Murdering Mother Earth
By Jason Miller
I am the earth. You are the earth. The Earth is dying. You and I are murderers.
What a sorry lot we humans are, particularly those of us immersed in the “American Way of Life.” Killing is indeed our business. And business has never been better.
According to the World Resources Institute, 4 species go extinct every hour “due to tropical deforestation alone.”
More than half the tropical rainforests are gone and at the rate we’re going, we will have reduced chopped, hacked, sawed, dozed, and burned our way to the virtual eradication of the “lungs of the planet” by the year 2030.
Kids, get ready to start suffocating because we’re NOT giving up our meat habit! Patrick Henry was prepared to die for liberty, but we have a nobler agenda: Give us more grazing land or give us death!
Reflecting the spiritually perverse beings we are here in America (don’t be fooled by our carefully polished veneer of civility and humanity—we’re the most savage murderers of all) is the fact that we are considering replacing our “commander-in-chief,” (the most heinous war criminal since Hitler) with a senile war-mongering septuagenarian and his recently anointed reactionary sidekick who never met a non-human animal she wouldn’t slaughter or an ecosystem she wouldn’t decimate in the name of “hunting,” “free enterprise,” or “resource acquisition.”
Or we may occupy the impending vacancy in the White House with a pseudo-progressive who has sworn his allegiance to the genocidal “state” of Israel and to corporate America whilst surrounding himself with a depraved and ruthless entourage, most of whom sold their souls to Wall Street and the military industrial complex years ago.
McCain at the helm? Obama on the throne? Who cares? Either way we party on here in America, oblivious to the devastation and suffering our obscene existence is causing. Our factory farms will continue torturing and slaughtering billions of animals each year to satiate our meat addiction, McDonald’s will keep our arteries clogged and our ascent to obesity intact, Big Pharma will inundate us with soothing and sedating “happy pills” to ensure our guilt-free participation in the murder of the planet, Big Oil will gleefully continue meeting our gluttonous demand for its “black gold,” and the corporate media will keep our wretched and vile hologram intact by constantly re-enforcing rabid nationalism, ahistorical thinking, consumerism, narcissism, alienation, rugged individualism, “free” markets, the virtues of wealth, and the “superiority” of the American Way.
While numerous complex entities and dynamics enable the power elite to maintain their strangle-hold on wealth and power, military might remains their principal means of dominating, extorting, exploiting, stealing, and annihilating with impunity. While we outspend the rest of the world (that’s all other countries combined, mind you) maintaining and expanding the war machine we revere with religious fervor, it is not money alone that gives our lords and masters the capacity to keep the world safe for capitalism and corporate plunder.
Our dirty little secret here in the US is that we built and buttressed our crumbling empire by unleashing a force so potent and so capable of rendering life on Earth extinct that it makes capitalism’s “slow motion” ecocide look like candy-striping. In 1945 we became the first and only country to harness the power of nuclear fission and utilize it as a weapon of mass destruction. Our cold-blooded murder of hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians cemented our position as global hegemon.
When the uber-capitalist ruling elite of the US saw a socioeconomic system that was a potential threat to their supremacy, they successfully convinced most of their wage slaves that they were well off under a system of the rich, by the rich and for the rich and that the “communist threat” in Russia must be extinguished. What was their solution? They forced the Russians (who were moving with amazing rapidity to industrialize an agrarian economy which was dwarfed by that of the US) into a pissing contest over who could manufacture the largest arsenal of nuclear weapons.
Their strategy was of course successful. The Soviet Union eventually collapsed. Country-clubbing white men with snow on the roof-top and fog on the brain maintained their “right” to clench their billion dollar net worth statements in one decrepit claw and the deeds and titles of their myriad precious possessions in the other. And the rest of us could breathe easy knowing that the “American Way of Life” was no longer in jeopardy. But at what cost to the Earth and the rest of its inhabitants?
Nuclear non-proliferation is a joke. Treaties, vows, resolutions, good intentions, and promises involving crossing hearts, hoping to die and sticking needles into eyes have resulted in even more nukes brandished by more nations. Meanwhile, we US Americans continue dictating who gets “nuclear privileges” AND we still possess more WMD’s than any other nation. When is another country going to invade us, depose the evil junta in DC, and hold a public lynching like our puppets did in Iraq?
Thankfully sanity (or perhaps just sheer luck) has prevailed and we have been the only nation brutal and stupid enough to employ nuclear weapons. And we have put our nuclear knowledge to constructive use by harnessing the power of the atom to create electricity. Yet when Prometheus brought us the “fire of the Twentieth Century” and told us we could use it for peaceful purposes, he failed to warn us that if this “fire” gets out of control we’re all cooked.
Nuclear power only produces 20% of the electricity consumed in the US, but accounts for a number of staggering problems we simply keep sweeping under the rug for future generations to solve. Forget logic or consideration for our children or for Mother Earth, though. John McCain, Greanpeace founder Patrick Moore, and a host of other whores to the nuclear power industry hail nuclear energy as a “green” alternative to fossil fuels and clamor for more.
Yes, let’s build more nuclear power plants. After all, given our culture of militarism and death, why not erect as many temples honoring Thanatos as is humanly possible?
Let’s take a closer look at the technology many are ready to embrace as the “remedy for Climate Change.”
Nuclear power is touted as a cheap alternative to coal (and other ways of producing energy). While it is a less expensive means of actually generating electricity once a reactor is online (the operating cost is about half that of a coal-fired plant), there are tremendous fiscal costs associated with building a nuclear facility, removing and storing radioactive waste, and decommissioning a plant once it is retired. (One hasn’t been closed yet but the estimated cost to do so is around $300 million).
And just who’s underwriting these outrageous costs? We the taxpayers! On May 12, 2008, the Wall Street Journal wrote, “For electricity generation, the EIA concludes that solar energy is subsidized to the tune of $24.34 per megawatt hour, wind $23.37 and ‘clean coal’ $29.81. By contrast, normal coal receives 44 cents, natural gas a mere quarter, hydroelectric about 67 cents and nuclear power $1.59.”
More importantly, the threat nuclear energy poses to the environment is so high that calling it “green” is an absurdity one would think had sprung from the mind of Lewis Carroll.
Since nuclear plants rely on large bodies of water to cool reactors (and avoid a melt-down) and discharge about 70% of the heat they generate (as waste), they are vulnerable to droughts and cause significant thermal pollution in the bodies of water that cool them.
Nuclear power production begins to contaminate the environment with radioactivity before the fuel even arrives at the plant. It takes a tonne of uranium ore to produce 3 kilograms of uranium oxide. While the tailings that are left behind emit small levels of radiation, they do release radon gas and radioactive dust at a rate 10,000 times faster than the unmined ore. This nuclear contamination stays in the environment for 100,000 years and over time reaches such high levels that a Los Alamos Laboratory report concluded that we need to, “to zone the land in uranium mining and milling districts to forbid human habitation.”
Nuclear power facilities produce a steady stream of low-level radioactive waste, including gas, solid and liquid. Gaseous and liquid wastes are “cleaned and diluted,” but are eventually released into the environment. Solid wastes are transported to one of three low-level radiation disposal sites in the US where they continue accumulating and emitting radiation into the environment. Sounds Earth-friendly, doesn’t it?
About once a year 33% of a reactor’s fuel rods are replaced, producing anywhere from 12 to 30 tonnes of high level nuclear waste. The frightening part is that we’ve been using this “green” technology for 40 years now and still haven’t figured out a safe and permanent means of disposing of its extremely dangerous and lethal by-products. Temporary pools or dry cask storage (large steel cylinders that require constant monitoring) onsite at nuclear facilities house most of the spent reactor fuel, which will remain a dire threat to the environment for tens of thousands of years. Nuclear power plants are running out of storage capacity and the “permanent storage solution” at Yucca Mountain, projected to be operational in 2017, is little more than a tentative and distant speck on the horizon. Perhaps we could erect dry casks on some of the sprawling estates that McCain has forgotten he owned….
How remote is the possibility of a nuclear melt-down resulting in a disaster? Let’s ask the thousands of heavily irradiated victims of Chernobyl and those living in the vicinity of the “near miss” at Three Mile Island.
Lest we forget, nuclear reactors are “dual-use” by virtue of the fact that plutonium is one of their by-products and plutonium can be used to produce nuclear weapons. Small wonder our ruling class trembles with fear (hence their belligerence, bullying and macho posturing) at the prospect of Iran (a nation which refuses to genuflect to the American/Israeli Empire) developing nuclear reactors to generate power.
And someone please explain what it is that’s so “green” about a source of electricity that produces waste that people (whom our malevolent and brutal foreign policy has pissed off—there are millions and millions of them) could use to make a “dirty bomb” and then deploy it against us. Granted the potential efficacy of a dirty bomb is subject to debate, but who wants to find out? We already have 104 repositories for bomb-making materials scattered across the United States. Let’s push to add more!
While many anti-nuclear activists focus their efforts on opposing the issuance of licenses to build new nuclear power plants, another approach may prove to be more effective and is in play at this moment. Members of IPSEC, a group of over 70 community groups, have devoted themselves to shutting down the nuclear power plant known as the Indian Point Energy Center. Grassroots and non-profit, the objective of IPSEC groups like Riverkeeper is to replace nukes with a truly safe form of sustainable energy and to preserve the integrity of the environment. If IPSEC is successful in setting a precedent by catalyzing the shuttering of Indian Point, a domino effect could ensue and spell the beginning of the end for the menace of nuclear power.
For a litany of reasons, IPSEC is wholly justified in its appeals to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to deny Entergy Corporation’s bid to renew Indian Point’s license for another 20 years. In fact, if sanity and moral considerations amounted to more than a pair of sickly midgets making desperate and ridiculous attempts to halt the stampeding herd of narcissistic consumers and greedy corporations that are the embodiments of monopoly capitalism, there wouldn’t even be a debate.
Indian Point is situated about 25 miles from New York City, a rather populous area, eh? (93 million people live within a 500 mile radius of this nuclear facility, most of whom would be impacted by a major accident or meltdown at Indian Point).
Indian Point’s two reactors that continue to function were built in 1974 and 1976, which means that they are old, hence prone to cracks, leaks, fissures, wear, deterioration, and the like. It also means that they were built to less stringent safety specifications than newer reactors.
At one time Indian Point had three functional reactors. In an October 2001 article (entitled America’s Terrorist Nuclear Threat to Itself) long-time anti-nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman wrote, “Indeed, Indian Point Unit One was shut because activists warned that its lack of an emergency core cooling system made it an unacceptable risk. The government ultimately agreed.”
In 2006 the NRC fined Entergy Corporation, the owners and operators of Indian Point, $130,000 for problems associated with its system designed to warn nearby residents to evacuate in the event of a nuclear crisis.
Until they finally began moving them to dry casks in January of this year, Indian Point had 1500 tons of spent fuel rods stored in temporary pools. These pools have been leaking tritium and strontium-90 (both highly toxic substances) into the groundwater and the Hudson River since 2005 and are demonstrably vulnerable to sabotage or attack. And as Wasserman elucidates in the previously cited article, these pools (not to mention the reactor cores) are horrific accidents waiting to happen:
“Without continuous monitoring and guaranteed water flow, the thousands of tons of radioactive rods in the cores and the thousands more stored in those fragile pools would rapidly melt into super-hot radioactive balls of lava that would burn into the ground and the water table and, ultimately, the Hudson.”
Indian Point Energy Center manifests nearly all that is inane and insane about humans shattering atomic nuclei and hubristically believing we can play with the fires of hell without getting burned…..
Yet there’s at least a “little” Eichmann in all of us as we faithfully participate in our ecocidal “American Way of Life.” So what do we care about a little radiation here or a few meltdowns there?
Remember, “Killing is [our] business…..and business is good!” Just ask a member of that species that will be extinct in about 15 minutes….
Jason Miller is Cyrano’s Journal Online’s associate editor.
For those of you refusing to bow at the altar of Thanatos, click on the links below to find out what you can do to help IPSEC shut down Indian Point: