Don Williams
Photo by Justin Williams

Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

Insights navigation:

[ Insights ]

RSS feed

Don Williams comments

This is the way the world ends
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   04/21/2006)

The end of the world… “comes in on little cat feet,” to borrow a phrase Carl Sandburg used to describe the fog.

Silently, deceptively it arrives, largely because talking heads on TV and syndicated columnists allow a fog of disinformation and distraction to settle in. For instance, you likely know lots more about the Duke lacrosse team rape scandal than about this news from the L.A. Times of April 6:

“The Bush administration on Wednesday (April 5) unveiled a blueprint for rebuilding the United States' decrepit nuclear weapons complex, including restoration of a large-scale bomb manufacturing capacity… The administration wants the capability to turn out 125 new nuclear bombs per year by 2022, as the Pentagon retires older bombs that it claims will no longer be reliable or safe….

“The administration is also moving quickly ahead with a new nuclear bomb program known as the `reliable replacement warhead,' which began last year. Originally described as an effort to update existing weapons and make them inherently more reliable, it has been broadened and now includes the potential for new bomb designs. Weapons labs currently are engaged in a design competition….”

One hundred-twenty-five new nukes per year. New bomb designs. How scary is that? Like so many other initiatives by our government, this nuclear revival violates several treaties we've signed. The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, for instance, long ago called for an end of building, testing, storing and trading in nuclear weapons materials.

Our recent agreement to provide India with a steady source of nuclear fuel likely violates this treaty as well. Zbigniew Brezenski stated last week that the new deal would give India the capacity to build up to 20 bombs a year in facilities off-limits to inspection. He fretted that it would kick-start a new arms race with India's nuclear neighbors, Pakistan and China. Could be you never heard such pointed criticism of the deal as pretty pictures from India flickered across your screen and attractive young news anchors turned to lighter affairs. Likewise, I'll bet you heard little about this report from the Jan. 23, 2005 issue of a respected paper called the UK Independent on Sunday.

“Global warning has already hit the danger point that international attempts to curb it are designed to avoid, according to the world's top climate watchdog.

“Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the official Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), told an international conference attended by 114 governments in Mauritius this month that he personally believes that the world has `already reached the level of dangerous concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere' and called for immediate and very deep cuts in the pollution if humanity is to survive.

“The Bush administration immediately tried to slap him down, not least because it put him in his post after Exxon, the major oil company most opposed to international action on global warming, complained that his predecessor was too aggressive on the issue. Afterwards he told The Independent on Sunday that widespread dying of coral reefs and rapid melting of ice in the Arctic had driven him to the conclusion that the danger point the IPCC had been set up to avoid had already been reached. Reefs throughout the world are perishing as the seas warm up: as water temperatures rise, they lose their colors and turn a ghostly white. Partly as a result, up to a quarter of the world's corals have been destroyed.

“And in November, a multi-year study by 300 scientists concluded that the Arctic was warming twice as fast as the rest of the world and that its ice-cap had shrunk by up to 20 per cent in the past three decades.”

If humanity is to survive—300 scientists. Scared yet? Efforts to squelch such news stretch back decades, but they've found a strong new ally in Bush. Little noticed media reports show how his administration muzzled a top NASA scientist whose own findings corroborate such dire predictions. Others reveal how the EPA under Bush excised a Harvard study from a report because it contradicted the government's rationale for lenient industry standards regarding emissions of mercury, ubiquitous now in the world's oceans.

Lots of people, including some Bush and Cheney family members and friends, have vested interests in technology that could destroy our world. The media's soft-pedaling of their conflicts of interest and outright crimes brings home prophetic and poetic words from “The Hollow Men,” by T.S. Eliot: “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a whimper.”

Some days I'd settle for a whimper from talking heads who parrot the news, though God knows an anguished cry is more in keeping.