"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers." ~ Richard Feynman
Reaping the Whirlwind of State Aggression: Nuclear Consequences
Column by Glen Allport.
Exclusive to STR
Part 5 of "Could the Non-Aggression Principle Stop the Sixth Great Extinction?"
In Part 3 of this series, Timeline of a World-Killing Paradigm Shift, I made the case that Statism, via widespread use of coercion and constant violation of the Non-Aggression Principle, has set in motion the destruction of the Earth's biosphere, bringing us to the brink of an extinction event – extinction for civilization, at least, and perhaps for the human race itself and for most other vertebrate species as well. Most of that column, however, was devoted to showing the progression of tyranny and other harm that began with adoption of the U.S. Constitution.
Here, I expand on the consequences this dramatic increase in tyranny has caused and provide some minor updates.
The damage is not only due to nuclear issues, of course. Of the many problems the aggressive State has saddled us with, two of the largest and proximate causes of what might be called Part Two of the Great Extinction in progress (massive human population growth in the past few centuries was the foundation of Part One) are widespread and growing radiological contamination, and genetically modified organisms and other forms of nano-tech.
Both are global, long-term problems without known solutions and both are rapidly growing worse – indeed, both are inherently characterized by growing harm in the absence of serious efforts at containment and remediation. Many of the millions of nuclear waste containers leak, for instance – meaning the problem would get worse even if we stopped building and running all nuclear reactors tomorrow – and GMO's proliferate in unexpected and unwanted ways – for example, "Mexico has already detected many native cornfields contaminated by GM corn during the period when open planting was prohibited."
Both of these intractable problems strike at the heart of life by attacking DNA directly. This affects not only today's victims but all life on this Earth going forward – even if the problem were solved tomorrow. Damaged DNA is our legacy to all future generations of plants, animals, and humans.
Even our best efforts to solve these two problems (should we ever exert such efforts) might prove inadequate. Recent articles and events make clear that these two problems have not been neutralized, contained, or mitigated in any way since my Timeline column last May, but instead continue advancing in State-enabled ways. In this column I will limit the discussion to nuclear issues, but only for the sake of brevity; the GMO nightmare has certainly not abated.
For starters, Asian nations are sensibly planning to shut down all their nuclear power plants. Oh, wait. Did I say "shut down" their existing plants? I meant to say "Asian nations are planning to build about a hundred NEW nuclear power plants over the next 20 years," including several in seismically-challenged Japan,* Taiwan, and Indonesia. I don't know about elsewhere, but in Japan, the overwhelming majority of citizens want fewer nuclear plants, not more of them. The State, as usual, has more important things to consider than the desires or even the health and well-being of its people – money and power, for instance.
* Quakes near Fukushima in the last few days, per QuakeWatch (an IOS app) – the full list is several screenfuls. From my experience with the app in recent months, this is entirely typical. My impression is that only Southern California (home of the crippled San Onofre nuclear plant, along with tens of millions of people) seems as constantly active as this area in northern Japan, but Japan has been showing much higher Richter levels than California during this period.
Meanwhile, the nuclear disaster at Fukushima continues poisoning the air, the ocean ("Other countries are also increasingly distressed by the amount of irradiated marine life turning up near their coastlines along the Pacific Rim," according to the linked article), the water tables, the forests, the cities, and every other spot of ground and patch of water not only in most of Japan but around much of the Earth, as Fukushima's radiation travels on the trade winds, in the ocean currents, and otherwise insinuates itself into our lungs, our food supply, and more. The response of Japan's government and corporate media has been to downplay (lie) and largely ignore the problem while stacking public hearings with pro-nuclear shills and otherwise favoring the industry over people's lives. Japanese journalists and others recently held a symposium to call attention to the problem.
One exception is an article in the Japan Times on the plight of mushroom farmers throughout northeastern Japan. An excerpt:
"Meanwhile, the future of the wild plants, animals, and insects in the coppiced oak woodlands where he used to cut logs for the shiitake crop are also threatened.
"The same is true throughout northeastern Japan. Because mushrooms are more prone than other crops to absorb the radioactive cesium spread by the disaster, growers continue to suffer even in areas where other farmers have returned to business-as-usual [and isn't THAT comforting]. And because mushroom production is closely entwined with a certain type of forested habitat, troubles in the industry presage ecological as well as human impacts.
"Hoshino’s farm is about 180 km from the destroyed reactors. However, radiation levels are lower there than they are in some parts of Tokyo; even in Hoshino’s own forests, they are now at near-background levels. But as he began testing dried shiitakes in the fall of 2011, he discovered some that exceeded the legal limit for contamination, which at the time was 500 becquerels per kg (Bq/kg). [emphasis added . . . and Japan is not the only place to have dramatically raised the "legal safe limit" for radioactive contamination of food; see EU Secretly Ups Cesium Safety Level in Food 20-Fold, for example] . . .
"In forests and villages near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in present-day Ukraine, where explosions and fires almost 27 years ago caused a widespread release of radioactive fallout, 'hot' mushrooms remain a symbol of persistent environmental contamination.
"Satoshi Yoshida, a researcher at the National Institute of Radiological Sciences, says scientists still don’t know exactly why or how mushrooms accumulate so much cesium. But one reason, he says, is that large amounts of the contaminant remain available to them in forest environments for many years." [again, emphasis added]
This would suggest that adding another hundred nuclear power plants throughout Asia might not be a terrific idea. Certainly, in a world where the Non-Aggression Principle held sway and governments were not involved in subsidizing nuclear power, in legislating away industry risk, and otherwise pushing to have nuclear power plants built – in a world where corporations would need to actually buy insurance for their plants at uncorrupted market rates, including for the megatons of radioactive waste those plants produce, and would need to pay the full, actual costs for building, maintaining, and decommissioning their plants – in such a world we would either see much safer nuclear plants or, more likely, no nuclear power plants at all. The vast monies invested in nuclear power could have gone into solar (including concentrated solar power, which does not require high-tech solar panels), wind, and other sources of clean and sustainable electric power.
Thanks to the State and its constant violations of the Non-Aggression Principle – not to mention the insane desire of our Leaders for huge nuclear arsenals, which require these power plants because they generate weapons-grade material – we're stuck with a world already widely poisoned by nuclear contaminants. Over 400 nuclear plants are now running and more than a hundred new ones are on the way in Asia and elsewhere. Even without huge, cinematic levels of destruction at such plants, the waste they produce is not merely a potential danger: Many millions of gallons of this waste have already leaked into the rivers and water tables and elsewhere from thousands of places (for instance, at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state on the Columbia River).
How anyone thinks the long-term effects of this insanity will allow for civilized life to continue without eventually succumbing to the increasing load of poison is beyond me. We've had two major disasters at commercial nuclear power plants just since 1986, and these power plants and their waste products (not to mention all the other, often collateral, sources of radiological contamination) will be deadly for thousands of centuries – indeed, some of it will still be deadly when the Sun swallows the Earth billions of years from now. Evolution and geology show the power of long time frames – given enough time, astonishing things can happen – and today's tech industry shows how rapidly change can occur once a tipping point is reached.
Two major disasters in less than 30 years suggests six or so every century even without considering all the new plants being built or planned, and without taking into account the relentless, ongoing aging and rusting of existing plants, barrels, and other equipment; without considering the wide use of depleted uranium weapons by major powers in their constant wars and police actions and at target ranges; without considering the serious pollution from simply mining and refining all the necessary uranium and other radioactive material for the various nuclear industries.
How long will it be, I wonder, before enough of the power plants, waste dumps, and other sources of nuclear death are corroded or otherwise degraded to the point that the problem can no longer be swept under the rug? When all these facilities are at least a half-century old (some already are), or two centuries old or some other critical age, will the yearly increase in breached containments and rusted barrels and accidental discharges rapidly raise the global levels of contamination to beyond what our DNA – and the DNA of most other life on Earth – can survive? For that matter, will one or more events do that in the next few decades, even? In the next week? No one knows – but time is on the side of decay, of accident, of entropy – and thus of eventual extinction at the hand of today's nuclear industry.
It might not happen in my lifetime, or yours. But shouldn't it still be something of concern?
To make the situation even more bizarre and horrifying, many of the planned and existing plants are, as mentioned, in areas of high seismic activity or other risk – although as Chernobyl shows, it doesn't take an earthquake to cause a megadeath disaster at a nuclear plant:
"The health effects of the Chernobyl accident are massive and demonstrable. They have been studied by many research groups in Russia, Belarus and the Ukraine, in the USA, Greece, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and Japan. The scientific peer reviewed literature is enormous. Hundreds of papers report the effects, increases in cancer and a range of other diseases. My colleague Alexey Yablokov of the Russian Academy of Sciences, published a review of these studies in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences (2009). Earlier in 2006 he and I collected together reviews of the Russian literature by a group of eminent radiation scientists and published these in the book Chernobyl, 20 Years After. The result: more than a million people have died between 1986 and 2004 as a direct result of Chernobyl. [emphasis added]
". . . Joseph Conrad wrote: 'after all the shouting is over, the grim silence of facts remain.' I believe that these phoney experts like Wade Allison and George Monbiot are criminally irresponsible, since their advice will lead to millions of deaths."
~ Dr. Chris Busby, Deconstructing Nuclear Experts in Counterpunch, March 2011
Nor are big, individual disasters needed for the nuclear industry to be a serious threat to humanity. In Seventy Years of Nuclear Fission, Thousands of Centuries of Nuclear Waste, Gregg Levine details this so-far unsolvable problem shadowing the nuclear industry,* concluding that "The lesson of the first 70 years of fission is that we cannot endure more of the same" and that the government "should reorient its priorities."
* Inevitably, some will comment that the waste problem HAS been solved, if only we would implement a particular proposed solution. But that's only an opinion – not an established, proven fact – and even implementing a plan would not prove long-term results until that long term has passed.
Suggesting the State "should reorient its priorities" here is like suggesting that wolves should go vegan: it isn't likely to change anything. The State utilized its coercive powers to create the nuclear problem in the first place – it cannot be said often enough that without the coercive State, we would not have this problem at all. The State is psychopathic by its very nature and accordingly behaves in corrupt and dysfunctional ways aimed at short term gain for itself and for its connected elite, at the expense of the wealth and well-being of the masses. To see this from another perspective, I recommend War is a Racket by highly-decorated Marine Major General Smedley Butler. Murdering millions in war to create profit is a common tactic among those who influence and/or run the State. The idea that the State cares about people and is necessary to the running of civilization is merely a triumph of public-relations – a lie, in other words. The simple truth is that the State is a way for a small group to use force against the rest of us. Dressing that up in fantasy justifications (the divine right of kings, dictatorship of the proletariat, majority rule, and so on), does not change the truth.
It should surprise no one that major governments around the world, with rare exceptions, are making plans to continue and in many cases to dramatically expand the nuclear industry within and beyond their borders, and thus to increase the production of nuclear waste, hitting up their citizen/tax slaves for many billions of additional dollars to help accomplish this – a further reminder that this death-dealing industry would not be viable in a genuinely free world.
Love and freedom will be hard to maintain in a world being poisoned at ever-increasing rates by long-lived radioactive (and often chemically poisonous) fallout and leakage from the nuclear power and bomb industries – industries that were forced down our throats by the coercive State.
Save civilization. Save mankind. Save the biosphere: Abolish the coercive State and replace it with civil society. I think it is probably too late to succeed, but I could be wrong. I'd certainly like to find out – and our children and grandchildren deserve a chance to find out, as well.
Previously in this series:
Could the Non-Aggression Principle Stop the Sixth Great Extinction? [Part 1]
How the Idea of Civil Society was Destroyed [Part 2]
Timeline of a World-Killing Paradigm Shift [Part 3]
Protecting Your Family from Fukushima Radiation and Other Health Threats [Part4]