What the American people and people all over the world proved in the wake of Harvey and Irma over the past couple of weeks is that human beings are overwhelmingly kind, caring and concerned people in the face of devastating circumstances that befall their fellow man.
No decent person could watch the images that swamped our TV sets 24/7 — the destruction of some of the poorest islands in the Caribbean, the upheaval of barrier islands and the obviously destructible homes and businesses that populated them, the streets of Miami and Key West and Jacksonville and Houston and points north and south that turned into flooding rivers that carried away cars, homes, trees and other pieces of once-proud communities and, of course, the tragic loss of lives of people who couldn’t or wouldn’t escape the onslaught before it was too late — and not pour out their hearts, their resources and their prayers to help those who wound up in harm’s way.
Because that is what we do, especially as Americans who, regardless of our petty political squabbles, come together almost without exception to help our friends, neighbors and countrymen.
It feels good in the face of so much bad to know that our fellow citizens have our backs or, more to the point, that we have their backs in times of need. And, make no mistake, these victims of Irma, Harvey and whoever comes next will need the help of the federal government and the largesse of ordinary citizens for a long time to come before there is any normalcy returned to their lives.
What this nation witnessed was the wrath of Mother Nature doing what she does best. Unleashing a force so compelling — this time it was wind and water, other times it is shaking Earth or burning forests or tornadoes that rip through communities at the drop of a hat — that no matter how much man believes he has engineered solutions to prevent the worst from happening, it is always too little too late and to no avail.
Some of you may remember the Chiffon margarine commercials that warned, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.” If we have learned anything year after year and especially this year, it is that it is not only not nice, but not wise and, in fact, foolhardy to try to fool with Mother Nature.
She always wins. If not the first time, then on the second or third try. Whether you believe in God or just believe in the science of how and why things happen, the fact remains that there are forces far more powerful and persistent than anything man can conjure up or defend against. In the end, people drown, houses get destroyed and businesses and communities fail when Mother Nature shows us her bad side!
And that brings me back to “Why?”
Why, in the face of all kinds of natural disasters that we cannot defend against, are we so hellbent on creating manmade “disasters-in-waiting” that have the potential of devastating man and beast in ways far more powerful than any Category 5 hurricane or 8-point something earthquake ?
Let me be clear. The Congress of the United States of America — the same folks who are in the process of appropriating tens or hundreds of billions of dollars of taxpayer money to aid in the rebuilding of cities like Houston and Miami in the wake of two very large storms — is determined to open a high-level nuclear waste dump at Nevada’s Yucca Mountain.
Yucca Mountain isn’t some faraway place in the Nevada desert. It is barely 100 miles from Las Vegas, home to over 2 million people and 45 million tourists each and every year. And the transportation routes that will be used to bring nuke waste to Yucca Mountain will go through most American cities, large and small, on the way to the Silver State.
It is a fact that — to paraphrase from one of my favorite musicals, “Phantom of the Opera” — accidents, they do happen.
And when the accidents happen — on the highway, over a bridge, through a tunnel or just behind the Trump Hotel on Interstate 15 — we will not be concerned with floodwaters or downed trees or waterlogged foundations of a few thousand homes. No, a nuclear waste disaster will count its victims in terms of radioactive deaths — the lucky ones within a mile or so of the accidents — or years of cancer treatments and slow, agonizing deaths — for the unlucky ones who live 1 to 3 miles away.
By that time, Las Vegas will disappear from every tourist’s wish list of places to go and things to do and what was once an all-American city will become an American disaster site made possible by the people of the United States and their shortsighted and uncaring representatives in the Congress.
This is not a fairy tale. We see what can happen when Mother Nature does what science says she will do. We ignore that science at our peril. Science also tells us what will happen when high-level radioactive waste is let loose on our cities by accident, terrorist activity or some act of Mother Nature about which we have not yet conceived.
This is not a chicken little cry against what the rest of the country wants to do to Nevada.
The people who now run our government have promised this would happen as soon as they got the chance. They are just making good on their promise.
What I fear is that sometime in the not too distant future, there will be handwringing in the hallowed halls of Congress as it struggles to pass an aid package to help the people of Southern Nevada deal with a disaster of epic proportions. A disaster that everyone will claim they couldn’t see coming.
But, this time it won’t be Mother Nature who caused all the damage. It will be Human Nature.
Ask yourself “why?” As in, “Why are we letting Washington do this to us?”
Brian Greenspun is editor, publisher and owner of the Sun.