Nuclearism, Climate Chaos and Active Hope

by James Heddle

“There comes a time in human affairs when we must seize the bull by the tail and stare the situation squarely in the face.” –  W.C. Fields

“Consciousness is suffering.” – Gautama Buddha

“Don’t Worry Be Happy.” – Meher Baba & Bobby McFerrin

“Hope is not something you have. Its something you do. Hope is a verb.” – Joanna Macy

Not a Pretty Picture:
The Nuclear Energy/Weapons/Waste/War/Winter Perplex and Climate Change

Right when the situation looked really dire…it just got worse.

With 2015 the hottest year on record, climate chaos is upon us with a vengeance, Paris agreements to the contrary notwithstanding.

Rumors of an impending WW III abound. There’s a New Nuclear Arms Race taking shape, and a New Nuclear Reactor Race is currently in play, too.

The Madness is Mounting

The last week of headlines tells the story.

  • • Obama is funding new ‘high tech’ reactor research
    • The Senate is considering S.2012, the Energy Policy Modernization Bill that would mandate and subsidize development of new nuclear reactor designs
    • China is funding floating reactor development
    • Japan is exploring nuclear waste tunnels in a seismically active seabed
    • Hackable reactors in 20 countries are vulnerable to cyber-attack-caused meltdowns
    • A massive gas leak in LA has been found to include radioactive radon, with other faulty natural gas storage facilities at risk across the country
    • Fukushima contamination of the Pacific continues with no end in sight
    • Japan’s Abe government is pushing to restart idled reactors despite massive opposition
    • Two have been restarted so far in this seismicly challenged, volcano-ridden country
    • One of them is using highly toxic plutonium mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel
    • Armed plutonium shipments are criss-crossing the high seas
    • U.S. utilities are fighting to economically penalize rooftop solar
    • Nuclear enthusiasts are clamoring to extend the operation of California’s last, aging nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon – located on 13 intersecting earthquake faults in a tsunami zone
    • Nuclear war threats loom, and the Atomic Clock is still ticking at 3 minutes to midnight.

What could possibly go wronx#%…?

Of course, you’d never know any of this if your mind is mesmerized by the Daily Distractions of America’s main stream electoral telenovela.

Watching ‘Debates’ While Rome Burns

None of the media-recognized, two-party presidential contenders will touch this triad of over-riding existential threats to our society – nuclear risks, war as a business model, and climate chaos – with a ten-foot pole.

Not to mention: America’s rigged voting system, its entrenched corporate Deep State, permanent war economy, and total surveillance system.

Or the transnational corporate mergers consolidating control of the global food and medicine supply.

Or the roll-out of secret, super-national ‘trade agreements’ that trump democracy, national sovereignty, international laws, human rights and environmental protection.

Or privately-funded, planet-wide,unauthorized toxic telecommunication, weather warfare, and geoengineering schemes perpetrated by militaries, corporations, hubristic billionaires, and unelected elites.

Being aware of all this makes it very difficult to take seriously encouraging, happy talk, upbeat calls for ‘getting engaged in positive change.’

So, what is to be done? That is the question.

Anybody have any ideas? Or is optimism in the face of converging catastrophes just denial in hope’s clothing?

Stochacity Happens

People often ask us, ‘Knowing what you know, what keeps you going?” Our answer is ‘stocacity.’ That’s a fundamental property of the universe – revealed by leading edge physics, evolutionary biology and systems theory – also known as ‘stocasticity,’ ‘unpredictability,’ or simply ‘surprise.’

As world systems analyst Immanuel Wallerstein reminds us, when a system is in ‘fibrillation,’ ‘very far from equilibrium’ – as our world system is today – small impacts and interventions can have much more powerful effect than when the ‘status quo’ is firm and stable.

Yes, we face more serious planet-wide existential threats than ever before in recorded history. At the same time, (as Paul Hawken reminded us as far back as 2007)there have never been so many people active, at so many levels, on so many issues worldwide as at this moment in time.

At the emergent, quantum-foamy bottom of evolutionary emergence, apparent trends are not determinative of ultimate outcomes, and all predictions and expectations – whether ‘negative’ or ‘positive’ from a self-centered human point of view – are radically subject to uncertainty. Cynical certainty is enervating and debilitating. Activity is energizing, enlivening and enjoyable, even if, ultimately, it may prove futile. No way to know.

And anyway, as any good martial arts instructor will tell you, the fetal position with thumb-in-mouth is not an effective defense posture.

Hope as a Verb

So, I want to draw your attention to three people who have taken W.C. Field’s sage advice quoted above…and lived to tell the tale (no pun intended).

Jill Who? Yes, Griselda, there IS a Green Party candidate for President.

Not only is she running, but she has a rationally thought-out platform that – according to at least one commentator (and this writer) – makes even more sense than Bernie’s.

That would be Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, a medical doctor with a diagnosis and treatment plan for a very sick republic.

Having covered her campaign in the 2012 election in Ohio, we can attest that this lady is smart, strong, articulate and serious.

Unlike any of the anointed, media-certified Republican or Democratic candidates, she has ‘stared the situation squarely in the face’ and addressed our three prime existential threats: nuclearism, the permanent war economy and climate chaos with viable responses. As David Swanson reports from his recent interview with her:

“Cutting the military budget is something that we can do right now,” Stein told me, “but we want to be clear that we are putting an end to wars for oil – period. And that is part of our core policy of a Green New Deal which creates an emergency program, establishing twenty million living wage jobs, full-time jobs, to green the economy, our energy, food, and transportation systems, building critical infrastructure, restoring ecosystems, etc. This is an emergency program that will get to 100 percent renewable energy by 2030. So this is a war-time-level mobilization in order to completely detoxify our energy system, and that means both nuclear and fossil fuel. In doing that, we deprive the empire of this major justification for wars and bases all around the world. So we want to be clear that that emphasis is gone, and goading the American public into war so as to feed our fossil fuel energy system – that ends and makes all the more essential and possible the major cutting of the military budget.”
Which 50 percent of the military would Stein cut? Two places she named that she would start with (there would have to be much more) are foreign bases (she’d close them) and the U.S. nuclear weapons program. Would she unilaterally scrap U.S. nukes? I asked.

“We don’t even need to do it unilaterally,” Stein said, “because the Russians have been begging to revive the process of nuclear disarmament, which the U.S., in its wisdom, undercut. … The Russians have been persistently trying to restore those nuclear talks for the purpose of disarmament. And that would be step one – is to make major reductions between the U.S. and Russia and then to convene a world forum to put an end to nuclear weapons altogether.”

Stein also advocates canceling the student debt, single-payer health care for all and ending the arms trade and the permanent war economy.

Beyond the ‘Deep State’

Mike Lofgren was a former Congressional staffer for current Republican presidential candidate and Ohio Governor John Kasich. Now a NY Times bestselling author, Lofgren draws on his years of experience and observations as a Beltway insider for his latest opus, The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government.
Lofgren pulls no punches in describing in documented detail the entrenched rule of “…a hybrid association of key elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the United States with only limited reference to the consent of the governed as normally expressed through elections.”
According to Lofgren,

“The Deep State is the big story of our time. It is the red thread that runs through the war on terrorism and the militarization of foreign policy, the financialization and deindustrialization of the American economy, the rise of a plutocratic social structure that has given us the most unequal society in almost a century, and the political dysfunction that has paralyzed day-to-day governance.”

He validates on the basis of his experience the conclusions of a recent study of three decades of data by liberal mainstream political scientists Martin Gilens of Princeton, and Benjamin Page of Northwestern, which found that the U.S. political system has become “an oligarchy,” where wealthy elites and their corporations “rule,” regardless of which party is in Congress and the White House.

“The central point that emerges from our research,” Gilens and Page wrote, “is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

Having spent nearly 300 pages analyzing the various aspects and manifestations of Deep State functioning, Lofgren ends by reminding us that change happened even back in the day of the post-civil war Robber Barons, when the foundations of ‘corporate personhood’ were laid. A handful of millionaires like John D. Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan and their banking cronies ruled and “striking workers were routinely massacred by corporate security guards,” much like police murder urban African Americans today.

“Yet somehow, by dint of sustained agitation by prairie populists and urban progressives alike, conditions began to change. Congress passed the Sherman and Clayton antitrust measures and pure food and drug laws: states began to regulate the conditions of labor; child labor laws were gradually abolished; some states granted their citizens the power of initiative, referendum and recall. Women finally received the vote. A couple of decades later, the New Deal Completed the agenda with wage and hour laws, collective bargaining rights, banking reform, old age and disability insurance, and several other innovations – and this occurred during the biggest global economic catastrophe of the modern age.

“Our forebears have shown that reforming the American political system, while likely to be difficult and protracted (it may take decades to accomplish) is not impossible.”
He points out that history is always a product of “circumstance, chance and human action.”

Although we may not have decades to work with – given the immanent threats of nuclear catastrophes, annihilation and climate chaos, Lofgren offers a list of recommendations to be pursued:

1. Eliminate private money from public election.
2. Sensibly redeploy and downsize the military and intelligence complex.
3. Stay out of the Middle East.
4. Redirect the peace dividend to domestic infrastructure improvement.
5. Start enforcing our antitrust laws again.
6. Reform tax policy.
7. Reform immigration policy.
8. Adopt a single-payer health care system.
9. Abolish corporation’s personhood status, or else treat them exactly like persons.
But, given the virtual black-out of relevant news and the public’s general aversion to ‘depressing’ information and ‘downer’ stories, how are any of Jill Stein’s or Mike Lofgren’s visions likely to be achieved?

Active Hope – Aspiration in Action

Active Hope,’ is the title of a new book by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone. In it, they eschew feel good denial, cynical disengagement and baseless optimism.

“In our culture,” says Macy in a recent video, “I believe there is much too much value put on optimism. It can actually encourage a kind of mental sloppiness: ‘Oh, I’m really optimistic!’ But we say this as if it is a form of personal failing to actually look and say ‘I’m pessimistic. It really doesn’t look good, does it?’

“This is a problem largely unique to America. And our brothers and sisters in Europe roll their eyes when we say we’re feeling that way. We inherited that from ‘This country’s based on hope and manifest destiny, and a successful person is ready with all the answers, brimming with grins and optimism…’ even when it’s asinine.

“Hope is not something you have. It’s something you do. Hope is a verb. That means there is something you can do, even when you’re depressed. It’s something that arises out of your caring for the world.”

But, as Macy and Johnstone wisely acknowledge, there are no comforting certainties involved in opting to work for change with ‘active hope:’

“…there are no guarantees that we’ll be able to turn things far or fast enough to safeguard our civilization, or indeed, to ensure the continued existence of conscious life on Earth. We will probably not know in our lifetimes whether we are serving as deathbed attendants to a dying world or as midwives to the next stage of human evolution.”

Take home message:

Forget meditating in a cave, following the latest Great Leader or uber-guru, or wearing a hair shirt. Activism for nuclear abolition, peace, social, economic and environmental justice is the current era’s main spiritual path.

So seize the bull by the tail, choose your issue and intervention point, and remember, “Stochacity Happens.”


James Heddle is currently at work on a documentary SHUTDOWN: The California-Fukushima Connection. He co-directs EON – The Ecological Options Network with his partner Mary Beth Brangan. EON’s Youtube Channel is here.

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