Nuclear-Free Future

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24 Oktober 2008

Manuel Pino

He is a messenger between heaven and earth. Manuel Pino comes from the Acoma Pueblo, an adobe village of the Tewa west of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Beyond the earth-colored dwellings one sees only blue sky – Acoma Pueblo occupies the rim of a steep mesa. Standing on the center plaza, one has the feeling that a great invisible magnet is pulling the settlement into the clouds. Tourist guidebooks and highway billboards refer to Acoma as, “Sky City.”

Manuel Pino was born in 1950 and grew up “down below.” The numbers of the Tewa had so grown that the village split into two: the division on top of the mesa, and the section at its foot. Already as a child Manny was an avid runner and on some days, when not racing long distances across the surrounding desert, time and again he would repeat the climb and descent between the village halves. Manuel’s culture treats running not only as a physical activity, but also as a means of meditation, an art of communicating with the unseen world.

“The uranium must remain in the earth!”

Each run has its spiritual component. To run against the wind is to encounter the forces of nature in prayer. And here begins the problem: shorty after Manuel was born, in the close vicinity of Sky City, the earth was ripped open by Anaconda Mining Corporation to give rise to Jackpile-Paguate – North America’s largest uranium strip mine. Waste mining rubble and millings from processing yellowcake grew daily, the wind spreading the radioactivity across the New Mexico landscape. Anaconda officials assured locals that there was absolutely no health danger. Manuel Pino, who had always been a stubborn, critical thinker, didn’t fall for the comforting disinformation – he started doing his own investigating.

From this point on opposition to uranium mining played a central role in Pino’s life. The theme for Manuel’s sociology dissertation was The Destructive Impact of Uranium Mining on Native American Culture. Many men of the Pueblos and of the neighboring Navajo who worked at Jackpot mine died of cancer. At the 1992 World Uranium Hearing in Salzburg, Manuel gave the victims of the uranium boom in his homeland a loud voice. He has spoken out at a number of international conferences, and his theme remains ever the same: to make plain before the eyes of the industrial world that to say yes to nuclear technology means saying yes to human victims. Manuel Pino, who today is a professor at Scottscale Community College in Arizona, lays out the toxic dialectic in his classes, ensuring that the resistance to nuclear power and nuclear weapons is passed on to the younger generations. Like a messenger who passes on the important dispatch to the outstretched hand of the runner ahead: “The uranium must remain in the earth!”

–Claus Biegert
English translation: Craig Reishus