The national environmental research park: a new model for federal land use

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Natural Resources and Environment


American Bar Association

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Reflecting upon the explosion of the first atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer, director of the Manhattan Project, recalled a verse from the Bhagavad-Gita, the seminal philosophical poem of Hindu theology. The verse Oppenheimer recalled, "Now, I am become death, the destroyer of worlds," is erroneously interpreted by some commentators to suggest that he experienced a guilty spirit troubled by the realization of his part in the creation of nuclear weapons. In fact, Oppenheimer's reflection on the verse has a considerably more complex meaning in the context of the Gita, which sets out a principle wherein good and bad are paradoxically interconnected, occasionally requiring one to commit seemingly bad acts to achieve an overall good - a complementarity principle. Indeed, Oppenheimer's quotation of the Gita reflected his own complementarity principle that nuclear weapons provided man with a singular power that was at once the means of man's destruction and of his salvation. To Oppenheimer, a nuclear weapon's power to destroy absolutely promised salvation by rendering war so total and complete that it was unthinkable. Although nuclear weapons did not render warfare - especially proxy wars - entirely unthinkable, Oppenheimer's complementarity principle remains the hallmark of the Cold War because, notwithstanding its preoccupation with nuclear weapons, important beneficial advances and resources were created for mankind, such as those in science, engineering, industry, environmental research, and ecosystem protection

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