Blowin’ the Whistle on Nuke Power
By Cecile Pineda
On March 11, 2011, the world experienced a multiple nuclear accident of unprecedented magnitude. Fukushima exceeded the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe at the very least by a factor of 10. Until Fukushima, although two of my previous novels refer to nuclear disaster, the nuclear industry had not been my main focus. But instantly, in view of its magnitude, I understood Fukushima’s implication for the planet: irreversible pollution of the seas, the air, the water, the soils and the food chain the world over. I knew that deception and denial on the part of governments, and on the part of the nuclear industry, would be par for the course. If there was any doubt, we had the precedent of Chernobyl to go by. And we had all served a kind of apprenticeship with the 2010 BP oil spill, which allowed us to see that as an industrial culture we had “advanced” way beyond where our technology and science could bail us out.
I was also terrified. “How do you live with what you know?” I have been asked. In this respect, I am at an advantage because writing my recent book Devil's Tango was my act of exorcism, of processing the awful truth that faces us: Corporations have won control of the political process. In their rapacity as “Persons,” they have the power to destroy life on earth. We the People are armed with the strength of our numbers, our courage, and our ingenuity—and very little else.
We are now faced with the matter of the life and death of our planet. Our strongest weapon is Shame. What does Shame require? It requires boots on the ground; and it requires exposing the full destructive consequence of nuclear power to people and property. We must find the voice of our moral authority. We must alert a brainwashed public to the very real, catastrophic dangers posed by the nuclear cycle, and highlight the deadly cocktail posed by its combination with global warming and seismic vulnerability.
Thankfully, we benefit from two very recent examples where shaming has produced results. In Congress, we have seen Republican intransigence with respect to authorization of relief for the Victims of Hurricane Sandy yield to shaming; and we have seen Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence’s refusal to eat for 24 days—with the voice of Canada’s First Nations behind her—shaming Prime Minister Harper, who finally agreed to meet with her. (Spence was protesting the poor living conditions of her people.) Let us not forget that this First Nations “voice” consisted of weeks of protests, flash mobs, letters, rallies, and an onslaught of outraged tweets.
To really understand the full magnitude of the nuclear disaster confronting us, we must look, not so much to the work of journalists, but of artists who can guide us to the center of our human feelings and our connection with all living things. I have tried to touch on these places of the heart with Devil's Tango. Last year, I completed a speaking tour of the Northeast timed to coincide with Hiroshima-Nagasaki Day in August, and I was backed by a coalition 35 anti-nuclear and peace groups, among them WILPF. This year I am working with another, similar coalition which also includes WILPF, and have plans for a speaking tour of the Great Lakes timed to the second anniversary of the Fukushima-Daiichi disaster.
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Cecile Pineda is 80 years old. She has been writing since 1980, with six novels to her credit. From 1969-81, she directed her own experimental theater company. She completed Devil’s Tango in nine months despite a couple of setbacks, including a crash that totaled her car and a broken ankle. She has protested in the streets since 1969.