, have been contaminated with radioactive wastes; in fact, eight of the nine reactors discharged reactor coolant directly into the Columbia. North America’s second largest river and major tributary to the Pacific, the Columbia was for years considered the most radioactive waterway in the world. Particularly during the 1940s and 1950s, Hanford regularly emitted intentional or accidental airborne releases of radioactive materials that heavily contaminated the surrounding farms and countryside. In 1949, the Atomic Energy Commission conducted a top-secret military experiment of airborne radiation (code name “green run”), deliberately contaminating much of eastern Washington with more than 300 times the amount of radioactivity released by the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident. In 1988, EPA added four areas within the Hanford Reservation to its National Priorities List (“Superfund”). Since it was shut down in 1991, Hanford’s new mission has been cleanup and the “development of new environmental technologies.” DOE has estimated that it will cost $210 billion to clean up the Hanford Reservation, and it currently spends $1.1 billion a year just maintaining and safeguarding the closed facility. DOE has not yet specified how such a cleanup could or would be effected (it would include the removal of radioactive materials with half-lives of up to 24,000 years from the soil, regional streams and rivers, and wildlife). Such nuclear waste will remain lethal for more than 250,000 years.

Another Superfund site, the Department of Energy’s Rocky Flats Plant in Golden, Colorado, on the northwest edge of Denver (13 miles upstream and upwind from the city center), manufactured the plutonium cores for the nuclear and thermonuclear weapons produced in the United States. From 1951–1989, the plant fabricated more than 50,000 of these “pits,” each of them with a destructive power roughly equivalent to the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki.10 Plutonium, with a half-life of 24,000 years, is radioactive, highly flammable, and carcinogenic. It is one of the most toxic substances produced by humans. One-millionth of a gram inhaled and lodged in the lungs is sufficient to cause cancer; it has also been shown to produce substantial genetic damage, even in workers exposed to “safe” levels of it.11 During the past 45 years, more than 200 plutonium fires at the Rocky Flats Plant have spewed radiation into the environment. A 1957 explosion blew out all 620 industrial filters, scattering four years of collected plutonium and uranium dust over Denver. Although the Atomic Energy Commission [AEC] publicly denied there was any “release of consequence” of plutonium, an internal AEC survey reported heavy contamination of an elementary school 12 miles away. In 1969, the second worst industrial fire in U.S. history destroyed $20 million worth of plutonium at Rocky Flats. Over the years plutonium liquid wastes and a wide range of other dangerous toxins have seeped into the water table and contaminated the area’s aquifers, streams and lakes. In 1973, tritium and americium (two highly toxic radioactive materials) as well as carcinogenic organic chemicals were found to be leaking into the nearby water-supply reservoir of Broomfield, Colorado. Water samples showed radiation levels tens of thousands of times higher than normal. In the vicinity of the plant, 11,000 acres have been contaminated because of inappropriate disposal practices. In addition to the plant’s emissions, plutonium has also become air-borne dust through leaks from rusted and deteriorating waste-storage barrels left for years in an open field on the site. In 1974, soil samples several miles from the plant indicated 3,500 times the normal “background” radiation, with “hot spots” occurring farther out in Jefferson County and the Denver area. The Denver suburbs of Broomfield, Westminster, and Arvada have been particularly affected, and the neighboring tableland and underground water have been so contaminated that the surrounding cities are increasingly concerned as new urban development gets closer to the plant.

In 1989, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and EPA filed civil and criminal charges against Rockwell International, the company operating Rocky Flats for DOE, alleging that it was an “ongoing criminal enterprise” which deliberately engaged for years in covert illegal disposal practices of radioactive and chemical wastes, concealed contamination, and falsified reports.12 Later that year, the Rocky Flats Plant was closed because of its unsafe practices and the risks posed by its continued operation. A 1994 DOE report described some buildings at the Rocky Flats Plant as “the most dangerous manufacturing facilities in the nation,” in part because 14 tons of plutonium remain improperly stored there in leaking containers and deteriorating buildings.13 Recently renamed the Rocky Flats Environmental Technology Site, its current mission is cleanup rather than nuclear weapons production.

DOE currently estimates it will cost at least $1 trillion to clean up all of the nuclear weapons sites in the United States. Although many of the necessary technologies have not yet been developed, DOE has stated that it plans to complete the cleanup by 2040.14 The total cleanup costs for Rocky Flats alone are estimated to be $100 billion. As usual, this figure does not take into account the enormous social and health-care costs related to such extensive toxic contamination. Cancer rates in residential areas near Rocky Flats are 16% higher than in the rest of Denver; leukemia rates in the area have risen sharply since the plant opened and are substantially higher than average. Rocky Flats workers have rates of brain cancer eight times higher than the Colorado norm. Although an Atomic Energy Commission report stated that as of 1974 accidents within the plant had contaminated 171 workers, recent studies have revealed that over the years thousands of workers at Rocky Flats have actually been contaminated by excess radiation exposure.15 One such worker, Don Gabel, died of a malignant brain tumor in 1980 after years of illness and operations. Gabel, a plutonium worker for 10 years at the Rocky Flats Plant, recalled in an interview before he died: “It would be very hot. My head would be right by the pipes. I would . . . ask my boss about that. He’d say, ‘It wouldn’t matter about your head, it’s your body you have to worry about.’”16 Although Rockwell International and Dow Chemical Company denied that Don Gabel’s death was related to his work, his widow filed a worker’s compensation lawsuit against the companies and won a judgment which determined that “Don Gabel’s death from cancer was caused by radiation received while on the job at Rocky Flats, which radiation was well within the safety standards set by the United States Government.”17

Stories of the hazards suffered by workers at the hands of America’s toxic industries are common within EPA. In 1984, one young man working for a chemical company in Louisiana was hired for extra pay as a “midnight dumper” for the company. He was routinely instructed to drive a tanker filled with toxic waste into a backwoods bayou, get out and open the valve at the back of the truck, return to the cab, wait until the tank was empty, and then pull away. On one occasion he happened to drive into an area that had been used earlier in the day as a dump site by a different company. When he opened the valve, the two chemicals immediately reacted to produce a lethal gas. He never made it back to the cab of his truck—his lungs were burned right out of him.

As Rocky Flats, Bhopal, and many other industrial accidents and toxic waste sites have revealed, hazardous waste is perhaps the ultimate injustice that industry perpetrates on its workers, its neighborhoods, and the environment. In a form of double jeopardy, workers are at risk not only in their work place but also at home with their families. Numerous studies have shown that hazardous industries, toxic waste dumps, and waste-treatment facilities are located primarily in rural, poor, and working-class neighborhoods, and that minorities are even more heavily impacted. From Bhopal and the “Cancer Corridor” of Louisiana to tens of thousands of U.S. industrial sites and their surrounding communities, the effects of toxic waste clearly represent another insidious form of social discrimination and environmental injustice.18 This injustice extends to the dumping in developing countries of carcinogenic chemicals either prohibited in the U.S. or expensive to dispose of here. In addition, some chemicals, banned in this country because of their proven health risks, are still produced by U.S. companies for use in less-regulated developing nations, or even for sale on the black market in countries where those chemicals are already outlawed. Ironically, many of these dangerous chemicals return to the United States, in a “circle of poison,” through a variety of imported goods (such as carcinogenic pesticides, insecticides, and animal additives in imported foods).19 Following a long history of plundering developing countries for their natural resources and cheap or free labor, the U.S. and other industrialized nations have now created a contemporary variation—waste colonization.

* * * * *

The Aboriginal tribes of Australia are the Earth’s oldest known continuous civilization, dating back 40,000 years. An Aboriginal tribal elder, when asked why his culture had left behind no structures that compared with the Pyramids, the Parthenon or other great monuments of recent civilizations, replied that his people had strived to leave the land just as they had found it: that was their most enduring monument. It seems frightening yet strangely appropriate that the most enduring monuments the West will leave for future generations will not be Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Giza or the cathedral at Chartres, but rather the hazardous remains of our industry and technology. The temples of the Aztec and Mayan civilizations have survived a mere 500–2,000 years; Native American Anasazi cave dwellings and pictographs date back only 1,000–2,500 years. How much longer lasting—and how tragic in consequence—will be the contemporary wasteland that has been created in the United States during the past 200 years, and especially the past 50. The radioactive contamination from American plutonium factories will be in evidence long after the Pyramids have disappeared, our soaring modern architectural edifices have crumbled, and entire cultures have risen and fallen. Remaining deadly for more than 250,000 years, this legacy of ours will last for 10,000 generations into the future.20 (To put this into perspective, Homo sapiens in its present form has been on the earth for 60,000–100,000 years.) This then is the final stage in our exploration and development of the American continent. Instead of the Zen garden of Kyoto’s Ryoanji, we leave behind vast gardens of ashes and poisons. Instead of the sculpted temples of Borobudur in Java or Ajanta in India, we leave to future generations Rocky Flats and the Hanford Reservation.

Mythologies have a way of becoming flesh, of embodying themselves in social realities. Like the ancient megaliths of Stonehenge or the lines of Nazca, these waste sites may be seen as monuments to the dominant myths and obsessions of our culture. It is clear that our civilization and its relationship to the earth and all its inhabitants is diametrically opposed to the attitudes of certain tribal cultures which felt so devoted to and united with Nature that they could not bring themselves even to farm for fear of cutting into the Mother.21 Instead of a sacred sense of our place within a miraculous cosmos and a deep respect for the interconnectedness of nature and our role within its vast rhythms and cycles, we have created a patriarchal society buttressed by a religion that mythologizes—and a science that justifies—the separation, even opposition, of God, humanity, and nature. Our culture and its dominant religions reinforce in us a deep fear and distrust of the natural world.22 What we seem to be reenacting in our own time is a central myth of the Judaeo-Christian religions: the Fall and the Expulsion from the Garden. Like a self-fulfilling prophecy, we attempt to rival the power of “the gods” and as punishment for our hubris, we cast ourselves into a Paradise Lost. The American landscape at the end of the second millennium has become a contemporary reflection of our ancient vision of the Apocalypse.

These hazardous sites also demonstrate the dramatic contradiction between Americans’ public reverence for nature—proclaiming the virtues of the “virgin” wilderness—and our inability to respect the land that we actually live on. Clearly these places signal a radical shift from the savoring and fetishizing of landscape as Nature’s Body, to an unconscious American scorched earth policy motivated by power, ambition, greed, and deceit. Instead of fulfilling the Utopian promises of the industrial-technological age, we have manifested the dark side of the American Dream and created a landscape of failed desire. In our society’s insistent fear and denial of death, we are surrounding ourselves with entire landscapes of death. Geologists estimate that the North American continent as we now know it has existed for some 60 million years. What we have managed to do to it in a mere 200 years, and to the American West in much less time, defies the imagination. Driven by our distorted notions of progress, we have realized the logical conclusion of our Manifest Destiny, and have transformed our natural world from wilderness to pastoral landscape to industrial site and now to wasteland.

History seems to indicate that at some point in time all cultures reach a stage when they are held accountable by nature. There is considerable evidence that most of the major civilizations of the past destroyed themselves, at least in part, by the misuse of their natural environments.23 Our society appears to have little responsibility or consideration for what rare and precious gifts we have been entrusted with, and how we have squandered them. Perhaps we have reached that point in time when we must be held accountable for the enormous destruction that we have inflicted upon our natural world and our social communities.

The Aboriginal people of Australia give voice to this conflict between technology and nature when they ask, “What will you do when the clever men destroy your water?”24


This essay was originally written in 1987-88, and was revised for publication in 1997.

  1. Michel Rouzé, Robert Oppenheimer: The Man and His Theories, translated by Patrick Evans, New York: Paul S. Eriksson, Inc., 1965, p. 74. The passages from the Bhagavad Gita are from chapter 11, verses 12 and 32.
  2. Peter Sutton, “Dreamings” in Dreamings: The Art of Aboriginal Australia, Peter Sutton ed., New York: The Asia Society Galleries, 1988, pp. 13-14.
  3. Ian Frazier, Great Plains, New York: Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1989, pp. 209-10.
  4. “U.S., for decades, let uranium leak at weapon plant,” The New York Times (October 15, 1988): A1, 7. In this same article, Congressman Thomas A. Luken of Ohio charged that “DOE was waging a kind of chemical warfare against the community of Fernald.” Thomas Carpenter, a lawyer representing the Fernald workers, stated that “DOE is now telling us it was willful conduct. They knew, and there’s no excuse for that. That’s criminal behavior.”
  5. “Bhopal payments by Union Carbide set at $470 million,” The New York Times (February 15, 1989): A1, D3. See also Peter Montague, “Things To Come,” Rachel’s Environment & Health Weekly #523 (December 5, 1996); and Dan Kurxman, A Killing Wind: Inside Union Carbide and the Bhopal Catastrophe, New York: McGraw-Hill, 1987.
  6. In a 1989 study, Congress’s Office of Technology Assessment concluded that there were approximately 439,000 chemically contaminated sites in the U.S. See Environmental Epidemiology, Volume 1: Public Health and Hazardous Wastes, Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1991. The photographic series Waste Land includes four nuclear production sites: United Nuclear Company, Church Rock, New Mexico; Lincoln Park, Canon City, Colorado; Teledyne Wah Chang, Albany, Oregon; and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Rocky Flats Plant, Golden, Colorado; in addition to two Air Force bases involved in handling and transporting nuclear weapons (McChord Air Force Base, Tacoma, Washington; and Mather Air Force Base, Sacramento, California).
  7. Information on the Gas Hills uranium mines comes from a telephone interview with David Love, Fall 1987. Residents of the Wind River Indian Reservation have reported that nearly all of the people who have lived in the vicinity of the old Susquehanna mill tailings dump (near Riverton, Wyoming) either have cancer or have died from it.
  8. Winona LaDuke, “They always come back” in A Gatheringof Spirit: Writing and Art By North American Indian Women, Beth Brant ed., Rockland, Maine: Sinister Wisdom Books, 1984, pp. 62-63. See also Simon J. Ortiz, Fight Back: For the Sake of the People, For the Sake of the Land, Albuquerque: Institute for Native American Development, University of New Mexico, 1980.
  9. DOE has periodically revised these figures upward, often dramatically, as recent investigations have revealed that millions—or billions—more gallons have actually leaked than previously disclosed by DOE. In the past six years, the amount of high-level radioactive waste estimated to have leaked from Hanford’s aging storage tanks has been changed from 500,000 to 121 million gallons. On the Hanford Reservation, see Karen Dorn Steele, “Hanford’s bitter legacy,” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (January/February 1988): 17-23; Eliot Marshall, “Hanford’s Radioactive Tumbleweed,” Science (26 June 1987): 1616-1620; Fred C. Shapiro, “Radwaste in Indians’ Backyards,” The Nation (May 7, 1983): 573-575; Sheldon Novick, “The dangers from radioactive wastes,” Current (May 1970): 41-5; T.M. Beaseley et al., “Hanford-Derived Plutonium in Columbia River Sediments,” Science (20 November 1981): 913-915; and “Hanford cleanup costly, slow and riddled with snags,” The Seattle Times (April 26, 1994): A1, 4.
  10. In a two-stage nuclear weapon, the plutonium “pit” acts as the fission device that triggers the much larger fusion reaction. The “pits” manufactured at the Rocky Flats Plant varied in explosive yield over the years, ranging up to 100 kilotons. “Fat Man,” the Nagasaki bomb, had a yield of 21 kilotons. On the Rocky Flats Plant, see Peter J. Ognibene, “Living with the Bomb: How ‘safe’ is nuclear pollution?,” Saturday Review (June 24, 1978): 8-12; Elaine Douglass, “Atom Bombs Also Pollute,” The Nation (October 14, 1978): 361-362; and Samuel H. Day Jr., “The nicest people make the Bomb,” The Progressive (October 1978): 22-27.
  11. Press release from the Hanford Citizen’s Advisory Board, 1992; and Peter Montague, “The Fourth Horseman, Part 2: Nuclear Technology,” Rachel’s Environment & Health Weekly #473 (December 21, 1995). In one of its more disconcerting memorandums, DOE recently noted that more than 8,000 pounds of plutonium have disappeared (“remain unaccounted for”) throughout the United States over the past 30 years.
  12. From a telephone interview with Ken Korkia, Rocky Flats Citizens Advisory Board, January 23, 1997.
  13. Idem. See also “Flats plutonium poses danger to public,” Rocky Mountain News (Dec. 5, 1994): A4, 8.
  14. The Government’s figures have radically increased over the years. As of November 1991, the total cleanup (over 30 years) of the nation’s hazardous wastes was estimated to cost approximately $1 trillion: $460 billion for DOE’s cleanup of radioactive and toxic wastes at atomic weapons production sites, $290 billion for Superfund hazardous waste sites, and $450 billion for an additional 37,000 industrial hazardous waste sites throughout the country. By 1996, however, DOE was estimating that its cleanups alone would cost $1 trillion. See Andrew Ross, “A Few Good Species,” in Science Wars, Durham: Duke University Press, 1996, p. 312; and “Hanford cleanup costly, slow and riddled with snags,” The Seattle Times (April 26, 1994): A1, 4.
  15. From a telephone interview with Bruce DeBoskey, plaintiff’s attorney in Gabel vs. Dow Chemical Company and Rockwell International Corporation, Fall 1987. DeBoskey is currently the plaintiffs’ attorney in Cook et al. vs. Rockwell International Corporation and Dow Chemical Company, a class action lawsuit brought on behalf of approximately 50,000 people who reside downwind from the Rocky Flats Plant.
  16. Interview with Don Gabel in the film Dark Circle (Chris Beaver and Judy Irving, 1982, New Yorker Films), quoted in Aperture #93 (Winter 1982): 10.
  17. DeBoskey interview. Over the past 50 years, the Government’s standards of “safe” radioactive exposure have been lowered by a factor of several hundred times and continue to be greatly reduced.
  18. See Robert D. Bullard, Dumping in Dixie: Race, Class, and Environmental Quality, Boulder: Westview Press, 1990. For example, in the mid 1970s more than 50% of all African-American children in the United States had elevated levels of toxic lead in their blood in amounts known to produce a wide range of negative biological, neurological and behavioral effects, many of them permanent. See also Peter Montague, “Toxics Affect Behavior,” Rachel’s Environment & Health Weekly #529 (January 16, 1997); and Ann Leonard and Jan Rispens, “Exposing the Recycling Hoax: Bharat Zinc and the Politics of the International Waste Trade,” Multinational Monitor (January/February 1996): 30-34.
  19. See, for example, Angus Wright, “Where Does the Circle Begin? The Global Dangers of Pesticide Plants,” Global Pesticide Campaigner, Vol. 4, no. 4 (December 1994).
  20. Iodine-129, another toxic product of atomic fission (in spent nuclear fuel, nuclear weapons detonation, and atomic fallout), has a much longer half-life of 16 million years. Although less lethal than plutonium, radioactive iodine accumulates in the thyroid glands of humans, where it can cause cancer.
  21. On the relationship between nature and the female body, see, for example, Susan Griffin, Woman and Nature: The Roaring Inside Her, New York: Harper-Collins, 1979; and Carolyn Merchant, The Death of Nature: Women, Ecology and the Scientific Revolution, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1980.
  22. The well-known Zen Buddhist teacher Dr. D. T. Suzuki once remarked about Christianity, “God against man. Man against God. Man against nature. Nature against man. Nature against God. God against nature–very funny religion!” Quoted in Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, The Power of Myth, New York: Doubleday, 1988, p. 56.
  23. For a discussion of other civilizations that destroyed themselves as a result of the overuse and misuse of their environments, and an analysis of modern land practices, see Daniel Hillel, Out of the Earth: Civilization and the Life of the Soil, New York: The Free Press, 1991.
  24. LaDuke, p. 65.
© David T. Hanson 1988, 1997