Wednesday, January 02, 2013
Dragging Hope from the Mess
After a look at weird weather around the world, passionate pleas from people victimized by nuke waste & plutonium. Recorded at NIRS Conference Chicago 121201. Then Your Environmental Road Trip film director Ben Evans on great solutions found at the grass roots. Radio Ecoshock 130102
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MORE ROGUE WEATHER
Welcome back from the holidays! And what a strange time it was for species in the Northern Hemisphere.
Let's take a quick look at Christmas day 2012 for example. In Southern France, people were sunbathing and swimming in the Bay of Biscay. It was 24 degrees C. or a balmy 75 degrees, 12 degrees above normal.
On the very same day, about 83 people were found dead of extreme cold in the Ukraine. A huge cold snap descended on Moscow, where the temperature dipped to minus 25 degrees Celsius, 13 below Fahrenheit. Russians expect that maybe later in the winter, but not in December. At least 125 people died in the extreme cold there, and dozens more in Poland, which suffered unusual cold.
That continent sized cold wave extended all the way to China. Beijing, temperatures dropped to about 5 degrees Fahrenheit. minus 15 degrees Celsius, the lowest temperature for the area since 1985.
Not in the UK. Britons suffered yet another deluge, in what has turned out to be the wettest year in the history of that famously wet island. Twenty twelve was the year the rain hardly ever stopped.
In the Southern U.S. rare Christmas tornados ripped in. Snow fell in Dallas, just the start of a one-two snow storm that traveled up through the Mid-West to New England and Eastern Canada.
At the end of December, Montreal Canada - a city fairly well-known for heavy snow dumps, experienced the heaviest snowfall in 24 hours ever. Not just for that day in history, I mean the most snow to fall in 24 hours in our records. At least 45 centimeters fell on Thursday, topping the previous high of 41 centimeters in March 1971. That's 18 inches - and over two feet fell in other parts of the Province. That is an extreme precipitation event!
Remember, it was like spring in Eastern Canada and most of the United States in early December, just two weeks previously. Over 400 heat records were set in the U.S. in December, with people in T-shirts at 70 degrees in Chicago, and jogging in shorts in Central Park. A huge change.
There are few instances in major American media revealing the cause of unstable weather. It's a wildly fluctuating jet stream, just as I've been documenting on Radio Ecoshock for some time. Looking at these weather swings in the Northern Hemisphere, I was haunted by the description by Ecoshock guest Paul Beckwith in our December 19th show. Paul nails exactly what is happening.
The European media is generally more up on their science, and less dependent on climate denial. When the BBC looks into Britain's never-ending rain, they find the scientists who explain the big waves of the Jet stream, that stick and stall in certain weather patterns.
Professor Tim Palmer, Oxford
Tim Palmer, professor of climate physics at the University of Oxford, explains: “When the jet stream moves up to the north, and then travels back down to the UK, it brings with it cold air, blizzards, very severe and unpleasant weather from that perspective.
“On the other hand, when the jet stream moves south, then we get these periods of intense flooding, which we have seen through the second part of this year.”
But Professor Palmer says that with climate change, the jet stream could become far more variable.
He says: “The question of how it will change is still a very active research problem, and we don’t have clear-cut answers yet.
“But I think there is quite a big possibility that what we will see is the jet stream undergoing quite dramatic and erratic excursions. And the UK’s geographical position under the jet stream means that we could see the worst of this."
Prof Palmer explains: “I think it is a bit unwise, and possibly even a bit dangerous, to think that the climate of the UK will just gradually warm and we’ll transition to a more balmy southern European climate.
And you'll recall that 2011 was just the opposite in Great Britain. They suffered a major drought that hurt agriculture. Wild, wild swings in extreme weather. What could possibly cause that? Who could have foreseen it?
Scientists have predicted exactly that scenario for more than a decade. Even the staid Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change felt driven to release a special report on extreme weather events in a warming world. Most of them thought, even I thought, we'd see big the really big disruption coming much later, perhaps by 2030 or 2040. But just like the record melt-back of the Arctic sea ice, and the quickening pace of glacier melt, severe climate change is coming much faster than we thought.
As Professor Palmer says, it's a mistake to picture a gradual warming that will make cool places more pleasant and winters a happy season. Instead, we're going to get buffeted by big temperature swings and extreme precipitation events, whether in rain or snow. Welcome to the new normal, when nothing is normal.
All that is going to hurt the plant and animal world. Which means unpredictable food prices as well. Who can predict when the flooded fields will allow planting in Britain, or when the U.S. West and mid-west will get enough water to feed cattle and corn?
These conditions also cost governments more and more. The paralyzed and nearly bankrupt American government still had not passed the sixty billion dollar aid package for Hurricane Sandy victims. That's not to speak of the multi-billions we now know are needed for storm surge protection for major American cities like New York, Washington, and many more.
The British government is also broke and slashing budgets - including the very flood defense money they need right now. As John Vidal reports in the Guardian newspaper December 28th, the UK government is cutting flood protection money. They'd cut 95 million pounds a year until the embarrassing floods in Wales this past October. Now there are bigger promises to spend more over many years, but it's still less than previous governments allotted to flood protection.
My point is simple: due to a combination economic fraud at the highest levels of banking, wild government misallocation of funds, continued militarism and the consumer dream of infinite growth - we are socially fragile just as climate damage is beginning. These are very early days of climate disruption and we are handling it badly if at all.
Our best hope is the continued cost of punishing climate change could divert military spending into climate resilience, concurrent with a demand for a rapid shift away from fossil fuels.
You can comment in this Radio Ecoshock show blog. Or write me with your tips and ideas. My email address is radio [a]t ecoshock dot org.
Don't forget to donate to keep this program going, if you can. Find the donate button on this page.
Meanwhile, watch out for those big waves in the Jet Stream, and hope you are on the right side of the bend. It will help is you can use what you learn on Radio Ecoshock to educate your friends, family, and neighbors to the real causes of the so-called "weird weather".
THE NUCLEAR NIGHTMARE CONTINUES
Next up in this week's show we look at nuclear hot spots all around America. That's partly to honor the world's leading anti-nuclear activist Dr. Helen Caldicott. After 197 shows, Caldicott is ending her radio show called "If You Love This Planet". She wants to concentrate on organizing conferences and books, starting with the Symposium on The Medical and Ecological Impacts of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident, to be held at the New York Academy of Medicine in March 2013. Get the details at Helencaldicott.com.
There is a huge pile of stinking badness coming from the nuclear mafia in the United States. Two states are begging for tons of the worst radiation on earth, deadly plutonium. And a small village in Alaska is the testing ground for a new push of mini-reactors the big corporations want you to swallow, now that their so-called "renaissance" of giant reactors has failed.
Imagine you know and love your state, province or region deeply. You adventure through the highlands, gaze over rivers that seem almost sacred in their beauty. You imagine that timeless gift passing down through the generations. So how do you feel when your government teams up with some mega-corporation to experiment with radioactive materials that remain dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years? When they truck bomb-grade plutonium along your freeways and neighborhoods?
On December 1st 2012, the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, or NIRS held their Mountain of Waste 70 Years High Conference in Chicago, USA. I got this audio courtesy of Dale Lehman at WZRD the free-form radio station operating from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago.
I play you the introductions to the guests for the panel at the conference, in case you want to download the full audio. Then we get to the fireworks during the Q and A.
The first-rate panelists were no match for the residents and activists that are hopping mad about horrible machinations to irradiate and endanger their home grounds, from South Carolina, through the South West, all the way to Alaska. You have to listen to the pain and betrayal in South Carolina, as the government works on "the factory to nowhere". That will mix super-dangerous plutonium with merely insanely dangerous enriched uranium to create the so-called "MOX" reactor fuel.
ROBERT ALVAREZ, Institute for Policy Studies
As Robert "Bob" Alvarez from the Institute for Policy Studies explains, by the time they finish this five billion dollar manufacturing plant, most of the nuclear reactors that could have burned this MOX fuel will be shut down. Other estimates show the lifetime cost of this boondoggle at $20 to $25 billion dollars.
The reactors only burn about 20% of the plutonium in the fuel, meaning the resulting "spent" fuel is so hot it has to cool for about 150 years before it could be stored in any geological facility, if America had a geological storage facility. That's one hundred and fifty years of babysitting and never failing to cool this radioactive nightmare waste just to power more outdoor lights and consumer electricity waste.
Susan Corbett of the South Carolina Chapter of the Sierra Club was in the audience. She worries the U.S. government-controlled TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority) reactors, old as they are, will be ordered to burn this billion dollar MOX fuel.
Even worse, the state of South Carolina is begging for the whole country's nuclear waste, now that Yucca Mountain has failed! That is such treason for Carolinians. We have to ask ourselves why governments go suicidal, even terroristic, on their own people? Only big lobby money and the hope of endless government subsidies could explain it.
The same dangerous plutonium game is going on in New Mexico, where tons of plutonium are being shipped to the Los Alamos facility to make more highly radioactive fuel rods that nobody wants.
We might as well poison the whole Yukon River basin with nuclear waste too. Why leave the Arctic without a whack of radioactivity. Thank you Toshiba Corporation. That Japanese mega-company is trying to sell a village of 800 people a "mini-reactor" to be buried 100 feet below the permafrost (until that melts) in the Yukon River flood plain.
You hear from Nikos Pastos, co-founder of Alaska's Big Village Network. Find their blog entry about the Chicago conference here.
Now that the big reactor "renaissance" has died after the Fukushima melt-downs, expect to fight off these mini-nukes in your backyard.
To know why we don't want any of this, I play you a clip from former industry VP Arnie Gundersen, now with the consulting firm Fairewinds.com. When Gundersen was in Tokyo last spring on a book tour, he grabbed 5 samples of soil in Tokyo and bagged them in plastic. Back in the USA, Arnie had them tested - and all of them would qualify as dangerous radioactive waste under American law. Common soil in Tokyo is radioactive from the Fukushima reactor blow-out. Millions of people are living with radioactive materials - and that will last for centuries.
You can download the full audio for this session from radio4all.net or even the whole series. I found this audio courtesy of Dale Lehman at WZRD the free-form radio station operating from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago.
YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL ROAD TRIP
What if you could spend a year on the road, visiting all the cool projects in America? You'd interview the big names, and cover the big cities trying to become sustainable. But you'd also hunt down interesting folks socked away on the back roads, with unique projects that really work.
Save your gas money and the greenhouse gas emissions. Now it's been done. You can go on a voyage discovering that unknown country, the really smart America, with a new film. It's called "YERT" standing for "Your Environmental Road Trip". Check out their web site - there is lots to do and see there!
The movie producer is Mark Dixon. A co-conspirator and YERT tripper is Julie Dingman Evans. Our guest is her husband and the film's Director Ben Evans.
This film is loaded. We have lots to talk about. There is a list out a bunch of the famous names interviewed, but the real stars for me are all the creative people I would never have known about, including rural back-to-the-landers, and people with great ideas to make cities where most us live more sustainable.
This is one of the big messages I got out of the YERT film. From bloggers to newspapers, it's all about how awful things are in America. Collapse is right around the corner, and Americans suck. But this film shows just how dangerous it is to generalize about a few hundred million people. To abuse George Bush's slogan, they found a thousand points of light out there in the darkness. It helps tip the doom meter toward the creative solvers found.
Dixon and the Evans attack some of the heaviest subjects without blinking. Yes, we're heading over several final cliffs. And yet I found myself laughing during the movie. The road-trip team seems to be having fun all along. They also take on some Survivor-like challenges as they go along, including packing all the waste they create into their already overloaded car. It ain't easy trying to be green on the road in America!
This is one of the best films of 2012 in my opinion. Lively, full of interesting characters and really helpful suggestions without being preachy at all. You can arrange a screening, or buy the CD at yert.com
Thanks for listening again this week. And welcome to our new Australian station in Melbourne, 3CR 855 AM, starting Sunday January 6th.