We hear there is a substance and it is called plutonium. We hear that “they” are somewhere (do you remember the name of the state?) manufacturing it. We don’t know how it is made. We think the substance uranium is used. We know it is radioactive. We have seen the photographs of babies and children deformed from radiation. The substance plutonium becomes interesting to us when we read that certain parts of the building where it is manufactured have leaks. We don’t know really what this means, if it is like the leak in our roofs, or the water pipe in the backyard, or if it is a simple word for a process beyond our comprehension. But we know the word “leak” indicates error and we know that there is no room for error in the handling of this substance. That it has been called the most deadly substance known. That the smallest particle (can one see a particle, smell it?) can cause cancer if breathed in, if ingested. All that we know in the business of living eludes us in this instant. None of our language helps us. Not knowing how to drive, to cook on a gas stove, to soap the diaper pins so that they pass more easily through the diaper, to wash cotton in cold water so that it doesn’t shrink, to repair the water pipes, or dress a wound. No skill helps us. Nor does quickness of mind, nor physical strength. We are like an animal smaller and more vulnerable than any nature has ever created. We have no defense. We try not to remember whatever we may know of plutonium.
—Susan Griffin, Woman and Nature