This really sucks… devastating news about what occurred in Japan. A 9.0 magnitude earthquake caused extremely destructive tsunami waves in northeastern Japan. Leaving thousands of people confirmed dead, injured or missing, and millions more affected by lack of electricity, water and transportation… one can only imagine what’s going to happen with those nuclear reactors.
Slightly a month before I was born; December 2, 1957, in Shippingport, Pennsylvania, the first full scale nuclear power plant went into service.
I didn’t know a thing about nuclear power until March 28, 1979 when Three Mile Island near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania had a major nuclear accident. Since then I have questioned ‘why’ are we building these things???
I remember in the late 1970’s and into the 1980’s that there were going to be more nuclear power plants built. Proponents touted phrases like… oh, they’re safe, and they will produce so much electricity that not only will our electric bills be lower but it will be almost free! Even then I was thinking… “free”??? Nothing is free or almost free in a consumer-based capitalist economy.
The big fat hairy question, was that no one wanted to talk about or explain was what would they do with the spent fuel rods? How would they be able to deal with taking care of such extremely dangerous substances for centuries?
New plants were built despite protesters across the country. But our electric was not practically free, as a matter of fact, electric prices rose! Liars, I thought. That was my first experience of witnessing the politics of marketing, i.e., consumer manipulation and deception.
From then on I watched as companies produced and marketed their products to eager consumers. When IBM moved in I watched the landscape of my home town and surrounding areas change forever. The picturesque Hudson Valley rolling mountains and valleys would be forever changed. When IBM moved in things sprang up all over. Our wetlands and swamps were filled in to provide prime locations for strip malls, fast food chains every few miles down the road, Galleria Malls, various types of amusements, a gas station on every corner, donut shops, banks, restaurants, and developments with each house looking like the next.
My High School was even built on a filled in swamp to accommodate the sudden rise in students. Two years after being built I was walking down the empty hall, late for a class, and noticed huge cracks that went across the floor, up the wall, across the ceiling, and back down around the other wall. I paused and looked at this big crack, thinking it resembled something one would see after an earthquake. Since we hadn’t experienced any earthquakes one could only presume that the building was cracking because it was sinking in the soft swampland, it couldn’t possibly be good.
The area grew so fast that I felt if I slept for twelve hours that I would awaken to find myself in a town I didn’t even recognize. I couldn’t wait to get away from there!
I watched my county go from nothing but quaint historic towns and nearby farmlands and swamps, to consumer heaven. Why hell they even changed the course of the Fishkill Creek! In Junior High, we studied how creeks and rivers naturally change course over time. My science teacher even showed aerial slides of how the Fishkill creek snaked back and forth over an area of, if my memory serves me well, some 200-300 feet! After learning that I even went down to the creek after school to see if I could actually see traces of that occurring, to my surprise I could! How cool was that!!!
But no more. Today the Fishkill Creek has concrete banks and will never alter its course again. The beautiful little creek we once played in is today a disgusting and ugly sight that no one would dare go near.
There was a short period of time when I was blinded by all the new cool stuff happening. The growth, the lights, the sounds, there was so much to do and buy. I almost thought it was OK. Naively thinking that there were regulations and people in positions of authority overseeing things to make sure we weren’t doing anything terribly hazardous to ourselves and the planet. They put on a great show. Thankfully I snapped out of it!
For the past 20 years I’ve pretty much done nothing but snarl at what is typically referred to as ‘progress’. The past 10 years, I’ve grown such distaste for what’s going on in the name of progress, stockholder’s, deregulated companies, and the like, that I feel it would be a blessing if it all came tumbling down… at least then we would get a fresh start and we would ‘hopefully’ be able to put honest and educated people into positions of authority so this craziness can stop. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve felt like standing atop a mountain and shouting out, “People, PLEASE… wake up before it’s too late!!!”
Back in the 1980’s, when a lot of deregulation was going on I commented, “Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should.”
That was thirty years ago! And look where we are today! We use and waste so much on a daily basis. We take, and take, and take… with little concern over what the consequences might be… sometimes I’ve wondered how much we do care. I think these consequences, in recent years, have come back to haunt us… to bite us on our asses.
I don’t believe that we need to produce more power. I think what we need to do is the things we do make, we need to make them far more efficient. After the economy tanked a few years ago, now we’re seeing US car companies (and they’re just one example) come out with cars that get 30mpg or 40mpg… P-L-E-A-S-E… do they really think we’re that stupid!?
In this day and age we are capable of producing cars that get 100mpg or more and doesn’t need to run on petro. Mass producing cars that get 100mpg doesn’t translate into mega profits… not when they can take baby steps and provide excuses like, “Americans want large cars” as their reason for why the industry can’t get on the ball.
I think Americans want a quality life which does not involve running ourselves into the ground and not having enough time to partake in the things that really do equate to having a quality life… and that, does not involve ‘stuff’.
Seriously, which big company do you know who would produce a car immediately that gets 100mpg, or lots more?
In their minds, it only makes sense to s-l-o-w-l-y, over the course of many years, sell us a many more cars, each getting slightly better milage per gallon than the last and we are led to believe changes are being made.
How many reading this remember when kitchen appliances and clothes washers used to last 20 years, or longer? Not only that but if they did break down it was far cheaper to fix them than it was to replace them! Remember those days?
These days the lifespan of an appliance is what, 5-7 years? And even the repairman will tell you, like he told me about 10 years ago… “I’m surprised you’re getting this repaired, it’s a lot cheaper to just go out and buy a new one.”
I told him I couldn’t see replacing my very large refrigerator because it was only 4-5 years old. He then informed me that’s about how long they last. He laughed when I said, “since when don’t they last 20 years?” Clearly, he thought I was living in the stone ages.
The same thing happened 6 years ago when my rather expensive, $300, printer stopped working. I looked into having it repaired and the guy laughed at me. He said, “no one fixes them. When they break you buy a new one.” To which I replied, “I certainly will NOT! It’s not even one year old! I would rather not have a printer than buy into this disposable nonsense!”
According to the NEIS (Nuclear Energy Information Service)…
Since their beginning, nuclear power has cost this country over $492,000,000,000 – nearly twice the cost of the Viet Nam War and the Apollo Moon Missions combined. In return for this investment, we have an energy source that, until the mid-1980’s, gave us less energy in this country than did the burning of firewood! In the U.S., nuclear power contributes only 20-22% of our electricity, and only 8-10% of our total energy consumption.
Since 1950, nuclear power has received over $97,000,000,000 in direct and indirect subsidies from the federal government, such as deferred taxes, artificially low limits on liability in case of nuclear accidents, and fuel fabrication write-offs.
According to a recent study conducted by the Citizens Utility Board, Commonwealth Edison’s customers now pay the highest electric bills in the Midwest, due primarily to the over-reliance on nuclear power plants.
Many costs for nuclear power have been deliberately underestimated by government and industry such as the costs for the permanent disposal of nuclear wastes, the “decommissioning” (shutting-down and cleaning-up) of retired nuclear power plants, and nuclear accident consequences. In January, 1994, Commonwealth Edison acknowledged that it had to nearly double its estimate for reactor decommissioning — from $2.3 billion to as much as $4.1 billion!
Nuclear power contributes only 20-22% of our electricity; yet studies have shown that in the U.S. we waste or inefficiently use between 25% – 44% of all electricity generated! Three separate studies done by government and private firms since 1982 have shown that the U.S. has the potential to conserve the electrical equivalent of between 145 to 210 nuclear power plants! Only 108 are currently in operation. The nuclear industry claims that nuclear-generated electricity costs 11õ/kilowatt-hour (kwh); electricity from the newest nuclear plants costs 15-25õ/kwh.
It takes from 7 to 12 years to build a nuclear power plant. Yet, conservation and efficiency programs cost between 0.5-4.0õ/kwh, and can be implemented in between 6 months to 2 years.
A healthier, more common-sense attitude of using less energy, combined with state-of-the-art electrically efficient products (appliances, light-bulbs, motors) could make nuclear power totally irrelevant in our energy future. A 1990 report done by the internationally respected Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), indicated that, “Use of energy-saving technologies would result in a saving [by the year 2000]…of 24 to 44% of electric consumption.” Using less energy does not mean “hardship;” it represents “wisdom.”
Unlike coal and oil plants, nuclear power plants do not produce CO2. However, nuclear power plants cannot appreciably help in the fight against Global Warming for a number of reasons:
- Prohibitive Cost: Each nuclear power plant costs between $3 to $5 billion just to construct! The U.S. would need over 400 additional nuclear reactors to replace its coal plants. This construction alone would cost roughly $1.2 to $2.0 trillion dollars! Worldwide, 8,000 nuclear plants would be needed to replace coal plants to meet energy needs for the next 30 years (there are only 430+ plants in operation worldwide now). These plants would cost the world approximately $24 trillion just to construct! However, one would have to add the following costs to these calculations to get a truer picture of the situation: increased costs for nuclear waste disposal and plant decommissioning; increased costs for scarcer nuclear fuels; increased costs to safeguard nuclear facilities and materials from sabotage, terrorism, and diversion; increased likelihood of major, multi-billion dollar accidents and their disrupting economic effects.
- Too Slow to Make an Effect: Most experts agree that major action must take place in the next 5 – 10 years to be able to lessen the predicted Global Warming effects. Yet, to build this many plants — even if we had the resources — would take decades. Calculations have shown that even if the world built the 8,000 plants mentioned above, world CO2 levels would still increase 65% over the next 30 years.
- Coal Energy Only One Contributor: Only 7% of world C02 comes from U.S. coal, oil, and gas plants; and worldwide, CO2 represents only half of the problem. Nuclear power plants, therefore do little to reduce world C02 levels, and only at a tremendous cost; nuclear power does nothing to reduce the other greenhouse gases such as methane, chlorofluorocarbons, halons, etc. Nuclear power only serves to drain needed money and resources away from the solutions for the other, non-CO2 half of the problem.
- Better, Quicker Means Exist: Compared to nuclear power, for every dollar spent on conservation and efficiency techniques, seven times the amount of CO2 is removed from the atmosphere. These techniques are more quickly implemented, and at lower costs (see above). Other important steps that must be taken include building far more fuel efficient cars; greater use of public transportation and bicycles; decreased energy consumption; planting of trees; halting rainforest destruction and ocean pollution (both of which help absorb CO2); halting the spread of deserts through land reform and management in the Third World; and population control.
It’s clear that consumers need to change their buying habits and not allow companies, no matter who they might be, to persuade us into thinking that stuff makes our lives better. The fact is, beyond a handful of necessary items, ‘things’ have never made our lives better. Consuming ‘things’ keeps us trapped and dependent.
Over the past 5 years I have been diligently working on cutting my expenses and dependency. It began when oil prices rose, I traded our pickup truck for a used 2003 Prius; I get anywhere from 45mpg to 75mpg.
The little computer screen on the dashboard of the Prius helped me to learn a lot about driving technique and habitats when I moved from Seattle to Asheville about 4 years ago.
I found that by keeping an eye on the little computer screen encouraged me to experiment with my relationship with the gas pedal.
By the time we hit Tennessee I was able to register 100mpg, I was probably getting much more than 100mpg but the computer only goes as high as 100mpg. When we got to the mountains of eastern Tennessee I put my newly discovered skills to the test! Miraculously I was still getting 100mpg going up hill!!! I even took a picture of it because I knew Curt would never believe me. Albeit it is blurry since it’s difficult to drive safely and take a good picture at the same time. Still, it came out well enough that he could easily see that I was telling the truth.
The trick… is all in the gas pedal. You know how you will get up to your desired speed and let your foot rest on the pedal to maintain your speed? Well, that uses the most gas!
The technique that uses the least amount of gas… is to ‘pulse’ the pedal, ever so slightly slowly off and on. I’ve watched myself get 75mpg going up mountains in western North Carolina by simply using little pulses, these are not fast, they’re slow and gentle.
Another tip I can share with you is on going around bends in the road. I’ve found letting my foot off the gas pedal ‘before’ going into the turn also saves a lot of gas, not to mention wear-and-tear on my brakes!
This nonsense of going 0 to 60mph in a few minutes that car manufacturers brag about in their marketing burns the most gas. In this day and age, who cares if you can go from 0 to 60 in 10 seconds when it’s going to cost you $3 (or more) to do so!
When I floor my gas pedal, my gas mileage goes down to 15mpg. I think all cars should come equipped with a little monitor so we can see how our driving habits produce better or worse gas mileage.
I have also found that driving the speed limit also greatly increases my gas milage. You can imagine my thoughts when I’m doing the speed limit and someone passes me going 20mph faster… you’re gonna to need to hit the lottery jackpot if you keep that up fella!
What I’ve pretty much concluded is this, it’s NOT cool, nor is it smart, to listen to and follow advertising. Do your own research. And absolutely takes steps to keep yourself out of the position of having to buy things whenever possible. Think about all the maintenance and money that has to go into that stick frame house you’re thinking of building. Find alternative solutions to the things you need. And, demand more from companies who insist they need to take baby steps for ‘our’ sake!
Do we really need to be using stuff at the rate we are if we will have consequences like we have seen in Japan? And do we really need to be allowing something as dangerous as nuclear power being something we continue to build and use?
May the forces that be help us to use our miraculous brains in ways that serve us and our one an only planet wisely.Transparency & Appreciation: I want all of my readers to know that I do provide links on this blog to other businesses that sell products that I use and love, I will never post a link to anything that is inconsistent with my ideology.
When you do click on a link to a business that I have referred you to and you make a purchase, I will earn a small commission – the price to you though is always their regular price, or in some instances a special offer price.
When you do make a purchase you are showing me that you support my efforts in creating this blog for everyone to enjoy and learn from… I am very grateful to those who have chosen to read what I have written, and my referrals.
Thank you very much!
Regarding Health and Wellness – This site does not provide medical advice. I am not a doctor or health advisor. My purpose is to share experiences and information as I seek to improve the health of my family through a real food and natural lifestyle. Any statements or claims about the possible health benefits conferred by any foods or supplements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.