Entries Tagged 'Solutions' ↓
July 20th, 2011 — Peak Oil, Solutions
That should be enough, but the pro-nukers are just not going away. Why should it be enough of a dismissal? Well, if Japan can’t be trusted to safely do nuclear, who the hell can?
Think about it: One of the most technologically advanced countries in the world had a nuclear disaster. If a serious accident like that could happen in Japan, it could happen anywhere. In fact, it already did.*
So why won’t the pro-nukers accept that nuclear power is dangerous and we can’t handle it safely? This seems to be a common progression in discussions with pro-nukers, or as I am coming to think of them, dumbasses:
ME: Because Fukushima, that’s why.
Pro-nuker: It was a perfect storm: an earthquake and a tsunami.
ME: Which you’re saying will never happen again, ever? In earthquake and tsunami-prone Japan? You know, the country that invented the word tsunami?
DA: The design of the reactor was inadequate. Newer models would not have these problems.
~Note the change of argument? DA couldn’t answer so abandoned that argument, though not the belief; he’ll continue to throw it out in future discussions. The problem is that DA holds to nuclear power like a Holy Grail, and he (almost always men) simply ignores contrary evidence.
ME: So you’re guaranteeing that these new designs will never have a dangerous radioactive release? Never, ever, ever? Ever?
DA: No, they can’t. Decent maintenance, proper siting – not close to the coast, for example, and Bob’s your uncle. Never a problem.
DA: Well, statistically, of course, something could happen, but the possibility is remote.
ME: How remote?
DA: Not worth worrying about.
ME: I’m worried. What’s my risk.
DA: Infitesimal. It’s not even measurable.
ME: So, for example, Pakistan, which has nuclear power plants – let’s say Al-Qaeda launches a terrorist assault on one, packs it with fertilizer and blows it to smithereens, steals all the fuel and waste and runs off with it – there’s no risk to anyone from the nuclear part of that? I’m not saying count the people killed in the battle or the explosion, just people endangered from the nuclear material.
DA: Well, that’s a ridiculous scenario.
ME: Have you been following the news on Pakistan?
DA: Well, okay, it’s possible, but that’s in Pakistan and that has nothing to do with developed countries. Politically unstable countries shouldn’t have nuclear energy or weapons.
ME: But they do, dumbass, because people like you seem to think that nuclear energy is the bomb. So to speak.
DA: I don’t agree with selling nuclear technology to politically unstable countries.
ME: [sigh] You do realise that Pakistan was fairly stable when we sold them the nukes? Political situations change. Terrorists and wars happen. And you do agree that such a terrorist action, followed by what they could do now that they have all this extremely dangerous material – could potentially expose millions of people to dangerous, probably toxic levels of radiation?
DA: Look, it’s far-fetched, and it doesn’t really affect us.
ME: Al-Qaeda having radioactive material doesn’t potentially affect “us”?
DA: It’s too late now, anyway. There are plenty of stable countries that can use the new technology safely.
ME: And how long must those countries remain politically stable, free from the danger of terrorist attacks, and safe from wars? Doesn’t the waste remain radioactive for rather a long time? Like, longer than all of human civilization has been around so far?
DA: It’s safe if stored safely. Yucca mountain…
ME: So you can guarantee that all developed countries that have or will have nuclear power will remain politically stable, free of wars or serious internal problems, for the next 10,000+ years.
DA: Well, of course nobody can guarantee that. That’s a ridiculous requirement.
Responses vary at this point, but most of them come down to either:
- I don’t want to think about that (there’s wilful ignorance kicking in to protect the belief system), or
- I don’t really care about the people who will live here in the future. It’s their problem – we told them it was radioactive. It’s their responsibility to keep the nation and its toxic waste secure, not our responsibility to not produce it in the first place.
And that latter argument, frankly, is pretty damn selfish and a damn poor justification.
So the next time some pro-nuker zealot tries to proselytize the infallible need for nuclear energy, tell him no, because you’re not thoughtful enough or not mature enough to be making those kinds of decisions. Or just say, “Because Fukushima, that’s why.”
* Did you forget about Three Mile Island?
Still not convinced? Need more data? Nuclear delusions: Why nuclear power is not a solution to our energy challenge is an excellent, concise critique of nuclear power.
May 27th, 2011 — Canada, Climate Change, Collapse, Economy, Peak Oil, Solutions, The Way Home
The world oil supply is running down and we have no ready substitutes.
Climate change is happening now – stronger storms, more devastating wildfires, rising sea levels, diseases spreading – the list goes on, and there is every indication that it will continue to worsen.
The US economy, upon which the world economy still depends, is unstable due to corruption at the top, from most Congressmen to presidential advisors all being former bank executives.
Our leaders are not moving quickly enough to protect the economy in general, never mind your or my livelihoods in particular. Some of our leaders are actually doing things to worsen the situation, such as denying the very existence of climate change or ignoring the ever-rising price of oil.
We are facing “interesting times.” The turbulence has begun, and it’s buffeting us from all directions. Have you ever had the experience of going for a walk and, no matter which direction you were going, the wind always seemed to be in your face? That’s what the future is going to feel like for many people.
I could (and have) proposed large-scale responses to the situation, which frankly at this point need to be a WWII-scale mobilization to re-industrialize and re-do our living arrangements to drastically cut oil dependence immediately and, long-term, eliminate pollution of all kinds by moving to a ‘restorative economy.’
But we’re not going to do that in the foreseeable future, are we? Or anything even remotely close. If you take your family’s security seriously, then you will do what you can to buffer yourself against the coming storms. The best way I have seen to do that is Transition Initiative, and you should seriously consider joining (or starting) one in your area.
TI is a completely grassroots, apolitical initiative, and this is what they do:
Transition Network helps communities deal with climate change and shrinking supplies of cheap energy (peak oil). This process, which we call Transition, aims to create stronger, happier communities.
That’s how we’re going to get through this; by working together in local communities. As the Transition Network site puts it well:
What we are convinced of is this:
- if we wait for the governments, it’ll be too little, too late
- if we act as individuals, it’ll be too little
- but if we act as communities, it might just be enough, just in time.
Your level of involvement can be minimal or massive; the choice is yours. Here are some things that local TIs do:
- Teach people how to grow a garden, save seeds, preserve foods
- Educate people by showing documentaries about peak oil, climate change, solutions, and more
- Host online and IRL forums to discuss and learn
- Show people how to insulate their homes or build a solar greenhouse
Like it or not, the world is changing. You can adapt, or not.
April 15th, 2011 — Climate Change, Peak Oil, Solutions
Helen Caldicott and George Monbiot have recently attacked each other in anti and pro-nuclear articles, and honestly I now am entirely unsure of the truth. Both claim scientific backing, though Monbiot appears to shred Caldicott’s claims. I have a great deal of respect for Monbiot; back when I was doing my own research on climate change (I was a sceptic and was attempting to see if it was real, was human-caused, was dangerous, etc, and I read lots of real science in the process), I found him to be ruthlessly honest and perfectly aligned with the actual science.
That said, I think the pro-nuke crowd, now including George Monbiot, is making two grave errors. The first is claiming that low levels of radiation are safe.
As an example of this, something that really struck me as a blow to the nuke movement was a seemingly unrelated article posted on Reddit a few weeks or so ago discussing the nude-o-scanners used by the TSA. The author interviewed a scientist who flat-out said that the scanners would cause cancer in some people. The reasoning went thusly:
- The risk of a mutation caused by the scanners is very low, say 1-in-10,000,000
- However, many tens of millions of people pass through the scanners each year
- Therefore, some of those people will develop cancer caused by radiation from the scanners
In this case, “low risk” still means “will cause cancer in some people.” Not everyone wants to take that risk, and may be unhappy about others forcing that risk upon them.
This brings me to my second point; Monbiot seems just as political in supporting nuclear energy as Caldicott is in opposing it. In fact, this seems a common theme among many pro-nuclear ‘environmentalists.’ Take these paragraphs from his article, my emphasis added:
If…we make the wrong decisions, the consequences can be momentous. …that countries [will] shut down their nuclear power plants or stop the construction of new ones, and switch instead to fossil fuels. Almost all of us would prefer them to switch to renewables, but it seems that this is less likely to happen.
In response to the Fukushima disaster, for example, the German government insists that it will replace its nuclear plants with new renewable power sources – particularly large wind farms. But as most of its wind is in the north and much of its nuclear capacity is in the south, this will require a massive new construction of power lines. That gives the government just as much of a political headache as the current anti-nuclear protests. The new lines are also likely to take around 12 years to build, raising the possibility of shortages.
In other words, Monbiot (and “almost all of us”) think renewables are a better idea, but will support nuclear because it seems politically more feasible. Chalk one up for the nuclear lobby. He also states that new power lines will take about 12 years to build – which is about the amount of time required to build a nuclear plant, assuming it’s not stopped by the kinds of mass protests recently seen in Germany.
Monbiot digs himself in deeper by assuming that power lines will be opposed equally as have been nuclear plants, but this seems a stretch.
In his book Heat: How to stop the planet from burning, Monbiot thoroughly analyses nuclear energy, and some of the dangers he points out are not trivial:
- p. 90: “…every nuclear power station leaks radiation into the environment. As well as their routine emissions into the air and the sea, the nuclear generators are surrounded by dumping scandals.” He then goes on to detail numerous examples, and as we have seen with Fukushima, the same leaks and cover-ups occurred there.
- p. 92: Monbiot discusses the intractable and so-far insoluble problem of nuclear waste, and that there have also been cover-ups in this department, in which proponents of the Yucca Mountain repository in Nevada “falsified the rates at which water percolates through it.”
- pp. 92-95: Monbiot discusses the financial cost of nuclear power, concluding that it only exists courtesy of large taxpayer subsidies and that the actual “price of nuclear power is a function of your political position.”
- p. 97: “…sixteen years would be needed to obtain finance and planning permission and to design a build [a new nuclear] plant.” Monbiot does agree that this timeline also rules out any large-scale energy development, and so the government would have to fast-track (i.e. ram through) projects like this.
And Monbiot’s conclusion?
Because of the industry’s record of corner-cutting, because of its association with weapons of mass destruction and because of the unresolved questions about waste disposal and energy balance, I will provisionally place nuclear power second from last in my list of preferences, just above generation using coal from open-cast mines.
So George – which of these things has changed in the last few years? The answer, of course, is none. The only thing that has changed seems to be that Monbiot has abandoned hope that we will embrace renewables or conservation – for political reasons. He has thus given up and is now shilling for his “second from last” energy choice, the one he places one short step above coal, because he thinks that’s the best we can get – even though it’s not very good at all.
George Monbiot is entitled to his change of political views. But to become a proponent of nuclear power now, not because it’s better than the alternatives or even necessary, but because that’s all the nuclear lobby will allow, is a disgrace. His words again:
This is an especially difficult time to try to make the case for keeping the dangers of nuclear power in perspective. The frightening events at Fukushima are still unfolding, the disaster has been upgraded to category 7, making it one of the two worst such events on record. But it is just when the case is hardest that it most urgently needs to be made, however much anger this generates. If we don’t stick to the facts, if we don’t subject all claims to the same degree of scepticism, we could make a bad situation worse.
Sometimes, George, the reason the case is hard to make is because it’s not a very good case. And yes, we should stick to the facts. Those facts are that conservation and renewable energy are the best, and ultimately the only, path out of our current spiralling energy addiction that is causing climate change. Nuclear power is at best a stopgap measure; it just pushes the problem down the road a ways.
Forget immediate concerns about irradiated food and water, and increased cancer risk, for the moment; let’s say they’re exaggerated or a trade-off we’re willing to make in order to phase out coal (because conservation and renewable energy are ‘politically more difficult.’) A nuclear accident like Fukushima has the potential to render large areas uninhabitable for generations. What is the cost of that?
And consider this; if we decide to forge ahead with nuclear power, we will need thousands more nuclear plants all over the world, including in many countries far less politically stable or technologically advanced as Japan. The risk of accidents will surely increase exponentially, as will the proliferation of nuclear weapons.
Finally, not a damn word about conservation, which could cut our need for energy enough to make battles over nuclear versus renewable much less of a concern – and, if we don’t start conserving, will ultimately lead to massive energy generating plants and related problems all over the globe anyway.
George Monbiot, I am disappointed.
UPDATE: Guy Dauncey has written an excellent dissection of nuclear power in the wake of Fukushima: Nuclear – Hope or Hype? It is an extract from his equally good book, The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming. Dauncey takes a no-nonsense, fact-based approach to his evaluation, looking at nuclear from all angles: economic, waste storage, global warming, and more.
December 8th, 2010 — General, Solutions, The Way Home
Freedom with a capital damn ‘F.’
You may not agree with everything WikiLeaks is doing, but you must admit that it is necessary. Our governments, in particular the U.S. government, have gone too far. They are keeping too many secrets, and a secretive government cannot be trusted. The truth must come out.
Many Redditors are donating. Others may be helping with the current hacking of those banks and other institutions attacking Assange and WikiLeaks.
(To digress slightly, I really think governments and corporations are going to be in for a very rough ride. Once a few million young people realize they can make a difference by hacking to help WikiLeaks, why would they stop there – whether or not Assange is freed? Why would they not start choosing targets for transparency? If I were the CEO of CitiBank or Goldman Sachs I would be very worried right now.)
A whole lot of people want to do something but don’t want to risk arrest. So let’s do something.
Post your ideas on Reddit; upvote the best, and let’s donate to make the best happen.
Choose formats that are in the real world. Internet freedom is not enough, not will it last without wider freedom. First they came for Julian Assange, and I did not speak up, and so one day they came for the web….
I tried to choose messages that would be appealing to conservatives, because we need them on our side. It’s not conservatives versus liberals, or right against left. It’s those who value liberty against those who lust for money and power, and original conservative values are very much for freedom. I also picked formats that are IRL – we need to get our message off the net and ‘out there.’
If this takes off, we’ll need to coordinate donations and route them to the areas that donated. Does anybody have a suggestion for the best way to do that?
My suggestion for a relatively inexpensive way to get the message out:
Billboards, bus stop ads, any organization with digital advertising boards.
- Relatively cheap
- Message stays for at least a month, not one day like a newspaper ad or a few seconds like a TV spot
- Unavoidably visible to millions of drivers and passengers in good locations; you can’t miss them
- Local – donate to one in your area
- Makes a statement
- Sound-bite size – easy for MSM to briefly cover…while repeating the message
- “When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty.” - Thomas Jefferson
- Let Freedom Ring – subtitle: Support WikiLeaks
- The truth will out – support WikiLeaks
- It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Looking at you, Koch brothers.
- “A man does what he must – in spite of personal consequences, in spite of obstacles and dangers and pressures – and that is the basis of all human morality.” - Winston Churchill
- “There is nothing concealed that will not be revealed, nothing hidden that will not be made known. Everything you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight; what you have whispered in locked rooms will be proclaimed from the rooftops.”
– Luke 12:2-3 - Love this one; found it on Daniel Ellsberg‘s (the Pentagon Papers leaker) site.