Published on
Common Dreams

Thanksgiving Victories and Some Leftovers

President Obama put off the Tar Sands and Keystone XL Pipeline decision -- which Bill McKibben thinks will effectively kill the plan.  Thanks to the thousands who have worked tirelessly on this issue at and with, a major victory was won.  Thank you, in particular, to the leader of the fight to stop the Tar Sands pipeline -- Bill McKibben (author of The End of Nature and Eaarth) -- and thank you to all the activists who marched, went to jail, and more.

The November 21, 2011 vote in Trenton, NJ, set to take place by the Delaware River Basin Commission, to allow for Fracking in the Delaware river region, was postponed indefinitely --  thanks to Delaware Governor Markell's letter to the commission stating that he would not vote in favor of the drilling. 

For this extraordinary action -- a huge thanks goes to to Josh Fox -- the brilliant filmmaker of Gasland and tireless activist, for alerting the American public to the dangers of hydraulic fracking and spearheading "fractavisim".  Gasland is possibly the most important environmental film ever made -- it has woken our nation up to the horrors of hydraulic gas drilling. Thanks, also, to all the impassioned activists who have joined this battle -- including the actor Mark Ruffalo, Sandra Steingraber, Bill McKibben, and the thousands of other activists who worked to save the water and lives in our region!  The fight is not over yet, but we're on our way.

The Occupy movement in New York City and elsewhere has changed everything. What the Occupy movement makes clear: the sinking of our economy and the middle class, the rise in poverty, homelessness and hunger, the demise of our educational programs, the high cost and inaccessibility of medical benefits, the destruction of our environment, and the lack of community and connection (including racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia) -- throughout the US, are systemic and interconnected crises.  Capitalism benefits the 1% and too many of the 99% are in desperate straits, including planet earth.  We've been a nation of shoppers -- not creators, activists, thinkers, lovers, or good citizens.  All that is changing now.  Thank you to all the Occupiers who are working so hard, so joyously, and with so much love to build a more unified and healthy way of (re)thinking. Unfortunately, and very sadly, police and university officials at some rallies have responded with violence.  This is unacceptable.

Fukushima and Nuclear Power/Radiation: the denial continues in Japan by Tepco and the Japanese Government, and many Americans are clueless -- we have 23 nuclear plants here of the same design:  GE MARK 1.  Whistleblowers (engineers who worked for GE) Dale Bridenbaugh et al warned GE about the design flaws of the Mark 1 in the 1980s. Doesn't this scream scandal?  What are we waiting for?  Another accident here or elsewhere?   Why don't Americans know this or care?

Notice how high cancer rates are since the 1950s.  What changed post WWII?  Two major industries were born and have taken root with a vengeance: chemical and nuclear. Since the mid-twentieth century, these industries have been producing and polluting a lethal combination of toxic materials.  Our government does not control these industries; they control our government.   No wonder we're all so sick.

The nuclear industry will tell you there is no factual basis for linking 'much' cancer to low-level exposures from nuclear leaks and the meltdowns at Chernobyl and Fukushima, but this is because they don't want you to connect the obvious dots.  

Of course low-level radiation causes cancer. That is why we stopped giving x-rays except when and where they are absolutely necessary. That is why we don't x-ray fetuses. That's why the Presidential Cancer Report of 2009 recommends very limited use of Catscans. Epidemiologists, doctors, and scientists know this and have known this since the mid 1950s.  Read the work and studies of Dr. Alice Stewart, Dr. Rosalie Bertel, Dr. Helen Caldicott, Barry Commoner, Linus Pauling, among many others. 

The nuclear industry downplays the dangers of radiation leaks and exposures, double-speaks it, and creates doubt.  'Clean nuclear energy', as in 'clean coal' is baloney.  Exactly how much radiation causes cancer, in whom, and when -- is hard to prove, because scientists can't put people (especially babies, children or pregnant women -- who are the most vulnerable) in a laboratory to do controlled studies.  Just because we don't have exact numbers from peer-reviewed studies, however, does NOT make nuclear safe.

So, along with one of my heroes, Sandra Steingraber (Living Downstream, Having Faith and Raising Elijah), I'd rather be safe than sorry.  I'll cast my vote with the precautionary principle.  Let the nuclear industry do the studies first to prove without a doubt that all levels of radiation are safe. Let them prove first that they can clean up toxic and irradiated sites after disasters and restore locations to safety fully.  Let them find ways of disposing of radioactive materials and waste from nuclear power plants safely first, before producing more.  The problem is, they can’t.

Stay tuned with the Safe Chemicals Act 2011, set to overhaul our chemical safety regulations in the US.  Legislation was introduced in April and November.  We'll see what the outcome is.  To learn more and lend your voice, read about the bill introduced by Senators Lautenberg, Schumer, Boxer, Klobucher, here.

My students at Stony Brook, where I teach Sustainability, did projects on the environment and food just before the Thanksgiving break. This was timely work, but now, how to eat or buy food without feeling guilty or paranoid?  I forked over $80 for a local turkey and was told it walked around outside, ate healthy food, and had an acceptable turkey life while it lived.  Laugh, but watch a few movies on factory farming and you'll never feel the same way about eating meat again! 

Climate Change. This Thanksgiving was way too warm in New York.  What’s this with 70 degrees in late November?   As the head nun in the Madeleine stories says when she senses mischief is afoot, "something is not right."   Until very recently, Thanksgiving was always frigid.

For a perfect end to my Thanksgiving weekend, I’m going to a rally:

Climate Day Rally.  Sunday November 27 @NYC Washington Square, 2pm-5pm 
Followed by a march to Liberty Square
Investigative journalist Greg Palast will prosecute BP for ecocide.
Other speakers:  Josh Fox, Bill McKibben, Alice Slater, and others.

Heidi Hutner

Dr. Heidi Hutner is Director of Environmental Humanities at Stony Brook University, where she teaches about Environmental literature, film and media. Read more of her work at her blog, Ecofeminist and Mothering Ruminations. Follow her at Twitter: @HeidiHutner.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

Share This Article