American Culture

Uranium, natural gas, coal and hydroelectric are driving us to extinction

Our lust for energy is killing us, one story at a time.

by Bruce Lindwall

Our stories aren’t the same but they rhyme.

Radiation Area Sign - Horseshoe Mesa mine talings - Grand Canyon - South Rim by Alan English CPA, on Flickr

Radiation Area Sign – Horseshoe Mesa mine talings – Grand Canyon – South Rim by Alan English CPA, on Flickr

They came to the desert to get the uranium. Tore up the ground, sucked up the water, blasted the mesa. Swept all the toxic tailings into a pile. Now the wind spreads deadly dust onto homes and streets and playgrounds. Onto vegetables and meat drying in the sun. Onto the lives and homes and bodies of the people. They took the uranium and left without a goodbye. They left the broken dam that once held the pond, now long since washed downstream past the homes of the people. Never told the people about the radium in the pond. That went downstream too. Sunk into the sand, hid amongst the rocks. Don’t listen to the clicking meter as you walk that streambed now, telling what’s left behind. You’ll only scare yourself. You’ll scare yourself enough to run. But you can’t run — you’re already home.

Our stories aren’t the same but they rhyme.

That's a Lot by bill baker, on Flickr

That’s a Lot by bill baker, on Flickr

They came to town to get the gas. Needed a few more hydrocarbons to send up a smokestack somewhere. They wrote some big checks, hung ‘em here and there. They made the promises, they told the stories, they laid the pipe and they drilled the holes. Whalers use an exploding harpoon head. They use a fracking well. Drive the lance in deep, then blow it up. Blow up the stone, blow up the wells, blow up the streams, blow up the lives, blow up the communities. They want gas? Hell, we got gas. Come to our houses. We’re bottling it at the kitchen sink. Oh, this isn’t your gas? You say it’s not your gas in our wells? What sort of fools do you take us for?

Our stories aren’t the same but they rhyme.

Kayford Mountain, WV by biotour13, on Flickr

Kayford Mountain, WV by biotour13, on Flickr

They came to the mountain to get the coal. You weren’t using that mountaintop, were you? Way up there where it’s just a lot of forest that’s not doing anything? Too steep for logging, anybody can see that. Don’t worry — we got machines that can fix that. We’ll have it flattened in no time. Oh hey, please ‘scuse our dust while we remodel the mountaintops in your backyard. We’ll sweep all that black dust out of your kid’s school soon as we’re done here. And we’ll get you some good jobs at good wages. Y’all will like that. You can take those good wages right to the drugstore, take ‘em right to the doctor’s office, take ‘em right to the hospital, and use ‘em to cover your kitchen table with all the medical crap you have to swallow ‘cause you all swallowed that first load of bull crap we brought to town.

Our stories aren’t the same but they rhyme.

They just showed up one day and sent everybody away. You better leave now unless you can grow some gills. The dam is finished, the water’s rising, you’re in the bottom of the reservoir, you’re at the bottom of the list, you’re at the bottom of the food chain, you’re just plain at the bottom. Don’t bother looking for your hunting grounds — they’ve already drowned. Don’t bother looking for your ancestors’ graves — we flooded those yesterday. Don’t bother looking for fish you can eat — they’ve been flooded with mercury. Don’t bother looking for any help building a new life. That didn’t fit in the budget. Sorry we didn’t ask you, tell you, listen to you. Couldn’t, ‘cause you didn’t have a phone, ‘cause you didn’t have an address, ‘cause you didn’t have a voice, ‘cause you didn’t have your rights. And no, we can’t give you a ride to town, ‘cause town got flooded last week.

Our stories aren’t the same but they rhyme.

Bruce Lindwall, who holds a doctorate in plant biology, is a faculty member with the Expedition Education Institute. His work with EEI has taken him to environmental justice communities across the United States. He has extensive wilderness experience throughout North America from Arctic Canada to the Desert Southwest.

 

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