Is Anyone Paying Attention?
Dire events continue at Japan's Fukushima Dai-ichi nuke plant. Politically Incorrect
I have been following closely the events unfolding at Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant and, despite the impression you may have, the situation is dire. Three reactors in at least partial meltdown, severe damage at the spent fuel pond of a fourth, at least two containment vessels suspected to be full of holes, leaks in the water storage facility being used to hold irradiated water, an ever-growing radiation no-go zone, radioactive material releases into the ocean, children being exposed to massively high levels of radiation—and still, almost three months after the accident, no complete handle on what’s really going on and, unfortunately, plans to get the situation “under control” depending heavily on things like... luck.
In fact, as I began to write this, the Fukushima Dai-ichi area was bracing to confront heavy rain and winds from typhoons for which, they regretfully apologized, they were not quite prepared.
For those who thought we were already living in George Orwell’s 1984, this should be an eye-opener—Big Brother isn’t keeping quite as close an eye on things as we thought.
Of course, news of what’s going on in Japan no longer makes it to the top of the news feed, and hasn’t for quite some time. There are many reasons given for this, from Americans’ “crisis fatigue” to the compelling stories of disasters much closer to home (including, apparently, tweeted “junk” pictures). I suspect, however, that we simply have no patience for complex issues that require a longer-than-five-minutes attention span.
Which would also explain why there’s so little conversation about the two biggest issues of our time: climate change and peak oil. Instead, we prefer to spend our time discussing Sarah Palin’s rather amazing ability, as the daughter of a teacher, to flub the facts of almost any subject she chooses to talk about.
Warnings about reaching peak oil have been around for a long time, of course, and have been as hotly denied as those about climate change. With peak oil, at least, a rapidly growing number of policy makers are now acknowledging that, um, oh geez, yeah, it’s not only an issue but, dang, we’re hitting it right about now.
Given our tendency to recognize a serious problem some years after it’s really too late to do much about it, I suspect we’ll see a recognition that climate change is actually occurring within the next year or so.
I find our ignorance of these issues absolutely stunning. After all, most of us who are alive right now will be dealing with the impacts of these two issues (and other serious issues, like the explosion of antibiotic resistance) for the rest of our lives.
We’re like a nation—or even a globe—of alcoholics who won’t deal with what’s in front of our face until we hit rock bottom.
Fukushima leads me quite naturally to thinking of these two issues because there are those aware of the problems who insist we can deal with both of them by simply building more nuke plants.
This, to me, feels like giving a 15-year-old boy a bottle of whiskey and the keys to a hot rod and assuming it will all work out okay.
It’s been a relatively short time since old Ben Franklin was out playing with his kite in a thunderstorm, and in that relatively short time we have shown ourselves to be absolutely gluttonous when it comes to energy. We want it, we want all of it, and we want all of it right now. And that’s actually pretty easy to understand. After all, I really like my washing machine and my dishwasher and my microwave oven. These are convenient. Move into things like refrigeration, and they are quite literally life-saving.
And that’s just on the personal side. Sit back, for just a moment, and picture what the greater world outside the doors of your house would look like without the abundant energy we take for granted today. Please do it, because that is the world we are setting up for our children and our grandchildren to live in.
Are there things we can still do to mitigate for what’s in our future? Certainly. Right now, it’s estimated that we here in America could reduce our energy usage 20 percent simply by conserving it. Do I think we’ll do it? Not really. We have shown ourselves to be many things in the 200-plus years since our inception, but thrifty is simply not one of them.
And we certainly won’t do it if no one is talking about how much we really need to.
Think about this the next time you pick up some strawberries to nibble on at the grocery store—strawberries that likely came to your plate from California fields that are already showing measurable amounts of radiation from the accident at Fukushima.
The time for action was yesterday.