Sunday, April 17, 2011

Disasters and Time

Dedicated to the sacrificial Japanese Utility Workers bearing now the full weight of ignorance in the human race.

Sometimes the disasters reported via my television screen are so unimaginable that I find I cannot relate in a personal way. That does not mean I am not horrified by what I am seeing, or that I do not feel great compassion for the victims and survivors. It is so far out of my personal experience that I can set the emotion aside and easily carry on my daily life. I feel ashamed sometimes when I examine this in myself. The ability to disassociate from terrible news is how human beings continue to allow utilities to build nuclear reactors along earthquake faults - to build nuclear reactors in the first place. There is no excuse.

Countless of the world's great cities are built on the shores of the oceans, in danger of tsunamis, earthquakes and hurricanes. Millions live at the foot of volcanoes. Human beings can be excused for this dangerous lack of urban planning. Our history is exceedingly short and incomplete compared to the long, slow history of the living earth.

Have these disasters always occurred at this rate, but world communication has only now reached a level that we know of them instantly and entirely? Has the human population so expanded in numbers and land area that an extreme disturbance anywhere on the planet damages people? Is there a natural resonance within the earth, the solar system, or the galaxy, some cyclic upheaval the earth survives but the nascent human race is experiencing for the first time? Maybe all of these reasons and more that have not yet occurred to me.

It is not the end of time, not the end of the earth, but maybe the end of human beings. I suspect a huge number of humans will be leaving the planet the old fashioned way in the foreseeable future. I hope it is not unanimous.

Man-made and human disasters will not only greatly diminish the human population, with much suffering and pain, but we are also destroying other beings that have the unlucky fate to share the planet with us. From epic oil spills, to indestructible plastic trash accumulating in the oceans, burning fossil fuels, pouring toxins deep into the earth's water tables, and destroying nature at unprecedented rates, we are dooming ourselves. The earth and the animals and the plants can survive without us, but we cannot survive without them.

How can we possibly allow continued operation of nuclear plants? Each reactor on the planet produces hundreds of fuel rods each year. No one knows what to do with those spent rods. They can not be used to produce electricity but remain lethal to all living things. They remain lethal for hundreds of years. Should no other earthquake, hurricane, terrorist attack, equipment failure, or human error never again cause a nuclear disaster, the prolific production of radioactive fuel rods alone is creating a poisonous and dangerous legacy that will outlive the human presence on this planet.

I do not know what to do about this - any of it. No one else knows what to do about it either. I hope someone, somewhere has a few good ideas while there is still time.

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