Obituary: Beth O'Brian 1979-2002

Beth aka Horehound, aka Dumpster Leg falls to her death from tree-sit at Eagle Creek, Oregon

“It could have been me but instead it was you So I’ll keep doing the work you were doing as if I were two” — Holly Near

Our friend Beth O’Brien was killed at the Eagle Creek tree-sit in the Mount Hood National Forest in Oregon on April 12 2002. She fell 150 feet (50m) when she slipped while climbing a rope ladder between two platforms. She had just snowshoed in with supplies. We know that she was very excited to be there and her death in this tragic accident makes us very sad. She was 22 years old. The tree-sit had just, three days before, succeeded in saving the forest from logging, and activists were only waiting for signed documents canceling the timber sale before coming down.

She was from Santa Rosa, California where she started a local Food Not Bombs, worked with Earth First! and the Purple Berrets-against police brutality and she made many things happen with her energy. Recently she had moved to Oregon to work with the Cascadia Forest Defenders. In the Bay Area we remember her coming to events where she shared her indignation at protests and showed her love of life.

At her funeral in Santa Rosa her Father noted right-wing talk-show host Rush Limbaugh had called her a “Tree-sit suicide bomber” and said “If she was saving the trees why didn’t they save her”. This outraged him and he called for us to take action.

Cascade Forest Alliance noted “Years of community efforts, heralded by direct action, have protected the Eagle Creek area thus far. . . . Tree-sitting is a risk taken to protect our remaining native forest from destruction. It is a tragedy that such risks must be taken. While we recognize the dangers inherent in tree-sitting, we take safety seriously. Tree-sitters and tree-climbing trainers are taught the best safety available and constantly stress the importance of conveying safety protocols to others. This tragic accident results because communities must risk their lives to protect their land. We view Beth’s death in a tradition of courageous action to defend life that extends through decades of non-violent protest in the US and abroad.”

Obituary: Ooona Sofia Wieske and Emma Alyse Berger

On February 12, Oona and Emma, activists with Detroit’s anarchist Trumbullplex project, and their Trumbullplex housemates/friends, Jason and Jesse, were returning from an incredible journey to Hawaii, when a terrible automobile crash occurred only 10 minutes from Emma’s uncle’s house in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Emma and Oona died instantly. Jesse was seriously injured and is recovering quickly. Jason was able to walk away from the accident with bruises. We are so fortunate that Jesse and Jason survived the accident.

We at the Trumbullplex would like to attempt to share with you a few words regarding what it is Oona and Emma meant to us. Inside a poverty stricken Detroit, we call the Trumbullplex our home, three collectively owned houses and a community “theater” space. Together we try to live the revolution in our everyday lives. The loss of our two beloved friends is nothing less than losing family to us. Oona had lived in the collective for about three years. Emma’s trips to Detroit were always too short, though we got so much from them. And to our delight, Emma had recently decided to live with us. We are so grateful that she trusted us, loved us, and considered us her family.

In Hawaii, they had been staying in a tree house, hiking around volcanoes, swimming in bottomless pools, sleeping on beaches, and eating coconuts and passion fruit. The last conversations with Emma and Oona on the phone were so descriptive of the amazing experiences they were all having. Their friends and family are so grateful, knowing that they were in “paradise” having the time of their lives.

Words fail to express the deep loss everyone who knew Oona and Emma feel. In Emma’s brief life, she touched so many people, giving hope, a smile, or a hug to all she met. She was a traveler like a pirate, an organizer like a true anarchist/feminist, and an artist without any apologies.

Oona was a gardener, a cook, a geologist, a linguist, a prankster, an organizer, a Detroiter, an anarchist, an explorer, an adventurer, a pirate, a lover, and like Emma, our friend and so much more.

Oona’s and Emma’s personalities are indescribable, but we can definitely say they were incredibly passionate people. They both shared so many desires and dreams, inspiring all of us with their determination to make them come true. What they offered to our struggles here is irreplaceable.

We miss Oona and Emma so much, however, we recognize how incredibly grateful and privileged we are to have had their love and friendship. With their families and friends, we have had the most amazing memorials and parties to celebrate their lives. We should all aspire to live such inspiring and fulfilling lives as Oona and Emma. Us kids at the Trumbullplex live for revolutionary change through them everyday. Oona and Emma will always be alive in our hearts.

The loss of four amazing anarchist womyn already this year–Oona, Emma, Sera, and Beth (Horehound)– is a devastating blow to our communities, as it is to the world. We must keep their fires burning, and as best we can, make all of their dreams come true.

We at the Trumbullplex are forever grateful to all of the donations and support that we have received. We thank you all so much for your compassion. Donations can be made in Oona’s honor to PuppetART/the Detroit Puppet Theatre or to Detroit Waldorf School. Donations can be made in Emma’s honor to Prevent Child Abuse DE (PCAD), which will allow a coloring/activity book for children, that Emma designed, to be published.

4210 Trumbull Detroit MI, 48208


Obituary: Sera Bilezikyan 1978-2002

Activist, traveler, musician, and one of the best goddamned writers around, Sera lost the good fight on January 12, 2002 when she drove her truck over the Susquehanna River, turned around and traveled halfway across the southbound side, and leaped into the water. The lives of hundreds of people across the country were dimmed in the following weeks.

Friends tell of her passion for life, an energy and strength of emotion so strong that it also took the form of inner demons. As her friend Sascha puts it, “She struggled for justice and peace wherever she went, but she didn’t know how to treat herself justly or what it was like to be at peace within.”

In her last column in Slug and Lettuce, she wrote: “These days, I’ve been climbing a lot. Bridges, abandoned building, rusty iron structures which serve no obvious purpose except to jump from the past into the immediate. And I am not scared, looking at myself. If anything, I’ll recognize the real truth of who I am.”

And Sascha wrote: “It was obvious from the first time we hung out that Sera wasn’t afraid to feel really strong emotions and dream big dreams. Underneath all the tattoos and attitude, Sera was definitely insecure in a bunch of ways, constantly struggling with her sense of identity and feeling out of place in the world. But the flipside of her insecurity was that she had this brilliance which shined.”

Laboratories of Resistance

Fourth Annual Underground Publishing Conference • Bowling Green, Ohio

June 22-23, 2002

Sharing Our Tools, Refusing the Master’s. A weekend devoted to educating ourselves about reclaiming media resources. Pre-register.

Take the Capital! Two Days of Resistance to Capitalism, Imperialism and the G8 • Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

June 26-27, 2002

Oppose the G8 and support of local and regional grassroots social justice efforts. Two days of protest featuring demonstrations, popular education, civil disobedience and direct action targeting the political and economic power of the national (Canadian) capital. Organizer have Òrespect for a diversity of tactics, meaning manifold forms of resistance in mutual solidarity and respect, while aiming to ensure the safety and defense of all participants. Contact: (613) 788 3310,,

Convergence to Oppose The Southern Republican Leadership Conference • Charlotte, North Carolina

June 27-30, 2002

Stop the War at Home and Abroad! Another World Is Possible! The Southern Republican Leadership Conference (SRLC), the second largest gathering of Republicans in the nation, will have its biennial meeting in Charlotte, NC. This year, SRLC organizers hope to have an appearance from President George Bush. For years now, people across the US and the world have gathered to protest at every meeting of the world power elite to demand global justice. This conference should be no exception! Organizers are calling on all people of conscience, people concerned about the standard of living for working people and the poor, people who care about civil liberties and the rights of immigrants, those who care about women, children, and the elderly, those who wish the end civilian casualties in our name, and those who are tired of seeing the people of the world suffer at the hands of U.S. foreign policy. We ask you to join us in Charlotte to say ÒENOUGHÓ! We will join together to declare that another world is possible; a world of peace and equality, a world of true democracy where no one goes hungry and people are put before profit. For more information, contact

Earth First Round River Rendezvous • Gifford Pinochet National Forest Washington State

July 1 – 8, 2002

Annual National EF! Gathering. Workshops, networking, campfires, carousing. $20-25/no one turned away. Contact EF! Journal PO Box 3023, Tucson, AZ 85702.

Rainbow Gathering / Temporary Autonomous Zone • Great Lakes Region

July 1 – 7, 2002

North American Annual Gathering Of The Tribes, somewhere in the Great Lakes (Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota) area. Spring Council is June 14-15, so ask a hippie for precise directions after that date. Ignore All Rumors of Cancellation! (Or organization). This year, the feds want to shut it down, threatening blockades, water cutoffs, firepit removals, etc. Its been going strong without money or the state for 30 years. Defend this huge temporary autonomous zone. Contact

Second Annual Portland Zine Symposium • Portland, Oregon

July 12-14, 2002

Conference on zines, underground publishing and DIY culture. Workshops, panel discussions, films, bands, readings, tables. Free admission, housing and food. Portland State University Campus, downtown Portland. Contact PO Box 14332, Portland, OR 97293,

Southern Girls Convention • Athens, Georgia

July 18 – 21, 2002

A meeting of student-age (and all other age!) activists to share ideas, learn new skills, and have fun as a community of Southern women. Discuss women’s empowerment, Southern culture, workshops, a women’s art show, musical entertainment, and tables. On the University of Georgia campus. Info SGC, PO Box 1661 Athens, GA 30603, (706) 543-1846,

Conference of Democratic Workplaces • College Park, Maryland

July 19-21, 2002

ÒSharing the Promise: Economic Democracy at WorkÓ a Eastern conference of worker cooperatives and democratic ESOPs. Foster mutual aid and intercooperation, provide co-op education and training and build the workplace democracy movement. Expensive registration. University of Maryland campus. Contact National Comparative Business Association, 1401 New York Ave.. NW, Suite 1100, Washington, DC 20005, 202 383-5450,

Anti-racist, Anti-Border Camp • Strausbourg, French-German border

July 19-28, 2002

From the call for action ÒFreedom of movement has been a central demand in the last few years, when grassroots groups started to organize noborder-camps at different borders of fortress Europe: against the militarized borders around Europe, with their weapons, control technologies and the racist support of many people in the European countries. This is the opposite of our dreams to create a world without borders. We seek to act concretely against the instruments of state control in all their multiplying forms. Strasbourg houses the Schengen Information System (SIS), a central piece of the control machine. This search and control database with tens of thousands of terminals across Europe aims first and foremost at migrants. However it is not only used at border checkpoints, but also serves to extend the state’s control onto every street. The SIS can be instantly consulted to determine whether a person is wanted for deportation or arrest as well as providing other information used to monitor an individual’s movements and activities. The noborder-camp will include a variety of direct actions, from public demonstrations to forms of ‘communication guerrilla’. The camp will give space for a lot of international discussions and workshops and we intend to create a ten-days-laboratory of creative resistance and civil disobedience. The Strasbourg camp expresses our ability to determine our own places and moments of presence, of action and communication.Ó Info:

North American Anarchist Black Cross Conference • Austin, Texas

July 26-28, 2002

The Anarchist Black Cross movement seeks to bring attention to issues related to incarceration, criminalization and the treatment of adults and juveniles in state, private and federal correctional facilities. Goals of this meeting include: to build our solidarity and communications among the various autonomous prisoner support tendencies; to learn together and from one another via our experiences, and educate on the ins and out of prisoner support, freedom campaigns, etc.; to get autonomous anarchist anti-prison groups acquainted and developing an ABC network; and to help people interested in prisoner support work to organize effective ABC groups in their communities. Those affiliated with an autonomous Anarchist Black Cross group, anti-prison group, prisoner support collective or who are active in the movement against prisons, criminalization and incarceration; and those interested in forming an ABC group or in being involved in supporting the movement against prisons and in support of prisoners are welcome to attend. Contact: Austin ABC, PO Box 19733, Austin, TX 78760-9733,

General Assembly Of Funtime Enthusiasts! • Seattle, Washington

Late July, 2002

Mad gathering that cannot be summarized. See article, this issue.

Green Anarchy Tour • North America

July – August, 2002

Mobile Film Fest, Book Exchange, D
irect Action Workshop , Speakers and Punk Rock show touring North America. Check to see when it will be in you area and how you can help out.

Bike Summer • Portland, Oregon

August 1 – 31, 2002

The fourth annual bike summer is a month long celebration of bikes, bike activism and alternatives to car domination. Portland is one of the nation’s most bike friendly cities. Rides, films, forums, events, etc. everyday including full moon ride, women’s ride, midsummer night bike ride, urban design ride, breakfast on the bridges and much more. Write Bike Summer Portland, PO Box 786, Portland OR 97207,

Cascadia Media Alliance Community Media Counter-Conference against the National Association of Broadcasters • Seattle, Washington

September 9-14, 2002

Northwest Regional Community Radio and Low Power FM Summit, with two days of seminars and workshops on community radio and low-power FM; Teach-ins focusing on media literacy education and community accountability in the media. Rally and educational fair in Freeway Park on the literal doorstep of the NAB conference. Subscribe to to participate in planning.

International Protest Against the World Bank and IMF • Washington, DC

October 1-3, 2002

Several days of anti-capitalist protest against the World Bank and IMF. Currently being organized by the Anti-Capitalist Convergence-DC and the Mobilization for Global Justice. Rumors indicate this will be the Big Thing for the fall protest season. Book your airline tickets / hitchhiking / trainhopping now!

Autonomous Media Conference • Tucson, Arizona

October 3-6, 2002

Workshops on pirate radio, DIY Publishing, billboard alteration, starting an Infoshop and graffiti. At the Matt Bevel Institute, 530 N. Stone Avenue, Tucson Contact PO Box 1731 Tucson, AZ 85702, (520) 628-8720,

A Modest Proposal

It’s time to move beyond anarchism’s cultural / social ghetto

In the wake of the emergence of the anti-globalization movement, and following increasing understanding of the environmental damage caused by capitalist economics, a thriving new anti-capitalism movement is coming of age across the globe. Unlike earlier Marxist critiques of capitalism, the new anti-capitalist movement favors direct, participatory democracy applied to both political and economic matters. Blossoming more than 10 years after the end of the cold war, the new anti-capitalists can no longer be dismissed as Stalinist relics. Anti-capitalist theory and struggle is popping up in the developing world and the first world simultaneously. Both in the United States and elsewhere, the formerly tiny anarchist community is positioned at the center of anti-capitalist activities.

In this context, looking at what passes for the anarchist “scene” as we’ve known it in the US is pretty discouraging. Even despite some recent improvements, it is overwhelmingly youth oriented, mostly white, and seems to celebrate and intentionally seek marginalization. For all the handwringing about the lack of racial diversity in anarchist circles, the lack of class, age and cultural diversity goes almost unnoticed, but is equally problematic.

Sadly, a lot of the lack of diversity is self-inflicted. Anarchist politics are tied much too closely with counter-cultural tendencies. Walk into an anarchist convergence space and the feeling of exclusivity is palpable.

There has been a lot of discussion of doing “outreach” to the community, but little action that I’ve actually seen aside from wheatpasting and late-night sticker or graffiti campaigns. If you tallied up the number of hours spent by anarchists on various projects, you’d have to conclude that we’re more interested in having puppets in the movement than actual live, human beings.

The current political context is a crucial opportunity to move beyond the punk/anarchist ghetto. Millions of people, even in the privileged, asleep U$A, are looking for radical alternatives to capitalism. Average folks realize that the handwriting is on the wall — if people keep squandering the earth, life itself may be at risk. Despite having 200 channels, high speed internet and houses full of products, life ruled by the market and consumption is empty, lonely and sad.

A lot of people who are totally outside the current anarchist social/cultural circles, and who are therefore summarily excluded from consideration as potential anarchists, nonetheless have a deep mistrust of government, corporations, and the current industrial/capitalist system. They express their dissatisfaction as cynicism and disengagement, which can be confused with apathy or acceptance. They are a silent tiger, ready to resist and disrupt the system under the right circumstances.

Its time anarchists in the current scene started taking themselves a bit more seriously. It’s time to take down barriers that are unconsciously erected to the expansion of anti-capitalist, anarchist critiques.

I don’t claim to know how to accomplish these goals, but I do have a modest suggestion: a national week of outreach. Unlike the traditional “day of action” in which folks from everywhere gather at one central location for (often symbolic) street protests, a national week of outreach would be a decentralized effort to move beyond the punk/youth ghetto. Last fall I read that anarchists at a college town in Florida were organizing a “radical Rush” drive to coincide with the beginning of classes at the local university. For a week, they set up tables in public places to talk to folks, handed out flyers, and advertised a couple of evening events (films and panel discussions, etc.) The effort involved a coalition of various groups, each of which provided volunteers for the tables during one or two days during the week. The goal was to be minimally visible to people outside the established “scene” who might be interested. Rather than assume that “the public” are hopeless or worse yet, the enemy, these folks took a chance.

This is the kind of thing I imagine, carried out in as many communities by as many anarchists as possible. If people put as much effort, time and money into such a campaign as they did in traveling to and participating in a typical national gathering, imagine the scope of such an effort. Thousands of people go to each national gathering — what if even a thousand people participated in a national outreach week?

Most anarchist activity I see is focused inward on “preaching to the converted”, i.e. organizing skillshares, bookfairs, and conferences. Someone outside the established “circle” has to work hard to find out about these events, and if they show up to one, they would likely feel out of place if they didn’t fit the counter-cultural “norm.” (At a protest convergence space, a “normal” looking person might even be suspected of being a police agent!)

In contrast, when I worked in “single issue” campaigns like the anti-nuclear movement, we were always focused outward to “the public.” Why does the anarchist scene so rarely believe we can successfully communicate with folks outside our own circles?

I should point out that what I’m proposing should not be confused with evangelism — i.e. a vanguardist belief that we have the “correct” ideas and that we should “convert the masses” to anarchism. The topic of how to do anarchist outreach that avoids evangelism could easily be the subject of a whole article. The key would be asking anarchist questions, spending time to engage in discussion and debate, and being clear that anti-authoritarian thought permits each of us to conceive our own answers and our own vision for the future.

I arbitrarily propose September 4-7 for a national week of Outreach since its after Labor Day and folks should be back from their summer travels. But please, pick your own date. Good luck.

Action tactics fantasies

If anarchists are going to go to leftist or liberal organized demonstrations, at least let’s not act like fucking sheep!

Over the past six months of mass demonstrations against US military action, Israeli atrocities and other post 9-11 outrages, anarchists have faced the same tactical problem over and over again. It goes like this:

The International Action Center (IAC) or some other non-anarchist activist machine calls for a mass demonstration. At the demonstration, anarchists are there in force. We find ourselves perhaps clustering with our friends and acquaintances to march together. But at the crucial moment when an opportunity presents itself to up the militancy of the demonstration, or refuse to be part of something silly planned by liberal “demonstration leaders”, you hear a lot of sarcastic comments and clever suggestions, but nothing happens. We find ourselves marching together to hang out with our friends, but not really acting to shape the demonstration or provide our unique perspective on the issue at hand. We’re basically acting like sheep, which is to say, being lazy.

I even went to one huge demonstration (on April 20 in San Francisco) where a Black Block of anarchists carrying black flags, some even in face masks, acted the same way. Without direction. Without the capacity to act effectively and spontaneously as a group.

Mass demonstration makes you feel sheep-like, each individual seemingly powerless to direct events. The only option is to continue marching ahead with the mass, even when many individuals in the crowd may wish the whole affair wasn’t so lifeless, formalistic, boring. As an individual, what can you do?

The reality is that even a relatively small group within such a mass can redirect events, but only if such a small group has a certain level of organization, communication and decision making capacity.

What isn’t needed is appointment of an anarchist “leader” or formation of it’s bastard cousin – the anarchist “steering committee”. We don’t need more endless meetings to discuss standing institutional structures or figure out precisely how we should act in advance.

The answer to anarchist ineffectiveness and boredom at mass demonstrations is effective affinity group structure. In Seattle at the WTO, about 40 of us from the East Bay made numerous spontaneous decisions quickly and mostly democratically. Whenever it seemed like we needed to decide which way to go or what to do next, anyone in the group could yell a code word (“Wingnut”) and everyone who heard the word would start chanting it too. Within a matter of seconds, everyone in the group heard the word and we would rapidly form a circle. One member of the group carried a pink flag with a drawing of a Wingnut to help keep us together. In the circle, proposals would quickly be made, debated, and a decision reached. If there wasn’t complete consensus, the group could and did split into smaller groups. The key was the feeling of solidarity, flexibility and a commitment to quick decision making. This simple structure or something like it could be worked out in anarchist scenes around the country as a kind of structureless “understanding”.

At a recent IAC organized Berkeley mass march against the Israeli invasion of Palestinian areas, 40 or 50 activists from Students for Justice in Palestine led the formless crowd into a line of police who were protecting the freeway entrance. There were a number of anarchists marching who generally thought this escalation was excellent.

But then, with the sizable crowd stranded before a riot-geared police line, a lot of us realized that the best next step was to keep the crowd moving around the police line, or at least open a second front to create confusion and disrupt the police. The police accomplish their mission of maintaining order when they’re engaged in a stable stand-off with a crowd. They don’t mind – they’re getting overtime and they know precisely where the crowd is.

When the crowd splits into different parts, a third trying to overwhelm another freeway entrance, a third entering a nearby commercial strip, a third tying the police down at the stand-off, the police with their hierarchical decision making structure and limited number of radio channels and event commanders can’t handle it. The first police line must fall back so officers can be pulled off to deal with other groups.

A number of us tried to organize a break-away march, but eventually realized it was hopeless. We’d get a few ready to go, then look for more to join us, and by the time we returned, the original group would have dissolved. We had no way to make spontaneous, effective, democratic decisions and we had no means for quick, spontaneous communication.

Things would have turned out much differently if the anarchist community had reached an “understanding” for spontaneous affinity group formation, structure and tactics. It’s a shame for anarchists to be spending their time at liberal-organized mass demonstrations with so little to show for it. If we can open up ways to spice things up a bit, our time won’t be spent in vain.

Don't Point That Flag at Me

The idea that an understanding of the genocide, that a memory of the holocausts, can only

lead people to want to dismantle the system, is erroneous. The continuing appeal of

nationalism suggests that the opposite is truer, namely that an understanding of genocide has

led people to mobilize genocidal armies, that the memory of holocausts has led people to

perpetrate holocausts.

The Continuing Appeal of Nationalism by Fredy Perlman

I have seen lots of folks brandishing Palestinian flags at demonstrations lately. Flying flags from cars,

flourishing flags during marches, dancing down the street with flags at the protests. Superficially, it

was exhilarating to see a displaced people, (many, though certainly not all, of the flag wavers were

Palestinian), expressing solidarity with their oppressed brethren half a world away. On a deeper

level, it was profoundly disturbing. I kept flashing back to all those televised welcome-home parades

at the end of the Gulf War. My fellow Americans were also waving their flags with a wild

enthusiasm. Ultimately, flags are more deadly than bullets. A bullet can kill only once; a flag induces

a mass hysteria that can kill millions.

Don’t get me wrong. I completely support the Palestinian people and their struggle against the

continuing atrocities of the Israeli government. However, support for the people is not the same as support for a bloody corrupt dictator and a handful of religious fanatics. Fanatics who have no respect for their own peoples lives.

Neither Yasser Arafat nor Hamas want peace. Neither does George Bush, nor Ariel Sharon nor any other political leader. They all need the violence to continue in order to maintain their own power; having an external enemy induces insane levels of patriotism. Insane patriotism is the most effective method to divert domestic discontent from the State, as well as generating enormous revenues. If there is to be peace in the Middle East, it will have to be made between the Palestinian and Israeli people and not by their respective governments. Governments are what got them into this mess in the first place.

Direct Actions are already taking place among both the Palestinians and Israelis who are demanding

a just peace and government reforms. Earlier this year, a coalition of Israeli peace groups attempted to break the siege of Ramallah with food and medical supplies. There are over four hundred and sixty refusniks from the Israeli Defense Force who have refused to serve in the occupied territories.

Recently, several hundred Palestinian academics and professor’s convened a National Peoples congress in

Ramallah to call for new elections of the Palestinian leadership, legislative council, and local authorities.

After the immediate Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories, and the dismantlement of the illegal Zionist settlements on the West Bank that were responsible for sparking this latest intifada, most see a two-state solution as the only answer. The Palestinians will have their own state, consisting of the West Bank ad the Gaza strip. This will co-exist with the present, though smaller, Israeli state.

What about a no-state solution? Self determination for everyone, no borders, police, or soldiers. A right-of-return for both Jews and Palestinians.

A no -state is more practical than two-state solution,. As distasteful as this is for the left to admit Israel can never have lasting peace as an independent nation. Not, because Israel is inherently evil, but because Aaramco, Exxon, British Petroleum, and Royal Dutch Shell have a personal investment in a continuous, low-level conflict. The corrupt oil oligarchies in the Middle East need an Israeli foreign devil in order to stabilize their own governments. The multi-nationals need that stability to keep the oil flowing. The global corporations that Israel has always thought of an ally are in fact an enemy.

This conflict is not unique to Israel/Palestine. There is a greater number of suicide bombings in Sri Lanka than in Israel. There are wars and insurrections presently taking place in Sierra Leonne, Sudan, Bolivia, Afganistan, and Iraq. All of these conflicts have two things in common – the leaders on one or both sides are using the conflict to maintain their domination over their own people and some corporation is making, or hopes to be making, a lot of money from them

We can no longer continue to put all our efforts into these political struggles. No matter which side wins,

the people always lose. Only after we destroy Global Capitalism, here in the United States

as well as abroad, can we have a lasting peace – in the Middle East or anywhere else.

Well, I have already stated that some good is occasionally accomplished by political action —

But I am abundantly convinced that the occasional good accomplished is more than

counterbalanced by the evil; just as I am convinced that though there are occasional evils

resulting through direct action, they are more than counterbalanced by the good.

Direct Action by Voltairine De Cleyre

Israel – Palestine Understanding the Dream Comprehending the Nightmare

In the ruins of Jenin, an old friend of mine is digging bodies out of the rubble where Israeli bulldozers flattened houses, burying people alive. Blackened, maggot riddened corpses, unearthed from the rubble, are displayed to anguished relatives for identification. A teenage girl unearths an infant’s arm and wonders what to do with it. A Palestinian father cries over the dark smears of flesh that once were his two little daughters. Another Jewish friend leaves an anguished message on my cell phone: “I’m in downtown Washington DC. There’s a huge, pro-Israel rally going on. I don’t understand it. How can Jews support this? I know you must have something inspirational to say. Send me what you write.”

She doesn’t know that for weeks I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to write something about the situation. I’m overwhelmed with accounts of the atrocities. Yet I am also haunted by images of bodies shattered at a Seder meal, at a café, a Passover drenched in a new plague of blood. I’m frightened and saddened by the real resurgence of anti-Semitism, by swastikas carried in peace marches, synagogues attacked.

A third friend, a deeply spiritual woman and longtime ecofeminist ally, sends me a copy of a letter she wrote to President Bush entitled, “Standing Firmly With Israel.”

In no way can I stand with her. And yet I cannot simply stand against her, either.

I cannot stand with an Israel that tortures prisoners, an Israel that has mounted a restrictive and dehumanizing occupation, that assassinates political leaders as a matter of policy, that has cut down ancient olive groves to destroy the livelihood of the Palestinians, that is daily committing war crimes: refusing medical care to the wounded, firing on journalists and peace demonstrators, bombing civilians, destroying homes. Nor can I stand in the bloody remains of the Seder meal, among the corpses in the café, the restaurant. Yet to say, “both sides are wrong, both sides should give up violence” is to ignore the reality that one side, the Israeli side, is the fourth largest military power in the world. That the suicide bombs are a direct response to calculated political assassinations and to a brutal occupation that has made life untenable for the Palestinians. That for over fifty years, the State of Israel has failed to guard and cherish the Palestinians’ rights, aspirations, and hopes for an independence that could lead to peace and prosperity.

It is, on the one hand, incomprehensible to me that my friend could stand with such a regime, that the Jewish community as a whole, composed of people I know to be caring, compassionate and good, can stand behind the tanks, the bombs, the brutality.

On the other hand, I understand quite well the wrenching emotional journey that many Jews must make to admit the reality of what Israel is doing. For those of us who grew up saving our pennies to plant trees in the Galil, who, snowbound in blizzards, celebrated the New Year of the Trees timed to the blossoming of almonds in the Judean hills, who ended every Seder with the prayer “Next year in Jerusalem,” no other issue is so painful and sad. I am a Jew who has spent her adult life as a voice for a different religion, a blatant Pagan whose spirituality is attuned to the Goddess of regeneration, not the God of my fathers. To Orthodox Jews, I’m a heretic, which gives me a certain freedom to say what I think. I was born into, raised in and acculturated by the post-war Jewish community, but I have not been immersed in that world for many years. I speak from the margins of the Jewish community. But I am still a Jew, and the view from the edge can sometimes be clearer than that from the center.

The San Francisco Chronicle writes a front page story about a school in Gaza where little Palestinian children are taught to hate Jews. I have no reason to doubt the truth of their story, although I question why they feature it front and center with no counterbalancing tale of, say, the International Solidarity Movement where Palestinians and Jews together risk themselves in nonviolent interventions for peace. The hate is real, and the fear it engenders is also real. Yet the story makes me consider what I was taught in ten or more years of Jewish education that included a teenaged summer spent on a kibbutz.

We never chanted, “Kill the Arabs”. We were never told in so many words, ‘Hate them.’ Rather, we learned a more subtle discounting, a not-seeing, as if the Palestinians were not full human beings but rather a minor obstacle to the fulfillment of a dream, something to be moved aside, that didn’t really count.

We were taught to be proud of the brave Zionist settlers and pioneers, the idealistic youth who fled the ghettoes and the pogroms of Europe to build a ‘new’ land. And I am proud, still, of their experiments in new ways of living, their awareness of women’s rights, their courage in leaving home and family to escape oppression. But I understand now that they did not come into an empty place, and they did not come with the capability of truly seeing and respecting and honoring the people of the land. They came out of a Europe that had an unshakeable belief in its own cultural and racial superiority and had for centuries been appropriating the lands of darker peoples.

They came as the settlers came to the “New World”, saying, “This land is ours by right, God gave it to us,” The people who had lived there during those two thousand years of exile were an impediment. And so began the long litany of justifications: that the land didn’t really belong to them but to the Turks or the British; that they weren’t doing anything with it, had not made the desert bloom nor drained the swamps, and above all, that they hate us, are raised to hate us, with a hate irrational, implacable, and unchangeable.

The word for this sliding off of the glance, this NonSeeing, is racism. Less blatant, perhaps, than chanting “Kill, kill!” but with the same insidious results.

Yet to simply condemn Zionism as racism without acknowledging the context of centuries of racial hate against Jews from which it arose is to absolve those who have blood on their hands as well. Worse, it is to support the complacency of Jew haters and fascists who now emerge into the open again. Israel has indeed served the interests of the Western powers in subjugating the Arab world. But Israel also arose out of an oppressed people’s dream of liberation. To discount the oppression, to deny the strength and the beauty of the dream of a homeland, is to miss the full tragedy of what is happening now. Unless we understand the dream, we cannot truly comprehend the nightmare.

I know what Israel meant during my childhood in the fifties, to my family still reeling in shock from the revelations of the gas chambers and the ovens, still searching for news of lost relatives. Israel was the restitution for all the losses of the Holocaust. It was the thing that restored some meaning and some hope into a world utterly shattered by evil. It was the proof that Jews were not just passive victims but actors on the screen of history, capable of fighting back, of taking charge of our own destiny. It was the one safe place, the refuge in a hostile world. And for some, it was the answer to the anguished question, “How can I believe in God in a world in which such things can happen?” To acknowledge the truth of what Israel is now doing is to face a grief so deep and overwhelming that it seems to suck away all hope, is to gasp again in the suffocation chambers, to cover our faces with the ashes from the ovens and know that there is no redemption, no silver lining, no happy ending, no good and noble thing that emerged to give dignity to these deaths. There is only the terrible cycle, of victims becoming victimizers, the abused perpetuating abuse. It is to look down and see the whip in our own hands, the jackboots on our own feet.

“Don’t make the Nazi connection,” a Jewish peace group warns. “It only feeds the right wing.”

And yet the Naz
i connection begs to be made.

It is true that the Israelis have not built extermination camps. It is true, although not immediately relevant, that other people in the world besides Jews have done and are doing bad things. Other atrocities occur daily. But it is also true that to attempt to erase a people, to destroy their culture, livelihood, and pride, is genocide.

A wan young woman, looking depressed, wanders through the Justice for Palestine rally, carrying a sign that says: “My father survived Auschwitz. His parents didn’t. Orphaned, he fled to Israel.”

Part of the horror of Jenin lies in her father’s new kinship to the teenaged boy dug alive out of the rubble of his house where his parents and brothers and sisters now lie dead.

That parallel is a dark mirror that reveals how easily we become what we most despise. If we look into it open eyed, we face truths so painful they make it hardly bearable to be human. For this is not just about Jews and Germans, Israelis and Palestinians, not about how any one people is prone to evil. It’s about us all. The capacity for cruelty, for inflicting horrific harm, exists in us all. All we need is to feel threatened, and to let our fear define our enemy as less than fully human, and the horrors of hell are unleashed.

If we don’t like the Nazi parallel, we must refuse to become Nazis. We must remember that the Nazis played on the German sense of deprivation and loss after World War One, and admit that our own real victimization has not elevated us to some realm of purity and eternal innocence. We can grow beyond the propaganda we were taught and the myths of our childhood and the comfort of our chosenness, and see the Palestinians as the full human beings that they are. Even if to do so seems to require us to walk out again into the wilderness with no outstretched hand nor hope of a promised land to guide us.

For if we admit the Palestinians’ full humanity, if we admire their knowledge and appreciate their culture and cherish their children, then all the justifications of conquest fall away. No God, no superior virtue or inherent right, has granted us dominion. We have the land because we were able to take it.

And while that admission might seem to threaten Israel’s very right to exist, it is not nearly as much of a threat as clinging to the justifications and rationalizations that prevent us from seeing the Other as human.

For full human beings placed in a situation of utter despair may turn to suicide bombs and retribution. Human beings, humilated beyond bearing, may turn to revenge. But full human beings are not mindless agents of hate. Given hope and dignity and a future to live for, human beings will tend to choose life. And full human beings can be reasoned with, bargained with, made peace with.

The wilderness, the desert, has always been the place where our people have heard the still, small voice of God.

Religion is supposed to call us away from our most brutal possibilities, to challenge us to act from compassion and love. Right now in the Middle East, religion is not doing its job.

I know well that to equate the actions of the Israeli government with Judaism is to risk feeding anti-Semitism and to erase the great spectrum of political and spiritual diversity that exists in the world Jewish community. And yet the question of Israel cannot be separated from Judaism. Our prayers for rain are timed to coincide with cloudbursts over the Sea of Galilee. We count the ‘omer’, the successive gathering in of the harvest from ancient fields bordering the Jordan. Fundamentalist Jews have established the contested settlements in the Occupied Territories and resist any concessions to the Palestinians. And the mainstream Jewish community stands firmly behind the Israeli government’s rule of force.

The current crisis represents a great spiritual crisis within Judaism. I write as an admitted heretic, yet it’s clear to me that the Orthodoxies of all three Great Religions, along with atheists, pragmatists and secularists of many political persuasions, are embroiled in a blasphemy that far outweighs any naked dancing around a bonfire. They are united in the worship of the God of Force.

The God of Force says that force is the ultimate answer to every dilemma, the resolution of every conflict, the ‘only thing they understand.’ The God of Force makes His appearances in the Old and New Testament, the Koran, and other sacred and secular scriptures. The God of Force licenses his agents to kill, unleashes the holy war, the jihad, the crusade, the inquisition. The God of Force says, “Go unto the land and kill all the inhabitants thereof.” Now, I’m a polytheist. I recognize many Powers, many constellations of energies and forces in the universe, that arise from a deep interconnectedness and unity but have their own flavors, characters and names. One advantage of being a polytheist is that you can choose your gods or goddesses, acknowledging that bloodthirsty and cruel powers exist, but turning resolutely away from them. When God tells you to commit some horrific atrocity, you have somewhere to go for a second opinion. But monotheism is, of course, the heart and essence of Judaism as it is of Islam and Christianity. I submit that the God of Force is incompatible with the oneness of God. For if God is one, s/he must by definition be God of All, not of any one people exclusively. He cannot simultaneously encourage callousness and cruelty and be Christ the God of Love, Allah the Merciful, or El Maleh Rahamim, God Who is Filled with Compassion. And if he chooses a people, he does it in the same spirit in which my partner confides to each of his four daughters that she is his favorite.

The current situation is a call both to God and to us to evolve. Judaism has always had within it a tradition of wrestling with God, as Jacob did with the angel, of arguing with God, as Abraham did when God wanted to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. To see God as fixed, eternally and unchangingly rigid is indeed to worship a graven image. Instead, we might see God as a dynamic process in which we are cocreators of the world we inhabit. We are actively engaged in shaping who God becomes.

We are commanded not to make images of God because our human imaginations are always limited and will reproduce our own faults and lacks and prejudices. God the General, God the Ruler, God the King, God the Distributor of Real Estate, God the Avenger, God of Holy War, God of Punishment, Retribution and Revenge, God Who Favors One People Above All Others, may in reality be that very idol, that truncated image, we are told to turn from. The worst heresy of all may be to limit our conception of the great force of compassion that underlies the world.

Judaism can march lockstep with the Israeli authorities deeper into the domain of force. Israel could conceivably exterminate the Palestinians utterly, and that is the trend of the current policies. Nothing less will crush their aspirations for independence and freedom. A Jewish community that supported that final solution would lose its soul and any claim to moral authority. An Israel that carried out the genocide would be no fit homeland for any person of conscience. The dream of Israel would become an utter and complete horror show. And genocide would not bring security to Israel: it would simply inflame the hatred of the entire Arab world and jettison the rest of the world’s support. Given all the nuclear weapons floating around in the Middle East, that road is likely to lead straight to the fulfillment of Christian prophecies of apocalypse.

One of the agonies in the current crisis is that nobody seems to have much hope or vision of how to resolve it. We can see where the road leads, but we don’t know how to step off of it.

“If only the Palestinians would practice nonviolence, embrace the principles of Gandhi and King,” I hear from some of my Jewish allies. Of course, there are Palestinians, and Israelis, and many others who have stepped forward to be a
nonviolent presence in refugee camps, who have accompanied ambulances and attempted to deliver medical supplies, who have written their own eyewitness accounts and spoken their truth. But I find myself thinking “Wouldn’t it be quicker if Gandhi or King reappeared among the Israeli leadership and their supporters? Are they not in an even better position to change this situation?”

If the Israeli leadership were to abandon the idea that force will resolve this conflict in any positive way whatsoever, the solution becomes stunningly, obviously clear. Any mind not clouded by fear or hate or self righteousness or utter religious certainty can see it in ten minutes of serious thought:

The Palestinians need their own state. And it needs to be a viable, coherent state with the potential for prosperity and beauty, not a Bantustan, not a few scraps of unwanted land the Israelis have decided to discard. A Palestine of milk and honey, of bread and roses, of the vine and the fig tree, of olive groves and red anemones, of health clinics and universities, of a new renaissance of Arabic culture, science, learning and art. Anything less will be an eternal festering sore, and there will be no peace.

An Israel that gave up the delusion that force will win all of Israel’s demands while conceding the Palestinians nothing might recognize that a flourishing and happy Palestine would be Israel’s best security measure, might even become her closest trading partner, best friend. Such a Palestine would offer its youth a better future than becoming human bombs. It is utterly in the best interests of Israel to nourish and support and foster the creation of the Palestinian state, to be surrounded by friends instead of enemies. And while that might seem impossible at the moment, consider the friendly relations between the U.S. and our former deadly enemies, Germany and Japan. Those who love and care for Israel need to stand with her true interests now, by demanding an end to the occupation, the dismantling of the settlements, by calling for the intervention of a neutral, peacekeeping force, and by pressuring the United States government to stop covertly supporting and funding Israeli aggression.

The grip of the God of Force is strong, so strong that even though we can clearly see what the solution might be, we may despair at actually bringing it about. To pry that grip loose, we need to use all the tools of political activism, from writing letters and making phone calls to demonstrating, doing nonviolent civil disobedience, or even joining the peace witnesses on the front lines.

On a spiritual level, we can look into the dark mirror that reveals our own prejudices and reject them. We can believe that the force of intelligent, embodied love, as feminist thealogian Carol Christ describes the Goddess, is indeed stronger than stupid, disembodied hate.

One last Pagan heresy is the belief that we can prod a sluggish God into producing a miracle or two, by performing an action with conscious, focused intention.

So, as a spell for peace, make peace with someone you think you can’t make peace with. Notice what resistance arises even at the thought, how you build your case against your enemy, how you marshall your allies and ready your weapons. Note what it takes to give them up, what you must sacrifice and what you gain.

Maybe, in this process, we can all learn something. Maybe we can begin a turning, a transformation that will leave the God of Force starved of his blood sacrifices and burnt offerings, and feed gentler fruit to a kinder God. So that the children of Israel and Palestine can both grow up to enrich the land not by the blood of corpses but by the songs of poets, the works of artists, the healing of doctors, the fruit of farmers, the knowledge of teachers, the wisdom of mystics. And this corner of land, battleground for so many years, might become for all people a place of refuge, vision and hope.

Yucca Mountain

After 2 decades of research, the US Department of Energy (DOE) is applying for a permit to build the world’s first high level nuclear waste dump. The proposed dump, at Yucca Mountain, 90 miles NW of Las Vegas, is more controversial than ever; even the US government’s General Accounting Office opined that the site research is flimsy. The rush to start building is not motivated by public safety, but by corporate greed. The waste is fine, for the time being, in its current locations at reactors across the country. But with a pro-nuclear president in office, the nuclear industry is leaping at the first hint of an opportunity to build more reactors. And nobody is going to invest in new plants until there’s some place to put the waste that’s piling up at currently operating reactors.

Unfortunately, as progress on Yucca Mountain is delayed, the rapacious nuclear industry is privately hunting for other temporary waste storage options. A consortium of companies is trying to contract with the Skull Valley Goshute Tribe to store waste on their reservation in Utah. Yucca Mountain itself is Western Shoshone land that the government is trying to buy out from under them. Forget the bungled Yucca Mountain project: power plants and the communities and industries that use their power need to deal with their waste locally and boot out the insidious cop-out called the national sacrifice zone.

There are several major flaws with the Yucca Mountain project:

1. Repository safety over the 10,000 year time period that the waste remains dangerous: Using our reasonably well-developed knowledge of geology, we (humanity) can predict how parts of the earth will act over the next 10,000 year period. In terms of geologic time, 10,000 year is not very long.

However, add radioactive waste to the puzzle, and the job of predicting what will happen becomes extremely complex. The whole earth is sitting around us for geologists and chemists to study, extrapolating the future based on the present and the past. But there are no high-level nuclear dumps presently in existence to help researchers forecast how the darned thing will stand up to the test of time. Scientists use computer models to stretch the results of short-term radioactive waste experiments into the realms of geologic time. Of course, we won’t be around to see if the models were right or not. The research is a gray matter of prediction, statistics, of “reasonable” degrees of safety, like when “safe sex” became “safer sex”.

But there are major critiques of the research process the Department of Energy (DOE) is using to determine the “reasonable safety” of a dump at Yucca Mountain. Respected researchers not directly affiliated with the government suggest that the DOE relies too heavily on one complex computer model, instead of using a number of smaller, more focused models. Results between the large model, secondary models, and lab and field experiments do not match up well enough, and scientists think the main model’s data set is too small.

The DOE is attempting a super-human task, and failing- both because the task is beyond humanity’s current abilities, and because their motivations are in the wrong place. According to scientists who have worked on the project, research was done slowly and thoroughly during the first few years of the project. But in the early 1990’s, the DOE, haunted by their 1998 deadline (long past), began to rush. A thorough understanding of how radioactive waste would interact with the mountain’s geology was too complicated a goal, they decided ñ so in order to meet (friendly) pressure put on by the nuclear industry, they changed the project focus. Their contractors would build a dump that relied not on the mountain itself to keep the waste contained, but societies exist on the scale of thousands of years, not tens of thousands. Everything decays. Because we’re confident in our knowledge of geology, it is reasonable that


Congress may kill the Yucca Mountain project within a few weeks, if Nevada Senator Harry Reid has his way. Earlier this spring President Bush formally recommended Yucca Mountain as the site for the dump. (Why he felt comfortable with this questionable recommendation will be explored later.) Nevada Governor Kenny Guinn vetoed Bush’s recommendation, as allowed by 1982 waste disposal legislation. Congress has 90 days to override the veto by a simple majority, which the House quickly did. The Senate vote must happen before late July. As of press time, Sen. Reid didn’t have quite enough votes together to save the Nevada veto – but with lobby money pouring in from all sides, the balance may be tipped.

If the senate overrules the veto, the DOE then has 90 days to submit a construction license to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which has up to 4 years to okay the license before construction can begin.

The task is insurmountable

Whenever science and regulatory issues intersect, there’s high potential for scientific propaganda. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham said his recommendation to President Bush in favor of the site was based on “sound science.” Science that sounded good to whom? Not to three inertia-bound Washington regulatory agencies, including the General Accounting Office, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (responsible for licensing the repository), and an “independent” federal reviewer of nuclear waste disposal, the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board, all three of which expressed substantial concerns. Scientists not directly affiliated with the government echoed the doubt.

After 20 years and $4 million worth of research, serious questions still remain about Yucca Mountain’s ability to isolate nuclear waste over a 10,000 year period. Of course – and the trick is that we can never know whether a dump does in fact meet up to it’s expected ability to contain the waste. We will put the waste in the dump, keep it open for maybe 300 years to perform tests, and then seal it up. We have no prior experience with dump performance. We have to rely on our knowledge of geologic processes and computer models to predict the outcome. But scientists don’t think that the DOE’s main model relies on a large enough data set, and there are disagreements between other models and laboratory experiment results.

A main source of conflict is the information about movement of water through the mountain. Knowledge about water flow is crucial to predicting dump safety because water is the main way radioactive particles would move away from the dump. Estimates of water movement have varied significantly over the years, and no consensus has been reached. After thinking that flow rates were slow, particles of chlorine-36, an isotope produced by nuclear weapon tests, were found within the mountain, suggesting that water does actually move fairly quickly through the area. This issue still has not been resolved.

After encountering so many difficulties predicting the geology and the natural environment of the mountain over the next 10,000 years, the DOE decided to shift their focus towards engineered solutions to keeping the waste dry. The waste containers would be placed under titanium umbrellas to keep the water out. But the same problem still exists- the DOE is glossing over the necessary experiments to predict how the “drip shields” would corrode! Also missing are solid conclusions on how the waste containers themselves will stand up to the test of time.

Another major knowledge gap centers around volcanic activity and faults in the area. Finally, the DOE has not even resolved a major design factor – whether dump should be “hot” or “cold”, depending on how far apart the containers of heat-generating waste are placed from each other.

The nuclear lobby

With such serious holes in the research, why is the DOE pretending it is ready to apply for a license? Predictably, the whole process surrounding the Yucca Mountain dump has been primarily political. The
primary motivation behind the dump is the nuclear industry’s desire to build more nuclear plants. Bush and Cheney have the first pro-nuclear energy policy in years (?), but more importantly, if Yucca Mountain is struck down, there is no fall-back option. Utilities will have to indefinately store their waste at the plants, in storage pools filled with water and, as these fill up, in concrete and steel casks. Both methods are safe- but don’t allow for much expansion of nuclear power.

Congress initially authorized investigation of three potential high-level waste dump sites, including Yucca Mountain, a site in west Texas, and a site near the Hanford nuclear reservation in southwestern Washington. In 1987, Congress eliminated all but Yucca Mountain. Both the Texas and Washington sites were within the boundaries of major aquifers, and studying three sites would have been extremely expensive… but most importantly, the decision was strongly affected by the presence of powerful congress members in both states.

Now, in anticipation of the Senate vote, the nuclear industry is lining senators’ pockets. According to Public Citizen, a contribution watch group, only 7 current senators have received no money from nuclear industry Political Action Committees (PACs). In 2002 alone, senators and a few leading senate candidates have taken $1.3 million from nuke PACs. And of the 20 top recipients of nuke PAC money, 8 sit on the Senate Energy Committee and 6 on the Environment and Public Works Committee, both key committees dealing with nuclear power.

Money talks. So the state of Nevada is entering the conversation with a $5.5 million advertising campaign that has already placed ads in Washington and in selected states with important senators, including Vermont, home of Senate Environment Committee Jim Jeffords (I). The players are quickly coming out of the closet: the Las Vegas gaming industry, with a history of quietly lobbying against the dump, is now publicly pouring money into this advertising fund, and boosting its own PAC contributions. Don’t overlook the direct beneficiaries of all this government chicanery, the advertising industry, lobbyists, and paid consultants.

Another slick scenario fell on its face when it surfaced that the law firm hired by the DOE to prepare the Yucca Mountain license application (a $16.5 million contract), had two major conflicts of interest: the firm, Chicago’s Winston and Strawn, was also representing a Yucca Mountain contractor, TRW Environmental Safety Systems, Inc, and the main industry lobby group, the Nuclear Energy Institute. The DOE is expected to hire another firm that has actually represented a number of utilities in suits against the DOE. Does this make sense?

Logic MIA

Where’s the logic behind the Yucca Mountain dump? And, by extension, behind nuclear power, the root of the problem? The problem of predicting dump behavior for the next 10,000 years is fantastically interesting but can’t stand up to the realities of current scientific knowledge – especially when the investigation is biased by the political clout of the nuclear industry.

But if Yucca Mountain somehow evades the industry’s grasp, the fist will fall elsewhere in an attempt to relieve the utilities of their waste burden. A consortium of 8 private utilities is negotiating with the Skull Valley Goshute tribe to build a temporary storage facility on their reservation. Surrounded by a chemical weapon test facility, a nerve agent factory, a polluting coal power plant, and a low-level radioactive waste dump , the Skull Valley reservation is surrounded by the epitome of a national sacrifice zone. The tribe website states they can make money no other way and so are negotiating to store the waste. This waste, too dangerous for the communities in which it is produced, can acceptably be stored on native peoples’ land?

No! The waste can be safely stored where it is, at the power plants that used it to generate power, in the local where the power was consumed. If the local community is anti-nuclear, if it says it did not ask for the plant in the first place- well fine, but the community used the power, and the waste can be stored safely. Nuclear plants need to entomb themselves, not endlessly generate waste to lay on far-away people already on the US’s shitlist.

Grow or Die: The Death of the Earth by Capitalism

Capitalism and a healthy environment cannot coexist together because of the economic theory behind capitalism and it is consistent need for new frontiers of exploitation.

Environmental damage has reached alarming proportions. Almost daily there are new upwardly revised estimates of the severity of global warming, ozone destruction, topsoil loss, oxygen depletion from the clearing of rainforests, acid rain, dioxins in our body, pesticides residues in our food and water, the accelerating extinction rate of natural species, and so on. Or, as Kirkpatrick Sales puts it, “the planet is on the road to and perhaps on the verge of global ecocide”.

So how have we reached this point of almost ecological disaster? Many anarchists view the ecological crisis as rooted in the psychology of domination that emerged with the rise of patriarchy. Over time as these institutions took form and social domination became commonplace, these ideals were carried over into humanity’s role with Nature. The patriarchal belief system places higher value on linear, mechanistic, analytical, and rational qualities. Under patriarchy the intuitive, emotional, anarchic, and earthy are negatively perceived as passive, weak and irrational within patriarchy. Within the realms of this definition, nature became increasingly regarded as a mere resource, an object exploited and ruthlessly enslaved.

Capitalism is the vehicle through which this psychology of domination finds its most ecologically destructive outlet. Capitalism causes the wasteful use of energy and material far beyond that needed for everyday living at a comfortable level. When one adds up all the raw materials and energy that go into the goods and services consumed over a lifetime, the toll on the environment is staggering. When this cost is multiplied out over the lifespan of families, cities and countries, the proportions are incredible.

An example of wasted natural resources are the 200 Billion cans, bottles, plastic cartons and paper cups, are thrown away each year in the “developed” world. Corporate production focuses on “disposable” items rather than on quality or reliability, products are made for a one-time use because it ensures greater profits.

Many eco-anarchists give the highest priority to dismantling capitalism. Bookchin states that capitalism “in its endless devouring of nature will reduce the entire biosphere to the fragile simplicity of our desert and arctic biomes. We will be reversing the process of organic evolution, which has differentiated flora and fauna into increasingly complex forms and relationships, thereby creating a simpler and less stable world of life. The consequences of this appalling regression are predictable enough in the long run — the biosphere will become so fragile that it will eventually collapse from the standpoint human survival needs and remove the organic preconditions for human life.”

Capitalism must be eliminated because it cannot reform itself to become “environmentally friendly”, despite what many green individuals believe. One might more easily persuade a green plant to desist from photosynthesis than to ask the bourgeois economy to desist from capital accumulation.

Industrial production has increased fifty fold since 1950. Since capitalist corporations must continuously grow and expand, it can only mean disastrous consequences in a finite environment. Therefore, it is not practical to look for a solution to the ecological dilemma within the workings of capitalism, because “grow or die” is inherent in its nature.

What is the principle of grow or die?

Capitalism is based on production for profit. In order to stay profitable, a firm must be able to produce goods and services cheaply enough to compete with other firms in the same industry. If one firm increases its productivity (as all firms must try to do), it will be able to produce more cheaply, thus undercutting its competition and gaining more market share, until eventually it forces less lucrative firms into bankruptcy. Moreover, as companies with higher productivity/profitability expand, they often realize economies of scale (e.g. getting bulk rates on larger quantities of raw materials), thus giving them even more of a competitive advantage over less productive/profitable enterprises. Hence, constantly increasing productivity is essential for capitalist survival.

There are two ways to increase productivity, either by increasing the exploitation of workers (e.g. longer hours and/or more intense work for the same amount of pay) or by introducing new technologies that reduce the amount of labor necessary to produce the same product or service. Due to the struggle of workers to prevent increases in the level of their exploitation, new technologies are the main way that productivity is increased under capitalism (though of course capitalists are always looking for ways to increase the exploitation of workers on a given technology by other means as well).

But new technologies are expensive, which means that in order to pay for continuous upgrades, a firm must continually sell more of what it produces, and so must keep expanding its capital (machinery, floor space, workers, etc.). Indeed, to stay in the same place under capitalism is to tempt crisis – thus a firm must always strive for more profits and thus must always expand and invest. In other words, in order to survive, a firm must constantly expand and upgrade its capital and production levels so it can sell enough to keep expanding and upgrading its capital — i.e. “grow or die,” or “production for the sake of production.”

Thus, it is impossible in principle for capitalism to solve the ecological crisis, because “grow or die” is inherent in its nature.

As long as capitalism exists, it will necessarily continue its “endless devouring of nature,” until it removes the “organic preconditions for human life.” We do not have to wait until after the revolution to save the earth. Saving the earth is the revolution.

Good Books to Read:

Morris, Brian. Ecology and Anarchism: , Images Publishing (Malvern) Ltd, Malvern Wells, 1996.

Bookchin, Murray, Toward an Ecological Society, Black Rose, Montreal, 1980.

The Ecology of Freedom: The Emergence and Dissolution of Hierarchy, Cheshire Books, Palo Alto, California, 1982.

Which Way for the Ecology Movement? AK Press, Edinburgh/San Francisco, 1994.

The Philosophy of Social Ecology, Black Rose Books, Montreal/New York, 1990.