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PEACE PARTY vs. Toxic Waste

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  • Rob
    Indian Comics Irregular #125 As a publisher of Native-themed comic books, I got an unusual invitation last fall: to attend a roundtable on nuclear waste.
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 20, 2005
      Indian Comics Irregular #125

      As a publisher of Native-themed comic books, I got an unusual
      invitation last fall: to attend a roundtable on nuclear waste.

      Sponsored by the International Institute for Indigenous Resource
      Management (IIIRM), the roundtable's topic was the long-term
      stewardship of Dept. of Energy waste sites. These sites are usually
      decommissioned nuclear power plants or abandoned uranium mines. The
      problem is that their radioactive residue will remain toxic for
      millennia.

      As one participant noted, civilization has existed for roughly 10,000
      years. During that time, 400 generations of traditional people have
      come and gone, leaving the earth largely untouched. In contrast, the
      Atomic Age is only 60 years old--less than one lifetime. Yet in
      that short time, we've generated 10,000 years' worth of contamination.

      Ironically, our descendants will have to manage these poisonous sites
      for as long as civilization has lasted. Another 400 generations of
      people will have to take care of the mess created by three
      generations of "cheap" energy.

      That's progress for you.

      The Role of Indigenous People

      The challenge is how to retain the knowledge of physical barriers
      and management systems when governing agencies and technological
      capabilities may fail. This is especially daunting for disadvantaged
      communities, where many of the sites are located. These communities
      need solutions that are inexpensive and rely on the resources and
      institutions already in place.

      Fortunately, indigenous cultures have the right stuff. They're as
      ancient and unyielding as any civilization. They've survived this
      long by incorporating their beliefs in their myths and rituals. They
      feel duty-bound to protect the earth for the countless generations to
      come.

      In short, they're ideally suited to help shepherd radioactive sites.
      As an IIIRM paper presented to UNESCO in 2001 explained:

      Our research demonstrates that...Indian tribes and other indigenous
      peoples can create stories about hazardous places that will help
      maintain institutional memory of the hazards found there.
      Stories--including songs, poems, and histories--are told over and
      over again, confirming and preserving local knowledge. Stories can
      adapt to changes in technology and governments and still maintain
      their central message. And stories can be produced and maintained
      as easily by disadvantaged communities as others. In fact,
      storytellers from Indian tribes and other indigenous communities
      often create stories in reverence of place, describing community
      origins, memorializing important events, and reaffirming cultural
      practices of a place. Such stories can also transmit information
      about environmental contamination that is crucial for safeguarding
      future generations.

      Comics to the Rescue

      The IIIRM's people asked if I could achieve their goals using
      Indian comics. Specifically, if I could convey how people
      might recall the dangers of a site for thousands of years.

      In response, I wrote a PEACE PARTY story about the Yucca Mountain
      nuclear waste repository. While this isn't a contaminated site, the
      basic issue is the same. How can we ensure that people will never
      forget the deadly waste stored there?

      At the roundtable I introduced "A Story for the Ages"
      (http://www.bluecorncomics.com/iiirm.htm). I made the case for
      telling timeless tales with larger-than-life (super)heroes. I said
      today's mass-market fantasies--Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry
      Potter--are the equivalent of yesterday's epics--the Iliad, Beowulf,
      King Arthur. These are the stories people will remember an eon from
      now.

      Rob Schmidt
      Blue Corn Comics
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