Sadly, if you have or hope to have children, you likely won’t finish reading this post. It was my intention to write today about Fukushima; you see, there has been a FOIA release from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission of internal documents and emails from the first days after the *events* of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in 2011. They show that the public, that is you and I, have been lied to by our own government and by the government of Japan. It is clear from these emails that the spent fuel pool in Unit 4; the same pool that is even now being *safed* if you believe the Japanese government’s faked videos and press release lies, has already experienced the fire and meltdown that has been trumpeted as the *worst case* outcome of any spent fuel pool failure. In other words, that horse has already left that barn, and it was a major contributor to the elevated radiation readings being reported (by individuals and alternative media, not the mainstream) during March and April 2011 along the west coast of America and in Japan and Canada. Photos showing the purported *new* crane that is *removing* fuel rods from SFP4 have been shown to be faked. The emails released in the FOIA request show that our NRC was told that the fuel pool went without water for nine days immediately after the earthquake; that Unit 4’s fire on 15 March was a *lube oil* fire, not a fuel rod fire; that the fuel pool contained already damaged fuel rods; and that the explosion in Unit 4 was because of hydrogen gas that *somehow* (we’re not sure how!) transferred into Unit 4 from Unit 3 and not from the melting rods inside the SFP.
It was my intent to expand on these issues; until I read Dmitry Orlov’s recent post, “The Sixth Stage of Collapse” this morning over breakfast. Mr. Orlov may be known to you: he was raised in Russia and returned at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union, thus witnessing the implosion that knocked a few decades off the typical life expectancy there. He wrote a book about it, “The Five Stages of Collapse”, in which he details the five stages he witnessed there and by extension, that we must anticipate here as the American Empire implodes: financial, commercial, political, social, and cultural. In his post about the sixth stage, he is leading me to question what has become a foundation of my recent work: namely, that we need our collapse to be as quick as possible in order to leave as many resources as we can for our rebuilding.
You see, he posits that the sixth stage of collapse is environmental. And he doesn’t point to climate change; he argues rather that two other issues will destroy the environment such that mankind, and most if not all other life, will be extinct through processes unleashed by humans just over these last few centuries: radiation and plastic. Radiation first: nevermind the naysayers who say that this invisible threat will not cause the end of civilization as we know it, or that there are *safe* levels of exposure. What he points out is that a rapid onset of the first three stages of collapse will inevitably lead to 400+ Fukushima-like sites around the developed world, including more than 100 in America. These power plants, designed with water injection as the main component of both their output processes and their safety systems, rely on outside power to prevent meltdown, china syndromes, and general mayhem spread widely by radioactive fallout. Even if we *shut down* every plant tomorrow, we still need constant, active cooling for decades if we hope to avoid exclusion zones that last for centuries or more. Interrupt power for more than a few days, and *Fukushima* is the result.
And then there is plastic. I make a diligent effort to reduce my purchasing of disposable plastic, and I *recycle* what I can of what I do happen to use. Although I feel less guilt this way, it remains a fact that less than 30% of the plastic in America is *recycled*, and elsewhere even less, if any at all. I keep airquoting *recycling* because even what we leave for pickup by municipal waste disposal processes, materials that we then feel guiltless for throwing away, often just get shipped to someone else’s neighborhood for burning or burial. Understand that plastic water bottles cannot be made into new bottles; recycled plastic must be made into products that do not come into contact with food or water. And plastic that is just thrown away photo-degrades into ever smaller particles, and to such great extent that in many parts of our oceans today plastic outnumbers plankton, the base of our food chain. It wouldn’t be devastating that so many sea animals now die because their digestive systems are stuffed full of indigestible plastics; by itself, that is not the end of the world. But degrading plastic, and especially burning plastic, releases dozens or hundreds of toxic concoctions that are proven to cause genital abnormalities, birth defects, and obesity, among other deadly diseases. We are bombarded with admonitions to watch what we eat: carbohydrates and sugars cause obesity, we are told. Yet as obesity spreads around the globe, is it possible that certain hormone disruptors released from burning plastic are the true culprit? Are you 100% sure you know that your own lack of willpower is what is preventing you from losing those extra pounds around your waist? And we are already seeing fish go extinct because their females are no longer able to birth male fish. We are seeing human male sperm counts fall precipitously, globally. Early-onset of puberty is documented and supposedly caused by the hormone disruptors, used to make plastic pliable, that leach from plastic food and water containers; what other maladies might plastic be causing?
Of course, ridding our lives of plastic and *safing* every nuclear reactor in the world in just the next few years, in a desperate attempt to save our environment, seems impossible. What would life be like if we immediately lost access to 20% of our world’s electricity, and the comforts we are used to that arise from our plastic, disposable world? See, here’s where the children part comes in to the discussion: I have no children, so I am more willing to jump off that cliff, to let go of power and plastic, in a last-ditch effort to save mankind. But if you have children, you are likely much less easily persuaded to throw it all away; you’ll make excuses why you can’t, it’s impossible, it’s unlikely to be the solution, it’s not really the problem (CO2 is, or haven’t you heard?), it’s too expensive…you think that the changes needed to save your children will kill your children.
Let me quote Mr. Orlov near the end of his post:
“And so it seems that there may not be a happy end to my story of The Five Stages of Collapse, the first three of which (financial, commercial, political) are inevitable, while the last two (social, cultural) are entirely optional but have, alas, already run their course in many parts of the world. Because, you see, there is also the sixth stage which I have previously neglected to mention—environmental collapse—at the end of which we are left without a home, having rendered Earth (our home planet) uninhabitable.
This tragic outcome may not be unavoidable. And if it is not unavoidable, then that’s about the only problem left that’s worth solving. The solution can be almost arbitrarily expensive in both life and treasure. I would humbly suggest that it’s worth all the money in the world, plus a few billion lives, because if a solution isn’t found, then that treasure and those lives are forfeit anyway.
A solution for avoiding the sixth stage must be found, but I don’t know what that solution would look like. I do find it unsafe to blithely assume that collapse will simply take care of the problem for us. Some people may find this subject matter so depressing that it makes them want to lie down (in a comfortable position, on something warm and soft) and die. But there may be others, who still have some fight left in them, and who do wish to leave a survivable planet to their children and grandchildren. Let’s not expect them to use conventional, orthodox methods, to work and play well with others, or to be polite and reasonable in dealing with the rest of us. Let’s just hope that they have a plan, and that they get on with it.” [Emphasis added by me]
So there it is, dear friends. It seems, on my good days, that I’m not fighting hard enough. It seems, on my bad days, to be pointless to fight anyway. I continue to be reticent to hang all of our efforts on fighting CO2; there are myriad ways that we are killing life on this planet, CO2 is by far not the only deadly impact fossil fuels present for our consideration, and radiation not only kills in high enough doses, but is horrific, if you love children, long before it becomes lethal. Just search “Chernobyl children”: radiation is hugely creative when it comes to genetic malformations. Our system of disposal allows us to remain blissfully unaware of the consequences of our use of plastic; at least as long as we allow our media to lie to us about its aftereffects, or to distract us into apathy. But we too comfortable to be able to imagine life without electricity or plastic, just as we are unable to contemplate our role in our impending extinction. Perhaps in the end, it will be our lack of imagination that is our undoing. Like everything in our world built upon duality, it would be ironic that the good side of human creativity: our ability to innovate and solve problems, has fallen short just when we need it to lead us away from the cliff of extinction.