This week’s Grapevine seems to me the best in a while. I liked the heads-up about the Concerned Residents Association, Max’s article about sharing music learning, and especially Charles King’s letter about the failings of nuclear power. I was horrified by last week’s paean to nuke power by the ever-giddy technophile Gwynne Dyer. King’s reprint of the experts’ litany of reasons why it is not a good solution was right on, and in line with many real stories I have covered and heard for decades around this issue.
Even if all the plans could be perfect, the execution of nukes by humans leaves much to be desired. I vividly recall when the story broke about a Houston, Texas, nuclear power plant, that the inspectors who were supposed to X-ray every weld had faked the inspections, repeating the same picture in every report. I also attended and recorded a talk by Vladimir Chernousenko, the Russian physicist in charge of the Chernobyl cleanup, who was expelled from Russia for telling the true dimensions of the disaster and speaking out against nuclear power. There’s much more to be said. The Germans made a smart decision to take nukes out of their plans.
My mistrust of Dyer’s technophilia goes back a decade or more to an article of his supportive of geo-engineering – in that case, seeding particles into the upper atmosphere as a means of blocking the sun and cooling the planet. He never seems to ask “what could go wrong” about any technology. Like, what happens when the next volcano does the same trick naturally and perhaps doubles the intensity of a nuclear winter.
His article in this week’s Grapevine started out as a terrifying litany of the unregulated opportunistic race to occupy space with all manner of devices. I thought for once he was being critical; but no, he thinks it grand – a step on the way to humans populating the moon and Mars! (Such a pleasant lifestyle, penned up in an artificial environment! No more walks in the woods for you!) He clearly hasn’t heard the news I am hearing: for example that the tens of thousands of Musk communications satellites are only expected to work for 5 years, but will continue to orbit either as dangerous space junk or if, perhaps, self-destructing, spread out as aluminum dust contamination. That the amount of space junk already orbiting is a constant danger to other objects in space. That the few thousand communications satellites already in orbit make it harder to observe the stars. And items in space sometimes fall to earth in dangerous ways. The environmental risks of laying fiber optic cables under the sea pale by comparison and they can be expected to have a MUCH longer useful life.
If you must continue publishing Dyer (he is a friend of yours?), please start adding a header that says: Fiction.