Sunday, December 4, 2011

A Call to the Environmental Movement and responding to Enough is Enough

Helen Caldicott, pediatric physician, mother of the Nuclear Freeze Movement and founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility, writes that "Enough is Enough" for nuclear power after Fukushima in her New York Times Op Ed piece on Dec 2, 2011

In the meantime, it turns out a core meltdown ate two thirds of the way through a containment vessel in Fukushima.  Tepco says "their latest calculations showed the fuel inside the No. 1 reactor at the tsunami-hit plant could have melted entirely, dropping its casing and melting through the concrete containment vessel."  This information comes now after repeated lies and denials since March 11 by Tepco and the Japanese government.  As many have been saying all along, particularly mothers and concerned citizens in the Fukushima region, the nuclear disaster was and is much worse than the Japanese government or Tepco want(ed) to reveal.

Another possible cover-up: what about the story of Masao Yoshida , Chief of Operations of the Fukushima-Daiichi plant and the 'hero' who led the fight to bring the nuclear stations under control post 3-11?  He has just been hospitalized for 'unknown health reasons'?  Why such secrecy?  Could it be-- after nine months of working in dangerous radioactive conditions, that Yoshida is ill because of exposure to these lethal materials?  Do we have another cover up here, too?  What are the poor Japanese people to believe?  Why not just tell the truth, one way or another?  Could it be that by admitting Yoshida has some radiation-related sickness, the government and Tepco would find themselves with hundreds of thousands of hysterical Fukushima residents on their hands who might demand, with no uncertainty, that they be evacuated?

Meanwhile, the US press remains largely mum about Fukushima, about nuclear energy in general. I wonder why it is that most Americans don't care or notice, or why they believe that our own nuclear reactors are safe. 

There is some temporarily heartening news in England.  Surprisingly, the House of Lords--determined recently that building new nuclear plants might not be such a good idea! They have put off building a proposed 10 new plants for a few years because, the plans "lack credibility" and economic efficiency.  England has been staunchly pro-nuclear since the 1950s, so this is one hopeful sign. 

Daily I ask myself--how to energize the general public on our environmental crises, how to wake them up to the dangers of nuclear power and weapons?

It's true, there are so many environmental problems before us. Probably it is just too daunting for many folks to take it all in.  It is heartening that Americans have begun to wake up to Tar Sands, Fracking,  and Toxics issues--and with Occupy, political awareness and concern in general is most certainly on the rise.  Yet Climate Change and Global Warming  remain ignored or dismissed by our government, as we are seeing in worldwide climate negotiations right now in Durban.   

It isn't just the general public or the US government, though.  The environmental movement in general (other than Greenpeace) has been relatively quiet, on nuclear, too.  Why anti- nuclear power activism has not become a core project of the environmental movement right now, remains surprising to me.  Maybe the key players are tired--spread thin enough already?  Josh Fox, Sandra Steingraber and McKibben must be exhausted.  Or is it that environmentalists are so compartmentalized (perhaps deliberately?); perhaps they focus on their own separate projects and in doing so hope to accomplish much in that single area?  It's true, it is hard to take on everything, and we do need specialists who really know their stuff.  Or is it that the global warming people--buttressed by the pro-nuclear power James Hansen-- believe that nuclear power is a solution to global warming?  Have the climate folks divided the movement to some degree? 
We need to come together.  Environmentalists need to be on the same team.  We have enough to do trying to keep the general public on target and our politicians voting for the earth.

What do we do to wake people up to the dangers of nuclear power?  What do we do to change our ways in general--when we have so many environmental problems?  

The nuclear power issue is complex.  

It has to do with the military industry that has been brainwashing the world since the 1950s: Atoms for peace?  Yeah, right.

Nuclear power plants make plutonium and other horrible radioactive material.  Plutonium is used for nuclear bombs!  This is hardly peaceful.  Plutonium lasts for 250,000 years. We have tons of it sitting in pools throughout the U.S.  Some of these are open and exposed.  We have no means for safe disposal of this deadly material, and it sits just outside of metropolitan areas inhabited by millions --such as NYC.  These plants are accidents waiting to happen--earthquakes, terrorist attacks, engineering problems that can lead to meltdowns.  I, for one, don't like living 35 miles away from the equivalent of a possible nuclear bomb explosion.  I love New York, and I don't want to see my fellow New Yorkers poisoned and killed, or see my region turned into a sacrifice zone.

There is also the problem of visibility and know-ability with it all.  We come out of the Age of Enlightenment.  We want empirical proof.  We can't see toxins and radiation, so we think it can't be true that these poisons are responsible for our cancer epidemics, and a host of other diseases.  In the case of global warming, unless you're living near glaciers, the rise in temperature seems remote.  Okay, we've got a lot of storms.  So what's a little wind and rain, a tornado, some flooding?   

Look, we're all junkies. We like our comfortable modern lives.  We're used to it and its all we know.  We like our air conditioning, central heat, cars, airplanes, food flown in from all over the planet, computers, and shopping malls.  We like believing the status quo and thinking everything is peachy keen.  We're all addicts who don't want to admit we're sick, and yet on some level we know that all this addiction might not be so good for us in the long run.  But, like addicts, we're so stuck, so self-destructive, so selfish, so narcissistic, that we don't care.  We just want instant satisfaction now: more, more, more. 

How do we get the monkey off our back?  We need to figure it out, and fast, because while we're shooting up and nodding off,  time is running out.

Yes, we have to get off of this addiction and fast.  We have to. 

Those of us who might be more aware and willing to get off the train or wagon--so to speak-- will have to learn a new way and create a polluters/consumers AA program for those are who are still lost.

We need a plan, we need a vision, and now.    

Some of us are better about getting off the drug than others.  It's our job to get to work to help each other. 

First of all, I think we need an environmental movement that will unify all of our core "issues" into one umbrella. And, no, we can't work within the current ideology--because the capitalist system feeds off of our addiction.  It's our dealer.  It likes us addicted.  

We need a plan that incorporates a sustainable and unified environmental vision.  Such a vision would include a new way of being and thinking--a new sustainable ideology that is child-centric, earth-centric, and future generation-centric.  How to begin to make this vision happen: anti-nuclear groups and the rest of the environmental movement need to work together to create 'solutions' to the enormous problems that face us.  Trading oil for nuclear, or coal for nuclear, won't end well.  Each of these forms of energy produces its own set of catastrophic results.  We must shift to renewables: wind, solar, and geothermal. We have to look forward beyond the immediate moment--what will the earth look like in 100 years?  200 years? 500 years?  How do we want to leave our home for our ancestors?   

We need a strong and loving center for our environmental movement that will hold, and agreement among environmentalists to work together peacably, honorably, and lovingly.  We need a roundtable council that includes everyone--even those who do not have voices--nonhuman species, biotic and nonbiotic-- and the dismissed/ignored/oppressed indigenous folk who know so much about earth and nature.  These latter groups have much to teach Westernized and post-modern humans about earth care.  

Environmental groups need to be careful not to be divisive or to undermine one another.  We need revolutionary thought that embraces all living beings.  In the spirit of Occupy and Gandhi and King, we need love. That love can be firm, but never hostile or violent.  The reformation of our addiction must come with respect and validation for the earth and all beings.  Saving the earth, preserving the beauty and wealth of this planet's resources, must come before economic profit.  This new vision needs to be a national and international priority.

This plan must include the precautionary principle. We must remember that we all live downstream, as Steingraber teaches us.  What we pollute will end up right back inside us.  Always.  We need to put safety and preservation before profit.     

Here are some simple and immediate solutions that we should promote now: reduction of over all consumption and waste; widespread implementation of solar, wind and geothermal; improved recycling methods for every possible waste product; widespread construction of new and energy efficient rapid transit systems; and the promotion of strong and unified community living with localized production and consumption.  Educate, educate, educate.  One thing I know from teaching college: fewer people understand environmental degradation than we realize (those of us who know, already know). Once my students start reading and learning, their minds are forever changed. 

Education is key.  With increased education, anything is possible.  We need new inventions in almost every area of our lives to increase efficiency and less waste.

We need to work with and educate educators, religious leaders and groups, civic organizers and groups, and politicians.  We need to encourage environmentalists to become politicians and get them in office.

We junkies need help.  We need crisis hot lines.  We need detox centers.

Get outside in nature.  Get active.  

Activists need to articulate plans for renewable living loudly and clearly to the American public and the world.  We must drown out  the lies of corporate industries that have only one thing in mind: profit.  They'll say anything to make money.  They do not care if it kills us.  If you think I'm crazy, remember the cigarette industry?  Enough said.

Let the fun begin.  What shall we call this AA?  Eco-cide Addicts Anonymous?  

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