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End of Nuclearism or the End of the World: Utopian Dreams, Dystopian Nightmares


End of Nuclearism or the End of the World: Utopian Dreams, Dystopian Nightmares

Richard Falk

We are living amid contradictions whether we like it or not, driving expectations about the future toward opposite extremes. Increasingly plausible are fears that the ‘sixth extinction’ will encompass the human species, or at least, throw human society back to a technology of sticks and stones, with a habitat limited to caves and forests. This dark vision is countered by gene editing designer promises of virtual immortality and super-wise beings programming super-intelligent machines, enabling a life of leisure, luxury, and security for all.


Richard Falk:

“How best to endure in the face of such fatalistic dualisms? That may be the question of our time, dodged for the sake of sanity by almost all of us, at least most of the time.”

Well, I climbed mountains full time - on my own dime - not for profit - for seven years - and that did center me, but did little to fix the world.

I just watched a National Geographic film on the “Pacific Crest Trail” - which of course brought back memories of my days in the hills - long time ago.

Could it be that simple - simplify - adopt “quality” as a guide - get back to nature?


I appreciate Mr. Falk’s concern, and alarm, at the state of our world. And I also appreciate his life-long work on behalf of peace diplomacy, and Palestinian welfare and rights. However, his statement (quote) “The peoples of the world, entrapped in a predatory phase of global capitalism, are using their democratic prerogative to shut down dissent, rationality, and science” Is just wrong. It is not the regular people of our world, the families with children, the elders who watch history repeat mistakes and more build up of arms toward more war, that have used any of their “prerogatives” to allow these conditions and these powers. It is that very global capitalist and military arms industry and the rulers and politicians who continue to benefit from it, who are exercising THEIR POWER “to shut down dissent, rationality and science.”
Every writer who sends good analyses of our present crises in this world, to Common Dreams always comes to this conundrum: How do ordinary people, citizens of the western countries responsible for most of these crises, effect change? How do they seize the reins and work toward different outcomes than inequality and poverty, famine, war and a heating climate? I don’t know either, but I know it isn’t due to us not using our “prerogatives.”


Thanks, many summits, I find your Thinking Outside the Box comments very Thought Provoking, in a Constructive and Positive way.


Good Morning HowlingCoyote !

I was just sitting on my living room floor with a coffee, wondering if I should respond to kathrynh1 above, when I saw your comment.

Is there a “we”, or can we simply opt out because the smaller “we” are not in favor of what is being done in our name?

A picture flashed into my mind - thousands upon thousands, actually millions - of plastic water bottles being bought and discarded by, I would say, most of “us”.

The throwaway society - with not a thought of the morrow - but on the big issues - we weigh in as if we we were omniscient - strange behavior - in fact - do as I say - not as I do !

So I jumped on the computer, and I am writing to you.

Beside me is Pope Francis’ “Laudato Si”, which I am re-reading closely, because he makes sense, and his science is good.

I am secular - but the truth is always acceptable, from whatever source.

Also beside me is a new article in the July/August issue of American Scientist, “Questioning Copernican Mediocrity”, by Howard A. Smith, senior astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

It might be useful to remember that Copernicus was a monk - in effect working at the behest of his Church.

Although the two pieces of writing before me might seem dissimilar, “Laudato Si”, a papal encyclical, and the article on Copernican Mediocrity - they are surprisingly both very similar - in fact philosophical dissertations on the nature of mankind, of our place in this extraordinary universe - where ultimately we all ask the same question - “Why are we here?”

“And what is good Phaedrus - and what is not good? Need we ask anyone to tell us these things?” (from the beginning of Robert Pirsig’s book “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”, wherein I use above in my first post the term “quality” - the focus of Pirsig’s book.

I know a lot about nuclear - too much I am afraid.

Now we are on the brink, once again - or maybe we have been on the brink since the first Trinity test so long ago in the Alamogordo desert.

We build commercial nuclear reactors with the same lack of thought that we display when buying bottled water.

It is deeply disturbing - because there is no magic bullet - say - “end capitalism”.

The problem is us - and if there is a solution - it is also “us”.

How to make a better “us”?

Maybe - just be oneself - like the song says by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in “Teach Your Children Well”.

But we don’t even do that - now do we - shopping our most precious to institutions for indoctrination.

I know - I’ve been thru the entire system - grade school, high school, and three universities.

The changes we have to make are profound, and they all center around us - we the people.

You can instantly change course yourself - “put on your boots and go”, as Bill Tilman once said.

Why not ?



It’s metaphorical - “put on your boots and go”, as is another quote from the first eight thousand meter peak ever climbed, by the French team led by war veteran Maurice Herzog:

“There are other Annapurnas in the lives of men”

Maybe hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is not ‘your’ thing - but there are undoubtedly, unquestionably, other things each of us can do to improve the situation, both personally and for the common good.

“To be a man is, precisely, to be responsible” (Antoine de Saint Exupery)

In the end - that is what we must do - be responsible - at many levels.


Answers aren’t so much philosophical as structural. Secure water supply, safe sewage treatment, local agriculture, distribution systems and much simpler travel networks for regional metropolis to access health care, institutions, services, occupation and natural amenities such as healthy local ecosystems, reduced abhorant waste of electric power; which reminds me of how Carter era energy policy undermined the construction of 4 nuclear power plants, the Wwpps project in Washington State, early-mid 80’s. More then enough energy was saved through conservation measures to reduce projected demand. Oregon’s Trojan Plant was decommissioned for the same reason: cheaper to decommission than the mandated maintenance
would cost for repairs. Thanx Jimmy!



I must disagree.

To illustrate, I will quote from three sources, which we can all chew on. The idea though is simple - one cannot treat the natural world and mankind, with our psychological needs, as separate domains. In these three sources, we shall see surprising agreement I think.

(This can be addressed to HowlingCoyote for completeness).


From the papal encyclical, “Laudato Si”:

“We seem to think that we can substitute an
irreplaceable and irretrievable beauty with something
which we have created ourselves.” (34)

"We can be silent
witnesses to terrible injustices if we think that we
can obtain significant benefits by making the rest
of humanity, present and future, pay the extremely
high costs of environmental deterioration. (36)

“Once the human being declares independence
from reality and behaves with absolute dominion,
the very foundations of our life begin to crumble,” (117)

"There can be no renewal of our relationship
with nature without a renewal of humanity
itself… Human beings cannot be expected to feel
responsibility for the world unless, at the same
time, their unique capacities of knowledge, will,
freedom and responsibility are recognized and
valued. (118)


Luther Standing Bear, Lakota - Oglala Sioux:

“…the old Lakota was wise. He knew that a man’s heart, away from nature, becomes hard; he knew that lack of respect for growing, living things soon led to lack of respect for humans, too.”

“So he kept his children close to nature’s softening influence”


Finally - from the frontspiece of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”:

“Man has lost the capacity to foresee and to forestall. He will end by destroying the Earth”

  • Albert Schweitzer

My turn.

  1. I note that Albert Schweitzer thought we had lost a capacity - meaning we once had it.

  2. The Lakota’s indigenous wisdom suggests this may be true. That is important - for if we innately lack this capacity - we are surely doomed.

  3. The Pope’s encyclical suggests strongly that the Vatican is on side with this Lakota worldview.

  4. I - as a scientist and a mountaineer - in touch as it were with the larger scientific community thru a life of scientific awareness and an intimate contact with the natural world thru climbing - and leading men and women on climbs, know that I am on side with the inseparable bond between mankind and nature - i.e., there is no purely technical fix without a human fix - or rather more hopefully, not a fix but a return to sanity and common sense.

To me it is not surprising that the community of science is capable of foresight, working as science does, on understanding the natural world as either a profession or an avocation.

I am surprised, in a good way, that the Vatican is capable of foresight in the matter of climate change, biodiversity loss, etc…, all themes gone over in detail in Laudato Si.

The catch is the forstalling part.

This is presumably where the political process, and the electorate as a whole - has fallen on its face.

Which is why we blog here on Common Dreams.


Manysummits, mustn’t you also agree to workable solutions?

“Secure water supply, safe sewage treatment, local agriculture, distribution systems, much simpler travel networks for regional metropolis to access health care, institutions, services, occupation and natural amenities, healthy local ecosystems, reduced abhorant waste of electric power”

Which should remind us of how Carter era energy policy undermined the construction of
4 nuclear power plants, the Wwpps project in Washington State in the 80’s.
Or should it remind us of another travesty not prevented?


The planet would be uninhabitable if these warmongers have their way. Please, somebody stop this before we’re all dead everywhere from radiation, lack of food, shelter, everything.


Yes! At the very least, it would be a giant step on the road back to sanity!


Agree! However, the sad fact is that someone is electing these fools, and re-electing them.


Beautiful post!!!


I agree with youthaat this is a good road forward; I just am in doubt about the 1% and their minions who have so much power to influence the direction of our country, despite our local democratic moves, and banding together locally. A good community response to say, fracking, is great, but what about nuclear powered fools in our own and other nations? Thanks for your response. K


Yes, John, but we could go over and over the major media, its preoccupations with ad buys and sensationalism–and education that does not help the young (or the older) analyze arguments and distortions and outright lies. All this plus loads of money for 1% candidates, and economic inequality, (the lack of time that so many working several jobs, low pay, expensive childcare, etc. deal with, to actually be an active citizen), and apathy brings us what we have now. I think local organizing (Bernie!) and relating to people you don’t normally relate to could help change things. If we don’t all get blown up before then… K


Yes, of course - workable solutions are defacto the answer.

But my point is that without a change in the cultural landscape of the electorate - these are just pie in the sky.


During the Clinton era, technology advancement produced hybrid and all-battery EVs, electric light rail transit systems grew, energy saving electronic devices developed, LCD’s reduced cathode ray tube TV energy use by half, etc. These are not pie in the sky changes for the better dependent upon a more enlightened culture. Figure out a way to profit by replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, and it’ll happen regardless of the culture that couldn’t care less.


Ah Yes - the techy-fix.

Heh - I am all for new technology, but it needs direction - thoughtful, considered direction.

The markets are interested in profit - and you are right I think in seeing that profit-driven enterprise will follow the money.

I was once a stockbroker - and so I am more than familiar with your argument.

However - both the markets and technology lack “morality” - as they are not human beings.

And this is non-trivial - in fact, from my perspective - this lack of humanity is the death knell for all of us.

The modern publicly traded corporation is like a predatory beast - always hungry - and constrained by our very own courts and legal system to place the shareholders’ profits before all else - which is the way it actually works.

Technology - unhindered - searching out profits also - is equally deadly - see Martin Rees of Cambridge - the Astronomer Royal of the United Kingdom - see Stephen Hawking etc…

Yes, there are competing theories - Ray Kurzweil, chief engineer at Google, prominent among them.

The precautionary Principle has kept me alive in the mountains and elsewhere.

Hubris is categorically a profound mistake - throughout time - in all places.


You might find this interesting ?


Thank you nighthawk !

I read my post over after you replied, trying to figure out what I did right ?

Just shooting from the hip - it seems - but behind the hip - an awful lot of research - an awful lot of contemplative time.

You know, they don’t call it the rat race for nothing.

In fact, I have found these little expressions to be very revealing - sort of psychology by artistic expression.


And thank you for the George Monbiot link. I have always appreciated his writings on CD, but haven’t seen much from him lately. I suppose he’s been busy finishing his new book. Also, the daily drama of DJT and the never-ending squabbles about his “election” seem to take up much of our time and energy on here. I’m guilty, too, but trying to move on and make the best of this absolute nightmare.


Well, if you’re a fan of self-driving cars, you got another think coming, as they say, because the more practical use of ‘autonomous’ tech is drowned out by the nonsense of no steering wheel, brakes and accelerator, tell the car where to go and then drive around empty somewhere else. I challenge the Google scenario and more important, the investment.

The Hyperloop and underground highway tubes are Elon Musk’s subconscious cry for help. The most logical justification of self-driving cars: When you hit and damage another car, or kill a pedestrian or bicyclist, it’s the car’s fault, a likely testament to our cultural shortcomings. I make a good argument demonstrating how plug-in hybrids reduce fuel/energy consumption more than all battery EVs like the Tesla; PHEVs promote solar matched to smaller battery packs and regional utility grids. Tech will play a role in habitat restoration.