Tag Archives: environment

The Australian Aborigines and North American Native Americans

A 19th century engraving showing Australian &q...
A 19th century engraving showing Australian “natives” opposing the arrival of Captain James Cook in 1770 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Rick Bretz

The desire of nations and societies to expand their land holdings has caused much consternation in many countries.  The United States and Australia never had a monopoly on the ill-treatment of indigenous people.  The Persians conquered the Middle East, the Mongols rode across Eastern Europe, the Greek and Roman Empire sought to expand their cultures and the French, Spanish, and British monarchies sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World.

At the least, the United States and Australia’s failures to initially blend their opposing cultures upon colonization demonstrates a poor decision-making process to fix an issue before blood is spilled. Research and the record indicate that the treatment of indigenous people was cultivated in a divine belief in a God-given right to civilize “savages.”   This belief gave the conquering colonists the right to do what they needed to further the nation’s promise.  Although some may have acted with pure intentions, for others this belief gave them license to act unfairly and with malice.

The United States’ policy of Manifest Destiny resulted in wars, forced relocation, cultural indoctrination and a distrust that has remained to this day.

The story of the Australian Aborigines’ struggle and the British Colonization mirrors that of the Native Americans fight for recognition.   For both countries, it took several deaths on both sides for each to realize that conciliation and compromise might be the best route for a sustained peace and understanding.  That this atmosphere is continually tested by both sides is a testament to the deep-rooted scars from a turbulent history.

What is clear today is that an understanding developed among the first colonists and subsequent government power elite in both countries that the idea to treat indigenous people as second-class or worse was acceptable toward a united nation under predetermined religious beliefs and races.  This idea permeated society and gave the majority of “civilized” society permission to treat Native Americans and Aborigines how they pleased.  Not everyone thought this way but enough to give both governments the power and permission to keep certain rights and land away from them.   From then on, the “original” people from both lands would have to struggle to get them back.  These rights would be earned one by one over several years by intellectual discussions, casualties from conflicts, government enlightenment and mutual compromise on both sides.  This leads us to where we are today.  The relationship is being repaired but disagreements remain between each party. This may be the price for how each land was settled at the start—a continuous process of reconciliation and compromise that may lead to total harmony one day.

What do you think?  Is it a valid comparison?

                                                                    A Comparison Study Chart

Australian Aborigines meaning “original people”

North   American Native Americans

Composed of various tribes usually based on languages and geography. (Aku   Ramul, Kambre, Panara) Composed of various tribes, nations, and languages (Cherokee, Sioux,   Seneca, Lakota, Shoshone, Shawnees, Seminoles, Catawba)
Migrated from Indian subcontinent If migrated, most likely came from Eastern Asia
Original people of Australia before colonization by British explorers Native people of North America before French, British, and Spanish   colonization
Disease brought by colonization decimates population (small pox) Disease brought by colonization decimates population (small pox,  measles)
1770-East Coast of Australia claimed by Captain James Cook. 1492 or Later-East Coast of United States colonized
1770-1788-More British ships appear and dock on the east coast. 1621-One the first treaties between Plymouth Pilgrims and the Wampanoag   Tribe. Colonists seek to expand further West from coastal region.
1788-British set up penal colony.    Skirmishes between British and Aborigines begin. 1830-1840-Native American Nations were forced to move from East to   lands west of the Mississippi River.
1799-Aborigines resistance to white settlements in areas known as   Black Wars 1838-Trail of Tears.  Thousands   of Cherokee forced to move from Georgia to Oklahoma with many dying in the   process. This despite Supreme Court Rulings in 1831 and 1832 stating that they   had a right to stay on their lands.
1810-Aborigines moved into mission stations to learn European beliefs 1830 and later-The establishment of Indian Reservations
Major conflicts and killings occur due to Aborigines lands forcefully   taken from them. Issues with treaties that were agreed upon, land agreements broken
1835-The Dunghutti people   of north coast NSW are now confined to 40 hectares (2,47 acres) of land on   the Bellwood Reserve, near present day Kempsey. They previously owned 250,000   hectares. On January   12, 1833, a law was passed by US Congress making it unlawful for any Indian   to remain within the boundaries of the state of Florida.
1949-Aboriginal people are   given the right   to enroll and vote at federal elections provided they are  entitled to enroll for state elections or have served in the armed forces. On June 2, 1924, Congress enacted the Indian Citizenship Act, which   granted citizenship to all Native Americans born in the U.S. the right to   vote.  Many states were slow to grant   the right to vote by placing restrictions on eligibility.  The 1965 Voting Rights Act strengthened   laws prohibiting state restrictions on voting rights.
1979-Aboriginal people are counted in the   Census for the first time. 1860-Native Americans identified for the decennial census. Census   instructions indicate that the families of Indians who have renounced tribal   rule, and who under state or territory laws exercise the rights of citizens,   are to be enumerated.  The 1870 Census   is the first to list “Indian” as a choice.
1992-The High Court of   Australia hands down its landmark decision in Mabo v. Queensland (Mabo Case, Mabo   Decision). It decides that Native Title exists over particular kinds of lands –   unalienated Crown Lands, national parks and reserves – and that Australia was   never terra nullius or empty land. 1924-The Citizenship Act gives Native Americans dual   citizenship.  This enables Native   Americans the status of US citizens and also be members of their tribes.1968-Congress passes Indian Civil Rights Act.

2007-Seneca Indian Nation revokes agreement to build highway through   their territory in New York.

Notable Links:

Aborigines (Original People)





Native Americans






The Chernobyl Disaster and Fukushima Accident

by Rick Bretz

Nuclear power has the ability to create energy, liberate countries from other energy sources like coal, oil, and water, and therefore pull a nation’s struggling economy forward after years of lagging behind other nations.  In the process, the same nuclear power source can produce tension between players on the world stage as North Korea and Iran are doing today or force every global leader to deal with a disaster and the environmental fallout that leads to an energy policy debate about the viability of nuclear reactors. Nuclear energy has positives and negatives but the one point every one agrees with  is that nuclear accidents are devastating to the environment and can wipeout entire city populations if the fallout isn’t controlled.   As with any new technology, the process and procedures continually evolve.  Engineers learn from design flaws and build systems that have better fail safes.  Operator training improves as scientists and political leaders develop better ways to handle the unique challenges of running nuclear power centers.

The Chernobyl reactor #4
The Chernobyl reactor #4 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The following is a comparison of how two disasters were handled.  Research indicates that Chernobyl and Fukushima have both been labeled “Accidents”.  I prefer to call Chernobyl a “Disaster” because several lives were lost.  Fukushima should be labeled an “Accident” because no loss of life has been documented from it.  The lives were lost due to the Tsunami.  The chart below shows how the two governments handled the crisis, and more importantly, how much Japan may have learned from other nuclear problems, including the United States’ own nuclear accident, “Three Mile Island.”

                                                                                A Comparison

Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster Fukushima Nuclear Accident
Year of accident -1986 April 26 Year of accident –11 March 2011
Reason for Accident-Flawed reactor design. Power surge. Lack of communication between operators and Soviet government Reason for Accident-Earthquake followed by Tsunami,  generators on bottom floor. Lack of countermeasures based on current scientific research.
Inadequately trained operators Failure of imagination by designers and engineers
Active reactor sustained steam explosion followed by second explosion Partial reactor meltdown and loss of power to cooling systems   after  8 hours
Radioactive fallout-the radio nuclides reached as far as Britain and   contaminated large areas of the Soviet Union, including Belarus, Ukraine, and   Europe. Radioactive fallout-The Chernobyl accident released 10 times more   material into the atmosphere than the Fukushima accident.
Immediate casualties-50 people died immediately from radiation   poisoning that includes the first responders (fireman, helicopter pilots,   soldiers and miners) Immediate casualties-21 plant workers have been affected by radiation   sickness.  Several thousand people   died from the Tsunami.
Long term casualties unofficially in the thousands, still assessing. Long term casualties-No radiation linked deaths have been reported,   still assessing
Environmental Impact-livestock, vegetation, top soil, the surrounding   communities and fallout that was moved by the atmosphere to surrounding   countries Environmental Impact-More than 70,000 people have been evacuated   within a 12 mile radius of the plant.
Health Impact-4,000 children and adolescents contracted thyroid   cancer soon, 4 died. Health Impact-Still being monitored.
Immediate Public Information-Information about the severity was   withheld from the public for several days Immediate Public Information-Public was informed and evacuated as   soon as possible after Tsunami
IAEA Severity Level-7 IAEA Severity Level-Initially set at 5 and then raised to 7
Several years before area will be habitable Several years before area will be habitable

There are websites devoted to the analyzing what went wrong and how the fallout from Chernobyl affected the surrounding towns.   YouTube has several documentaries devoted to how the nuclear disaster was handled by the Soviet government. What is interesting about each accident is the way information was publicized to local towns and to the workers dealing with the problems.  It is study in how risk and crisis communication affected the aftermath of each accident.

The Chernobyl disaster became more of disaster because officials did not tell primary people in government the severity of the problem.  Therefore, they could not make decisions about moving people from the local area, specifically the town of Pripyat, near the Chernobyl plant where most of the reactor’s workers lived with their families.  I took several days before the families were moved from the area. Six hundred workers answered the call or the order to clean up the nuclear debris after the explosion as well as pour sand and boron from the air by using helicopter flying over.  All the while, pilots and other workers were absorbing massive amounts of radiation.  According to the NRC, the Nuclear Regulatory Comission, 600 workers initially worked at the site immediately after the accident. Among those, 134 had radiation sickness.  Of these, 28 died within the first four months of the disaster. In addition to the pilots who were hovering and flying over the reactor for long periods, miners were brought in to dig a tunnel underneath the reactor where a concrete sarcophagus would eventually be built.  The miners were not told how much danger they were near when digging the tunnel right underneath the disabled reactor. The Chernobyl disaster is a testament to how people can answer the call.  The Soviet era miners who are still alive to tell the story have commented in documentaries on the subject that who else would have been able to do it but us.


The Fukushima accident was caused by an Earthquake and the resulting Tsunami which caused the meltdown of three reactors from the loss of power to the generators. This is different from a power surge that caused the Chernobyl disaster.   Two different paths of communication exist when accidents and natural disasters occur.  One is crisis communication that originates from the government and local agencies through the use of corporate media to the citizens affected by the natural or man made disaster.  The other is risk communication that relies on the layers of government and other agencies to pass on vital information so decisions can be made and the public alerted.  The Soviet government failed on many levels pertaining to Chernobyl while the communication process from the Japanese government to various affected groups performed better during and after the Fukushima crisis.  Informing the public and making the decision to move citizens within the danger zone out of the area is one aspect of the disaster that went relatively smoothly, considering the Japanese government was also dealing with the damage done by the Tsunami.

Nuclear power is here to stay.  The challenge is to learn from the past while having enough imagination to think about future problems and put measures in place to prevent any accidents or disasters that may have dire consequences.