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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

The Place Where You Live

Air Date: Week of

A historic photo shows the construction of the plant in process, the hole at the bottom is for the foundation of the cooling tower, now the pond.

In this week's installment of the Living on Earth/Orion Magazine collaboration, The Place Where You Live, Gary Pace takes us to the rugged cliffs of Bodega Headlands in California.


CURWOOD: It's Living on Earth - I'm Steve Curwood. This week we have another in the Living on Earth/Orion Magazine series “The Place Where You Live.” For more than a decade, Orion has invited readers to put their memories of home on a map and submit essays on their website. And now, we’re giving them a voice.

[MUSIC: Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes “Home” from Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeroes (Rough Trade Records 2009)]

CURWOOD: That special place you care about doesn’t have to be exotic - but it can be spectacular. That's the case for the spot where Gary Pace of Sebastopol, California goes to feel close to nature.

A current photo shows the pond on the left, the foundation of the plant. The bay is on the right, and the San Andreas Fault is along the distant coastline.

PACE: So the Bodega headlands is this really beautiful part of the county where these big, dramatic cliffs sort of drop off suddenly into the ocean and there's sea lions out there and whales go swimming by a couple times a year and there's a big inlet that comes in that goes into this town called Bodega Bay. And right over the inlet is where this "Hole in the Head," the pond is, where they were starting to construct this nuclear plant 50 years ago now. So this spot, "The Hole in the Head," is about 20 minutes away from my house so I go out there regularly as part of I guess a spiritual connection to the bigger forces of the universe.

[Music: Vitamin Piano Series “Goodbye Blue Skies” from The Piano Tribute To Pink Floyd (Vitamin Music 2005)]

Bodega Headlands. The “Hole in the Head” is a small pond tucked behind dramatic cliffs dropping into the ocean. I come to this spot often to make offerings and prayers. Offerings to the land—the wild Northern California Coast—and a prayer of gratitude to the people who had the vision to block construction of a nuclear plant situated directly on the San Andreas Fault.

This crater pond was the site of the excavation for the foundation; amazingly located where the coastline had shifted 15 feet during the 1906 earthquake. In the early 1960s activists worked to stop the construction and prevent a disaster. I often wonder how they found the outrageous hope that they could halt the building of a nuclear plant once the work had started and I ask for similar inspiration.

The coast, looking towards Japan.

If it had opened as planned, the reactor would have outlived its utility by now. I would be standing before the shuttered cooling towers, looking out over the barrels of spent fuel rods, a lonely witness to the radioactivity which would persist for scores of human lifetimes. The electricity produced would have long since passed through local residents’ light bulbs and dishwashers, and the relentless search for new power sources would continue.

My thoughts drift to those folks who worked for such a reasonable outcome. As the sea breeze blows across my face, I arrange flowers in honor of the legacy these activists left behind, an ephemeral monument to something that never came to pass.

CURWOOD: Gary Pace lives in Sebastopol, California.

Tell us about "The Place Where You Live." You can find out about our collaboration with Orion Magazine and how to submit your essay by visiting our website, LOE dot org.



Orion Magazine- The Place Where You Live

Listen to Other Place Where You Live Essays


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