IN ANCIENT GREEK MYTHOLOGY, three brothers overthrew Cronos, then drew lots for each one's share of the Universe. Zeus became Supreme Lord of the Sky, controlling clouds, rain, thunder, and lightning. Poseidon drew dominion over Seas and Rivers, including underground streams. Hades was alotted the Underworld, which lies beneath the secret places of earth. As custodian of precious metals, Hades is the God of Wealth, and has a helmet which makes its wearer invisible. In Rome, Hades was called Pluto.
Of the Greek gods, mankind's best friend was Demeter, Goddess of Corn, supreme diety of Earth. The Romans called her Ceres, from which comes our word "cereal", humanity's ancient staple food. Demeter's temples were the fruitful fields of holy grain, and she was celebrated at harvest time.
Demeter was an unwed mother who had a single daughter—Persephone, the Maid of Spring, who made life bright and young. Hades wanted her, and abducted her down to his Underworld to be his wife. She refused him, but remained his captive for four months.
In Demeter's despair for her lost child, Earth's life wilted and froze in winter. At last Hermes, the messenger of the gods, brought a message from Zeus which convinced Hades to free Persephone. But because she had eaten pomegranate seeds, Persephone returns to Hades dark realm four months each year. While she reigns Queen of the Underworld, Earth, in winter, mourns its loss of the Maid of Spring.
IN OUR MODERN AGE, Mythology has given way to Rational Materialism. The gods are dead—replaced by physical-chemical equations to describe frozen atomic realities of crystalline matter.
But the gods have died, only to be reborn. In the new universe of Physics, Pluto reappears as plutonium, the most toxic element known, whose presence in the biosphere threatens all Earth with a centuries long nuclear winter. His hell-met is invisible radiation which sickens, kills and mutates.
And Persephone, Queen of the Underworld, is reborn as Molly. In the formal world of Physics, she's known as molybdenum. To the mythical mind, she nurtures roots, seeds and microbial life in dark, dormant winter soil.
A FARMER BET A NUCLEAR PHYSICIST he could generate more free energy with an ounce of molly than the physicist with an ounce of uranium, mother of plutonium. The farmer won.
He sprayed his ounce as sodium molybdenate on an alfalfa field. Molly is a trace element essential to four cell enzymes. Three are in your detoxication system; the fourth fixes nitrogen from the air as nitrates in soil. Rhizobia bacteria specialize in this enzyme, and they form an intimate partnership with alfalfa, which grows nodules on its roots for Rhizobia to inhabit. Bacteria thrive in these subterranean condos, and pay their rent by feeding nitrates to the alfalfa roots.
With sound ecological farming, an ounce of molly nurtures a proliferation of Rhizobia populations in root nodules, to fix more nitrogen into nitrates, to grow more green alfalfa leaves, to fix more sunlight as carbohydrates. The added solar energy fixed by the alfalfa was greater than could be liberated by fissioning an ounce of uranium.
LIKE THIS TALE, our choice between solar/biological versus nuclear futures is clear. The nuclear equation does not balance; the release of radioactivity from deep out of Earth's underworld into the biosphere has incomprehensible consequences. Nonetheless, the nuclear demon has been unleashed from Pandora's box. As nuclear industry wastes pile up awaiting accidents to spread them, Earth's reproductive life potential is again held hostage by the god of the atomic Underworld.
Let's hope Hermes arrives soon with his message from Zeus. In the coming decade of global warming, a nuclear winter may prove but the premature onset of a new Ice Age.
—David Yarrow, July 1989