Letting Go

Two facts I learned today filled me with wonder.

One is that we have just celebrated our first Veterans Day without the living presence of a World War I veteran. There is no longer anyone alive who can tell us how it was. From here on out, we must rely on historians to teach us the lessons of that momentous conflict and to keep alive the memories of humanity’s first experience with such a large conflagration, an experience which should always humble us.

The second fact is that the site of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan will not be “cleaned up”– that is, all debris removed, all nuclear fuel “disposed of”. Sealed inside thick concrete walls–until circa 2041. And, of course, the contamination of the soil in the area will last far beyond that. Neither I nor several more generations of my family will live to see that contamination expelled, and likely I will not live to see even the cleanup completed.

Will I live to see our political economy workin with, rather than against the Earth and human vulnerabilities, to provide renewable, sustainably derived energy? That is a much more important question.

But what I think about is how one instance of lack of foresight, as in the failure to see that a powerful earthquake could cause a tsunami strong enough to overwhelm our technology, can wreak such destruction that the cleanup should take decades. What other experience of my lifetime has had such longterm consequences? Perhaps our country’s response to 9/11, the wars and geopolitical realignments? This question will be rattling my brain for a long time.

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