global warming is the signature issue of our time. If we do not reverse global
warming, nothing else will matter. Not bringing the Wall Street crooks to
justice or closing down the corrupt banks or stopping our government from
spying on us.
A vital step is closing down our nukes. Nuclear power is not a legitimate alternative to the burning of fossil fuels because it is far more dangerous albeit in a distinctly different way. The risk of further contamination of our earth on which we depend for our survival cannot be tolerated.
In spite of the risks, powerful corporate executives are looking to use profitable nuclear plants to address problems associated with stopping global warming.
Even if CEOs refuse to do so, we have to recognize this stark fact: nuclear radiation knows no boundaries. It is incumbent on us to join other countries in ending nuclear power for it is immoral that by keeping ours running we would be putting at risk countless others around the world.
The disaster in Japan reminds us again of how dangerous this form of energy is. A molten mass of radioactive material lies at the bottom of the three reactors that experienced meltdowns shortly after the earthquake and tsunami hit northern Japan on March 11, 2011.
Structural remains of the containment vessels serve the short-term purpose of preventing radiation from leaking out into the atmosphere and contaminating not only Japan, but also much of the world. A second earthquake, predicted by seismologists to take place within the immediate future, has the potential to bring those structures tumbling down.
A hundred thousand Japanese have already been relocated within the country. There are recent reports that during negotiations over ownership of the Kuril Islands, Japanese officials told their Russian counterparts that due to Fukushima they are looking at evacuating roughly forty million people to one or more sites overseas. (See HYPERLINK "click here" click here)
Continued use of nuclear energy is being seen as part of a mix of alternatives to fossil fuels. A recent rebroadcast of a PBS program (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/nuclear-aftershocks/) featured several interviews with energy experts who proclaimed that our future energy needs couldn't possibly be met without nuclear power. For this reason plans are being made to replace the ones that will be phased out.
Since there was no indication to the contrary, one can assume that this calculation about future energy needs was based on a continuation of the present way of life in industrialized countries. In other words, as economic growth, a core requirement of the capitalist system, continues, even anemically, additional power will be needed for new factories, office buildings, shopping centers, businesses, homes, schools, sports arenas, and transportation of all kinds as well as for waging war.
Even James Hansen, the premiere climate change expert, fears that closing down nukes would bring about a greater reliance on coal, increasing global warming. It's either/or. But is it, really? The Entergy-owned Indian Point reactor on Long Island, for example, provides a quarter of the electricity used by New York City (click here). Conservation alone could easily eliminate the need for this plant.
Why not begin now to work toward making our energy-consumption commensurate with the energy that we can produce from alternative sources? Those who have run the capitalist system for the last hundred years have extravagantly and exploitively ravaged the planet's resources for their personal gain. It has to stop.
Some will say -- loudly and repeatedly -- that this is too drastic. Too drastic compared to what? To nuclear radiation that makes us sick/kills us? That contaminates the soil? To long periods of droughts? To destructive, death-dealing tornados and nasty mudslides? To humongous fires and floods? To forcing millions to migrate? To leaving our fate to the whims of unchecked climate change?
Can the American people be convinced to support these objectives? On April 17th of this year, the New York Times reported that a new poll by Knowledge Networks "suggests that a solid majority of the public feels that global warming is real, a result consistent with other polls that have asked the question in various ways. When invited to agree or disagree with the statement, "global warming is affecting the weather in the United States,' 69 percent of respondents in the new poll said they agreed, while 30 percent disagreed."
Survey results about nuclear power are not quite as solid as those on global warming. The reason may be that we are now experiencing in dramatic ways the consequences of global warming. However, polls on nuclear power show an increased concern. In a CBS poll done after the Fukushima accident, "only 43 percent" said they would approve building such new facilities in the United States." This report in the Times reviews the ups and downs of support for nuclear power in this country. (See HYPERLINK "http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/23/us/23poll.html" http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/23/us/23poll.html) Perhaps assurances by public officials that a Fukushima could not happen here kept this figure from going even lower.
If we continue to kick the can down the road, we will leave our children and grandchildren a legacy that is beyond the tipping point, the point where it will be impossible to reverse course.
We have to find a different way of not only living together, but also for living on this planet. In their encampments, Occupiers, have already given us a glimpse of a no-frills, basic necessities only, compassionate, respectful, open-to-new-ideas way of life.
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