Saturday, March 19, 2011

Playing With Fire

An airline attendant once told me that my flight was canceled because of mechanical failure, which she referred to as an “act of God.” I saw it entirely as an act of man, possibly the Wright brothers. What is happening in Japan now is a consequence of both. “Untouched by Human Hands” works for the earthquakes and tsunamis, but not for damage from a nuclear reactor which is strictly man-made. 

We have experienced and survived all kinds of disasters. Among toxic contaminants floating around, radioactive material may have the longest shelf live. Thirty thousand years is what I’ve heard. I won’t argue the numerals. Just the combination of the words “thousand” and “years” in this context does it for me.
Consequently potential damage from radiation has a cumulative effect during its considerable lifetime. The ever increasing quantity of nuclear residue, which is still radioactive, must be stored safely. A Three Mile Island here, a Chernobyl there, it all adds up and before we know it things can get serious. The volume of cubic feet of the earth’s atmosphere is finite. The radioactive material at risk of being released will continue to increase as long as we continue to produce it.    

It’s delusional, dishonest or both to claim that what is happening today cannot happen again. At this moment there are nuclear facilities in America in areas which two weeks ago were probably considered as vulnerable to earthquakes as northeastern Japan, the most vulnerable being at Indian Point a short distance from New York City. The 9.0 earthquake in Japan was exceptionally severe. But is there reason to believe that during the life expectancy of radioactive material now being produced there won’t be another like it? 

An immediate closing of all nuclear facilities is not a feasible option and green energy is too distant to be of short term help. But we have no excuse to not follow the lead of other industrialized nations by working full throttle in this direction ASAP. Those who are fighting this progress by financing the status quo aren’t at all delusional. They know that it’s younger people and their world that will suffer.. What ethical or moral right do we have to make decisions that adversely affect our descendants generations removed? The importance of news about Libya is dwarfed by events now taking place in Japan. We are dealing directly with the timing of the endangerment and extinction of an entire species, mankind.

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Balaban, I am blown away by your intelligence, insight and ability to articulate such profound arguments about the most critical issues facing us today. I have always admired you and your family; this is just additional evidence of your amazing talent and accomplishments. With fond memories of you all, Teri Curry