Slaying the Hydra
As the nuclear calamity unfolds at Fukushima, a long-standing conflict between world views has been thrown into sharp relief.  Now that the risks of nuclear power have been visibly demonstrated yet again, a rising chorus of voices is urging us to turn aside from the path of nuclear power, and to prepare for the future by embracing renewable energy like wind and solar instead.
 
This well-meaning exhortation begs one important question.  How can we "prepare for the future" when we have no agreement on what kind of future we want to see? On the one hand, the environmental movement takes it for granted that a "good" future would contain a lot more renewable energy and a lot less nuclear power. Others might see a good future as one in which there was both nuclear power and renewable energy, but no coal or oil. Both positions are valid, based on different assessments of what the future may bring, and what sort of future each side would prefer.
 
I take yet a different and perhaps more radical approach. I see coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, hydro power, renewable energy, enormous mining operations, sprawling cities, electronic devices of all sorts (including the computer I'm typing on) - all the technological enablers of human activity - as the heads of a single Hydra.  They are all equivalent symptoms of the underlying dis-ease of Separation and Fear.
 
We feel we are separate from nature by virtue of our humanity, and we are driven by our innate fear of chaos and uncertainty. This gives us a hunger for control, for mastery and dominion, as well as a sense that this is the proper order of the universe. In the search for our "rightful place" as Masters of the Universe we ignore, dismiss and even deny our own frailties, our interdependence with all other life and the planet itself, and our own nature. We assume that we are clever enough to go Mother Nature one better.
 
This is a hubris that has caused us to make Faustian pacts on every side. It's not just nuclear power - it's the automobile, the electric light and motor, the genetic engineering of plants, the plundering of the world's photosynthetic capacity, the streamlining of genomes for commercial gain, the elimination of whole species that dare to compete with us for food and living space.  Even renewable energy is not blameless, standing as it does on the same control-craving foundation as all our other activities.
 
Compared to the sheer magnitude of the overall damage we're doing to the planet (and unavoidably to ourselves as well), nuclear power with all its terrifying unseen hazards can be recognized, if viewed from a slightly different angle, as little more than another minor sore on the side of the metastasizing malignancy of runaway human technological activity.
 
All is not lost however. At least not quite, and not quite yet. We do have a million battles to fight if we are to claw our way back from the brink. Fortunately there are billions of us to fight those battles. Your battle might be nuclear power, global warming, food sovereignty or urbanization, while mine might be Peak Oil, economic collapse, the depletion of fresh water or genetic engineering, but I think it helps all the warriors if we understand clearly what the stakes are, what are the consequences of defeat, and what is the true casus belli. We need to recognize that we are fighting a whole Hydra, not just the one venemous head we have chosen to face.  And it's the same Hydra for all of us, despite the differences in our individual battles.
 
In my opinion, the predicament we're in has been woven of threads that include our evolved neuropsychology, our innate cleverness, our general lack of wisdom, and the technological and cultural structures that we have created around us. We may be able to work our way free of this monkey trap, but not unless we gain insight into our own nature, lovingly nurture the wisdom we need to recognize what we're doing, and the courage to say "No" to some of it. If we can do that, the problems of nuclear power and all the rest will become much less threatening.
 
Can we accomplish such a radical transformation of human consciousness? We are getting a wake-up call. it's time for us to heed it, and to do a bit of growing up.


Paul Chefurka
 
March 14, 2011

This article may be reproduced in whole or in part , in any manner and for any purpose whatsoever, with no restrictions.