Sun. Jul 21st, 2024
Pragmatic – to strike a balance between principles and pragmatism


Sandra Steingraber tells the story of a third grade teacher in the 60’s who had to give up her lesson plan for the day because her students were so frightened by the Cuban Missile Crisis. They all expected that they would die in a nuclear war – except one little girl.

She said; “We’re not going to die because my parents are Peace Activists, and they’re going to stop it”.

Ah, that time when our children still believe we can fix anything.

Some parents worked for disarmament and some folks built bomb shelters, as if we could ride out a nuclear disaster like a Kansas tornado. But as Sandra points out; if you build a bomb shelter, then you create a sense that this is less unthinkable than it should really be.

And that is the problem with pragmatism. Once we give in and just build a hole to hide in, we say in essence, it’s OK to use that technology. Or it says “I give up. I have no power.”

Sandra says “My job is to go out there and stop it, to tell my children, “Look, this is a serious problem.

It’s a threat to your future. But Mom is on the job“”.

And really is the idea of hiding in a hole for years less frightening than dying?

But we are not even hiding in a hole. We have been wearing blinders. We have been turning a blind eye to the more than 80,000 synthetic chemicals used in the United States, only 200 of which have been tested under the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. That does not even take into account naturally occurring substances which we have accumulated in unnatural ways such as manure in feedlots, or the super-bugs created by the irresponsible use of antibiotics and pesticides.

We are sleep-walking without hearing, seeing or smelling the warning signs, because we are so overwhelmed by them that we can’t imagine doing something about it. Even after Love Canal and Erin Brokovitch we believe we can’t do anything about it. We don’t even build holes anymore, because really, how many of us could afford it? And you know what? Those ‘bunker busting bombs‘ we used in Iraq? Those are bombs with radioactive warheads, specifically developed to allow for bunker penetration, and speculated to have the ability to destroy hardened targets a few hundred feet beneath the earth.

Many of these chemicals are byproducts of the Petroleum Industry. You know that Anhydrous explosion in West, TX – yep – a byproduct used as a fertilizer, kept liquid under high pressure (at a facility next door to a nursing home and a school). Now imagine a product like that stored in huge caverns under a large lake in Central NY. What could go wrong?

Our job is to go out there and stop it, to tell our children,

“Look, this is a serious problem.

It’s a threat to our future.

But Mom and Dad are on the job.”

Let’s at least let our children know that their parents are willing to try, to try hard, to fix it.

Because, as JFK said in told Americans in June 1963, just eight months after the Cuban Missile Crisis, “…in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”


Sandra Steingraber spoke with Bill Moyers shortly before being sentenced for her role as one of the Seneca Lake 12, a group of activists who last month blocked the gates of a natural gas storage facility in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of New York State. On a bitterly cold day in March they were arrested as they demonstrated against the environmental dangers of fracking and the storing of natural gas in nearby abandoned salt mines.
See the entire interview HERE, and learn more starting with the links on Bill’s page.

By Ana Grarian

50+ hippy chick from NY - STATE - and yes, I'm sensitive about that.

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Ken Carman
11 years ago

So true. Reminds me of alternative power sources: the very name which turns it into something to be considered on the side… as if relying on the monopolies that control electricity distribution is what we have to consider first and foremost. Instead we should be jumping into the fray, shooting for the stars instaed of whimpering and sending ot an occasional probe, and running towards the blast to see how we can help… not cowering under the beds that, in the final analysis, can be just as dangerous: or more.

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