Tuesday, May 17, 2011

“No, seriously, you get to decide.” - journal entry from the space cadet

"Civilization’s shortening attention span is mismatched with the pace of environmental problems"

Stewart Brand

I know my views about nuclear development put me at odds with the die-hard environmentalists. I can’t blame them. Mother Nature is sacred to them and any tinkering is offensive. I share their faith in Nature, but I happen to be a fool of an optimist. My father spent his entire life trying to cure cancer with genetics, so I must defend science.

I believe we do in fact have free will, and we have the choice to invent and tinker with nature responsibly. I'm not opposed to GMO, but I do question who is using these GMOs and doing what. I guess this would also make me a follower of philosophy and not of any particular religion (well, maybe some form of freely associated Buddhist if I must conform to make you happy).

Just as I am equally prejudice to those who tinker for profit, I cannot align myself with their views. I share their appetite for innovation, but I do not share their incentive to innovate. I fear their keen focus on profit is the reason why we have come to this almost breaking point of sustainability. But I do not offer solutions here; any attempt of ideas from me to cure the sustainability crisis meant only a quick medicinal dose of ego in the social-websphere that will not save humanity;

it is WE who must decide.

We are the consumers of natural resources and we have to decide what to use and how we pay for these resources. Up to this point, we have been losing a battle to the tinkers with no brains. We gave our most precious scientific advances to the development of weapons of mass destruction. We blindly let go of our care of food and our health to the greedy industrializations in exchange for tasty food with no nutritional value. We polluted our land and killed species for the sake of just one more gadget to plug into the wall. We may need some of these things, but surely we do not need them all.

Back in 2007, John Rice, GE’s vice chairman and the man in charge of GE’s nuclear constructions, explained the matter this way:

“The U.S. has 103 aging nuclear plants, and the last one was built in the 1970s. Over the next fifty years, the nation will be retiring about two plants a year. These plants produce about 20 percent of our electricity and demand is supposed to rise by 50 percent by 2030, where will this power come from? We’ll need to build a new plant every six months just to stay even.”

The Argyle Private Equity Conference, June 11, 2007.

So as we continue to consume, we seem to need that energy after all. Or else we cut all forms of consumption out and let the world go into chaos. Or perhaps we can consume less and demand more alternatives than nuclear and fossil. But again, it is WE who ,must decide. 

But for now, we have to live with the choices we have made in the past. We have a need for nuclear energy to help us make the transition from fossil fuel dependencies to an entirely sustainable one. The world cannot be allowed to reach back into chaos. Science would not allow it.

Stewart Brand, an environmental activist and author of The Whole Earth Catalog, agrees with this view. He understands there are problems with cost overrun, accidents, terrorist attacks, and waste disposal problems, but he understands nuclear options cannot be taken off the table. So my vote of confidence is with Mr. Brand.

I want the tinkers to tinker with nuclear energy but I also want us to tinker with our own minds to lessen our impact on the planet. If we put our collective efforts to that end, we may see less of a need for more dangerous nuclear programs. In the mean time, I hope there are enough smart people out there tinkering with how to solve the cost overrun, accidents, terrorist attacks, and waste disposal problems.

So you see, it is YOU, US, who must decide: how much we consume, how we consume, how we can give our children a better planet. . . 

Perhaps one day my great grand kids will look back on our nuclear understanding as fundamental as Newton’s gravity; I hope he get back to my home planet to make me proud.

Space cadet out.

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