Friday, February 14, 2014

The Price of Nuclear Power


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Aztec Sacrifice (Via Wikimedia) The heart set free from its earthly prison.

Last night, Alfred Meyer, a board member of the group Physicians for Social Responsibility gave a great talk in Kalamazoo on "Nuclear Power: What You Need to Know about the Price, Pollution and Proliferation."

One of Dr. Meyer's many compelling points was that splitting the atom to boil water is a dangerous endeavor.

Nuclear engineers, and even members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which protects our safety, boil these risks down to numbers, for example, a .2% increased risk in childhood leukemia.

But we can't deny that the risks are there.

When we choose to produce our energy with Nuclear (or coal, or oil, or gas...) we know that someone WILL pay the price for us. Children WILL die of leukemia. Regions of the earth (such as Chernobyl and Fukushima--or perhaps Southwest Michigan) WILL have to be abandoned. Terrorists WILL get weapons....

But as Dr. Meyer pointed out, we haven't even bothered to do the honest science to find out how many people will actually pick up our Nuclear tab. And we never acknowledge who they are when they are chosen.

Perhaps we're just too afraid to face the truth.

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http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4f/Pyramid_of_Santa_Cecilia.jpg
Pyramids once brought us closer to the sky, the sun--symbols of transcending our earthly limits.
 
In Aztec culture, the sun was both god and heaven, a place of pure joy untouched by earthly troubles.

The heart was the seat of the soul, an actual part of the sun, come to earth, that connected us to this transcendent place in the sky.

Ritual sacrifice was considered voluntary and consensual. To die such an honorable death sent your heart straight to the sun, to heaven. But first, you became a celebrated god, walking upon the earth. A god!

Well, at least until your chest was cut open and your heart ripped out...

This sacrifice was absolutely necessary for the society to connect with something bigger, something beyond the suffering and evanescence of human life. It gave meaning to suffering. It made us more than mere animals, more than our ancestors who lived in the dark, in caves.

It was a glorious "checkmate" in the conflict between man and nature.

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You may not have heard, but there has been a revolution within the environmental movement.

According to the new "Bright Green" consensus of "Neo-Environmentalists" like Stewart Brandt, saving the planet need not interfere with our primary human purpose: transcending it.
http://eu2.brightgreen.com/images/general/mission.jpg
Manicured lawns, gravity-defying architecture, nature conquered. From BrightGreen.com

The dead old environmentalism failed, they say, because of its fatalistic warnings about limits. Limits to population, consumption, growth.... and all this depressing talk about the realities of a "finite planet." Nobody wants to be reminded of the confines of their earthly prison.

The Paleo-environmentalists, the Bright Greens say over and over again, seem to think we should all go back to living in caves! As if we were animals!

http://tinselman.typepad.com/tinselman/images/futurecity_01.jpg
Transcendent "Bright Green" city of the future, as imagined by the Venus Projec

Bright greens focus on a positive future, renewable energy, green consumers, and green business, and solar and wind and exclamation points and never having to talk about limits again!

Our endless growth and energy consumption--and all the sacrifices they entail--are absolutely necessary. It is all we have to connect us with our noble human purpose, our bright future in the sky, without disease, without suffering, without toil...  without limits!


http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-OX0ydlp3u0o/T2MdnRNrPmI/AAAAAAAAA2w/DMYxQIl8QKg/s320/future-city.jpg
A computer-planned paradise
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(Shhhh... Come here inside these parenthesis and I'll whisper. We're about to violate a few of our society's [and modern environmentalism's] greatest taboos, so we'll have to do it very quietly, in the dark...

The first taboo is "Jeavon's Paradox;" as we add "renewable energy" to our portfolio, it makes us use MORE fossil fuels, not less. One recent example is Spain, which has the world's largest solar array, as well as impressive wind development, yet has become 3 times more dependent on foreign fossil fuels since before it invested in "renewables."

The second is that a growing number of thinkers like Naomi Klein, and David Holmgren, as well as scientists across a wide array of expertise increasingly think that the only way forward is to drastically reverse our economic growth and energy use. 

A third: Renewables are not good "investments." Sorry. Now, there are wise investments we could be making that could justify their increased costs, but there is so much dishonesty about renewable plants right now precisely because dishonesty is the only way to get the market to build them! So long as we rely on the market to drive our energy investments, the main thing we get is plants that convert tax-payer money into private profit.

A fourth: Climate change is just one symptom of a much bigger disease. Regardless of climate change, our energy use and economic model are driving: the quickest mass extinction event the world has ever seen; the destruction of our soils; acidification of the ocean; increased cancer rates and other "diseases of civilization;" mass anxiety and stress; resource wars; and the greatest disparity in wealth that humanity has ever endured. 

And finally, [and most taboo of all... I suspect we might... just possibly... be more like the Aztecs in certain unspeakable ways than we'd ever dare to admit.])

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Dirty ol' earthy forest garden.


I don't know how our human story will end. But I do know that we'll never solve our problems if we refuse to even discuss them honestly.

Maybe humanity needs a new "purpose," rooted in the soil, right here on Earth: to be happy, caring animals in an ecosystem.

Maybe the best thing a person can try to do for the planet right now is to simply cultivate contentment. If we were happy with our place here on earth, would we sacrifice so much to build those imaginary white utopias in the sky?

And maybe it's time for us to start breaking taboos.


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