There was another of those talks on campus one Friday afternoon. The original idea* was proposed by Alexander Abian, a mathematics professor from Iowa who was trained at the University of Chicago and later at the University of Cincinnati. The mercurial Professor Abian, now deceased, had proposed blowing up the moon with nuclear weapons to eliminate extremes in the weather. And to my astonishment, students I knew were saying stuff like,
“That would be so cool to see the moon being blown to pieces!” or
“Way more exciting than fireworks on homecoming!”
The idea excited students even before they had heard the actual talk or the impracticality of this proposal. In an interview with People magazine, Professor Abian had proposed, "You make a big hole (on the moon) by deep drilling, and you put atomic explosive(s there). And you detonate it by remote control from Earth.”
All of which reminded me that we Indians used to live like tukupetsi (cougars) in the canyons. Like kamunts (rabbits) in the bush. Like kwanansti (eagles) in the sky. We have specific instructions to take care of the planet. When we made a fire, we made the fire over rocks so as to not hurt the earth. We believe the earth, the moon, the mountains, the animals, the trees, the rocks, everything around us has a spirit. We never believed in land ownership like the Europeans. When the white man came to where our people lived and asked “Who owns that mountain?,” the children laughed at the white men. How can anyone own a mountain? That's as ridiculous as owning the sun or the stars. Yet, today I see signs of “Utah Mountains For Sale” along the freeway. I see wanton destruction of the environment. For over 135,000 years, Turtle Island remained a pristine place and in a little over 200 years—that's how young America is—most of the environment on Turtle Island is now destroyed or on the path to destruction. We Indians were one with nature. If you take the paxu (fish) out of the water, it dies. If you take Indians away from nature, we wilt away too. The European, on the other hand, is comfortable living in New York City and it doesn't bother him one bit if the skyscrapers obstruct his view of the setting sun. As long as there are bars, coffee shops, shopping plazas and other conveniences, he couldn't care less if the last kwiaxante (bear) perished when the loggers destroyed the forest to make furniture for his living room.
The speaker on campus informed us that Professor Abian's ideas were dismissed as ridiculous and dangerous by scientists. But the possibility of something like this happening in the future cannot be discounted, said the speaker. Declared Professor Abian, “I am raising the petulant finger of defiance to the solar organization for the first time in 5 billion years. Those critics who say 'Dismiss Abian's ideas' are very close to those who dismissed Galileo." I have no doubt that in the future, should our rulers actually see merit in such an idea and decide to blow up the moon with nuclear weapons, the media will bill this as a unique once-in-a-lifetime viewing opportunity and people all over the country will cheer as we see the moon blown to pieces. And hardly anyone will realize or even care that they pushed the Indian one more step to the brink of extinction.
Thankfully, at least for the present, blowing up the moon is a proposal that is not just infeasible but downright destructive to human life. I also suspect the idea of blowing up the moon won't fly with many Europeans for romantic reasons. But Europeans need to realize that a proposal like blowing up the moon is just as unfathomable to us Indians as blowing a hole in the canyons to make a highway for our vehicles. It is just as incomprehensible to us as burning down forests to construct new mansions or the defacing of Six Grandfathers, later renamed Mount Rushmore after a wealthy New York lawyer. To Indians, any destruction or trashing of the earth is great disrespect to our Creator and a blasphemy.
The utility function of Indians is structured differently than the utility function of the White man. What brings Europeans immense joy, like seeing faces of America's presidents carved on Mount Rushmore, often brings us profound sadness. Our ancestors had cautioned us, the European's way of life is the Indian's path to death. We just wilt away when we see things like this happening to our planet. Professor Abian's words, “I am raising the petulant finger of defiance to the solar organization for the first time in 5 billion years” remind me that we humans have also raised a petulant finger of defiance to Mother Earth. At this rate of environmental destruction, it won't be long before the spirit of the earth also raises a petulant finger of defiance to human existence.
Michael Taylor can be reached at email@example.com
* Valente, Judith. "Hate Winter? Here's A Scientist's Answer: Blow Up the Moon." The Wall Street Journal. April 22, 1991.