In recent years, the darkness of the Winter Solstice season has become a time that allows me the opportunity of deep reflection. Last night I lay in bed under the warmth of my Grandmother’s comforter while the winds howled outside my window thinking about the horrible irony that just a few days after the celebration of Bethlehem’s most famous birth, with the seasonal tidings of “Peace on Earth, goodwill towards man” (sic) still ringing in our ears, the Israeli government began its latest war against the Palestinian people.
And here in this country, an ecologic disaster of epic proportions is unfolding in the state of Tennessee after 2.2 million pounds (the latest number) of toxic sludge from a coal-fired plant spilled from a holding pond, covering some 300 acres of land. According to the New York Times,
(I)n just one year, the plant’s byproducts included 45,000 pounds of arsenic, 49,000 pounds of lead, 1.4 million pounds of barium, 91,000 pounds of chromium and 140,000 pounds of manganese. Those metals can cause cancer, liver damage and neurological complications, among other health problems.
And the holding pond, at the Kingston Fossil Plant, a T.V.A. plant 40 miles west of Knoxville, contained many decades’ worth of these deposits.
As the footage above says in a way that words cannot, the myth of clean coal is a lie, a terrible toxic lie. Just as the notion that you can win peace by waging war is a deadly lie that also endangers us all. What really can one say, except that we cannot go on like this. Each time we kill, each time we desecrate the earth, the peril grows as we draw ever closer to the precipice.
It may well be that we have gone beyond the point where the damage done is fixable or even manageable in some livable way. But if we are to find a path towards sustainable survival, what we must understand is this–the killing in Gaza and the poisoning of the earth in Tennessee are not separate, unrelated events. They are both part of the toxic belief system that claims that empowerment comes from exerting power over land and people. If we are to truly be empowered, we would do well to head these words of Starhawk,
“Justice is not a question of one side defeating the other, but of finding the dynamic balance between them that generates the energies that sustain the world.”*
May this be our resolution for the New Year.
*These excellent words come from a statement by Starhawk that is included in the 2007 We-Moon calendar.