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Every daring attempt to make a great change in existing conditions, every lofty vision of new possibilities for the human race, has been labeled Utopian.
                                                                                                     -- Emma Goldman

[A souped up version of this post with pix and recommended further reading is always available at my blog site.]

Next Chapter will be posted 1/17/09

A Day in the Life of....

Professor Milton was a very attractive woman. She entered the ancient auditorium with a certain amount of grace that belied her 50 some years. She was dressed in a skin-tight, shimmering body suit that was popular with her students these days, and it showed off her figure. Her salt and pepper hair was loosely tied at the back of her neck. Her eyes were blue and bright and they promised a quick wit and delightful conversation at a dinner party.

The class was large. Her lectures had grown very popular with students in the Sociology Department as well as those outside her department. The students quieted slowly but respectfully as she waited for them to notice her, and then she began to speak. Her voice was strong and steady.

"Welcome to Sociology 301A. As you are hopefully aware this is a class in Alternative History. Unlike traditional history classes, which you can enjoy at the Web College, this class requires specific and expensive technology to embrace and therefore must be attended in person. We will be taking a much more in depth look at social behavior under very different, and sometimes very extreme, circumstances. Some of the images you will see in this class are disturbing."

There was slight movement in the class as some students leaned forward slightly. The disturbing images were no doubt the reason for the popularity of her class.

"If this is your first Alternative History class, let me briefly explain the technology. As you know at the end of the 20th century it became mathematically clear that multiple universes existed. This was the birth of M theory. Work over the next several centuries allowed us to build probes that would pierce the veil of these "membranes" as they were called by early physicists. This allowed us to peak into the past of various alternative histories for our own planet. Exciting work is currently being done in the Relative Physics Department to try and pierce the veil in the other direction and obtain insight into alternative futures. We are also working on viewing pasts that are unrelated to Earth but these applications present several technical difficulties.

"For this class it is only necessary to have a rudimentary knowledge of this technology.

"I have decided that the structure of this class will be to investigate the life of the same person in two very different realities. This will give us a chance to discover how people with the same genetic make up might react in very different circumstances."

There was a brief but excited murmur among the students.

"Shall we begin?"

The professor waved her hand over the desk. Instantly a globe appeared above the desk. The students had seen many globes displayed in this way and they instantly recognized this as Earth. This was a different Earth than they were used to seeing in news webcasts, however. The planet appeared very organic. Mega cities did not dot the surface. There was only one very small space station and no worm hole travel port.

The globe started to spin slowly and then with increasing speed. The focus of the visible globe began to narrow as the destination was reached. The globe scanned over the North and South American continents. It was still early there and only the Eastern side was lit by dawn. Small lights representing cities dotted the Western side. Then it focused on North America and the spin began to slow again. A large portion of the mid section of the continent had a tan appearance and few towns dotted this area. The areas close to the coast line were progressively greener. There was a large weather center in the mid portion of the North American continent.

The globe spun slowly and focused on an area in the middle of the western coast. The focus plunged toward the Pacific Ocean. There, rows of dots became increasingly large until it was clear that the dots were actually a large flotilla with a series of poles on each barge. Each pole had a barrel shaped fan vertically mounted at its tip that was spinning madly in the breeze.

The focus plunged below the water level. Below the water were a series of turbines all spinning slowly in the ocean currents. The barges made a constant humming and whirring sound. The focus followed a large cable down to the ocean floor and then back toward the East as the sound faded into the distance. The cable traveled upward on the bottom of the ocean until it hit the shore and then went into a shoreline building. Behind the building there were many buildings consistent with the late 21st century architecture. The city was green and lush. Every surface had something green and flowering growing on it. As soon as they cleared the first building several tracks on the ground became apparent. The focus began to follow one specific track. Cars of various sizes but all with the same logo, a child's hand cupping a seedling tree, whizzed by under the focus of the image. The focus followed the rails to a group of apartments. Like all other things in this place the apartment complex had an impressive landscape. It appeared as though everything was fruiting. As the Sun broke over the horizon the students could see a wealth of flowers and colorful fruit in the complex. All of the apartments had thick walls and large pane windows facing South. They were all equipped with patios or balconies which were overflowing with vegetation. The focus continued to narrow to one second story apartment and then it entered a dark window.....

Jack woke up as he always did with the gradual increase of light in his bedroom programmed by the house computer. The smell of brewing koffee, also started by the house computer, was already permeating the air. Of course it was not real coffee. Jack was well off, but he could not afford that luxury. At least not every day. This was a concoction of roasted barley, nuts and chicory that assimilated coffee but could be grown locally.

Jack rose out of his bed and stumbled into the bathroom. He relieved himself in the toilet. Two cups of water used to flush the high flow toilet washed the water deep underground. Later it will be used on sight to water the roots of the fruit trees outside. Very little in Jack’s world went to waste and virtually nothing but people traveled more than 10 miles.

Jack continued his usual routine unaware of the mass of students observing his every move. He headed to the kitchen and poured himself a cup of koffee from the coffee maker. The coffee maker plugged into two separate outlets in the wall. The first was an old style electrical outlet. The second was a set of thickly insulated tubes. Inside the water reservoir were coils of metal tubing. Concave mirrors on the roof focus sun light onto a Pyrex tube filled with oil. The oil was super heated to over 1000 degrees Fahrenheit and then stored in an insulated tank below the apartment structure. When heat was needed for any of the various things that the residents did, the oil was pumped through the tubing until a heat element is reached and the desired temperature is achieved.

Also below the complex is a cistern which stores the water that falls on the roof, balconies and patios for future use in the complex once it has gone through a purification process.

Below this level multiple tubes of water reached deep into the ground. The Earth is a constant 57 degrees Fahrenheit in Jack’s world (it used to be 55 degrees at the start of the 21st century). These tubes are used to cool water to that temperature. When the water arrived above ground again air was blown over the water to cool and humidify the air that entered Jack’s apartment.

With his koffee and a ration of oatmeal in hand, Jack headed to the atrium. All homes now contained such a room. The room faced south and is filled with plants in raised containers. The water (other than toilet water) that Jack used in the household flowed to the plant containers and is purified by microbes that live in symbiosis with the plants in the containers. Once the water is filtered by the plants the water is used by other food producing plants outside. The area has become Jack’s favorite spot for his morning ritual. The air is sweet with blooming plants and it is a very comfortable, warm spot to sip a morning cup and gather one’s thoughts. Jack looked out over the complex's gardens and his thoughts wandered to the land and, as they often did, to history.

Since The Catastrophe there was not enough space to grow such frivolous things as lawns. All available land, including front and back yards, were used for food production. While Jack tended the vegetable and herb garden on his own balcony, the food produced in any portion of the actual ground belonged to the Neighborhood Supported Agriculture Association. The food produced throughout the neighborhood was then divided and shared among the neighbors. Jack owned his condo but not the land. In fact no one owned the land. Only the structure that one lived in was truly theirs. The land belonged to all and produced for all.

Jack has read about corporations and land ownership in history classes as a child in school. For Jack this concept of an "ownership society" was totally foreign. How could all of the wealth of a nation be concentrated into the hands of only a few people? How could those few people allow others in need to suffer? How could people submit to being virtual slaves to these few "owners"?

Now that most industry was controlled by cooperatives the standard work week had been adjusted to 24 hours.

Being a teacher, Jack worked far longer then others in his society. Jack could not imagine working the standard 40 hour work week let alone the 60-90 hours some were working during those horrific years. And then there was the tenuous relationship that most people had with the owners of that society. They seemed completely at the mercy of the owners. Pensions could disappear after the person was too old or sick to work. Even health care was not guaranteed. If a person in that era grew too sick to pay for their health care, they frequently lost the health care and occasionally even died from treatable conditions. "Benefits" were no longer an issue in current society since pension, and health care were considered every working American’s right and provided by the government. How could the 21st century not have seen that these "benefits" could have been theirs all along? How could they have willingly followed these owners into The Catastrophe that created such a disaster for themselves and their grandchildren?

Once his breakfast was finished Jack went back to the bathroom to shower and dress. He listened to the Cooperative News Network as he got dressed in his tunic and pants and gathered his back pack for work. A pleasant female voice, that Jack knew was the house computer, announced, "Jack, your shuttle is here." The city shuttle was scheduled to take him to work at 8:30 am and as always it arrived on time. Jack walked through his atrium to the outside hall. He traveled down the stairs to the first floor pick up area. He would not dream of using the elevator as he was able bodied and only someone truly, obscenely lazy would use an elevator clearly meant for the handicapped. Several other shuttles were there picking up his neighbors. Jack waved and acknowledged several of them. Then he stepped toward the shuttle that was flashing his name.

Before he got into his shuttle he looked over his shoulder. The complex was typical of those on his street. The roof had a combination of energy collecting devices. In addition to the Tesla Heating System that cooked his morning food, there were also solar panels and a helical rotating structure on the peak of the roof that caught the wind and made electricity. Multiple wind catchers like this one were supported by posts straddling the monorails where the city shuttles traveled the streets. The helical wind catchers generated electricity which was added to the World Power Grid. In turn all of the community shuttles ran off of this electricity.

Jack got into the shuttle. There was no steering wheel. Only a comfortable seat and a key board. Jack took the seat and the door closed automatically. Another pleasant female voice greeted him, "Good morning Mr. Randal. What would you like to do on your way to work today? I have a new audio book on the top 10 list, and the latest movies, or would you like to finish the news broadcast?"

Jack chooses to continue to listen to the CNN broadcast. The broadcast was selective like a newspaper so he could listen to a one sentence teaser about each story and then choose whether to listen to more about the story. The car was a one seater but a variety of sizes of shuttles carried other passengers to their daily tasks through the city. As Jack entered a more central portion of town the car joined a four seater with a family in the car, probably going to school prior to work. Cartoons were played on the car windshield. Behind him a man with a storage truck attached to Jack’s small shuttle dwarfing it. Jack was in a long train by the time his shuttle pulls off the others to take him to his school. He liked to arrive a few minutes early so he can prepare for his students.

The Concepts Behind the Fiction:

  1.  The Apartment:

Jack's apartment is modeled after a luxury complex I saw in Phoenix while I was attending a seminar.  The name of the complex is Camelview Village.  No, you can't see any camels.  But here is a pix of the real thing.  Nice huh.  Its even better in real life.

Check out these other Eco Friendly Communities.

  1. Alternative Energy Sources:

Those who believe nuclear energy it the way out have never lived anywhere that uranium is mined or spent cores are stored.  Once you consider the cost in dollars of building the plant, mining and purifying the uranium and storing the spent uranium the only way to make a plant self sufficient economically is to subsidize it with tax dollars.  That does not even include the cost of cleaning up the toxic mess this leaves at both ends of the nuclear energy story.   I don't know about you but I am tired of giving my tax dollars to big business so they can make a profit. I did not include nuclear in the story for these reasons.

Likewise, I did not include biodiesel because the reality is that it takes 1.4 gal of oil to produce 1 gal of biodiesel fuel grown from corn.  Additionally, corn is grown in monoculture and requires some of the most intense use of fertilizers and pesticides leaving the soil more contaminated and erroded than any other crop.  It is quite simply unsustainable.  Not to mention increasing food shortages.

There are plenty of people who think that we can get ourselves out of this energy crisis with the technology that we have on hand.  Among them, T.Boone Pickens, Scientific America, and Yes! Magazine.  This is what Yes! Magazine had to say about converting our energy sources:

Arjun Makhijani has been thinking about cleaner, more efficient energy for more than 35 years. When he heard that we need to go fossil-carbon free by 2050, he doubted it was possible. Research changed his mind, and his book, Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy, tells exactly how it can be done. Here’s how Makhijani sees the energy supply changing for buildings, transportation and electricity. Makhijani’s plan relies in part on biofuel from algae. Guy Dauncey says we can go carbon neutral with There’s no single path, other than the path that starts right now.

Surprisingly little that I wrote about Jack’s world is actually fictional.  Wind power is well known. We have now solved the problem of "bird blender" aspect of wind energy by creating vertical turbines. Even low wind velocity generators like the helical structure discussed in the story and the ribbon generator (not discussed here) are already a reality and working on buildings in America.

Floating wind generators are also a reality and not a fiction.
Nikola Tesla first discussed the hyperbolic mirrors heating oil in 1916. This very old technology is finally being put to good use at Nevada's Solar One power plant. Here is a great slide show of the plant.

Tidal and Wave energy is now being used in Ireland and Oregon.

For more on alternative energy, check out these links as well:
Green Home
Fact about Solar
Eco Geek
Syndergy%20Slide%20Show">Synergy Slide Show

  1. Electric Transportation

The days of the hydrocarbon powered vehicle are numbered. With decreasing cheap oil due to peak oil, coupled with global warming, we can ill afford to ignore this problem until we do not have enough energy to create a solution. The current predictions for even mild global warming is that there will be food and water shortages in the future. If you think you can not do without your SUV, try doing without a drink of water. Not only do the cars themselves consume fossil fuels but the roads that they drive on and the materials that they are made out of also consume energy. In fact continuing to drive a car that is less fuel efficient rather than buying a new Prius will actually reduce your carbon foot print.

Most of the time the vehicles that we have just sit around and do nothing. Or worse they sit in huge parking lots that are made of fossil fuel dependent chemicals that heat the air around them further. What if we shared our cars? Then our vehicles would never be parked and we would need less of them.

That was the original idea behind public transportation. But public transportation puts the burden on the rider. The person using public transit has to be at a certain place, at a certain time, possibly in the rain, or they get to wait for the next bus or train. The vehicles are sometimes ill kept and over crowded. And so public transit is not very popular even where it is available.

But what if you made a system that was better than owning a car? A system where the car was available very shortly after you needed it or on a schedule? A car that was private? A car that knew where you wanted to go and was safe enough to place a child in alone? What if you did not have to drive the car? You could read, nap, watch TV, play a game instead of driving whileyou were getting to where you needed to go. You could drink and drive! (Okay...not really advocating that just saying those that do would be safe for the rest of us.) You would not have to pay to build a garage to house your car. No need to pay for maintenance or insurance. Consider the advantages.

Think it is impossible? Consider this. Brazil increased their public transit by wiring their cities with cable like San Fransisco used to have in the old days. This is a cheap way to get the electricity to all the streets. MIT is very close to developing a car that drives itself and is safe. We have been working on this problem with virtually no government support for quite some time. The Automated Highway System has written multiple reports currently ignored by our government.

Now consider this. Most of the Southwest could get all the energy it needs from various forms of solar. In fact the Navajo Nation in northern Arizona has been under employed for decades and is looking for a clean industry that would help it. The problem is that the cable to transport the energy to say Phoenix does not exist. If we wired Phoenix the way Brazil wired its' cities, and built the cable from the open desert to Phoenix to supply the energy for a system like this then a deal could be struck with Robert Kennedy Jr.'s firm to build and supply the energy. (He announced that he would do this on a radio show recently.) Hopefully he would contract with the Navajo Nation to provide the workers for this project.

Our auto industry is in a world of hurt right now and it is only getting worse for them. Our tax dollars are being spent to bail them out of their own near sighted business model. In exchange for tax payer money the auto industry should be told to rework their factories to provide shuttles that work on this concept.

Arizona has one of the premier engineering institutions in the nation. The guys who built the equipment for the Mars Phoenix Mission live and work in Tuscon. Put them to work with the MIT guys to work out the last bugs in a self guided shuttle that is safe for the open road. Then provide that technology to the auto industry along with a government contract to purchase the shuttles.

Everyone wins in this scenario. The tax payer gets repaid for its investment with cleaner air, and reliable transportation. The Navajos get clean, safe jobs in their own land. RFK Jr. gets to sell electricity. The American auto industry is once again snatched from the jaws of death by selling shuttles on government contract. And we all get a cooler planet in a few decades.

Think this is a little far fetched? Check out these websites:

Masdar: A City in the United Arab Emirates that is incorporating many of the ideas you read about here including the transportation.
The ZipCar: Lets you rent a vehicle on the spot. Kind of like sharing a vehicle with other people.
Reva: The electric car of India.
The Connected Bus:Bus is connected to the internet while you are traveling on it.
Assystems City Car: Multiple safety devices including sensing when you are too tired to drive.
Automated Road Vehicles: A website showing automated vehicles that are already in operation around the world.
BMW's Cloth Car
MIT's Stackable Car
Cyber Car: Automated car in Daventry currently in use.
What if Cars Drive Themselves?: An essay by Steven Schladover, Deputy Directer of PATH

  1. Reuse of Water

Green houses to recycle water have been around for some time. Earth Ship design utilizes this technology but other groups have also used this technology.
Basics about Grey Water
Detailed Instructions on Creating a Grey Water
Green House
More Uses for Grey Water

  1. Ownership Society

I will return to this theme in later episodes of the story but consider this quote from Power and Powerlessness by Susan Rosenthal for a moment:


As wealth flows upwards to the few, the many who produce it are increasingly impoverished. In 1970 the richest 0.1 percent of Americans took in 100 times the average annual income. By 2001, this same group enjoyed 560 times the average annual income. As surplus accumulates at the top of society, sickness and misery accumulate at the bottom, and not only from injuries, illnesses, and fatalities at work. Inequality itself is deadly.

   Between 1973 and 2000, the output per worker per hour nearly doubled in
   the U.S. In other words, all the goods and services produced in 1973 could be produced in half the time by 2000. In her book The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure, Juliet Schor calculates that
   if workers controlled production, we actually could have chosen the four-hour day. Or a working year of six months. Or every worker in the United States could be taking every other year off from work — with pay.

Right now (I am writing this during the 2008 stock market crash) people are debating the best was to fix capitalism in the United States. I would debate whether it should be fixed or should we consider evolving to a new system that serves us better?

Suggested Reading:
The New Create an Oasis with Greywater
The Homeowner's Guide to Renewable Energy
Basics of Energy Efficient Living
Homebrew Wind Power
Windpower Workshop
Power and Powerlessness

Fictional Selection:
World Made by Hand

Originally posted to T. P. Alexanders on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 09:34 AM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I've lived near spent fuel rods... (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    GCarty, JeffW, scotths, Vladislaw

    what exactly is the big deal? This is a non-issue since they don't cause any health problems: no radiation escapes from the pools of water they sit in nor from the dry cask storage. It's a red herring argument.

    secondly, almost all uranium mining in the US was completed in the early 1970s under very old, pre-MSHA rules, non-union, etc. Modern mining, like they do in Canada, is far safer. Uranium mining in general is no more dangerous than  any other kind of underground mining. Much Uranium mining is done as a byproduct of non-uranium copper, tin and maganese mining. If we reprocessed spent fuel, we could mine that much less.

    thirdly, the only way to get rid of weapons grade plutonium is to turn the megatons into megawatts by down-blending into MOX fuel...exactly like the US does today with ex-USSR WMD. We should expand this to include the rest of the worlds nuclear weapons arsenal. But to do that we need to expand our nuclear energy portfolio.

    IMO...Arjun Makhijani's scheme IS utopian, will never work, nor is it desirable. The Left in the US now is shifting it's views on nuclear energy removing it as a partisan political issue whose ownership was once the purvue of the Republican Party. No more!

    The world is going nuclear, only the US appears to be behind.


    Dr. Issac Assimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny ...'"

    by davidwalters on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 09:53:13 AM PST

    •  I agree (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      vcmvo2, JeffW, CornSyrupAwareness

      John F. Kennedy in a press confrence in 1962 said:

      " 11.] Q. Mr. President, after your trip to Los Alamos Laboratory, New Mexico, is it your intention to ask for more money to speed up Project Rover, or for nuclear propulsion in space?

      THE PRESIDENT. We’re going to let these tests go on, of the reactor. These tests should be completed by July. If they are successful, then we will put more money into the program, which would involve the Nerva and Rift, both the engine and the regular machine. We will wait until July, however, to see if these tests are successful.

      It should be understood that the nuclear rocket, even under the most favorable circumstances, would not play a role in any first lunar landing.
      This will not come into play until 1970 or ‘71. It would be useful for further trips to the moon or trips to Mars."

      Everyone thinks Gene Roddenberry was the father of the star trek generation. Actually it was Kennedy and the progressive democrats. Kennedy saw America flying to Mars in 1971. 38 YEARS ago. How may millions of high paying high tech jobs have been sacrificed by America since then?  Millions?

      Math and science has been downhill ever since. We should be working on nuclear space propulsion and create for America a high tech jobs revolution by creating jobs for the 21st century. America should be on the cutting edge of developing a commercial space economy for the nation.

      Something else Kennedy said:

      Obama-Kennedy "we set sail on this new sea"
      "William Bradford, speaking in 1630 of the founding of the Plymouth Bay Colony, said that all great and honorable actions are accompanied with great difficulties, and both must be enterprised and overcome with answerable courage.

      If this capsule history of our progress teaches us anything, it is that man, in his quest for knowledge and progress, is determined and cannot be deterred. The exploration of space will go ahead, whether we join in it or not, and it is one of the great adventures of all time, and no nation which expects to be the leader of other nations can expect to stay behind"

    •  Wow...Don't know where you got your info but lets (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:


      1. Danger of spent fuel:

      From the Renewable Energy Policy Project


      As nuclear fuel ages, it loses its capacity to sustain an efficient nuclear reaction. Each year, a nuclear facility removes about a third of its highly irradiated (" spent") fuel rods to on-site cooling pools. These assemblies contain uranium, plutonium, and fission products such as strontium and cesium. Since regulators limit the pools' capacity, the rods must eventually be placed in steel or concrete containers, known as dry casks. The assemblies remain thermally hot and highly radioactive; a person standing one yard from an unshielded spent fuel assembly could receive a lethal dose of radiation (about 500 rems) in under three minutes. A 30-second exposure (85 rems) would significantly increase the risk of cancer or genetic damage. 129

      Spent fuel accounts for the majority of U. S. highlevel nuclear waste. (Nuclear weapons facilities also contribute to the total.) As of 1997, about 70 power plants across the nation stored 35,000 metric tons of spent fuel. Increasing by about 2,000 metric tons per year, total highlevel waste will reach at least 60,000 metric tons by 2010, and 80,000 metric tons by 2020. 130

      In theory, onsite storage waste represents only a temporary solution to high-level radioactive waste. The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 orders the U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) to select a geologic repository for high-level waste. Amendments in 1987 limited possible sites to Nevada's Yucca Mountain. DOE plans to begin storing waste in 2010. Under current law, the repository could host up to 70,000 metric tons of waste, including 63,000 metric tons from civilian reactors. 131

      In addition to fears that uninformed future generations might stumble on the repository, opponents of the Yucca Mountain plan note three environmental problems. First, experts disagree on the potential of leaks from the repository into the local water supply. Second, seismologists note that the area has experienced more than 600 seismic events above 2.5 on the Richter scale since 1976, raising the possibility of earthquake damage to containers. 132 Third, many communities worry about how the waste will reach Yucca Mountain. The State of Nevada, which opposes the proposal, calculates that transporting waste from its current locations during the repository's 25-year emplacement phase would require between 35,000 and 100,000 shipments crossing 43 states, affecting 109 cities. 133 The Congressional Research Service estimates a possible 154 truck and 18 rail accidents over 30 years, although the vast majority of those accidents would not release radiation. 134....


      Nuclear reactors release low levels of radioactivity as part of normal operations. Volatile fission products including tritium and noble gases may escape through the fuel rods' metal cladding; operators may also vent gas to control temperature, humidity, and radioactivity inside the plant. Plants monitor these radioactive emissions and store them in decay tanks before releasing them. Water released to the environment may contain tritium, cobalt, cesium, or other radionuclides. Radiation from these sources are a small fraction of background radiation, but the isotopes can be detected. 140

      About North Korea's leak problem:

      The irradiated or spent "magnox" fuel rods discharged from North Korea's 5 megawatt (electric) reactor cannot be stored safely for long under the current conditions in the ponds near the reactor. The magnesium metal alloy jacket or "cladding" around the uranium metal fuel is corroding. If the corrosion creates holes in the cladding, radionuclides in the uranium fuel will escape into the environment. In addition, corrosion of the underlying uranium metal fuel will commence. Under certain conditions, the uranium metal can ignite spontaneously if exposed to air, possible causing a serious radiation accident.

      2.)  I live where the former Uranium mines on the Navajo Nation were.  During the time that the mining was taking place the water was contaminated and birth defects, miscarriages, and cancer sky rocketed.  The area is still a cancer hot spot.  As a physician I actually see the people who have been harmed by this with my own eyes.  For a long discussion on the dangers of Uranium mining see this link.  For more on the health fall out of Uranium mining on the Navajo Nation click here.

      3.)  As to future mining:  Last year the mining companies came back to AZ and tried to get a contract to mine Uranium again due to increased demand.  They were soundly rebuffed by the Navajo Nation.  I do not know where they are looking for their Uranium now.  They are trying to legally usurp the Navajo Nation's power to gain access to the Uranium here but I do not think they are having much success.

      4.) As for weapons and depleted uranium:
      Here are some websites for more information on the consequences of this use right now.  Not theoretic devastation. Pain and suffering in real people.  [Pictures on these sites may be disturbing.]
      Ban Depleted Weapons
      Gulf War Syndrome
      Democracy Now! report
      Port Hope Study
      Beyond Treason Movie

      5.)  Finally, who is being unrealistic.  My point about nuclear power was that the true cost of the power was hidden in tax credits.  This type of power generation is much more costly than other safer form of energy generation.  If this form of energy had to rely on the income it generated it would never survive.

      "Since Chernobyl and Three Mile Island not a single nuclear power station has been built anywhere in the world without lashings of government subsidy or guarantees.

      "This is a tried and tested and failed technology that has a long track-record of cost overruns."
      Lib Dem environment spokesman Chris Huhne

      Public Citizen
      Nuclear Info and Resource

      De air is de air. What can be done?

      by TPau on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 11:04:07 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well, (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        GCarty, JeffW

        each of our parts of my points are interesting and very distinct from each other. Let me deal with each one.

        The description of SNF (Spent Nuclear Fuel) is very accurate. Of course the kind of reactors Dr. Jim Hansen is for doesn't even have fuel rods but they are a decade or two out.

        You should reread the numbers you quoted:

        "63,000 metric tons"

        That is EVERY civilian reactor (it's actually higher, about 71,000 tons)...for the last 40 years! All this taken together would fit in ONE building. It is very little. Consider the sludge flood from ONE coal plant: 1 billion gallons of toxic waste. You should put this all in perspective. There is every LITTLE SNF. The French actually do keep all their high level SNF in one room in La Harve. Waiting to be reprocessed to reduce it's volume and make megawatts. The Koreans (south), Chinese, Russian and Japanese are all expanding or developing their own processing plants to get rid of waste.

        Secondly, it is managed. Not ONE health problems has ever been determined to come from SNF, high level or otherwise. In fact, it is the best managed industrial waste in the US. Unlike, say, the toxic materials that go into make solar cells, which is totally unaccounted for since it unregulated.

        Thirdly, many of us, including myself, are totally opposed to Yucca mountain. It's a total waste of a valuable resource. It should be dry casked and, as the French do, stored above ground in secure facilities.

        The real issue is what the problem is. The problem is carbon discharge: CO2 and particulate from coal, gas and transportation fossil fuel burning. Only nuclear can eliminate coal, which represents, in the US, 25% of all CO2 emissions and about 80% of all particulate. Coal kills 30,000 people a year. Now, as we write. Nuclear doesn't kill anyone and hasn't in the US.

        The cold-war era uranium mines are closed. The rights of First People's should be respected and I do. I'm not for trampling them. Most uranium wouldn't come from their lands anyway. Time has not stood still and mining is done differently now and under regulation in most countries.

        I won't deal with DU since ending nuclear energy won't effect DU stocks at all. I can say that ONLY nuclear energy reactors can deal effectively with it by burning it up in advanced Gen IV reactors. There is a plan that and both Dr. Chu, the new Energy Sect'y and Dr. Hansen are FOR that (as well as keeping nuclear in the clean-energy mix).

        Credits/subsidies. There is NO wind or solar industry anywhere in the world that can exist without subsidies. When anti-nuclear people raise this issue of nuclear power being subisdized...they of course ignore 'renewables' under the SAME subsidy law: the Production Tax Credit. Same law, same subsidy. Except this doesn't apply for ANY currently operating nuclear plant in the US today. It applies only toward oil and gas and wind and solar and to some degree coal.

        The 20% of the US electrical generation, the largest non-carbon source of generation in the US, gets no subsidy outside standard corp depreciation. The PTC has been applied ONLY to the first 8 GWs of new nuclear. Then it stops. It goes on forever for ALL new wind and solar.

        So, nuclear 'doesn't get subsidized' but so-called renewables do. I don't care really. So long as it's levelized and based on MW hours produced, not capacity which has no meaning when the  wind doesn't blow or the sun doesn't shine. Make it all even and we will see who provide baseload power, 365, 24/7.


        Dr. Issac Assimov: "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny ...'"

        by davidwalters on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 04:52:43 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  I've learned to value the precautionary principle (0+ / 0-)

        I've learned to appreciate the precautionary principle.  I trained as an engineer. I enjoyed playing with technology as a kid, and as an engineering student, and I still do.

        And I've learned to be wary of technology that can bite back.  I've learned about human behavior, about human psychology, and about human culture.  As a result of all those things, I've learned to appreciate the precautionary principle.

        I grew up reading Tom Swift books. Pretty much every one of 'em featured some atomic-powered device, which was, of course, completely safe.  Except when it was an atomic-powered plot device, which was, of course, completely dangerous. Until Tom Swift fixed it (sometimes using another plot device).  Atomic power seemed cool, and appealing.

        In engineering grad school I roomed with a nuclear engineer.  He ended up working on one of the DoE clean-up projects.  Classified work, but he would sometimes shake his head and remark, "It's worse than you know."

        Still, my own office was near an experimental reactor.  I locked my bike on a rack next to it.

        Later I worked, briefly, for a regional power company.  I visited one of their reactor sites.  The nuke folks were fanatics about safety protocols.  And yet that site had a history of recurring safety problems.

        I'm pretty sure that the technology exists now, or could exist, to offer reasonably safe fission power to future generations.  Possibly to the sort of folks who live in TPau's story.  But not to us, not now, not in our current culture.  Our culture has a history of recurring safety problems.

        To reach the world TPau describes, we will need to adjust our values.  

        Thanks for contributing this description, TPau.  It might suggest ways to to reverse-engineer a sustainable future.


  •  And ponies for everyone! (0+ / 0-)

    If we are wishing, right?  But the future we will live in has to be grounded in the one we currently live in, have a way to transition, and have some level of public support if it is going to be imposed top down.  Additionally, I am not sure alot of these ideas are feasible large scale, and many seem like they have sneaky little problems lurking.

    •  I expected this post. Thank you cooperating.... (5+ / 0-)

      This seems to be an attitude of our times.  "We have to be satisfied with small changes that the leadership will allow."

      As a person who lived through the 60's I find this attitude perplexing.  (If you don't think society has changed much since the 60's ask an older Afro-American woman what she thinks.)

      Let me give you a short list of things that were impossible when I was in school:
      *Going to the Moon
      *Living in Space
      *Doors that open by themselves
      *A computer in every home that took up the space of a notebook (At that time they took up whole rooms)
      *Cellphone (aka Star Trek Communicators when I was growing up)
      *A Black man as President
      *A Woman in any higher office

      If this attitude prevailed, we would not have a democracy but would still be in a feudalistic society.

      Think for a moment what Thomas Paine's Common Sense meant.  He was usurping the God given power of the King to do something completely irrational...self rule by the uneducated and course masses.

      What the Revolutionary Forefathers proved was that authority does not come from God.  It comes from all of us.  

      And historically speaking true social change never comes from the top.  Even FDR was caving to the pressure of the masses when he instituted the New Deal.

      What is necessary for mass support of social change is not only the idea that things need to be changed, DKos has a lot of subject matter on that, but a vision of how the future should actually look.  Even if you never achieve the exact vision, your move closer to it.  That is what this website is about.

      De air is de air. What can be done?

      by TPau on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 11:31:17 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I aim to please (0+ / 0-)

        As a person who lived through the 60's I find this attitude perplexing.  (If you don't think society has changed much since the 60's ask an older Afro-American woman what she thinks.)

        It was 40 years of small changes that led to the moment we are in now, and those 40 years of progress were only possible because of over a century of work before that.  The civil rights movement was incredibly incremental.  (Incidentally, I am a generation y-er, as a frame of reference.)

        Let me give you a short list of things that were impossible when I was in school:
        *Going to the Moon
        *Living in Space
        *Doors that open by themselves
        *A computer in every home that took up the space of a notebook (At that time they took up whole rooms)
        *Cellphone (aka Star Trek Communicators when I was growing up)
        *A Black man as President
        *A Woman in any higher office

        If this attitude prevailed, we would not have a democracy but would still be in a feudalistic society.

        the laptop, the moon, the cellphone, civil rights:  all incremental, and all achieved in ways unimaginable by those who originally set out to achieve it.  Men were talking about going to the moon via cannon in the 19th century, and started playing around with the idea of rockets in the '20s.  Cellphones' genesis was in the 50's.  Computers go through a new, incremental change every year or more.  None of it happened at once, and none of it happened top down.

        Think for a moment what Thomas Paine's Common Sense meant.  He was usurping the God given power of the King to do something completely irrational...self rule by the uneducated and course masses.

        Thomas Paine was standing on the shoulders of the giants of the enlightenment, who were the beneficiaries of the renaissance, who in turn were inspired by classical Greece and Rome.

        And historically speaking true social change never comes from the top.  Even FDR was caving to the pressure of the masses when he instituted the New Deal.

        Which is why we can pick a direction, but not plot a course.  We need to focus on the step in front of us and be sure we are going in the right direction.

  •  Terrific diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bythesea, CornSyrupAwareness

    and deservedly rescued -- should have been on the rec list.  I've bookmarked for your excellent links.  Thank you.

  •  Holy cow. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bythesea, CornSyrupAwareness

    OK, this diary completely blew my mind, and in the good way. Wonderful writing and awesome research of the subjects.

    Wow ... just, wow. Congrats on the Diary Rescue, TPau!

  •  Please repost this (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It's an amazing diary and should be shared with the whole community.

    [ Let Rick Warren Raise Money for LGBT Equality at Obama's Inauguration ]

    by CornSyrupAwareness on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 09:43:18 PM PST

  •  Nice vignette! (0+ / 0-)

    Hatred is murder (1 John 3:15)
    Read FAR Future, a serial peak-oil novel, at my blog.

    by dirtroad on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 09:49:46 PM PST

    •  Eh, I didn't mean to n/t there (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      TPau, etbnc

      It is Utopian, though.

      Given the high technology level, I wonder how many people are populating the Earth in this particular future. I've heard sustainable numbers from a billion to somewhat less than the five billion we have now.

      Hatred is murder (1 John 3:15)
      Read FAR Future, a serial peak-oil novel, at my blog.

      by dirtroad on Sat Jan 10, 2009 at 09:56:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I Had a dream... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I don't like talking out loud/writing about dreams. However, I had a very vivid one last night. It was about crossing 2 planes (levels of existence) through a wormhole. One was this plane; the other had no pollution and was approaching an utopia. They were both happening at the same time. The wormhole was traveled by something that looked like an open box. The starting point from this plane was a very fancy/successful dress shop in Chicago. The end point in the other plane was something like a large, well-lit mall.

    What was funny about the whole thing is I could not stay in the other plane. I wanted to go back home, pollution and all. Kinda like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.

    I came of age in the 1960s, too. Your diary floored me as I've been a progressive futurist all my life.

    Regarding nuclear energy: does the blogger quoting Asimov understand what radioactive poisoning is? We still haven't figured out a 100% safe proof method of storing radioactive waste. If so, it sure is a well-kept secret! MANY KUDOS and thank you Rescue Rangers for this one!

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