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Depleted Uranium: A tragedy of the commons

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 

(December 13, 1996) Brief summary: The Tragedy of the Commons parable (Hardin, 1968) is contrasted with a social catharsis concept called the Comedy of Community (Levine, 1986) as both pertain to environmental and health concerns regarding the use of depleted uranium (DU). The origin, nature, and exposure risks of DU are explored. A theory of justice model (Sheppard, Lewicki& Minton, 1992) is implemented to evaluate the need for action in opposition to the use of DU. Greed, at both individual and systemic levels, is shown to be fundamental to the DU issue. Collective greed with its adverse effects is then contrasted with the merits of dissent as a collective, civic responsibility. Citizen activism is regarded as essential for keeping the government accountable for DU contamination. Current, proposed, and speculative solutions to the DU problem are presented.

(463.4610) Christina E. Larson - Deparment of Psychology, University of West Florida "The Tragedy of the Commons" (Hardin, 1968) is a parable that forewarns the inevitable demise of civilization due to depletion and pollution of natural resources in the "commons," the life-sustaining ecosystem. Although the inevitability of demise elicits a point for philosophical debate, the depletion and pollution of natural resources are a reality. Depleted uranium (DU), a waste byproduct of the nuclear enrichment process, is being used by the U.S. Department of Defense (USDOD) as a weapon and by the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) commodity. DU is both toxic and radioactive; health hazards are acknowledged (Army Environmental Policy Institute [AEPI], 1995; Cohen, 1996; Eckelmeyer, 1989; Flanders, 1994; Gofman, 1981; Institute for Energy and Environmental Research [IEER], 1994; Military Issues Surfacing In Our Nation [MISSION], 1996; Osterman, 1991; Shapiro, 1994; Solnit, 1996). The fact that DU has been left littering the planet's natural resources has been confirmed (AEPI, 1995; Department of the Army, 1994; General Accounting Office [GAO], 1994; Cohen, 1996; Hines, 1994; Nuclear Regulatory Commission [NRC], 1991; Solnit, 1996). However, when risks of exposure are pitted against short-term military and economic gains, the use of DU becomes a complex issue. Hardin's parable offers pertinent insight to the potential long-range effects of DU pollution. The cumulative effects of an individualistic society's waste impose an environmental price. Unless government and consumer practices account for all costs, especially those charged to the ecosystem, the effects of resource abuse seem bound to fulfill Hardin's omen. To accept such a grim prospect of inevitability is to fall prey to apathy. In contrast, Levine (1986) posed a remedy for civic apathy called "Comedy of Community." Juxtaposing the Tragedy of the Commons with the Comedy of Community, an empowering model of human nature and mutual endeavor emerges.

Naturally occurring uranium contains less than 1% of the fissionable isotope U235, which is used for nuclear energy and bombs. When mined, the ore is chemically enriched to separate the U235. The remaining 99%+ byproduct is given the deceptive name "depleted" uranium. DU contains the less radioactive U238, residual amounts of the highly radioactive U235, trace amounts of U236 (which is not a naturally occurring isotope), and highly toxic heavy metals (AEPI, 1995). If ingested or inhaled, particles accumulate especially in the kidneys, lungs, liver, bone tissue, and reproductive organs. Health hazards of exposure include cancer, kidney damage, and genetic defects (Eckelmeyer, 1989; Gofman, 1981; Osterman, 1991; Solnit, 1996).

Despite the risks, the NRC has classified DU as a "conventional weapon" and resource rather than a dangerous waste product (NRC, 1991). DU is being used extensively by the United States, especially for military purposes and as a commodity. The United States exported tons of DU to Saudi Arabia in 1979 (Bukowsky, Lopez & McGehee, 1993). During Operation Desert Storm, U.S. forces used DU in combat for the first time in the forms of tank armor and armor-piercing projectiles, leaving over 350 tons of DU on the Gulf War battlefield (Solnit, 1996). An Army study reported that radiological risks and toxicological risks are "not completely understood" (Department of the Army, 1994, p.7). The General Accounting Office (GAO) stated that "the Army has not effectively educated its personnel in the hazards of depleted uranium, contamination, and in proper safety measures" (GAO, 1994, p.22). Even so, U.S. forces are now using DU weaponry in Bosnia (Solnit, 1996).

Workers and neighbors near military bases and more than 50 domestic U.S. sites where DU has been manufactured, assembled, disposed of, or tested are also at risk (see Figure 1). Dr. Joseph Osterman (1991) of the Department of Defense reported that an alloy of DU and 0.75% titanium is subject to atmospheric oxidation, pyrophoric oxidation, and aqueous corrosion during testing when DU penetrators contact a target. That means that DU particles can become airborne, spontaneously ignite, and disintegrate in water. In those forms DU is dispersed more readily throughout the ecosystem and can be inhaled or assimilated into the food chain and ingested. DU airborne emissions from one manufacturing plant in New York were detected 26 miles away (Dietz, 1980), threatening the health of everyone in its path. A study is being conducted at Los Alamos National Laboratory on ecological risks of DU, including contaminated drinking water of livestock; human consumption of DU contaminated water, meat, and milk; and consumption of venison from deer living in the vicinity of test sites (AEPI, 1995, pp.144-145). Despite the dangers, DU penetrators --categorized as conventional weapons-- are subject to minimal regulatory standards (Solnit, 1996).

FIGURE 1 (not part of the HTML version): Depleted uranium manufacturing and testing facilities. From Uranium Battlefields Home & Abroad: Depleted Uranium Use by the U.S. Department of Defense (the culmination of a depleted uranium research project that was released in Washington, DC and throughout the U.S. on March 18, 1993 by the Depleted Uranium Citizen's Network; p.22) by G.Bukowski, D.A.Lopez and F.M.McGehee, 1993 Carson City, Nevada, U.S.; Citizens Alert and Rural Alliance for Military Accountability. Copyright by Citizens Alert and Rural Alliance for Military Accountability.

In addition to its military applications, DU is being used in petroleum exploration, space, aviation, and medicine (Department of the Army, 1994). According to a 1991 NRC Commission Policy Issue, the U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) then had "about one billion pounds of depleted uranium hexafluoride tails in storage" (NRC, 1991). The USDOE (1994) issued a notice seeking firms interested in acquiring depleted and normal uranium, at no cost, for the development of further applications. Although DU cannot sustain a chain reaction like U235, it can be converted to plutonium-239, which is fissionable and can be used for nuclear bombs (Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, 1994; Solnit, 1996).

The injustice of using DU as a weapon, shield, or commodity can be evaluated conservatively by applying a theory of justice to array the evidence. Sheppard, Lewicki, and Minton (1992) provided an efficient, problem-solving method that begins with identifying the problem, weighing the balance of justice, and determining moral correctness and equity. Awareness of the severity of injustice caused by the use of DU will be a gradual process, because long-range effects may occur insidiously for generations to come. The half life of U238, the primary isotope of DU, is 4.47 billion years (L. A. Dietz, personal communication, November 4, 1995; Holden & Walker, 1968; IEER, 1994).

Balance of justice (Sheppard et al., 1992) may be difficult to determine because far-reaching effects of DU are not yet fully understood. Because health risks increase with the amount of DU and with the duration and form of DU exposure (AEPI, 1995, p.100), it is clear that those most directly exposed to DU suffer most extensively. People are exposed knowingly and unknowingly, some by employment such as military service and others inadvertently due to where they live. By any standard of justice, it is wrong to expose people to hazards without warning of potential dangers (MISSION, 1996), to defile the environment on such a scale (Bukowski et al., 1993), and to profit at the expense of the health --if not the lives-- of others.

Were Gulf War troops used in such a manner? Since returning home from that war, many U.S. troops are sick and dying from an illness that the Veterans Administration (VA) has given the catch-all classification of Gulf War Syndrome. Some of the unexplained symptoms include loss of hair, bone and muscle degeneration, brain damage, and immune-system deficiencies. One common factor continues to surface among Gulf War Syndrome troops: exposure to DU.

Desert Storm Army nurse Carol Picou did not know that she and the women who volunteered for front-line duty with her would be exposed to DU and subsequently would lose their hair, babies, and quality of life (MISSION, 1996). Three years after heavy exposure to DU in Gulf War combat, Sergeant Darrell Clark continues to suffer with Gulf War Syndrome, his urine still contains uranium, and his daughter was born with multiple deformities (Shapiro, 1994). The VA is carefully monitoring only veterans with embedded DU fragments. Yet, Army Reserve Sergeant Chris Kornkven, who was exposed to DU-bombed tanks and has been ill since returning home from the Gulf War, was told by a doctor at Baltimore VA medical center that he has a higher DU count than some vets carrying DU shrapnel (Kornkven, 1996, p.6). A statewide VA survey in Mississippi revealed that 67% of the children conceived by Gulf War veterans since the war have been born with severe illnesses or deformities (Flanders, 1994). Babies in both the United States and Iraq have been miscarried or born vith multiple birth defects, including missing jawbones, eyes, and ears; a displaced heart; fused fingers; and extra digits (MISSION, 1996).

Army Reserve engineer Dwayne Mowrer, who inadvertently inhaled DU laced smoke during Desert Storm, testified before the Presidential Advisory Committee of Gulf War Veterans' Illnesses in Washington on November 7, 1995 (Mesler, 1995), that he believes DU exposure was one of the most important contributors to his and other Gulf War veterans' illnesses. His symptoms (which include fatigue; rashes; motor dysfunction; memory loss; bleeding gums; nosebleeds; diarrhea; bloody stools; and lumps on his eyelids, nose, and tongue) have stymied the doctors. Mowrer summed up his sentiments by saying, "We really thought we were in the new enlightened army, that all the Agent Orange cover-up and the human radiation experiments were a thing of the past" (Mesler, 1995). Although breathing apparatuses were provided for Desert Storm troops, they were led to believe that their purpose was for protection againts possible enemy biochemical warfare, not exposure to their own weaponry.

The mounting evidence points to DU exposure during combat as a significant etiological factor of Gulf War Syndrome (Mesler, 1995; MISSION, 1996; Solnit, 1996). However, history reflects that governmental culpability for injustices are often denied until either the guilty officials are retired or dead, or the majority of those suffering have died. It is conceivable that many people suffering from DU exposure will die never knowing the cause of their illness.

The words common and communion are from the Latin communis, meaning "to share." Community sharing of a common environment ranges from neighbors, to citizens of a country, and to the populace of the planet. The Tragedy of the Commons (Hardin, 1968) raises concern for the depletion of resources, anticipates a subsequent threat to quality of life, and foretells the inevitable extinction of civilization if individual citizens fail to assume responsibility for their commons. Although the thrust of Hardin's work involves overpopulation, he also describes the detrimental effect of pollution on the commons. DU is an incidental pollutant created in obtaining U235 energy. "The problem of the acquisition of energy is replaced by the problem of its dissipation" (Hardin, 1968, p.1244).

According to Herschel Elliott (1994), an ethical empiricist and authority on Hardin's work, because the earth imposes empirical, physical repercussions for environmental misbehavior (e.g., erosion, pestilence, and famine), environmental ethics should supersede human morals and laws (Elliott, 1994). Although USDOE and USDOD activities are responsible for most federal contamination, they resist external oversight "to serve national security objectives which have often taken primacy over environmental stewardship" (Fields, 1996, p.viii). At an individual level, moral restraint is ineffectual because many feel free to ignore reason. Conscientious citizens may self-impose limitations on their lifestyles to the point of extinction, whereas less moral people continue to exploit and thrive. In the case of DU pollution, those who stand to profit financially have the power to overlook those who stand to suffer and die.

Recognition of insidious changes over time can strengthen resolve to protect the quality of the commons for the betterment of all life. Comparison of long-term environmental changes heightens understanding of depletion and pollution effects. For example, in the early 1800s, lobsters in New York Bay measured 5 and 6 feet long, and oysters a foot long were plentiful (Brown, 1966). If welfare of the common environment is not given priority over both individual welfare and free enterprise, the results in human terms may be much more severe.

Hardin (1968) depicted a drama of inevitable doom for the commons and its inhabitants and expressed little hope for change. In contrast, Levine (1986) took an historic perspective, recognizing civilizations that functioned successfully for 500 to 1,000 years without destroying their commons. He suggested that community life can be organized best around comic and ironic elements. Comedy, not exclusively humor, entails working toward a fortuitous end for everyone. Comedy is a creative, social catharsis that augments constructive, "normative and corrective" change (Levine, 1986, p.93). It provides a socially acceptable level of intimacy and communication. Blackfeet Indians use playful song and dance to alleviate tribal (community) stress. Playful comedy, used as a way of expressing the inexpressible, is inherently healing (DeMaria, 1995). Hope and confidence in human potential require amity. Tragic outlook, grounded in despair, motivates change but lacks adequate consideration for human phenomena such as faith, trust, and joy. Comedy, grounded in human interdependence, cuts through propaganda (Levine, 1986), unscrambling and clarifying rhetoric. An editorial cartoon can illustrate a point more vividly than the best written article (see Figure 2). The Comedy of Community serves as a societal mirror from which no fallacy or pretense can hide.

Comedy of community does not suggest perfect harmony. Community, the fellowship of people within the commons, requires active involvement, not passive subservience. Dissent, the opposition to commonly shared beliefs, is an inevitable consequence and integral component of the interdependence of commons life. Exposing the faults of a system gone awry can be painful, but it can have long-range benefit to all involved. Concerns voiced over the DU issue, for example, demonstrate concern and respect for quality of U.S. and global life.

There are formidable obstacles to effective dissent. Apathy is the most invasive individual barrier that inhibits people from being actively concerned about their environment. In the case of DU, the majority may remain unaware of governmental wrongdoing due in part to inertia; that is, inaction en masse. The phenomenon called "social loafing" (Latane, Williams, & Harkins, 1979) --failure to assume civic responsibilityþ is promoted when people feel expendable. The more dehumanized, alienated, and disenfranchised members of a society feel, the less motivated they are to act. Such motivation loss (Sheppard et al., 1992) is due to the diffusion of responsibility, a sense of being just one in the crowd. Apathetic people may withdraw psychologically or focus their energy exclusively on manageable aspects of their own personal affairs, disregarding ramifications to the system. The more apathetic a country's citizens, the more likely it is that systemic wrongdoing and injustice will escalate. In a "government of the people," social complacency is especially dangerous. Wrongdoing eventually may cost the organization its life (Miceli & Near, 1992).

Media, Money, and Medicine
Hindrances to resolving the DU issue can be divided into systemic and individual matters (Sheppard et al., 1992). Individual obstacles to dissent that cloud the DU issue are addressed hereafter in the Waste, Want, and Wealth section. First, systemic matters are examined including tax-funded countermeasures and aspects of the public relations (PR) industry, the medical industry, and the media.

The media has considerable influence on public opinion and subsequent governmental policy. U.S. citizens value and believe in free speech and freedom of the press. Trust in mainstream news coverage seems almost patriotic. Conscientious citizens rely on news broadcasts to be informed. Yet the free press is not so free as it may seem. Public relations (PR) is a huge enterprise used by corporate America to alter public opinion (Bleifuss, 1994; Stauber & Rampton, 1995). A cutting-edge tool of the PR industry is the video news release (VNR), a primary source of news for over 90% of U.S. citizens (Bleifuss, 1994; Stauber & Rampton, 1995). VNRs are canned news, packaged for profit by PR firms, then passed to the public as if the stories were objective reports.

Considering the might of the PR industry, grassroots community effort seems meek. Corporate PR firms may even assume a grassroots pretense to disguise propaganda as "the voice of the people," a persuasion device called "Astroturf organizing' (Bleifuss, 1994). Burnout in grassroots effort is due to the cost in time and energy, a cost readily affordable to profit-directed Astroturf organizations. Convincing greenwash names like "National Wetlands Coalition," "Consumer Alert," and "Keep America Beautiful" mask ulterior profit agenda (Brown, 1994). Upscale astroturf organizer Bonner and Associates charges US$5,000 to US$9,000 to arrange a tryst between conniving local officials and lawmakers (Bleifuss, 1994). "The polluter will always be able to outspend and outgun the environmentalist ... simply by writing a larger check" (Stauber & Rampton, 1995, p.206).

According to O'Dwyer's Public Relations Services Report, the trade journal of the PR industry, military PR is a key weapon in the Pentagon's arsenal. By the end of the Reagan Administration, US$100 million of taxpayer money was being spent annually "to manipulate the public's impression of the military-industrial complex" (Bleifuss, 1994). PR orchestration of the Gulf War, the first war to use DU in battle, is a prime example of how public opinion is manipulated. On October 10, 1990, 4 days prior to Congressional approval for military intervention against Iraq, a Kuwaiti girl testified tearfully before Congress that she had witnessed Iraqi soldiers pulling babies from hospital incubators and leaving them to die. It was later learned that the girl was in fact a Washington, DC resident, daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador, and member of the Kuwaiti royal family, and not likely to have been allowed to encounter invading Iraqi troops. The PR firm Hill and Knowlton, operating as an annex of the Bush White House and paid US$10 million by the Kuwaiti royal family to boost public support for Desert Storm, presented the alleged witness to the Congressional Human Rights Caucus (Bleifuss, 1994; MacArthur, 1992; Priest, 1992; Rowse, 1992; Stauber & Rampton, l995). To further assure Congressional approval for military action, Hill and Knowlton sent a memo to a Kuwaiti organization asking for more atrocity "eyewitnesses," with the word placed in quotation marks on the memo (Rowse, 1992). In keeping with international law, it seems just that those who seek profit through the fraudulent manipulation of public opinion, in addition to those more directly responsible for DU damages and deaths, be held accountable for their war crimes.

Systemic greed is invasive and fed by the individual greed of those in autbority. What was once called bribery is now called lobbying. A federal fiasco, distorted beyond recognition, can masquerade as a fortuitous venture. Because toxic waste is abundant, disposal costs are cut and revenues received by using DU as a commodity. However, the immediate costs of using nuclear waste as a weapon fail to reflect the price paid in long-term effects to the commons. Furthermore, NRC requirements do not apply in combat (U.S. Department of Defense Instruction, 1989) and "no international law, treaty, regulation, or custom requires the United States to remediate the Persian Gulf War battlefield" (AEPI, 1995, p. 154).

Disregard for the cost of DU decontamination has given a false illusion that nuclear cnergy is an economically efficient energy alternative. DU accumulates in the process of obtaining nuclear energy, and the cleanup problem has been shirked and left to future generations. The severity has further intensified by the spread of DU through warfare and perpetuated by the use of DU as a commodity.

The market value of our weapons and waste sales to Third World countries is escalating. From l986 to 1993, the U.S. portion of arms transfer agreements with Third World countries averaged 11.95% worldwide. In 1993 that figure jumped to 64.2% (Crimmett, 1994). The United States has initiated a global DU arms race. As Lieutenant Colonel Eric Daxon candidly affirmed at a National Institutes of Health workshop, "Desert Storm was great advertisement for the DU penetrator" (Daxon, 1994). U.S. "defense" has grown into a profit-motivated industry.

Hardin (1968) observed that rules of social and economic action often reward greed. The system designed to protect the U.S. commons (subdivisions including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; Bureau of Indian Affairs; Central Intelligence Agency; USDOD; USDOE; Environmental Protection Agency; Food and Drug Administration; Internal Revenue Service; and NRC) may augment procedures that reward costly, unethical behavior. Taxes are gleaned from citizens to support the system, then used to alter public opinion. In 1994 the Army arranged "a focused analysis of environmental groups." Funded with tax dollars, the U.S. Army paid contractors to suggest ways to "soften the effect" of civic groups concerned with the use of DU (McFadden, 1994). The menacing power of ill-spent tax money is an ominous force. Morals and environmental ethics are cast aside for short-term economic gain.

In the medical arena, business as usual reveals another possible reason for disregard of DU toxicity. DU is a known carcinogen; cancer means money to the pharmaceutical industry, "the most profitable business in America" (Drake & Uhlman, 1994, p.12). Dr. Samuel Epstein (1978), author of The Politics of Cancer, points an accusing finger at "the drug-development industrial complex" -- that is, the "institutionalized alliance between the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society, cancer research centers, and major pharmaceutical companies" (Weltman, 1994, p.11). The American Medical Association (AMA) and medical schools must also be added because they have become a virtual tool of the pharmaceutical industry (Drake & Uhlman, 1994, p.25). One AMA CEO discussing medical schools confessed, "there has been a blurring of the line between education and promotion" (p.25). In regard to cancer, costly treatments take precedence over prevention and concern for environmental factors (e.g., DU; Stauber & Rampton, 1995; Weltman, 1994).

While the iron triangle of politics, corporate interest, and the defense industry grows stronger, people are being poisoned. DU is one aspect of a complex threat to the commons by which might and money have been granted priority over the health and safety of the people.

Waste, Want, and Wealth
Just as the systemic injustices of government and corporate America demand change, the distributive injustices of citizens require the same analysis (Sheppard et al., 1992). What are the responsibilities of individuals in a country of the people? Are the citizens culpable if they allow their government to function without accountability? The U.S. government actually may be representative of its citizens, but unfortunately in some of the worst possible ways.

Costs paid by individuals, like those paid systemically, tend to neglect prices paid by the environment. Capitalist societal structure is based on the illusion that individual incentives can result in increased wealth for all. However, finite resources cannot provide for infinite demands. Degradation of the commons occurs most flagrantly when individual rights take priority over general concern (Elliott, 1994).

The rational man [sic] finds that his share of the cost of the wastes he discharges into the commons is less than the cost of purifying his wastes. Since this is true for everyone, we are locked into a system of "fouling our own nest," so long as we behave only as independent, rational, free-enterprisers. (Hardin, 1968, p.1245)

People often feel helpless concerning their country's welfare. Some acquiesce to avoid turmoil; others are unaware of the influence that majority force has upon them. Janis (1972) called such mass influence groupthink. The prime-time persuasive power of mainstream-media news can reinforce groupthink. However, as detrimental effects of DU exposure grow increasingly evident, there is bound to be public outcry as to why something was not done earlier (Miceli & Near, 1992).

The use of DU is a complex and pervasive issue. For want of an efficient energy source, the economics of obtaining abundant nuclear energy from a small piece of uranium seems ideal when all factors are not taken into consideration. Because both citizens and the government gain short-term benefits from DU-related uses, both have responsibilities for rectifying subsequent problems. This section first describes patriotism as a remedy for individual greed, offering current, proposed, and speculative citizen actions. Next, it explores speculative ideas on governmental change through national accountability as cures for systemic greed.

Patriotism is a powerful conviction because it bolsters psychological interests of the individual while it serves governmental interests to control. Research suggests that patriotism and nationalism represent different constructs (Schatz, 1993). Patriotism facilitates cooperative, ingroup identity, whereas nationalism spawns competitive, intergroup differentiation. Schat (1993) suggested that, unlike fear based blind patriotism, love of country combined with responsible, constructive criticism in what he refers to as constructive patriotism may enhance international relations much as a healthy self-esteem can strengthen interpersonal relations.

Patriotic commitment, augmented by self-preservation, arouses civic responsibility. Citizens united with courage and conviction keep their government accountable. Hardin's (1968) Tragedy of the Commons provides caution that entices civic responsibility. Levine's (1986) Comedy of Community offers an uplifting model for purging social ills through optimistic involvement. Precluding the use of DU is both an opportunity for constructive patriotic activism and a necessity for the good of the global commons.

Present example: The Depleted Uranium Citizens' Network.
The DU Citizen's Network, a coalition of grassroots organizations (in the U.S. -WISE) concerned about the harmful effects of DU, exemplifies effective patriotic dissent and a structural solution to a human dilemma. Grassroots groups throughout the United States that have direct awareness of the DU issue share their strengths and supplement one another in areas of weakness. Through such network interdependence, mutually beneficial behavior is encouraged and common goals are more likely to be achieved. Cooperation optimizes gains for the groups, the organization, and the country. Alone, individuals lack sufficient influence. Solo whistleblowers may know a problem firsthand, but they may lack the power and authority to effect change (Miceli & Near, 1992). Voices of solitary peacemakers are easily drowned out by the volume of tax-subsidized military PR. Unified effort enables group members to learn faster, make fewer errors, assimilate more information, and be more productive, as suggested by early research (Shaw, l932). The most valuable network resource is educated people. The network facilitates the group coalitions in an effort to disseminate accurate and timely information to the public.

There are well over 11,000 grassroots environmental organizations in the United States (Bleifuss, 1994) and a growing number expresses interest in the DU issue. Belief that we can make a difference is what keeps the democratic process alive. Carol Picou, Desert Storm Army nurse and DU victim, expressed her sad and timely sentiment: "I felt that I was serving my country but now I realize I helped pollute it. The work being done by Military Toxics Project [parent organization for the network] is true patriotism" (Hines, 1994).

Proposed example: The Peace Tax Fund.
The Peace Tax Fund campaign is working to grant conscientious objector status to taxpayers (Franz, 1996). Once passed, the bill will allow citizens morally opposed to investing in the military arms industry to have their taxes go toward nonmilitary purposes. Although the Fund will not prevent or eliminate DU use directly, it will eliminate a violation of conscience, increase funding to health and educational programs, and perhaps diminish the funding of public-opinion manipulation by the military.

Speculative example: Tax Expenditure Form.
Consider an (IRS-) form that would enable taxpayers to decide where their tax dollars were to be spent. Every year when citizens file their taxes, they would also file a Tax Expenditure Form on which they could indicate which programs would receive what percentage of their tax contribution. A similar annual form is already in use by the long-distance phone company Working Assets; subscribers select how company contributions are donated (Scher, 1995). The Tax Expenditure Form would be truly indicative of a government of, for, and by the people.

National Accountability
Hardin (1968) and Levine (1986) each offer solutions to systemic greed that fall short of commons security. Privatization is a structural solution endorsed by Hardin (1968) in which common resources are given to members as their own personal property. Imagine owning a designated portion of your local military base or a ration of the country's DU. Theoretically, owners care for their domain. Actually, responsibility for waste tends to be shirked. Owners displace pollution problems onto the commons' government. Levine (1986) suggested mandatory compliance as an alternative to privatization. Taxation, for example, is a structural solution that demands group participation regardless of consensus opinion. However, problems of accountability for tax revenue develop. Both solutions have proven empirically detrimental to the commons. Privatizing allows self-interest to flourish; taxes feed the government to the point of corruption.

National accountability requires an accountant. Suppose a United Nations (UN) Bank were established that held each country's military budget in escrow, no worse an infringement on sovereignty than that of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade or the North American Free Trade Agreement. Every country could receive a "stint" (Levine, 1986) or allowance appropriate to its military need. Need could be determined by external threat. Theoretically, military investment opportunities would disappear because the UN Bank structure would eliminate military capital from the competitive market. A UN Military Accountability Bureau could hold nations that commit war accountable for all costs, including those suffered by civilians and by the environment. There is no guarantee, however, that the UN or any other world order attaining ultimate authority would not succumb to greed. The best hope for any country is that citizens embrace a sense of responsibility for their government. In a democratic society, the government is accountable to its citizens. Through taxation, every U.S. citizen has a vested interest in federal affairs. As evidence of DU toxicity mounts, so does public concern. The more people become aware of the serious nature of DU exposure, the sooner federal policy regarding DU will be improved. The more well-read and involved the citizens, the better teamwork with government officials, the healthier the country. Sociologist Margaret Mead expressed faith in the power of civic involvement: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world --it is the only thing that ever has."

"Think globally, act locally" is more than a clever slogan. As the scales tip toward depletion and pollution of resources, the future of the world hangs in the balance. It is unconscionable that the wealthiest nation on earth uses the bulk (53% in 1994, 52% in 1995) of its citizens' tax dollars to perpetuate a war industry (M. Levinson, War Resisters' League, personal communication, November 28, 1995). War is the epitome of human failure, and toxic waste used as a weapon is a tragedy of incomprehensible magnitude.

Citizens have the collective power to bring the scales of nature back into balance. The Tragedy of the Commons serves as a warning that cumulative actions based on greed can cause detrimental systemic effects. The Comedy of Community instills faith and hope in human mutual effort. Respect for the commons has the potential to establish systemic justice (not "just U.S.") for all. Citizens united for the common good strengthen government of and by the people. Government concerned for the commons is government for the people.

Native American culture tells a story of an all-consuming serpent that would devour the world if not for the people's courage to face the beast with arrows of truth in their heatts and a bow of determination. Dah Nay To, a Turtle Clan elder from the Onadaga Nation added:

We, as common people, face the serpents of gold and silver, the greed that is consuming the very life of the earth. Who among us has the will to be the bow, who among us knows the truth to make the arrows, and who among us has the courage to pull the bow? (Lyons, 1994, p. l0)


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This article was first published in: PEACE AND CONFLICT: JOURNAL OF PEACE PSYCHOLOGY, 2 (3), 217-232 ©1996, Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. Reprinted with permission. Thanks to Christina Larson.