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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Sunday, November 16, 2003
    Was the Cold War the Earth's worst eco-disaster in the last ten thousand years? The time has come to weigh the environmental costs of the great "twilight struggle" and its attendant nuclear arms race. Until recently, most ecologists have underestimated the impact of warfare and arms production on natural history. Yet there is implacable evidence that huge areas of Eurasia and North America, particularly the militarized deserts of Central Asia and the Great Basin, have become unfit for human habitation, perhaps for thousands of years, as a direct result of weapons testing (conventional, nuclear, and biological) by the Soviet Union, China, and the United States.

    This is a flavour of Mike Davis's latest opus, Dead Cities. It's the most exhilarating book I've picked up for a long time, and it's about what's really happening now. It starts with a prologue wading through the wreckage of the twin towers exploring the "globalization of fear". Chapter one explores the Native American Ghost Dance religion and its apocalyptic worldview (an apocalypse "is the alternate, despised history of the subaltern classes, the defeated peoples, the extinct cultures"), concluding that this worldview provides the means we need to make sense of the "terminal features of the approaching millennial landscape." And then onto chapter two, which is where we came in: and where no political system escapes his witty, compassionate, compelling gaze. Read on....

    Pentagon eco-freaks Feshbach and Friendly are ... unsparing. Bolshevism it seems, has been a deliberate conspiracy against Gaia, as well as against humanity. "Ecocide in the USSR stems from the force, not the failure, of utopian ambitions." It is the "ultimate expression of the Revolution's physical and spiritual brutality." With Old Testament righteousness, they repeat the opinion that "there is no worse ecological situation on the planet."
    Obviously Feshbach and Friendly have never been to Nevada or western Utah. The environmental horrors of Chelyabinsk-40 and the Semipalatinsk Polygon have their eerie counterparts in the poisoned, terminal landscapes of Marlboro Country.