Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Nuclear Bomb Test Site's Silence a Call for Co-existence

January 3, 2008

COMPASS: Points of view from the community


Published: January 3rd, 2008 12:36 AM
Last Modified: January 3rd, 2008 12:55 AM

Thirty-six years ago, the entire Island of Amchitka, in the Aleutian Island Chain, erupted. Boom! The ground heaved in sudden turmoil, ripped apart. Wildlife, unprotected and not even given a warning, suddenly were thrashed to the point that the eyeballs of sea otters slammed through their skulls.

The world shook and would never be the same. The largest underground nuclear bomb test in history was triggered on and in an island chain that is on the Great Pacific Ring of Fire. A big bomb, suddenly destroying a National Wildlife Refuge.

I was there last August as part of a team of people from Greenpeace to bear witness. I walked up steep unforgiving cliffs, slogged through deep tundra, crawling to the exact site of the test of a nuclear bomb they called Cannikin. And it was scary. We did this on a National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Today, although there are lots of greens, plants, berries and fresh water, we could not, dared not even taste any of them. It is, was, and perhaps forever will be dead.

Greenpeace went there because 36 years ago we got started by a few people in Vancouver, British Columbia, who felt, as we all do today, that this act was not acceptable -- not in Alaska, not anywhere. We went there because we wanted to bear witness that we must not allow anything like this to happen in the world again.

While there, one has so much to think and meditate about. The site is silent. Empty. It is alone. By itself. Not a part of any other thing. Not even a partner to its neighboring islands. Not even a self-respecting jellyfish was seen. And we could not drink the water!

Now, our country did this with the idea that perhaps we might be able to warn the Soviet government of Russia that we have big bombs, that we are someone to be afraid of, that we are powerful.

The result of that thinking? They built more and bigger bombs with nary an end in sight.

Alaska is the Great Land, thus says the Unangan name given our wealthy state. This wealth is not inexhaustible, unending. It is finite. There are limits to everything we have, everything we treasure.

Amchitka showed us clearly how competition between different users, each trying to find value in what we have, can sometimes result in conflict. Amchitka was a home to centuries of Unangan and a place to test nuclear bombs, no matter the reasons or purposes. The choice made there caused an end to a National Wildlife Refuge, to a home.

As we in Alaska grow, careful attention needs to be paid to humanity's use of the resources. Let us keep in mind that we all have needs -- needs for land, water and space. Let us not create a mind-set that says our needs are more necessary than others' needs. We must coexist in this place we call Mother Earth.

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