Tag Archive: climate

There are currently 104 commercial nuclear power reactors operating in the US at 65 separate locations.

That puts One in Three citizens with 50 miles of a nuclear power plant. Which means, you should probably take the time to find out A) whether that means you and then B) what it means to you.

Given what the world is witnessing with the still unfolding disaster at Fukushima Daiichi in Japan, it would be prudent for all of us to understand just a little bit more about the risks and rewards of the energy source that provides about 20% of our power in the US. Whether or not you live in proximity to a plant seems like as good a place to start as any. MSNBC has a fantastic roll over map which should help you answer question number one pretty easily.

Here’s where it gets a little tricky. What are you going to do about it?

I personally live in The Zone. Vermont Yankee, a virtual replica of Fukushima, is my neighbor to the north. One of the more vulnerable designs and aging rapidly to boot, this is a potentially risky situation. I already know I won’t be moving anytime soon. So where does that leave me?

Step One: Education. I start by going through the information I’ve encountered previously, searching for sources and individuals that can tell me more about Yankee or just point me in the right direction. This takes little more than a few rounds on Google. My goals were to learn about this plant in particular, general history of the industry (a la Wikipedia or the like), and the work already in progress among activists about Yankee itself.

At this point, I draw (at least) one conclusion which is that I personally would be much happier if the world did not generate power from nuclear reactions. To me, the risks far outweigh the benefits, not to mention the many other less dangerous ways of generating power available. So I decide that I would feel more secure knowing the Vermont Yankee had a plan to shut down at some point. After all, none of these plants can operate indefinitely, especially not when they insist on adding output from time to time effectively wearing out the mechanics faster.  It’s really only a matter of whether they shut themselves down or melt down.

Step Two: Action. Even trickier than the education phase for me personally. I never relish coming between an industry and their profits. Safely behind my computer, yelling into the abyss of the internet is one thing, linking arms to barricade a power plant is quite another! Besides which, my personal belief in the Net Positive philosophy leads me to believe that resistance is more effective when it’s not made of the same stuff as that against which it struggles.

So no grand gestures or angry mobs for me. At least not for now.

I resolve to find a way to be part of the solution. Increasing awareness among my neighbors, supporting the awareness raising efforts of others, calling for the plant to adopt a safe plan for decommissioning, and avoiding complacency by continually seeking new ways to contribute. My hope is that all of this will one day lead to:

Step Three: Resolution. Which might look something like this: An educated and aware citizenry marshaling their demands into a strength-in-numbers campaign to safely bring the age of nuclear power to an end through a three-fold approach. Demanding a moratorium on new permits and construction, Creating a workable and fair protocol for decommissioning the plants already in existence and Advocating at the Community and State level for the adoption of renewable power incentives which will both work to displace the lost power generation and create jobs to absorb the displaced workforce.

Maybe that’s an overly optimistic, pie-in-the-sky scenario, but we’ve revolutionized the way we do things before and I’m pretty sure we’ll do it again at some point. In fact I was witness to one such revolution two nights ago at my local town meeting. A special meeting was called to vote on a “Green Town” initiative put forth by our state. Towns agreeing to certain levels of energy efficiency in new constructions would be awarded a lump sum of cash (funded by corporate carbon payments and not tax dollars) to be used for updating efficiency throughout public town property. It’s a fledgling win-win policy being tested in a handful of states.

I was filled with pride listening to the honest and thoughtful discourse among my neighbors. There were so many bright and informed people around me empathetically assuaging the concerns of the folks who feared the initiative would cost them financially. In the end we got a majority and passed the measure! We’re a rural, small town full of quintessential Americans, hard-working people with very little free time to spend on “luxuries” like being an environmentalist. Yet, like several of our neighboring towns, clear heads prevailed, democracy worked, and we got one step closer to a healthy and just world.

It is vitally important to remember to be grateful for people like Bill Mckibben, the brave leader of the 350.org movement, who not only keeps shining the bright light of truth at us whether we like it or not, but does it with wit, eloquence and even occasional irony.

This video is a narration of Mckibben’s recent piece in the Washington Post set to the astonishing imagery of climate disruptions over the past year masterfully constructed by Stephen Thomson of Plomomedia.com.

And if you didn’t think it was possible to laugh about climate change, there’s always The Onion!

A phoenix from the ashes.


James Hansen at NASA has stated that a safe level of CO2 in the atmosphere, one that can sustain life as it has developed up to this point, is 350 parts per million. This and all other predictions and extrapolations relating to climate changes should be taken with a grain of salt. We humans have very little evidence to draw from in forming these concepts and have been collecting data for a very short time in the grand scheme. What’s more, we have not witnessed events and changes like these in the climate since we have been keeping.

So we’re speculating. The best and the brightest of our experts around the world are making predictions left and right about what may happen as the world warms. There’s the International Panel on Climate Change at the UN for example, a coalition of many concerned scientists furiously collecting and examining evidence and releasing findings every six years or so. What’s interesting about these findings is that they are continually proving themselves wrong. The distressing part is that they are consistently underestimating the effects of the warming climate on our world. In the case of the IPCC, they usually release multiple scenarios, best and worst cases. Unfortunately even their doomsday scenarios are turning out not to be doomish enough to compete with reality.

So when Hansen tells us that 350 is the number we should be shooting for (a number already almost one hundred points higher that the 260-280 ppm we’ve had all through the period during which civilization has formed), he might be excused for a hint of wishful thinking. (This is in no way to disparage the hard and thorough work of Hansen and his team). The problem is we’re already at 391 ppm and the skies the limit at the rate we’re going.