April 2011

The nuclear genii strikes back

By Art Goodtimes

WEIGHING RISK … “The experts were wrong,” insisted the Washingon Post’s Harold Meyerson in the wake of Japan’s triple-header: earthquake, tsunami and nuclear catastrophe … Even in my short lifetime on this planet I’ve seen that trope repeated many times. Too many times to ignore the reality of “best available science” and “state of the art” technology – they are, in reality, nothing more than educated guesses … And Pachamama is full of surprises. From the synchronicity of overlapping mishaps to the perfect storm of unexpected events … You can call such apocalyptic incidents “black swans,” as Robert Madsen does in Foreign Policy, but they are not theoretical constructs like quantum wormholes. They happen. And woe to those unprepared for worst-case scenarios … But can any of us prepare for the kind of improbable atomic meltdown inherently possible in any nuclear reactor, as demonstrated at Fukushima? Is nuclear power worth it? When you weigh the impact of mining and processing uranium ore, refining of yellowcake, transport of fuel rods, the natural disasters that could rupture reactor cores and demolish structures to catastrophic effect, plant vulnerability to terrorist attack and finally the unsolved puzzle of long-term storage for radioactive wastes that continue to proliferate around the world and balance all that against nuclear as an affordable source of “clean energy,” its ease of operation under normal conditions, its reliability as base load generation, its “proven” technology, is it worth it? … Considering that the U.S. has 104 operating nuclear plants dotted around the country and 20 new generation reactors in the planning, some close to population centers or along seismic faults or at the edge of the sea, is it worth it? … Knowing that the two nuclear reactors in California are only designed to withstand 7.0 and 7.5 earthquakes, is it worth it? … When you finally learn that the Price-Anderson Act of 1957 (era of the “peaceful atom”), meant as an incentive to partially subsidize the nuclear industry, caps private liability from a catastrophic event at $12 billion, and then hooks the American people to ante up any indemnification over that, is it worth it? … Is nuclear power worth what we’re seeing happen to Japan, over and above the human toll, as the economy there falls deeper into a disastrous recession that appears to be as unpredictably toxic as the nuclear pits newly burned into the coast? … “Pick your poison,” some industrialists say. Any energy has downsides.. Coal, gas, nuclear. Even solar has potentially toxic spinoffs, they insist. But truth is, when you weigh all the factors, can we afford nuclear’s clearly identifiable radioactive impacts, all in the name of continuing this unsustainable, no-longer-resilient industrial-growth model of human life on earth? … The question really is not just “is it worth it,” but “what of worth will we give the next seven generations?” Just to be clear — what’s at risk is far more than just us.


The Path

time to swerve

lots to observe

outside & in
open wide

GRANDMA LILY … As I’ve shared before, my grandmother was born an orphan, probably in Yokohama, and raised Japanese – her ancestry was unclear, as what papers she had were stolen on steamer passage to America. She died when I was 1, but I think I absorbed Japanese through her skin holding mine, at least some of her deep cultural sensibilities … We are all sad for Japan – thrice now inflicted with the curse of nuclear disasters. Sad for the people. Sad for the many tragedies and all that’s been lost.

SHROOMFEST 31 … Mycologist and author Paul Stamets will return as a featured speaker to the Telluride Mushroom Festival’s 31st annual gathering, Aug. 18-21. For over 30 years, Paul has named new mushroom species, pioneered countless techniques in the field of edible and medicinal mushroom cultivation, and written six ground-breaking books, including his latest – Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World … His achievements include a Bioneers Award from the Collective Heritage Institute, National Geographic Adventure Magazine’s Green-Novator Award, Argosy Foundation’s E-chievement Award, and the President’s Award from the Society for Ecological Restoration’s Northwest Chapter. In 2008 he was named one of Utne Reader’s “50 Visionaries Who Are Changing the World” … Other confirmed speakers include: Shroomfest’s chief mycologist and myco-philosopher Gary Lincoff, who teaches at the New York Botanical Garden, has written a number of definitive mushroom field guides, and is the featured mycovisionary in the award-winning documentary Know Your Mushrooms <http://garylincoff. com>; Michael Beug, renowned mycologist and retired teacher at Evergreen State College (Stamets was his student); festival founder Emanuel Salzman; Cordyceps expert and Tibetan Plateau guide Daniel Winkler, www. danielwinkler.com/id145; Fungi magazine editor Britt Bunyard, www.fungimag.com; Fungi columnist David Rose; myco-wildcrafter Katrina Blair; cultivation expert Scott Koch; mycoresearcher Elinoar Shavit; ID experts Bill Adams and Linnea Gillman; junior mycologist Devon Enke; Know Your Mushrooms star Larry Evans; foray experts John Sir Jesse, Tony Corbin, and Ruby Siegel; with more to be announced … The four-day destination event “celebrates everything fungal & entheogenic” and features workshops, panels, lectures, slide shows, movies, cooking demonstrations, free identification tent, cook-your-own tables, forays, poetry, music and a famed mushroom parade down Telluride’s main street. For more info and advance discount tickets, go to <www. shroomfest.com> … Shroomfest is a project of the Telluride Institute, with the help of the Zoline Family Foundation, Wilkinson Library, Telluride’s CCAASE, Palm Theatre, San Miguel County, Alpine Lodging, Telluride Watch and Alpine Wellness.

Art Goodtimes is a San Miguel County commissioner.