11 Following




Savage Dreams: A Journey into the Landscape Wars of the American West - Rebecca Solnit I have been enjoying the bliss of a rainy Sunday morning mostly reading this and want to start a review by noting some of the passages I've marked on the increasingly scribbled pages. I can think of no better way to convey how remarkable and important this book is than by sharing excerpts.

"I believe in lines of convergence. These lines are no more visible in the landscape than ley lines, and I am not even proposing that they have any existence at all outside our imaginations, which are themselves crucial territories. These lines of convergence are the lines of biography and history and ecology that come together at a site, as the history of nuclear physics, the Arms Race, anti-communism, civil disobedience, Native American land rights struggles, the environmental movement all come together to make the Nevada Test Site."

"There's something profoundly American about getting arrested at the Nevada Test Site. The very issues are, not cowboys and Indians, but land, war, technology, apocalypse, and Indians, part of the great gory mess of how we occupy this country."

"The Colorado journalist Ed Marston speculated that the recklessness of the U.S.'s nuclear programs has a lot to do with the spirit of profligacy the expanse of Western land inspired in Americans."

"The definition of progress came to mean not understanding but control, and not spiritual or social improvement but the advancement of power, which meant geographical manifest destiny in the America of Thoreau's age, and means technological manifest destiny in our own."

"Like Thoreau, physicists had set out to take one kind of walk and taken another. On their strolls through the stately forests of Europe they had begun, slowly, imperceptibly, inexorably, to march toward the Nevada Test Site. Szilard knew it first, as he stepped off the curb in London in 1933, and he spent most of his life trying to wake his colleagues to the peril they were approaching."

"It was the gentleness of the other key physicists that struck me in their biographies, and their cultivation, and their penchant for thinking while walking. They seemed the uttermost incarnation of Arcadian shepherds in their long musing walks together, in the sublime beauty they found in speculating on the fundamental principles of the universe . . . and until Hahn's fission experiments took on practical possibilities their accelerating knowledge of the basic structures of nature seemed to have no practical use . . . But theirs was a Utopian culture overall, and it took less than seven years, from Christmas 1938 -- the day Meitner and Frisch went walking -- to July 15, 1945, to fulfill the possibilities they realized in atomic fission."

"The bomb was made to fight the Nazis, but only one scientist dropped out of the Manhattan Project when Germany collapsed in late 1944, and the American scientists would become heirs to the cruelties and perversions of Nazi science as their nuclear experiments created more and more victims. There was no way the military was going to spend two billion dollars and have nothing to show for it."

"According to a declassified Joint Chiefs of Staff memo, the American public resistance to nuclear testing needed to be lessened, and the best way to do that was to 'put the bombs in their backyard so they would get used to them.'"

"For the Western Shoshone, the forty years' war at the Nevada Test Site was only an extension of an assault against the Great Basin land and people that should have stopped in 1863 with the Treaty of Peace and Friendship signed at Ruby Valley that year. Dust had not settled on that treaty for them, nor had they entered into any new agreements with the Federal Government in regard to their land, but it was being taken away piecemeal by bombs, mines and bureaucrats."