When You Get a Whiff of Disaster, Pay Attention!

By Tom H. Hastings

San Bruno, California, is about 12 miles south of San Francisco, near the airport. That is where the gas line ruptured and exploded into a massive fireball hundreds of feet tall, burning dozens of homes, killing at least four, and injuring many others. Residents report having gotten whiffs of gas now and then for a period beforehand.

We Hate to Say We Told You So…

Today is September 11, 2010, nine years on from the largest-ever terrorist attack on the U.S. Many reported strong whiffs indicating a possible attack before that too, but they were ignored.

In response to the September 11 attacks, many of us got whiffs of what would happen if the U.S. decided to go to war over the attacks. We spoke for peace into the gales of reactionary and predictable warlike public discourse and our words were too muffled to hear.

During late 2002 and early 2003, strong whiffs of the inadvisability of invading Iraq caused even more of us to warn about it — and we were dismissed. We see the results now; some commentators say the government and infrastructure of Iraq is just about where it was before we invaded, wrecked both, and decided to recreate everything in our image, since America presumes such godlike aspirations.

…But We Did

We said it would happen and it did.

We said these wars would hollow out our economy and they have. We are digging that crater deeper every day we continue the flow to the Pentagon and Afghanistan.

We said there were strong whiffs of a deteriorating infrastructure across the U.S. and that little would be done to maintain and improve it as long as our taxes were bleeding so heavily into the military. Three years ago a bridge in my home town of Minneapolis collapsed into the Mississippi River, killing four and injuring 79, dumping dozens of vehicles into the river. The gas pipeline that fireballed yesterday was built in 1948, but there just aren’t the funds to fix these old rotting pieces of our lifelines since we are so committed to death and all the weapons need to be shiny and new and high-tech. It takes upwards of $2 — billed to the taxpayer — to deliver one small bottle of water to one thirsty soldier in Afghanistan and they need millions constantly, just to give one tiny example of our priorities from the cheapest end of the war expenses.

Back in 1988 James Hansen of the Goddard Space Center at NASA got a whiff of the effects of our carbon binge and said ‘Global warming is here.’ By the next year, serialized into The New Yorker, Bill McKibben wrote a book, End of Nature, that predicted everything, at least in general, that has come to pass, from the increase in the hurricane severity to climate shifts to the forests burning in Russia to the mudslides in China to the food riots in Mozambique to the icebergs calving off in Greenland to the meltdown of ‘the roof of the world’ in the Himalayas.

Time for Critical Choices

How many whiffs do we need to report before we also decide that if our governments won’t take action, we will? The solutions to all these explosive problems are two:

One, radical conservation of our resources.

Two, nonviolence.

These are tough to accomplish and we either do so or the whiff of the potential demise of our culture will worsen to a rotting stench. We have some choices, individually and collectively, each hour of each day. Φ

Tom H. Hastings (pcwtom@gmail.com) is Director of PeaceVoice.

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