Planting Seeds of Peace at Bangor

Susan Crane

In the fall of 2009, when the Disarm Now Plowshares activists went for a walk on Naval  Base Kitsap/Bangor, they carried with them the hope for nuclear abolition and hundreds of sunflower seeds to sow on the base.

Sunflowers are the international symbol of nuclear disarmament.

The sunflower plants are able to extract pollutants, including radioactive metal contaminants,  through their roots and store them in the stems and leaves.  This process is called phytoremediation.

After the Chernobyl nuclear accident in the Ukraine in 1986, rafts with sunflowers growing on them floated on a small pond. The plants were used to  clean the pond; their roots dangled in the water to suck up the radionuclides cesium 137 and strontium 90. The Chernobyl sunflower project began in 1994. The plants  absorb cesium and strontium and then after they have been about three weeks in the water, the plants  are disposed of as radioactive waste.

Sunflowers have inspired many people.  Not only is it the symbol for the Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action, but it also speaks to groups like the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.  Julie Billiart, who founded the order, loved the sunflower because it constantly turns its face toward the sun,  and inspires us to constantly turn our hearts toward God.  Her sisters remember how the sunflower not only follows the sun across the sky, but also waits through the dark nights for the dawn.  Today, we are living in dark times, but we wait in active nonviolence for the dawn of peace.

According to the Sunflower project, defense ministers from the US, Russia and Ukraine gathered at Pervomaysk missile base in the Ukraine in 1996 to celebrate the destruction of the intercontinental ballistic missile silos that once contained deadly nuclear missiles.  The defense ministers planted sunflowers where the missiles were once buried.  U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry said, “Sunflowers instead of missiles in the soil would ensure peace for future generations.”

And so we agree with Perry on this point.  And we planted sunflower seeds along side the Trident warheads, in hopes of disarmament and abolition of the Trident D-5 missiles, and the aboliton of all nuclear weapons.  We hope those seeds have germinated and are growing, just  as the movement for nuclear aboliton is growing.  People around the world say: May it come soon!

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