Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pandora's Hope

Three distinguished campaigners for peace, justice, and sustainability presented a panel discussion on “Pandora’s Hope: A Livable World in a Nuclear Age,” Thursday, July 17, at Skyridge Church of the Brethren in Kalamazoo.

Tom Small, environmental activist, who introduced the panel, and Robert Weir, author of “Peace, Justice, Care of the Earth,” who moderated, explained the Greek myth of Pandora, whose curiosity compelled her to open a box of “gifts,” which released all the evils now afflicting humankind. The last gift in the box, however, was Hope. Is there hope, they asked, in this age of crisis, threatened with nuclear annihilation, disastrous climate changes and massive extinctions of species.

Each panelist addressed the question in a different way. Mike Nickerson, a founding member of the Green Party of Canada and author of “Planning for Seven Generations” and “Life, Money and Illusion: Living on Earth As If We Want to Stay,” explained that throughout humanity’s very long childhood and adolescence, more people, more powerful tools, and cheaper, more efficient energy enabled us to better provide for each other. But now that we’ve reached maturity, filled the earth, and are exhausting its resources, this same process is drastically undermining our well-being.

“The main obstacle,” he said, “to solving our present complex of problems is the customs and institutions that were established in the past to encourage growth. It’s a question of direction. Will we continue to expand until we cause irreparable damage, or will we choose a new direction and provide for our needs in a way that can be sustained indefinitely on this wonderful planet?”

Nickerson is the husband and activist partner of Donna Dillman, who spoke of the destructive power of uranium weapons and uranium mining. When uranium mining was to begin last fall near her eastern Ontario home, she fasted for 68 days to protest and to raise public awareness of the dangers.

“When the full cycle of mining, generation, atomic weaponry, and waste disposal is considered, nuclear technology is not cheap, not safe, not clean, and certainly not affordable,” Dillman stated.

"When dealing with one of the most serious matters on the planet,” she said, “drastic measures become necessary.”

The third panelist, Cliff Kindy, organic farmer and long-time peace activist, spoke of his experience as a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams in Iraq, both before and during the current Iraq War, most recently to teach nonviolent peace-action techniques in the northern Kurdish area.

While there, Kindy learned of radiation contamination illnesses and birth defects which increased dramatically in areas most affected by the depleted-uranium weapons used by the U.S. Kindy now leads protests against and studies of the effects of the manufacturing of depleted uranium weapons by Aerojet Ordinance in Jonesborough, Tennessee.

He spoke of the destructive effects of depleted uranium and the fact that though the U.S. continues to manufacture DU weapons, Europe and the U.N. have banned their use.

The forum concluded with animated discussion between the audience and the panelists on ways to change direction and hopes for achieving a livable and sustainable world in a nuclear and destructive age.

Dillman’s final words were, “To protest and to raise public awareness of the dangers we face, we’ll need to be in the streets. I’ll see you there.”

Many thanks to Tom Small who submitted this post.

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