Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium (CCAMU)
Inquiry on the Impacts of the Uranium Cycle
Opposing World Views
by George M. Biro, P. Eng.
As part of his eloquent testimony, Robert Lovelace pointed out the local perception that Natives want too much, and they will make trouble to get it. He could have added that most of our society feels that Natives do not deserve to profit from, let alone let lie fallow, the mineral riches that our superior technology has “discovered” beneath their ancestral lands. Yet the single impression one gets, halfway through the many trials of Sean Brant in nearby Napanee, and now the Ardoch and K.I. Trials, is that the state will spare no effort to paint them, with twisted words or suspect evidence, as dangerous and lawless, whereas they are the wise and peaceful leaders, and the embodiment of not only the native virtues but those we profess to espouse as well. No one notices that the protests are not about native rights - they are about responsibilities which are left unhonoured and unrecognized.|
We fail to acknowledge that there are two conflicting world views. One of them ended its influence here Five Hundred years ago. It was based upon the understanding that all creatures, including human beings, were interconnected and at one with the Earth.
It is the other world view that came to the fore, mainly by overwhelming brute force said to be justified by God. It touched all parts of the world, and goes on today, generally in the wake of US and allied military force. The attitudes and methods which led to the near extinction of North American Natives can best be observed in the Israeli treatment of the occupied and dispossessed Palestinians.
The other world view sees the Earth as theirs to exploit, including the living things and any humans conveniently proved inferior. Profit can be made from all with impunity.
Our laws enshrine our world view and our institutions are self_perpetuating. But driving natives to near extinction did nothing to invalidate their world view. We were successful only in making their traditional lifestyle impossible, long before we coined words for Ecology and Environment and Genetics and Half_Life. Meanwhile, only the most deluded of us fails to recognize that our world view has been proven unworkable.
Canadian Law is fortunate to be based on the Royal Proclamation. It empowers the other world view to be voiced in consultation. And someone might mention just why Uranium mining was singled out for a Moratorium by the handful of remaining proponents of that world view.
It is no accident that opposition to Uranium mining seems stronger in the Native community. The Algonquin moratorium is recent, and based partly on scientific knowledge as well as traditional wisdom. It was, however, previous decisions which linked natives to deposits of Uranium. The assignment of land for reservations was mostly based on its unsuitability for other uses. It was land relatively unproductive, not as vibrant and healthy as the lands usurped by the settlers. Even “safe in the ground” for millions of years, it has been transparent to the conquerors, long before they were able to make a Geiger Counter. Over the centuries Natives have already had more than their share of radiation.
In my profession, it is customary to look at a new project and perform a cost/benefit analysis. In the matter of Uranium and Atomic Energy , the costs are not only prohibitive in economic terms, but absolutely real. The benefits, on the other hand, have not only been wildly overstated, but are largely imaginary fictions intended to diminish the reality of the overriding military “benefit.” In particular, atomic energy production is far more expensive than was initially proposed, limited to short term resources, and the life cycle costs as well as the life cycle environmental costs make it less attractive than many potential renewable technologies. More importantly, the very real costs of Catastrophic Failure, Sabotage, and (non)-disposal are left out of the equations and are to be borne by the public and by future generations.
The medical benefits may seem real enough, but they are generally used to counter diseases produced by our pollution of the environment, not least by radiation. Besides, our destruction of the ecosystem makes humanity the equivalent of a cancer on the Earth. The cure for the Earth would be a reduction of our numbers, not a preferential if short extension in longevity for the most wasteful and destructive of us. The military benefit is not a benefit, it is a curse on all humanity. It is the Genie, let out of the bottle, that we can NEVER put back in. For one thing, it has deprived nature of an effective control for the pest that is humanity. Our numbers have been controlled by war, as well as hunger, disease or cataclysmic weather. However, war could now destroy all life on earth for millions of years if not forever. And this war has already started, and its effects will continue for millions of years.
Sixteen years ago I began an unsuccessful campaign among my fellow Professional Engineers to alert the public to the greatest danger we face. The waste products and weapons, which we keep on creating with every ounce of Uranium mined, are accumulating in rudimentary containment. We have come no closer to safe disposal in half a century. What makes this particularly frightening is the necessity for the maintenance of an advanced technological society for at least the next 40,000 years, simply to keep the products we have ALREADY created from destroying all biological organisms on Earth.
While I could not get consensus sixteen years ago, there was one notable new secret method of radioactive waste disposal “discovered” in the meantime: the use of depleted uranium for weapons. The word “depleted” should more properly be expressed as “economically unsuitable”. The amount of radiation from the 30,000 atmospheric tests and the DU vaporized over Serbia, Afghanistan and Iraq, no doubt wreaked havoc on locals and occupiers alike, but eventually, in a matter of weeks, had distributed itself in the atmosphere, and will continue to cause more death and sickness than a hundred Hiroshimas.
It is well past time for a citizens’ Inquiry into the Uranium Life Cycle.
We can be citizens of Kingston, afraid for our children’s survival.
We can be citizens of Ontario, afraid for our economic survival.
We can be citizens of Canada, afraid to not hold the bully’s coat.
But Kingston, Ontario, Canada - these are not real. They embody imaginary ideas of imperfect men.
So let us deliberate and act as citizens of the world, or perhaps citizens of Turtle Island. These are real. Let us accept this reality as the gift from the people we conquered.
It could be the beginning of our seeing our World order for what it is.
An engine for consuming and polluting the earth.
An engine to dispossess those who do not pollute or consume fast enough.
An engine to monetize all and then drain all resources to the few.
And Uranium for what it is.
A finite resource for a short term grossly inefficient and highly dangerous but highly profitable industry cloaked in Military secrecy and doublespeak..
After five decades we are no closer to safe disposal of waste products. The only new idea was Depleted Uranium. Serbs and Iraqis will die faster for a while. But we all get some to add to the products of 30,000 atmospheric tests and decades of weapons production. Our pitiful containment schemes depend on the survival of our runaway and unsustainable world view.
Don't expect to see a mushroom cloud over Perth or Smith Falls. But do expect the devastation of the local watershed and the thousands of excess deaths in the region, which will be forever. As long as there is a profit, our present laws will extract it and allow it to float to those at the top. They feel it is essential to their survival among the rest of us.
And it may well be, if we see Money for what it is:
A direct measure of the guilt of destruction and dispossession.