Wednesday, March 16, 2011



“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed”

- Mahatma Gandhi

For me nature is a constant inspiration. There is no doubt in my mind that all that is good and inspirational about human beings comes from our spirit echoing nature's grace and beauty - learned, observed and become ancestral memory, building layer upon layer, down the thru the generations.

For far longer than we've been *cough* civilized we have lived as natural beings, migrating across the unfettered realms of this verdant earth. Always though, as sublime or majestic as natural beauty may be, the earth can undergo massive changes. Sometimes, as with the coming and going of the ice ages, the changes take generations and humans adapt, shifting either their location or some of the means by which they subsist.

Other times the earth can shift in a moment. One such moment was Japan's recent 9.0 earthquake and the subsequent - and almost immediate - tsunami. Volcanoes, earthquakes and cosmic debris raining from the sky have all been traumatic events in our history - if humans were there as witnesses. I mean there can be no doubt such events were traumatic for the flora and fauna. I'm not a big fan of the "if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one there to hear it, does it make a noise?" school of philosophy. Obviously it does and probably scares the pellets right out of some furry creatures...

Coupled with Japan's earthquake(s) and tsunami is the building emergency at the Fukushima nuclear facility. 4 of the 5 reactors are in some stage of crisis. A skeleton crew of some 50 workers has remained - at great personal risk.

Last Defense at Troubled Reactors: 50 Japanese Workers

They crawl through labyrinths of equipment in utter darkness pierced only by their flashlights, listening for periodic explosions as hydrogen gas escaping from crippled reactors ignites on contact with air.

They breathe through uncomfortable respirators or carry heavy oxygen tanks on their backs. They wear white, full-body jumpsuits with snug-fitting hoods that provide scant protection from the invisible radiation sleeting through their bodies.

They are the faceless 50, the unnamed operators who stayed behind. They have volunteered, or been assigned, to pump seawater on dangerously exposed nuclear fuel, already thought to be partly melting and spewing radioactive material, to prevent full meltdowns that could throw thousands of tons of radioactive dust high into the air and imperil millions of their compatriots.

But why? For what?

As I've followed the unfolding of events I've also dug into what happened at Chernobyl in 1986 and in the years following. If I had to sum up the underlying causes that led to these horrific failings of technology, I would unabashedly say that human error and arrogance were the primary triggers.

I'm no fan of nuclear power. I have long opposed it and supported efforts like those of my many friends who participated in actions at the Diablo Canyon facility near San Luis Obispo in California and the Trojan nuclear plant in Ranier, Oregon (which is no longer). I mean really... radiation to boil water? Come on...

When Chernobyl exploded it was a real disaster. I was reading a story from 2006 that talked about the Russins having a new sarcophagus put over the destroyed reactor by 2008. It's 2011 and no new sarcophagus. This April will be the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl... the original and hastily erected sarcophagus was given a lifespan at best of 30 years. The new and improved sarcophagus will be built to last 100 years.

But how long will the facility be uninhabitable? Well... ( Special report: In Chernobyl, a disaster persists ):

Officials say Ukraine is likely to spend billions of euros on confinement upkeep costs before it finds a way to bury the reactor components, perhaps under layers of underground granite rocks. Even then the area around the plant will remain unsuitable for thousands of years. Asked how long before people can settle down and grow crops at the site, Chernobyl power plant director Ihor Gramotkin said: "At least 20,000 years."

Chernobyl was a disaster of as yet unknown proportion - certainly a massive disaster to those directly involved. But it was a man made disaster, a disaster that was avoidable.

I harp often on our oh-so-human failings. I do so because they are avoidable, we are aware of our own faults. What we seem to lose a grasp on is the fact that there are greedy, greedy people trying as hard as they can to sell us a bill of goods. A bill of goods that is often an inferior and faulty product.

Besides the horror for those local to the Fukushima facility the back story to Fukushima may be the collusion between the nuclear industry and the governmental organizations whose duty it is is to safeguard us from unscrupulous business practices and substandard goods. The watchdogs did neither. In fact they are often the industry leaders themselves or just arms of the industry with a watchdog badge that means about as much as one those plastic badges that may have been in a cereal box when I was a kid.

Which I think is the point I'll leave you at for now:

Reports: Lax oversight, 'greed' preceded Japan nuclear crisis

Two of those reactor containment vessels may now have cracked and appear to be releasing radioactive steam. Their designer, General Electric, is now feeling heat for marketing the reactor despite safety concerns dating back three decades. Indeed, just as the BP oil spill drew scrutiny on several multinational companies, the crisis in Japan is underscoring a "flat world" where responsibility – along with environmental and economic fallout – spreads across oceans.

Russian nuclear accident specialist Iouli Andreev, who as director of the Soviet Spetsatom clean-up agency helped in the efforts 25 years ago to clean up Chernobyl, has lashed out against the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and private corporations for failing to heed lessons from that 1986 nuclear catastrophe in Ukraine.

"After Chernobyl all the force of the nuclear industry was directed to hide this event, for not creating damage to their reputation. The Chernobyl experience was not studied properly because who has money for studying? Only industry," he told Reuters in an interview published Tuesday.

and this one:

Fukushima: Mark 1 Nuclear Reactor Design Caused GE Scientist To Quit In Protest

Thirty-five years ago, Dale G. Bridenbaugh and two of his colleagues at General Electric resigned from their jobs after becoming increasingly convinced that the nuclear reactor design they were reviewing -- the Mark 1 -- was so flawed it could lead to a devastating accident.

Questions persisted for decades about the ability of the Mark 1 to handle the immense pressures that would result if the reactor lost cooling power, and today that design is being put to the ultimate test in Japan. Five of the six reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which has been wracked since Friday's earthquake with explosions and radiation leaks, are Mark 1s.

So what is it we are doing as a modern civilized society that is just sooo grand and noble that we are willing to saddle thousands of generations yet to come with the monumental task of being the guardians of our toxic and radioactive dung heaps and midden mounds? (metaphorically speaking)

All this for Charlie Sheen and Paris Hilton? Really... this a civilization peaking?

“Power does not corrupt man; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power”

- George Bernard Shaw


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