Sometimes chaos comes along as a wake-up call to humanity. The double-whammy- earthquake-tsunami in Japan this week is overwhelmingly sad. To be at the total chaotic effect of the elements—to be wiped out by a wave of water from the sea, is an insult to the arrogance of modern humanity that thinks it can insulate and protect itself with technological know-how from the calamities visited upon our earth by Mother Nature. It is ironic that this catastrophe took place in earth-quake plagued Japan where scientists and engineers actually protected against this seventh largest earthquake cataclysm in recorded history, by spending billions on new infrastructure, building their homes, offices, and factories on rubber shock absorbers and reinforced pillars that merely swayed with the punch and didn’t collapse despite the enormous force from the renting of the earth—a force so powerful it actually moved Japan ten feet eastward and caused the axis of the earth to shift. Yet even the careful, methodical, Japanese couldn’t realistically anticipate the power of the tsunami well enough to protect their land against the violent onrush of the ocean in the wake of the spasms caused by the radical shift in the earth’s tectonic plates.
And while they had provided adequate technology to guard their lethal nuclear power plants even against the quaking earth, the surge of the ocean destroyed their best efforts to insure backup and shut down plans to always keep water pumping on the nuclear fuel, even during an earthquake. They were unable to avoid the loss of electricity essential to maintain and pump a constant stream of cool water to cover the radioactive fuel in their reactors, and after the pumping machines failed to deliver water to the overheated guts of the fuel vessel, they were unable to keep this foolhardy technology from “melting down” and spewing its lethal radiation across the land, and eventually perhaps across the planet, hanging like a sword of Damocles over the earth as radioactive particles are borne on the air currents that circle the globe.
More than 200,000 people were evacuated in the vicinity of the five nuclear reactors at Fukushima which may be failing. The reports are mixed and unclear from the Japanese government. We know that numbers of people were contaminated with radioactivity on their skin and clothing and that the government is distributing potassium iodide tablets to prevent thyroid cancer in people who may have been exposed to radioactivity released in a series of explosions at two reactors. Those tablets will not prevent other forms of cancer and leukemia that may increase exponentially from the release of the radioactivity at the reactors. We also know that US sailors aboard the aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan, that was sent from our military base in Okinawa to the vicinity of the accident, have now been contaminated by airborne radioactivity. Meanwhile the US mainstream media continues to downplay the catastrophic potential of so many reactors in Japan to create an environmental holocaust, where brave workers are struggling to cool their hot radioactive fuel, while industry spokespeople assure us that our reactors in America are much safer, that Chernobyl only had 50 immediate deaths, while Russian scientists recently reported that there were close to 1,000,000 cancer deaths since the dreadful accident in 1986 spewed lethal radiation over a broad swath of the Ukraine, Belarus, Russia and then dispersed to many other countries in the Northern Hemisphere.
Let this chaos be a wake-up call for a time out on any new nuclear energy development. And like the massive mobilization gathering strength in Japan with emergency workers coming from all over the world to help rescue and recover the tens of thousands of people overcome in their villages by the trembling earth and fierce rushing waters, let us make a massive global effort to put a solar panel on every roof, a geothermal pump in every house and building, windmills on every windswept plain, tidal energy pumps in our rivers and seas to harness the clean safe energy of our Mother Earth.
In the words of that famous visionary thinker, Buckminster Fuller:
We may now care for each Earthian individual at a sustainable billionaire's level of affluence while living exclusively on less than 1 percent of our planet's daily energy income from our cosmically designed nuclear reactor, the Sun, optimally located 92 million safe miles away from us.
Alice Slater is the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation's New York representative.