Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country
of West Texas
Tuesday, February 8, 2000
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
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
We don't need a god to protect us from our world. We do that ourselves
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.
In the process, we have also made life much more comfortable. We have
divorced ourselves from the smelly, uncomfortable and dangerous natural
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.
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
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
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
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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York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Peggy McCracken, Webmaster
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.
324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321
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