Joanna Macy, eco-philosopher, scholar of Buddhism, general systems theory, and deep ecology. is a respected and revered voice in movements for peace and justice. She’s led numerous workshops on the nuclear dilemma, developing and promoting the Guardian Project, to brainstorm and imagine what kind of markers we will need to lay down to warn our world of the toxic lethality of plutonium, hundreds of thousands of years after we’re all gone. Macy has written that “future generations will look back on these closing years of the twentieth century and call it the time of the Great Turning. It is the epochal shift from an industrial growth society, dependent on accelerating consumption of resources, to a life-sustaining society”. Good news has come from Germany, heralding that perhaps, as we enter this new millennium, we have indeed begun the Great Turning, and not a moment to soon, ready to make the shift into a new paradigm of sustainability.
The German government announced that 60 governments met in Berlin in mid-April to plan for a launch of an International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) this September which would empower developing countries with the ability to access the free and abundant energy of the sun, wind, marine, and geothermal sources; would train, educate, and disseminate information about implementing sustainable energy programs; organize and enable the transfer of science and know-how of renewable energy technologies; and generally be responsible for helping the world make the critical transition to a sustainable energy future. Since IRENE is the Greek word for peace, this new initiative is especially well named because we’ll never have peace with nuclear power plants metastasizing around the planet, and with old, 20th century hierarchical attempts to control and dominate the fuel cycle in yet another discriminatory regime of “haves” and “have nots”, with preemptive wars threatened against those countries which “the powers that be” don’t trust to have “peaceful” nuclear technology.
Two other harbingers of the Great Turning, were announcements by the government of Ireland and the province of British Columbia of bans on uranium mining on their territories. Ireland’s Natural Resources Minister Eamon Ryan said, “The most likely end use of any uranium extracted in Ireland would be for nuclear electricity generation. It would be hypocritical to permit the extraction of uranium for use in nuclear reactors in other countries, while the nuclear generation of electricity is not allowed in Ireland.” More than 500 people demonstrated in sparsely settled British Columbia, to protest the opening of a uranium mine and the Minister for State Mining, Kevin Kruger, announced, “There will never be a uranium mine in B.C.” Three years ago, the Navajo tribe in Arizona banned uranium mining on their land because of the catastrophic radiation poisoning members of their tribe have suffered from the piles of mining wastes that accumulated over the years, contaminating their soil, water, and air.

It’s noteworthy that the Berlin meeting happened quietly, with very little notice or NGO participation. It seemed like the governments were forming their own power block to make an end run around the polluting energy corporations, in the nuclear, fossil and biofuels industries, mega-transnational corporations which are touting their sickening wares to the world, corrupting our democratic processes with huge campaign gifts and sucking up government subsidies and tax breaks to the tune of $250 billion per year for their poisonous energy corporations, even burning food for fuel as more than 25 countries contend with food riots caused by scarcity, while the wealthiest of us put food in our fuel tanks at the expense of 2 billion people living in poverty. Help make the Great Turning real! Find out if your government was one of the 60 who met so quietly in Berlin this April. Make sure they’re on board to support IRENA, see , to help humanity make the Great Turning to a more peaceful and sustainable 21st century.

Alice Slater is the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s New York City representative.