* take nothing for granted    
Unless otherwise indicated all photos © Richard McKie 2005 - 2021

Who is Online

We have 99 guests and no members online

 

 

One night of at the end of March in 1979 we went to a party in Queens.  Brenda, my first wife, is an artist and was painting and studying in New York.  Our friends included many of the younger artists working in New York at the time.  That day it had just been announced that there was a possible meltdown at a nuclear reactor at a place called a Three Mile Island , near Harrisburg Pennsylvania. 

I was amazed that some people at the party were excitedly imagining that the scenario in the just released film ‘The China Syndrome’  was about to be realised; and thousands of people would be killed. 

They actually wanted this to happen.  The death of thousands of people would put an end to nuclear power for ever.  They wanted nuclear power gone on principle.  It was good thing if it proved unsafe.  If it proved to be safe, or if only a few were killed, it would be disappointing. 

I remember suggesting that the direct and indirect death of thousands of people every year has done nothing to minimise the use of coal, oil or gas to generate electricity.  Since that time the Chernobyl disaster has added 9000 nuclear deaths worldwide but this is only a fraction of the annual deaths due to coal based electricity generation in the US alone.  

New Scientist has published a wide range of articles covering all aspects of the current issues arising from the natural disaster and related nuclear crisis in Japan.  Among these is the following self-explanatory diagram. 

 

Click on the above image to follow the link. 

 

But of course I was wrong in thinking that rationality would prevail.

The Three Mile Island incident effectively stopped further expansion of nuclear power in the US for many years.  This was despite the fact that when all the hype and a misinformation were finally put to rest it was determined that there had been no injury to anyone; let alone any deaths.

The media circus was unbelievable.  Jane Fonda the star of ‘The China Syndrome’  teamed up with consumer advocate and Presidential hopeful Ralph Nader and went on a campaign trail opposing any further use of nuclear energy.   Senator Edward Kennedy then jumped on the bandwagon.  If there was a parade in town he wanted to be out in front, leading it.

Just 10 years earlier Kennedy had been involved in another island disaster when he drove off a bridge at Chappaquiddick Island and his passenger, Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned in very strange circumstances.  Here was a chance to regain some popular appeal.  When the media circus finally ran out of steam and the reality of Three Mile Island was revealed, a famous bumper sticker appeared across the Nation:   More people died at Chappaquiddick than at Three Mile Island .  It didn’t mention Kennedy but his Presidential hopes, already seriously damaged by the death, were gone forever. 

Apart from Kennedy there was no other victim of the meltdown at Three Mile Island; unless you count the leading nuclear physicist Edward Teller, who claimed that a heart attack he suffered was as a direct result of the nonsense of being perpetrated by Jane Fonda:  

‘I suffered a heart attack. You might say that I was the only one whose health was affected by that reactor near Harrisburg.  No, that would be wrong.  It was not the reactor.  It was Jane Fonda.’

 

Now we’re seeing the same media circus, with the same elephants in the room (like deaths due to fossil fuel) and a new generation of antinuclear advocates; dusting off the old bandwagon as a result of the huge earthquake and tsunami in Japan; and the following aftershocks.

It is informative to deconstruct some of the present media interest in the Fukushima issues arising from the tsunami.  It is notable that the tsunami deaths are almost always mentioned in the context of the technical problems at the power plant as if the plant had something to do with the deaths; or the deaths with the problems at the plant.  Many of those living next door to the reactor are dead; but they were not killed by the reactor.  Indeed unlike many of their neighbours, workers at the Fukushima nuclear plant were protected from the force of the wave by its very substantial structure. 

Until the dust settles we will not know sufficient to determine the extent of the damage.  But informed sources continue to rate the present incident  as a far less significant than Chernobyl.  Yet the media, and elements in our Government, encouraged Australians to leave Tokyo and other places distant from Fukushima because of the nuclear risk; that obviously looms large in the collective imagination. 

It is very likely that oil, gas and coal will prove to be responsible for far more environmental damage and death than will Japan’s damaged nuclear reactors.  Drowning and physical trauma; entrapment and location of victims; disease due to lack of fresh water and food; and cold due to lack of energy; should be of far more concern than leaked radiation. 

Should anyone be killed by the damage to the nuclear facilities, and to date no one has been,  it will pale into insignificance against the appalling death rate in the surrounding countryside caused by the wave.

Time will tell.

 

 


    Have you read this???     -  this content changes with each opening of a menu item


Travel

Morocco

 

 

In August 2008 we visited Morocco; before going to Spain and Portugal.  We flew into Marrakesh from Malta and then used the train via Casablanca to Fez; before train-travelling further north to Tangiers.

Read more ...

Fiction, Recollections & News

Australia in the 1930s

 

 

These recollections are by Ross Smith, written when he was only 86 years old; the same young man who subsequently went to war in New Britain; as related elsewhere on this website [read more...].  We learn about the development of the skills that later saved his life and those of others in his platoon.  We also get a sense of what it was to be poor in pre-war Australia; and the continuity of that experience from the earlier convict and pioneering days from which our Australia grew.                   *

Read more ...

Opinions and Philosophy

Climate Emergency

 

 

 

emergency
/uh'merrjuhnsee, ee-/.
noun, plural emergencies.
1. an unforeseen occurrence; a sudden and urgent occasion for action.

 

 

Recent calls for action on climate change have taken to declaring that we are facing a 'Climate Emergency'.

This concerns me on a couple of levels.

The first seems obvious. There's nothing unforseen or sudden about our present predicament. 

My second concern is that 'emergency' implies something short lived.  It gives the impression that by 'fire fighting against carbon dioxide' or revolutionary action against governments, or commuters, activists can resolve the climate crisis and go back to 'normal' - whatever that is. Would it not be better to press for considered, incremental changes that might avoid the catastrophic collapse of civilisation and our collective 'human project' or at least give it a few more years sometime in the future?

Back in 1990, concluding my paper: Issues Arising from the Greenhouse Hypothesis I wrote:

We need to focus on the possible.

An appropriate response is to ensure that resource and transport efficiency is optimised and energy waste is reduced. Another is to explore less polluting energy sources. This needs to be explored more critically. Each so-called green power option should be carefully analysed for whole of life energy and greenhouse gas production, against the benchmark of present technology, before going beyond the demonstration or experimental stage.

Much more important are the cultural and technological changes needed to minimise World overpopulation. We desperately need to remove the socio-economic drivers to larger families, young motherhood and excessive personal consumption (from resource inefficiencies to long journeys to work).

Climate change may be inevitable. We should be working to climate “harden” the production of food, ensure that public infrastructure (roads, bridges, dams, hospitals, utilities and so) on are designed to accommodate change and that the places people live are not excessively vulnerable to drought, flood or storm. [I didn't mention fire]

Only by solving these problems will we have any hope of finding solutions to the other pressures human expansion is imposing on the planet. It is time to start looking for creative answers for NSW and Australia  now.

 

Read more ...

Terms of Use                                           Copyright