Friday, March 11, 2011

Thoughts on James Acord on the Eve of His Apotheosis

One of the most important late 20th century-early 21st century artists will be memorialized Saturday in Seattle.

The man who began trying to create a more rational paradigm for dealing with nuclear wastes and nuclear energy production practices; or, who - should those practices fail - sought to create a warning system for our successors to keep them away from the most toxic nuclear waste areas; who almost succeeded in suborning the best of the best among nuclear scientists away from war production and the nuclear industry at the end of the Cold War; and who hoped to create new methods to turn nuclear waste to usable industrial materials, will be honored in Seattle Saturday by many of his friends.

Time after time, sculptor James Acord warned that scenarios such as Chernobyl, and what we are now seeing unfold in Japan were not only probable, but highly likely. He was right. There will be more of them, perhaps toxic enough to either eliminate human life as we know it, or to mutate our species into something we might not recognize.

In the time scale over which we will need to deal with the wastes and dangers from nuclear systems, whether they be reactors, depleted uranium weaponry, accidental bomb explosions, rogue organizations purposefully blowing them up, or leakages into major water systems from waste storage facilities, we have had numerous fuck-ups in 65 years, which is one one-thousandth of the time scale over which what we have already created may have current or future ramifications, or unknown ones already in play.

Multiply the number of nuclear incidents we've already had by 1,000, add in the increasing chances of leakages and screw-ups from aging or forgotten systems, and the craziness of just about all the fundamentalist aspects of the major religions on our planet, and one might find it severely challenging to find realistic hope for the future of humanity.

Just one of the many examples of how fucked up our global policy is toward potential nuclear problems is the U.S. and Israeli stance on the latter country's nuclear arsenal. The Israelis have at least 200 nuclear weapons, some conventional, some thermonuclear, and - most likely - some enhanced neutron devices. Neither the U.S.A. nor the global community have been able to force the Israelis to participate in outside scrutiny of the safety levels of their programs. Anyone familiar with how fully the Israelis inspect or audit their own activities should have room for plenty of concern. And the Israeli government, year by year, is falling more and more under the sway of religious nutcases that make Palin worshippers, Muslim WMD Jihadhis and endtimers of any sort look commonplace.

Whether or not James Acord's work will be forgotten or merely serve as a minor footnote to a lost struggle to control nuclear proliferation, it was important that one person stood up against the powerful interests attempting to control the narrative of what nuclear energy is, and used the most unconventional of tools - the fine arts - to become a national and international communicator on human salvation through common sense.

Perhaps part of the reason Acord was finally ground down was his having to witness the degradation of what he and many of us had hoped an Obama administration might mean to world peace, and to a sense of balance or sanity in public policy. He had been a strong Obama supporter in the 2008 campaigns, but, from what I understand, was one of the first of us to realize in 2009 that Obama was clearly not what we had imagined him to be.

top image - James Acord by Arthur S. Aubry

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