Bomvu Ridge 40,000 years ago may have been the first large-scale underground mine anywhere. Australia well populated 60,000 years ago? Modern humans, not Neanderthals, in Russia as long ago as 40,000 years? Minnesota well inhabited 15,000 years ago? Makes my recent 60th seem like chicken feed.

My introduction to archaeology was the australopithecene sites of southern Africa. Mrs. Ples and the like captured my attention and imagination. Makes you cognizant of the long time we have been around, our propensity to wonder, and our ultimate ability to mine to provide for our material and emotional needs.

The great age of art, community, and mining renders so many modern arguments regarding mining, milling, and energy production almost trivial, but at the same time crucial—what we do today and tomorrow will have consequence for the next 100,000 years. Well at least the next 130 years, if we are to believe Australia’s Senator Campbell who says that using Western Australia’s uranium reserves could prevent as much greenhouse gas emission as would taking all Australia’s cars off the road for the next 130 years. I am in line for an Australian-made nuclear-powered car.

The vision of clean nuclear power based on more uranium mines in not confined to Australia. Alberta is talking of nuclear power to fuel the oil sands. Wow, what a power house the province will be—I bet you could get rich selling cars and building schools there now and as the power plants expand.

It seems as though only the United States is exempt from the enthusiasm for nuclear power. Maybe it is just an echo of French-avoidance Maybe it is the lingering emotions of the Manhattan Project. Maybe it is the Montana syndrome—a beautiful land, now reserved for the rich whose incomes come from somewhere else.