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Tuesday, February 8, 2000

Smokey Briggs


By Smokey Briggs

Technology versus a god

Caveman didn't have science or much technology past a sharp rock and fire. He lived and died a natural being in a natural world full of the unexplained and wonderful.

So he needed a god. A being to explain the everyday events of his world. Day and night. Rain and sun. Birth and death. Lightening and earthquakes. Perhaps the moods of his mate (although he probably explained that through the existence of another supernatural being aligned with darker forces of the universe).

Modern man doesn't need a god. He has science and technology. Together, these two results of mans' brain have explained and harnessed much of the wonder of our world.

We understand weather patterns, geological forces, movements of the earth's crust, radioactivity, and supposedly the causes for our mate's moods. (Personally I still go with the dark forces scenario on that one though).

We don't need a god to protect us from our world. We do that ourselves with technology.

We don't need a god to explain the workings of our world. We can even explain human existence in terms of chemical reactions, atomic particles, genetic behavior and gravity.

We understand.

In the process, we have also made life much more comfortable. We have divorced ourselves from the smelly, uncomfortable and dangerous natural world.

These days, most of us live a nice comfortable life, and rarely come in contact with the fury of nature.

The misery of the natural man is gone. Cold, hunger, disease, accident, and predator have been nearly eliminated.

Death is rarely seen, and often postponed.

Few of us have watched our supper die before it gets grilled and becomes a "Big Mac."

And all of this is not necessarily bad. (Unless your mate is mad at you and then everything is bad).

But it does serve to divorce us even farther from the natural world. The world that forces us to confront life and death and whatever happens after death. Caveman needed a god for that too. Death was our forefathers daily companion, and a much more obvious part of life. He needed a god.

These days, life-after-death has become a lot less important. Most of us live long lives and don't worry about death until decades and decades after we are born.

Which may be fine, and may not be, depending on your religion.

But often, this sterile world we've created leaves me feeling empty, like something is missing.

If life really is just an accidental co-mingling of DNA, driven by the power of the sun and the "Big Bang," then what is the point?

Have we explained our existence only to discover in the process that there is no reason for it?

What a crummy result.

When I was about 15 my spirituality really ran into this wall of technology.

Technology won hands down.

Well, almost.

One night, I walked outside and happened to look up at the moon and stars _ a sight that always evokes wonder in my small mind.

And I realized that we haven't even begun to explain, much less understand this world we live in. Not really.

As proof, before my eyes, was the universe. And I realized that it either went on forever. Or that it stopped somewhere, like the inside wall of a bubble.

I can't even fathom something that goes on forever. It is not within the capabilities of my mind. And I cannot fathom what is on the other side of the universe if it really ends.

As I realized this, the existence of a higher being, of a god, suddenly seemed much more plausible. And the scientific accomplishments with which we have banished gods seemed much less impressive.

That night, like my forefathers sitting in a cave by a roaring fire with hunks of meat skewered on sticks, I found I needed a god.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Smokey Briggs is the editor and publisher of the Pecos Enterprise whose column appears on Tuesdays. He can be e-mailed at:


State Administrative Judges made decision, not board

Letter to the Editor:
Your article last Tuesday in regard to review by the Advisory Board of the Bureau of Radiation Control of the question whether Envirocare's request for a license to store radioactive waste for 500 years at the site near Barstow contains two factual errors and draws a conclusion that is questionable.

You stated that the Advisory Board of the BRC made the decision determining that the proposed facility near Sierra Blanca did not meet safety standards.

Actually, this was a decision by the state administrative judges in a full public hearing as required under the rules of the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission. The Advisory Board of the BRC had no involvement whatever. You also misquote Brad Newton with the TNRCC in stating that the Texas Department of Health has responsibility for underground sites. Newton knows that the TNRCC has authority for underground disposal of radioactive materials.

I am not aware that anyone from the Enterprise has attended any meeting discussing the issue, or were present at the meeting of the Advisory Board on January 29. Your perception and account of the meeting leaves out substantial information regarding the issue before the board. In that the state legislature in its 1999 session did not create law that would allow the disposal of radioactive waste outside of Hudspeth County, Envirocare sought to create an interpretation of storage under the existing rules of the Texas Department of Health that would give it the opportunity to acquire the right to manage the Compact waste originating in Maine, Vermont, and Texas. Federal law conceives that radioactive waste shall be disposed of underground. Attorney General John Cornyn has give an opinion on the issue stating "The development of an assured-isolation facility complies with the state's current obligations under Texas Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact to manage and to provide for the disposal of low-level radioactive waste. Assured isolation does not effect the permanent isolation or disposal of low-level radioactive waste, and therefore it does not currently satisfy the state's obligation under the Compact to dispose of the waste."

David Frederick, the attorney who represented the Sierra Blanca Legal Defense Fund, argued before the Advisory Board that the pertinent regulation "defines a storage facility as a facility in which radioactive waste is `stored while awaiting shipment to a licensed radioactive waste processing or disposal facility.' Envirocare's stated objective is to use the Ward County facility for an active period of 500 years, during which wastes will allegedly decay to an extent that they may be disposed of in conventional, rather than in radioactive waste disposal facilities. Thus, the Envirocare application reveals a scheme plainly not licensable under Section 289.254(b)(12)."

Your conclusion that Envirocare "took a step toward gaining approval" of their application is misleading. Chairman Jack S. Krohmer asked the Waste Committee to review the legal issues raised related to the 500 year request for storage in light of existing law delegated to the Texas Department of Health. That process will take about five months. In light of Jacobi's statement in December, quoted in the Odessa American, that Envirocare "hopes to have its facility open by the time the Legislature reconvenes in 2001" I would say that Envirocare's strategy to have a facility ready by the time the next legislature convenes has failed.

It is the hope of some of us in the community that the Pecos Enterprise will make the effort to become familiar with the facts and draw conclusions based on the facts when reporting this issue. I would suggest that Reeves County people could get an accurate account of what is developing from Greg Harmon in the Odessa American.


Editor's Note: Mr. Lindley may be right about the Sierra Blanca decision being made by a panel of administrative judges rather than the Advisory Board. We pulled the information from the archives and it may be wrong.

The second factual error is simply a typo. We typed, "underground" once, where we meant to type "aboveground." Sorry about that.

As to our questionable conclusion _ I must disagree. Our lead paragraph, where we state this "conclusion," is not prefaced on any particular quote from Mr. Jacobi _ only the fact that the Texas Radiation Advisory Board had agreed to address the issue of above ground storage as a means for long-term isolation of radioactive waste.

Considering Envirocare's stated goals, this decision is reasonably, "a step towards gaining approval…."

Town and city  had a voice

An article in the February 2nd paper "City, county get second, shot at adding U.S. 285 to plan for widening state highways" was not entirely correct when the Enterprise stated that the area officials failed to show up for public hearings and our city "allowed Fort Stockton officials to argue the case in Austin for a proposed state prison site in Coyanosa."

The city and county did indeed have a voice in the location of the prison. Unfortunately, the state did not feel that the Coyanosa area was suitable.

It was a Pecos citizen who started the Trans-Pecos Development Commission consisting of Reeves, Pecos and Ward Counties. He made presentations to the Texas Governor's conference and the Houston meeting about the scientific aspects of the super-conducting, super collider.

He than contacted Fort Stockton and the Trans-Pecos Commission was formed. They worked on the collider and the prison site.

Pecos offered the use of buildings for the construction of these two facilities and the City and County did have a part in this effort.

The County even provided a water truck and driver when test holes were drilled in the Coyanosa area.

Pecos furnished a geologist, an accountant, a banker, a utility person and a Chamber of Commerce person in the efforts.

The original Pecos Development Commission financed most of the expensive production of the proposals on both the collider and the prison site location. One individual spent $2700.00 of his own money when the Industrial Foundation well went dry and was able to retrieve only $500.00.

Our present city elected officials are trying to do things for us and should be thanked for their efforts.


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