I had an interesting question posed to me during the last Drinking Liberally podcast. With the polar ice caps melting and the environment in crisis, why are we focusing on abortion? In other words, if the country were suddenly underwater, what difference would it make whether or not women had access to abortion? My initial reaction to this question was to jump all over poor Gavin Shearer, who posed it. The first thing that ran through my mind was, if I am to be forced to surrender sovereignty over my own body to the government, then I’d rather drown in melting ice caps. I tend to focus on the most immediate threat first and with South Dakota banning all abortions in a clear attempt to force the issue up the ladder to the Supreme Court in the hopes of overturning Roe v. Wade, that felt at the time like the most immediate threat. Upon further reflection and without my knee jerking so fast it short circuits my reasoning, I understand the point Gavin was trying to make. But I still think there’s another environmental concern that trumps even global warming.
President Bush’s hometown paper, The Lone Star Iconoclast, has put together an amazing collection of articles and interviews shedding some much needed light on the use of depleted uranium in Iraq by US forces. It is a sobering read, but well worth the time (thanks to Roberta at God’s Madmen for bringing it to my attention). Leading scientists from around the world agree that depleted uranium and low-level emissions from nuclear power plants are doing serious damage to the planet and its inhabitants. Rises in thyroid cancer, breast cancer even obesity and diabetes can be linked to the aerosol sized particles released from DU munitions and nuclear reactors that travel far and wide and are easily inhaled by people and animals and contaminate water and soil. The implications of this are frightening, yet few people know much about it.
Dr. Chris Busby, Ph.D., has served on the European Committee on Radiation Risk and recently completed a study that contends depleted uranium from the “shock and awe” start to the Iraq war, traveled all the way to Britain by means of wind currents. The evidence of this was found in higher levels of radiation that were recorded by the British government in the days following the initial strikes in Iraq and we know from Chernobyl that radioactive contaminants can crisscross the globe causing damage for years to come. Nothing in his study or in the opinions expressed by the other scientists came as much of a surprise. I think we all know in our bones that nuclear contamination is real and that even so-called “acceptable” amounts of low-level emissions from nuclear power plants have measurable negative impacts on those exposed. But what is surprising is how little is being done to minimize the impact, let alone eradicate it all together. Some European countries are taking action by converting their energy sources away from nuclear power and towards a variety of other, less harmful sources like wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. Here in America on the other hand, we are being urged in the direction of more nuclear power by our President and we, through the use of depleted uranium munitions around the world, continue to be the source of the problem, rather than the cure.
With news today that the US has launched the largest air assault since the beginning of the war, we should all be concerned about what those bombs being dropped are doing to the Iraqi people, but we should also recognize that there is likely to be very real and immediate blowback for us. There is little doubt that innocents will get caught in the crossfire which will only further damage our standing in the world, but beyond the political blowback, we are unleashing uranium aerosols that will travel far and wide and indiscriminately do damage to people, including us, and to the planet that we share. It is quite possible that the strikes on Iraq could easily meld into strikes on Iran. We keep hearing from our President that “all options are on the table” in regards to Iran, and we know what that is shorthand for. There have been reports that the US will use “tactical nukes” to take out Iranian nuclear facilities, and when I read that these nuclear weapons are safe, produce less fallout and reduce collateral damage, it somehow doesn’t quite ring true. If depleted uranium from conventional weapons can travel from Iraq to Britain, it seems likely that fallout from “tactical nukes” could have an even wider reach. I guess it comes down to what “collateral damage” means and how much of it is acceptable. I don’t imagine that what is acceptable to this administration in this regard, would be acceptable to most Americans. I guess that’s why we’re not seeing much discussion about mini-nukes and depleted uranium on our televisions or reading about it in our hometown newspapers. Nothing new there, though, that’s for sure.