Back in February the Guardian quietly announced a deal with the global consumer goods corporation Unilever. Here is the beginning of the Guardian’s press release:
Guardian News and Media today officially launches Guardian Labs – its branded content and innovation agency – which offers brands bold and compelling new ways to tell their stories and engage with influential Guardian audiences. The official launch of the new commercial proposition is marked by the announcement of a pioneering seven-figure partnership with Unilever, centred on the shared values of sustainable living and open storytelling. … The new Unilever partnership will create a bespoke engagement platform to increase awareness of, and foster debate about, sustainability issues, and ultimately encourage people to live more sustainable lives.
I wonder how many of those who proudly declare themselves “Guardian readers” recognised their beloved newspaper in that statement.
In fact, it makes perfect sense for Unilever – a corporation whose brand “positioning” depends on its customers identifying it as a responsible and caring business, despite the evidence to the contrary – to team up with the Guardian, another corporation whose brand positioning has already persuaded most of its customers that it is a responsible and caring business.
Today the Guardian columnist George Monbiot does something pretty brave for a Guardian columnist: he alerts his readers to the existence of this arrangement and gently questions what it represents, in an article bewailing the fact that “corporations have colonised our public life”.
Here is what he says:
I recognise and regret the fact that all newspapers depend for their survival on corporate money (advertising and sponsorship probably account, in most cases, for about 70% of their income). But this, to me, looks like another step down the primrose path. As the environmental campaigner Peter Gerhardt puts it, companies like Unilever “try to stakeholderise every conflict”. By this, I think, he means that they embrace their critics, involving them in a dialogue that is open in the sense that a lobster pot is open, breaking down critical distance and identity until no one knows who they are any more.
It’s worth noting how rarely journalists criticise the nature of the media they work in. Maybe that is not so surprising: few businesses, the media included, are happy having their flaws paraded in public. But what Monbiot has done here is to appear brave while really shrinking from the truth. He criticises the Guardian while really not criticising it.
Monbiot’s implication in the nice metaphor above is that Unilever is the the lobster pot, while the poor Guardian is the lobster in danger of being “stakeholderised”. Or, in another metaphor he uses, the Guardian is the one being led up the primrose path.
What he encourages his readers to infer is that the Guardian is the victim in this deal, being seduced and violated by Unilever. The reality is that Unilever and the Guardian are both wolves in sheep’s clothing. The arrangement works to the benefit of them both. In Monbiot’s reckoning, the Guardian is “public life” being colonised by Unilever. In fact, the Guardian is no more public life than Unilever. Both have colonised the public space, in the interests of maximising profits whatever the consequences to the public good and the planet. (And please, no one try to claim that my argument is refuted by the fact that the Guardian loses money. It is not a charity. Its goal is not to lose money; its goal is to find a strategy, like the one with Unilever, to revive its fortunes in a dying industry.)
In fact, the lobster pot metaphor would be much more apt to describe Monbiot’s relationship with the Guardian. The newspaper has “embraced” him, “breaking down his critical distance and identity until he no longer knows who he is”. Now if he told us that, I really would be cheering him for his honesty.
Russia will not import GMO products, the country’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said, adding that the nation has enough space and resources to produce organic food.
Moscow has no reason to encourage the production of genetically modified products or import them into the country, Medvedev told a congress of deputies from rural settlements on Saturday.
“If the Americans like to eat GMO products, let them eat it then. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food,” he said.
The prime minister said he ordered widespread monitoring of the agricultural sector. He added that despite rather strict restrictions, a certain amount of GMO products and seeds have made it to the Russian market.
Earlier, agriculture minister Nikolay Fyodorov also stated that Russia should remain free of genetically modified products.
At the end of February, the Russian parliament asked the government to impose a temporary ban on all genetically altered products in Russia.
The State Duma’s Agriculture Committee supported a ban on the registration and trade of genetically modified organisms. It was suggested that until specialists develop a working system of control over the effects of GMOs on humans and the natural environment, the government should impose a moratorium on the breeding and growth of genetically modified plants, animals, and microorganisms.
Earlier this month, MPs of the parliamentary majority United Russia party, together with the ‘For Sovereignty’ parliamentary group, suggested an amendment of the existing law On Safety and Quality of Alimentary Products, with a norm set for the maximum allowed content of transgenic and genetically modified components.
There is currently no limitation on the trade or production of GMO-containing food in Russia. However, when the percentage of GMO exceeds 0.9 percent, the producer must label such goods and warn consumers. Last autumn, the government passed a resolution allowing the listing of genetically modified plants in the Unified State Register. The resolution will come into force in July.
- Duma seeks moratorium on GMO production in Russia (rt.com)
- Total ban on GM food production mulled in Russia (rt.com)
- Russian senators seek ban on GMO-containing foodstuffs (en.itar-tass.com)
Bring us your nerve gases, your blister agents, your horrible weapons of warfare, your wretched refuse of World War II… This about sums up the decision of leaders in Washington after World War II when it came time for the American military to dispose of its arsenal of chemical weapons and those belonging to both the countries it fought against and alongside.
After the war’s conclusion, the U.S. government buried thousands of munitions loaded with chemical agents all across the country. These weapons of mass destruction were part of the U.S. arsenal as well as those belonging to ally Britain and enemies Germany and Japan.
The bombs and containers were simply dumped in the ground and buried, without concern for long-term environmental and health consequences.
Alabama is home to the largest of 249 such sites that are located in 40 states. Redstone Arsenal, a longtime U.S. Army base, sits atop miles of hidden trenches containing blister agents, choking agents, blood agents and more.
The 38,000-acre base is surrounded by homes, schools, churches and shopping centers—a city of 200,000 people. It was reported that few residents are aware of the toxic danger lurking nearby.
A disposal team has been working at Redstone since the 1970s trying to locate all of the chemical weaponry that is buried beneath 17 six-mile-long trenches. Once those trenches have all been located, the next step—scheduled to begin in 2019—is to remove the bombs and containers with great care, due to the uncertainty of the weapons’ condition after being held deep underground for decades. No more than six munitions can be safely removed each day.
“Even if we tried to do this as fast as anybody could ever get it done, we’re talking decades and decades,” James Watson, a disposal team member, told the Los Angeles Times. “This stuff is very dangerous to dig up. It’ll hurt you. It will blister you up. If you get that nerve agent on you, it will kill you.”
Redstone’s cleanup is expected to take until at least 2042. The quantity of weapons: 388,000. Between 20,000 and 25,000 of these are intact and, once disturbed, may be volatile.
Alabama has a second site, at former Camp Sibert (pdf) near Huntsville, with at least 13 stockpiles of mustard and phosgene gas.
Another of these sites is located in Spring Valley, Virginia, not far from the White House. Its arsenal features even older chemical munitions—possibly including mustard and arsenic—manufactured during World War I.
Several years ago, a vast supply of munitions from World War II was discovered beneath the grounds of Odyssey Middle School in Orlando, Florida. One of the weapons ignited into flames, but didn’t explode, injuring an Army Corps of Engineers contractor attempting to remove it. More than 200 potentially volatile explosives were found, most under the school and some near homes in the surrounding neighborhood. Home values, which were originally in the $600,000 range, plunged by at least 30%, while banks told homeowners their residences were worthless to lend against.
The U.S. military also dumped a huge volume of chemical weapons off both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. There are no plans to clean up those sites, although Congress has authorized studies to look into it.
In 1958, about a hundred miles offshore of California, the SS William Ralston—loaded with more than 300,000 mustard gas bombs and 1,500 one-ton containers of Lewisite, a blistering agent—was scuttled by the U.S military. To this day it sits beneath nearly 14,000 feet of water just outside of San Francisco.
Ralston believes the U.S. task of removing 1,300 tons of secured chemical weapons from Syria for destruction at sea will be something of a breeze compared to the job here at home. “In Syria, you know where the weapons are and what they are, and they can move them with a forklift,” Watson told the Times. “Here, we don’t know. We have to go out there and dig them out of the ground … The sheer mass of this stuff is overwhelming.”
To Learn More:
Deadly Chemical Weapons, Buried and Lost, Lurk Under U.S. Soil (by David Zucchino, Los Angeles Times)
Redstone Arsenal: Yesterday and Today (by Michael Baker, U.S. Army Missile Command)
A Generation of Indiscriminate Dumping (Daily Press) (pdf)
The British government has “disrespected” Scotland by keeping quiet about a nuclear leak at a Scottish-based reactor for two years, believes nationalist minister, Alex Salmond, all at a time of high tensions ahead of a referendum on independence.
Salmond, the Scottish National Party’s First Minister, is now demanding an apology and an explanation from British Prime Minister David Cameron that an internal leak, found all the way back in January 2012 at the Dounreay site in Scotland, which houses an MoD test reactor identical to the one used by the British nuclear submarine fleet, was kept under wraps all this time with little excuse, the Herald Scotland reports.
“This shocking turn of events leaves Philip Hammond with some very serious questions to answer. Not only does it look as if he has misled parliament – he has misled it on the extremely serious matter of nuclear emissions– which will send a shiver down the spine of everyone in Scotland. It has taken nearly two years for the Westminster government to even tell the Scottish government about problems at the nuclear facility – now it looks as if there is a cover up and the full facts are still not known,” the first minister said.
The news that led to full-on accusations of underhanded tactics and so outraged the Scottish parliament was actually revealed unexpectedly. UK defense secretary, Philip Hammond, brought the matter up on Thursday that the oldest British sub, the HMS Vanguard, was in need of having its reactor refueled. He also announced that a small internal leak had been discovered at another identical test reactor, with elevated radioactivity levels in the cooling water.
The Scottish accused Westminster of playing down just how long ago the discovery was made.
Hammond, in defense, said that the reactor had been shut down shortly after “low levels of radioactivity” had been discovered, and that the Independent Defence Nuclear Safety Regulator and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) had been notified.
Scotland’s first minister has written a letter to the British expressing “deep dismay” and is treating it as an insult to Scotland that Westminster had such a lax attitude to communication under the Memorandum of Understanding on Devolution – a 2012 document that sets out principles of communication between the UK government and the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“I recognize that, in reserved areas, your government must decide what it chooses to share with us, but on areas devolved to the Scottish parliament, you have an unarguable responsibility to share information with us,” Salmond wrote, adding that in informing SEPA the MoD had recognized an environmental hazard, yet made a political decision to request that the problem be hushed for security reasons. Sepa, who itself only found out about the issue nine months after the fact, has admitted that it was told to keep the matter on a “strictly need-to-know basis.”
“By ignoring the MOU in this way, your government has completely disrespected the Scottish parliament – and the people of Scotland – as well as the democratic processes of the whole United Kingdom,” Scotland’s first minister continued, calling the perceived lack of interest by Westminster as “underhand as it is disrespectful.”
Salmond finished by saying that the matter will not be tolerated, and demanded three things: that the British government explain immediately why the Scottish government had not been notified in a timely manner, issue an apology and promise that such a thing would never again take place.
The Scottish government also demanded an immediate inquiry into the seriousness of the leak and Britain’s part in the matter.
Hitting back, a Ministry of Defence spokesman tried to explain that SEPA “was not ordered to withhold information from the Scottish government and it is absolutely wrong to suggest otherwise,” adding that SEPA decided on its own not to report the leak.
The British also maintain that the Thursday announcement had to do solely with refueling the HMS Vanguard and not the issue of the Dounreay nuclear leak, which was deemed safe and operational by regulators.
But SEPA has also measured radiation levels and noted that discharges of gases like argon, xenon and krypton increased tenfold from 2011 to 2012. Although it was judged that emissions were within legal limits, the Scottish don’t see this as an excuse for not reporting the matter.
It should be noted that Salmond had also promised voters that an independent Scotland would be nuclear-weapons-free, so the current issue adds to the existing tensions between the two countries regarding Scottish independence from the UK. Scotland, which already has a certain level of legal and financial autonomy from London with various powers devolved to the Scottish parliament, has scheduled a referendum for full independence from the UK on September 18. Salmond insists that Scotland will retain its EU membership if it splits with Britain and will merely have to renegotiate the terms.
But the UK’s foreign minister, William Hague, said in January that Scotland will likely have to reapply to join the EU, and will probably not get anywhere near the same benefits as the UK did. He also believes Scotland will be obliged to accept the euro, and that is something the SNP already said it would not do.
The third anniversary of the Fukushima meltdown will occur on March 11th.
The news is that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and major Japanese corporations want to re-open the 50 other nuclear power plants that closed when Fukushima blew up, calling them a friendly economic source of cheap power. Will this end up with business as usual?
We were recently asked if we thought that Fukushima could ever be cleaned up. We have to say “no,” based upon what we know of the biology, chemistry and physics of nuclear power and isotopes and the history of nuclear development.
Chernobyl melted down in 1986 and is still releasing radioisotopes. Not all life systems were examined around Chernobyl, but of those that were – wild and domestic animals, birds, insects, plants, fungi, fish, trees, and humans, all were damaged, many permanently, thus what happens to animals and plants with short-term life spans is predictive of those with longer ones. Worldwide, some 985,000 “excess” deaths resulted from the Chernobyl fallout in the first 19 years after the meltdown. In Belarus, north of Chernobyl, which received concentrated fallout; only 20% of children are deemed to be “healthy” although previously 80% were considered well. How can a country function without healthy and productive citizens?
Notable in the U. S. is the Hanford Nuclear Site in Washington State, built some 70+ years ago by 60,000 laborers, and currently leaching radioisotopes into the Columbia River. DuPont was the original contractor, but since, multiple corporations, each paid mllions of dollars and have yet to contain the leaking radioactivity. Every nuclear site is also a major industrial operation, contaminated not only with radioactive materials, but multiple toxic chemicals, such as solvents and heavy metals.
In 1941, the folk singer, Woody Guthrie was hired by the US government’s Department of the Interior to promote the benefits of building the Grand Coulee and Bonneville dams to harness the power of the Columbia River, and to generate electricity and supplement irrigation. It is unlikely that Guthrie learned that the dams were to provide electricity to the Hanford nuclear site, then under construction to produce plutonium for bombs.
“Roll on, Columbia roll on
Roll on, Columbia roll on
Your power is turning our darkness to dawn
So roll on Columbia, roll on.”
Rather than turning darkness to dawn, we released nuclear weapons that made the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki “Brighter Than a Thousand Suns” – the title of Robert Jungk’s prophetic book.
Guthrie’s monthly salary was $266 – compare that to the yearly $2 billion it is costing taxpayers now.
From 1946 until 1958, the U. S. tested 67 nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands, the most famous of which is Bikini Island. Stillbirths, miscarriages and thyroid gland defects were detected early in the islanders. 60 years on, decontamination of Rongelap, a small island, that lies about 180 km east of Bikini Atoll, continues. Only about 0.15 square kilometer of land has been decontaminated, or just 2 percent of the island’s area, at a cost of $40 million so far. In 1956, the Atomic Energy Commission regarded the Marshall Islands as “by far the most contaminated place in the world”.
Within the U. S., the Nevada Test Site, and countless other sites remain contaminated. The most recently reported releases occurred in Feb. 2014 at the Department of Energy’s Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) near Carlsbad, NM. Detected in the air were of plutonium-239/240 and americium-241, transuranic elements strongly linked to cancer. So far, thirteen federal contract workers have measured levels of internal radioisotope contamination. The release spread contaminants through more than 3,000 feet of tunnels, up a 2150-foot tall exhaust shaft, out into the environment, and to an air monitoring station approximately 3,000 feet northwest of the exhaust shaft.
Fukushima is still leaking large quantities of Cs-137 and Sr-90 into the Pacific Ocean, where all forms of marine life will absorb them - from algae to seaweed, to fish, to sea mammals and ultimately to humans who consume the contaminated sea life.
Our recently released peer-reviewed paper confirms hypothyroidism in newborns in California, whose mothers were pregnant during the early releases from Fukushima. Thyroid abnormalities were detected early in Marshall Islanders and in Belarus residents of Gomel located near Chernobyl. Radioactive iodine, known to interfere with thyroid function entered the U. S. from Fukushima in late March, shortly after the meltdowns, and was carried by dairy products resulting in damage to the unborn.
It takes ten half-lives for an isotope to decay. Sr-90 and Cs-137 have half-lives of approximately 30 years, which means three centuries will occur before the initial releases are gone, and the releases have not stopped.
There are some 26 nuclear reactors in the United States with the same design as those at Fukushima, and they pose a significant risk to people and the environment. The Indian Point Nuclear Power Reactors are located some 35 miles from mid-town Manhattan, with 18 million people living within 50 miles of the site. What would be the environmental, human and economic costs if the Indian Point reactors were to fail?
The current estimated price tag to “clean up” the TEPCO mess at Fukushima is $500 billion (that’s billion, with a “B.” For us who have trouble thinking of such numbers, it will take 96,451 years to spend $10.00 per minute.
Unless we close the existing nuclear power plants and build no new ones, we are destined to repeat the on-going stories of Fukushima, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, and the myriad other sites that have already caused untold environmental, health, social, and economic costs. So will it be sanity or business as usual?
Perhaps it was Albert Einstein who defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. We must choose a sane path away from nuclear energy. Business as usual is Insane.
Janette D. Sherman, M. D. is the author of Life’s Delicate Balance: Causes and Prevention of Breast Cancer and Chemical Exposure and Disease, and is a specialist in internal medicine and toxicology. She edited the book Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and Nature, written by A. V. Yablokov, V. B., Nesterenko and A. V. Nesterenko, published by the New York Academy of Sciences in 2009. Her primary interest is the prevention of illness through public education. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org and www.janettesherman.com
Joseph Mangano, MPH MBA, is the author of Mad Science (pub. 2012) as well and many articles on the effects of nuclear power. He is an epidemiologist, and Executive Director of the Radiation and Public Health Project and can be reached at: (www.radiation.org).
Jungk, Robert, Brighter than a Thousand Suns, Harcourt, Brace, New York. 369 pp., C. 1956. (worth getting second-hand.)
Mangano, J, Sherman, J., Busby, C. Changes in confirmed plus borderline cases of congenital hypothyroidism in California as a function of environmental fallout from the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. Open J. of Pediatrics. 2013, 3:370-376 http://dx.doi.org/10.4236/ojped.2013.34067 (http://www.scirp.org/journal/ojped/)
Mangano, J. J., Sherman, J. D. Elevated airborne beta levels in Pacific/ West Coast U. S. States and trends of hypothyroidism among newborns after the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. Open J. of Pediatrics, 3:1-9, March 2013
Yablokov, Alexey V., Nesterenko, Vassily B., Nesterenko, Alexey V., Sherman-Nevinger, Janette D., Consulting Editor. Chernobyl – Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and Nature. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. Vol 1171, 2009. Available at: email@example.com
Yet another official at the nation’s most challenging environmental cleanup project has been fired after raising serious safety concerns.
This time it was Donna Busche, the head of nuclear safety for cleaning up the former nuclear weapons site at Hanford, Washington, which sits atop 53 million gallons of radioactive waste stored in underground tanks.
“The Energy Department’s overall safety culture is broken and all they are doing now is sitting idly by,” Busche told the Los Angeles Times.
Her termination came after she repeatedly warned company executives that the radioactive-waste solution being used was flawed and posed safety problems.
URS denied that her firing had anything to do with her safety complaints, saying she was let go for “unprofessional conduct.”
Busche was the second senior project official fired at Hanford. A third official resigned, after citing safety-related concerns with the $13.4-billion construction project.
Walter Tamosaitis, who headed research at URS, was fired in 2013 after he questioned whether the company’s decision to mix the waste in large tanks might result in a buildup of hydrogen gas, which can explode.
In addition, Gary Brunson, the Energy Department’s engineering division director at Hanford, quit after warning of nearly three-dozen problems not being addressed by another site contractor, Bechtel.
But the worries don’t stop there. The Energy Department’s inspector general and other federal investigators have also warned of management and safety issues at Hanford. With 150 aging nuclear-waste tanks, many of which are leaking, it’s the largest cleanup project leftover from the Cold War.
To Learn More:
Official Who Raised Safety Concerns at Hanford Nuclear Site is Fired (by Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times)
Whistle-Blower Fired From Hanford Nuclear Site (by Nicholas K. Geranios, Associated Press)
As Hanford Radioactive Leak Continues, Clean-Up Contractor Pays Fraud Penalty (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)
Six Underground Tanks Leaking Nuclear Waste in Washington State (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)
Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff’s government is taking measures to avert a confrontation over disputed territory between Amazon Indian tribes and farmers who are believed to have encroached on their historic lands.
It says it will begin to forcibly evict non-indigenous people occupying reserves and protected forests who have been ordered off the land by local courts.
The disputes go to the heart of the delicate balance between economic growth and conservation as companies pursue forest and mineral expansion into the traditional Amazon forest heartland.
In mid-January, Brasilia redeployed hundreds of soldiers and police, backed by tanks and helicopters, to enforce a June 2013 court order to evict nearly 7,000 farmers and ranchers from the Awá-Guajá reserve in the northeastern state of Maranhão.
Earlier this week, the government said it hoped to have all farmers and ranchers evicted from the area by April. There are concerns that recent clashes between indigenous peoples and ranchers could have a spillover effect into more states.
Last June, Minister of Justice Jose Eduardo Cardozo ordered the deployment of an elite military unit to Sidrolandia in southern Mato Grosso state, after indigenous peasants were killed by landowners’ employees.
The number of land disputes – and the ensuing violence, seizures and confiscations – have increased in the past several years, a 2012 report by the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI) said.
“Problems facing the indigenous population include murders, death threats, lack of health care and education, and delays in registering land ownership,” CIMI says in its report.
In the meantime, Rousseff has promised to suspend demarcating borders in disputed zones and said new rules will soon be in place.
Land disputes, and often the violent confrontations that ensue, have for decades posed challenges to Brazil’s government.
Advocates from the Landless Farmers Movement have for the past three years pressured Rousseff to expedite land redistribution to landless and indigenous farmers.
Rousseff is herself also being pressured by landowners.
In April 2012, Brazil’s Congress caved in to land lobbyists and voted greater flexibility regarding how much forest land farmers are required to conserve.
While Brazilian laws since 1965 call for protection of forests – including some 13 per cent of the land allocated as preserves for indigenous populations, the Congress vote weakened the means to enforce them.
There was no provision, for example, that forced landowners to reforest land that they had already cleared.
Although Rousseff vetoed portions of the bill, including a segment that issued amnesty to illegal loggers, and sent it back to Congress for a rewrite in May 2012, deforestation has dramatically surged since.
Merida – Venezuelan researchers are studying ways to use bamboo to provide cheap, environmentally friendly housing.
With funding from the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, students and educators at Venezuela’s Simon Bolivar University (USB) are undertaking research into improving the durability and lifespan of bamboo, along with conducting studies into possible uses of the material in housing construction.
Initial tests have already been carried out on experimental, reinforced bamboo developed at the university, according to a press release from the government’s National Foundation for Science and Technology (Fonacit). The foundation is supporting the study.
“The preliminary results were positive,” director of the USB’s Centre for Surface Engineering Professor Joaquín Lira stated.
Lira explained that the experimental bamboo has been strengthened with polymers mixed with ceramic powders. According to the professor, the reinforcing mixture succeeded in “plugging holes made by pests” and improved the uniformity of the material.
In a second phase of the study, researchers hope to construct a prototype apartment block with the reinforced bamboo. According to Lira, the modified bamboo is intended for future use as a “structural element for green, affordable housing”.
A mission to provide affordable housing to the country’s poor was launched by former president Hugo Chavez, has been continued under his successor, President Nicolas Maduro. By the end of last year, over 500,000 homes had been constructed since mid 2011 under the housing mission, according to the government. The Maduro administration has committed to constructing three million new homes by 2019. Although current construction figures are behind schedule, the government has pledged to speed up building.
Lira argued that bamboo is a logical choice for construction material in South America.
“Venezuela , Brazil and Colombia are countries with high production potential for… bamboo…adapted for construction,” Lira stated.
“In these countries, it’s estimated that there are 11 million hectares of bamboo,” the professor said.
The USB is sourcing its bamboo from 200 growers in Aragua state.
Bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants in the world. It can reportedly grow as much as 250cm in 24 hours, depending on climate and soil conditions. Lira also argued that bamboo is cheaper than other construction materials, strong and environmentally friendly.
However, the professor indicated that more research should be undertaken, particularly to reduce bamboo’s susceptibility to insects.
“Technically, we know little about bamboo [construction],” Lira stated, though the plant has been used in buildings for centuries.
“There are three story homes, bridges and churches built with this plant,” Lira said.
The research is expected to be completed by the first quarter of 2015.
Fukushima’s missing melted cores and radioactive gushers continue to fester in secret.
Japan’s harsh dictatorial censorship has been matched by a global corporate media blackout aimed—successfully—at keeping Fukushima out of the public eye.
But that doesn’t keep the actual radiation out of our ecosystem, our markets … or our bodies.
Speculation on the ultimate impact ranges from the utterly harmless to the intensely apocalyptic.
But the basic reality is simple: for seven decades, government Bomb factories and privately-owned reactors have spewed massive quantities of unmonitored radiation into the biosphere.
The impacts of these emissions on human and ecological health are unknown primarily because the nuclear industry has resolutely refused to study them.
Indeed, the official presumption has always been that showing proof of damage from nuclear Bomb tests and commercial reactors falls to the victims, not the perpetrators.
And that in any case, the industry will be held virtually harmless.
This “see no evil, pay no damages” mindset dates from the Bombing of Hiroshima to Fukushima to the disaster coming next … which could be happening as you read this.
Here are 50 preliminary reasons why this radioactive legacy demands we prepare for the worst for our oceans, our planet, our economy … ourselves.
1. At Hiroshima and Nagasaki (1945), the U.S. military initially denied that there was any radioactive fallout, or that it could do any damage. Despite an absence of meaningful data, the victims (including a group of U.S. prisoners of war) and their supporters were officially “discredited” and scorned.
2. Likewise, when Nobel-winners Linus Pauling and Andre Sakharov correctly warned of a massive global death toll from atmospheric Bomb testing, they were dismissed with official contempt … until they won in the court of public opinion.
3. During and after the Bomb Tests (1946-63), downwinders in the South Pacific and American west, along with thousands of U.S. “atomic vets,” were told their radiation-induced health problems were imaginary … until they proved utterly irrefutable.
4. When British Dr. Alice Stewart proved (1956) that even tiny x-ray doses to pregnant mothers could double childhood leukemia rates, she was assaulted with 30 years of heavily funded abuse from the nuclear and medical establishments.
5. But Stewart’s findings proved tragically accurate, and helped set in stone the medical health physics consensus that there is no “safe dose” of radiation … and that pregnant women should not be x-rayed, or exposed to equivalent radiation.
6. More than 400 commercial power reactors have been injected into our ecosphere with no meaningful data to measure their potential health and environmental impacts, and no systematic global data base has been established or maintained.
7. “Acceptable dose” standards for commercial reactors were conjured from faulty A-Bomb studies begun five years after Hiroshima, and at Fukushima and elsewhere have been continually made more lax to save the industry money.
8. Bomb/reactor fallout delivers alpha and beta particle emitters that enter the body and do long-term damage, but which industry backers often wrongly equate with less lethal external gamma/x-ray doses from flying in airplanes or living in Denver.
9. By refusing to compile long-term emission assessments, the industry systematically hides health impacts at Three Mile Island (TMI), Chernobyl, Fukushima, etc., forcing victims to rely on isolated independent studies which it automatically deems “discredited.”
10. Human health damage has been amply suffered in radium watch dial painting, Bomb production, uranium mining/milling/enrichment, waste management and other radioactive work, despite decades of relentless industry denial.
11. When Dr. Ernest Sternglass, who had worked with Albert Einstein, warned that reactor emissions were harming people, thousands of copies of his Low-Level Radiation (1971)mysteriously disappeared from their primary warehouse.
12. When the Atomic Energy Commission’s (AEC) Chief Medical Officer, Dr. John Gofman, urged that reactor dose levels be lowered by 90 percent, he was forced out of the AEC and publicly attacked, despite his status a founder of the industry.
13. A member of the Manhattan Project, and a medical doctor responsible for pioneer research into LDL cholesterol, Gofman later called the reactor industry an instrument of “premeditated mass murder.”
14. Stack monitors and other monitoring devices failed at Three Mile Island (1979) making it impossible to know how much radiation escaped, where it went or who it impacted and how.
15. But some 2,400 TMI downwind victims and their families were denied a class action jury trial by a federal judge who said “not enough radiation” was released to harm them, though she could not say how much that was or where it went.
16. During TMI’s meltdown, industry advertising equated the fallout with a single chest x-ray to everyone downwind, ignoring the fact that such doses could double leukemia rates among children born to involuntarily irradiated mothers.
17. Widespread death and damage downwind from TMI have been confirmed by Dr. Stephen Wing, Jane Lee and Mary Osbourne, Sister Rosalie Bertell, Dr. Sternglass, Jay Gould, Joe Mangano and others, along with hundreds of anecdotal reports.
18. Radioactive harm to farm and wild animals downwind from TMI has been confirmed by the Baltimore News-American and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture.
19. TMI’s owner quietly paid out at least $15 million in damages in exchange for gag orders from the affected families, including at least one case involving a child born with Down’s Syndrome.
20. Chernobyl’s explosion became public knowledge only when massive emissions came down on a Swedish reactor hundreds of miles away, meaning that—as at TMI and Fukushima—no one knows precisely how much escaped or where it went.
21. Fukushima’s on-going fallout is already far in excess of that from Chernobyl, which was far in excess of that from Three Mile Island.
22. Soon after Chernobyl blew up (1986), Dr. Gofman predicted its fallout would kill at least 400,000 people worldwide.
23. Three Russian scientists who compiled more than 5,000 studies concluded in 2005 that Chernobyl had already killed nearly a million people worldwide.
24. Children born in downwind Ukraine and Belarus still suffer a massive toll of mutation and illness, as confirmed by a wide range of governmental, scientific and humanitarian organizations.
25. Key low-ball Chernobyl death estimates come from the World Health Organization, whose numbers are overseen by International Atomic Energy Agency, a United Nations organization chartered to promote the nuclear industry.
26. After 28 years, the reactor industry has still not succeeded in installing a final sarcophagus over the exploded Chernobyl Unit 4, though billions of dollars have been invested.
27. When Fukushima Units 1-4 began to explode, President Obama assured us all the fallout would not come here, and would harm no one, despite having no evidence for either assertion.
28. Since President Obama did that, the U.S. has established no integrated system to monitor Fukushima’s fallout, nor an epidemiological data base to track its health impacts … but it did stop checking radiation levels in Pacific seafood.
29. Early reports of thyroid abnormalities among children downwind from Fukushima, and in North America are denied by industry backers who again say “not enough radiation” was emitted though they don’t know how much that might be.
30. Devastating health impacts reported by sailors stationed aboard the USS Ronald Reagan near Fukushima are being denied by the industry and Navy, who say radiation doses were too small to do harm, but have no idea what they were.
31. While in a snowstorm offshore as Fukushima melted, sailors reported a warm cloud passing over the Reagan that brought a “metallic taste” like that described by TMI downwinders and the airmen who dropped the Bomb on Hiroshima.
32. Though it denies the sailors on the Reagan were exposed to enough Fukushima radiation to harm them, Japan (like South Korea and Guam) denied the ship port access because it was too radioactive (it’s now docked in San Diego).
33. The Reagan sailors are barred from suing the Navy, but have filed a class action against Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), which has joined the owners at TMI, the Bomb factories, uranium mines, etc., in denying all responsibility.
34. A U.S. military “lessons learned” report from Fukushima’s Operation Tomodachi clean-up campaign notes that “decontamination of aircraft and personnel without alarming the general population created new challenges.”
35. The report questioned the clean-up because “a true decontamination operations standard for ‘clearance’ was not set,” thereby risking “the potential spread of radiological contamination to military personnel and the local populace.”
36. Nonetheless, it reported that during the clean-up, “the use of duct tape and baby wipes was effective in the removal of radioactive particles.”
37. In league with organized crime, Tepco is pursuing its own clean-up activities by recruiting impoverished homeless and elderly citizens for “hot” on-site labor, with the quality of their work and the nature of their exposures now a state secret.
38. At least 300 tons of radioactive water continue to pour into the ocean at Fukushima every day, according to official estimates made prior to such data having been made a state secret.
39. To the extent they can be known, the quantities and make-up of radiation pouring out of Fukushima are also now a state secret, with independent measurement or public speculation punishable by up to ten years in prison.
40. Likewise, “There is no systematic testing in the U.S. of air, food and water for radiation,” according to University of California (Berkeley) nuclear engineering Professor Eric Norman.
41. Many radioactive isotopes tend to concentrate as they pour into the air and water, so deadly clumps of Fukushima’s radiation may migrate throughout the oceans for centuries to come before diffusing, which even then may not render it harmless.
42. Radiation’s real world impact becomes even harder to measure in an increasingly polluted biosphere, where interaction with existing toxins creates a synergy likely to exponentially accelerate the damage being done to all living things.
43. Reported devastation among starfish, sardines, salmon, sea lions, orcas and other ocean animals cannot be definitively denied without a credible data base of previous experimentation and monitoring, which does not exist and is not being established.
44. The fact that “tiny” doses of x-ray can harm human embryos portends that any unnatural introduction of lethal radioactive isotopes into the biosphere, however “diffuse,” can affect our intertwined global ecology in ways we don’t now understand.
45. The impact of allegedly “minuscule” doses spreading from Fukushima will, over time, affect the minuscule eggs of creatures ranging from sardines to starfish to sea lions, with their lethal impact enhanced by the other pollutants already in the sea.
46. Dose comparisons to bananas and other natural sources are absurd and misleading as the myriad isotopes from reactor fallout will impose very different biological impacts for centuries to come in a wide range of ecological settings.
47. No current dismissal of general human and ecological impacts—”apocalyptic” or otherwise—can account over time for the very long half-lives of radioactive isotopes Fukushima is now pouring into the biosphere.
48. As Fukushima’s impacts spread through the centuries, the one certainty is that no matter what evidence materializes, the nuclear industry will never admit to doing any damage, and will never be forced to pay for it (see upcoming sequel).
49. Hyman Rickover, father of the nuclear navy, warned that it is a form of suicide to raise radiation levels within Earth’s vital envelope, and that if he could, he would “sink” all the reactors he helped develop.
50. “Now when we go back to using nuclear power,” he said in 1982, “I think the human race is going to wreck itself, and it is important that we get control of this horrible force and try to eliminate it.”
As Fukushima deteriorates behind an iron curtain of secrecy and deceit, we desperately need to know what it’s doing to us and our planet.
It’s tempting to say the truth lies somewhere between the industry’s lies and the rising fear of a tangible apocalypse.
In fact, the answers lie beyond.
Defined by seven decades of deceit, denial and a see-no-evil dearth of meaningful scientific study, the glib corporate assurances that this latest reactor disaster won’t hurt us fade to absurdity.
Fukushima pours massive, unmeasured quantities of lethal radiation into our fragile ecosphere every day, and will do so for decades to come.
Five power reactors have now exploded on this planet and there are more than 400 others still operating.
What threatens us most is the inevitable next disaster … along with the one after that … and then the one after that …
Pre-wrapped in denial, protected by corporate privilege, they are the ultimate engines of global terror.
It was a four-alarm fire requiring more than 50 fire departments and 100 firefighters. But owners of S&R Egg Farm in La Grange, Wisconsin say chemicals and explosives were not involved in the late January fire. Unless, of course, you count the ammonia buildup from 300,000 hens caged over their own manure in the barn that burned down. All the birds burned alive.
Whether you care about animals, the environment or the tax dollars used in extinguishing the blaze for which water had to be trucked in, charges should be brought against the owners of S&R Egg Farm. News outlets describe the operation as a “third-generation, family-owned business founded in 1958, producing up to 2 million eggs a year,” but no “family farm” produces 2 million eggs a year. Battery egg operations with millions of hens are a blight on farm workers, animals, the environment and the face of US agriculture. Grocery stores, distribution centers, egg wholesalers and food consumers should refuse to buy any products linked to S&R Egg Farm.
Fires occur with chilling regularity at factory farms for the same reason they occur in textile shops and in prison–the victims are the least powerful in society and few care. Four years ago 250,000 hens were incinerated at Ohio Fresh Eggs in Harpster, Ohio in a similar and predictable event. It took 225 firefighters and one million gallons of water, some from the Killdeer Plains Wildlife Area reservoir, to extinguish the blaze. Thank you taxpayers. The egg operation had one employee per 250,000 hens. Factory farming brings jobs.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture said it was sending the bodies of the burned hens to the pet and animal feed processor G.A. Wintzer & Son Co. in Wapakoneta. Ohio Fresh Eggs said its “Easter egg donation project” would go forward as planned.
Ohio Fresh Eggs, linked to the infamous Teflon chicken don Jack DeCoster, boasts a three decade list of worker and environmental violations. In February of 1987, a fire at its Turner, Maine operation killed 100,000 birds and DeCoster was only charged with polluting groundwater with their carcasses. Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich called the Turner operation a “sweatshop” and Cesar Britos, an attorney representing egg workers, said he thought he would faint in the egg barns though he “was only there a few minutes.”
Thirteen years after Reich and Britos visited, four law enforcement officials involved in a raid at the same operation had to be treated by doctors for lungs burned by the ammonia concentrations in the barns. Six months ago, an employee at the same operation was shot and killed by another employee who was ”shooting rodents and stray chickens while clearing a barn.” Nice.
Nor are the factory farm fires limited to egg operations. 8,700 pigs perished in a 2008 fire at a Netley Hutterite Colony hog farm in Manitoba which had only six full-time employees. Bulldozers could not breach the manure pits, said news reports, making the fire more deadly. Hogs perished in the same barn in Flora, Indiana, owned by Lynn Peters, twice, according to news reports and hog farmers Jan and Nancy Pannekoek of Chilliwack, BC, have three hog farm fires to their name–and counting. Why are charges not brought? Why are these “farmers” allowed to repeat this abuse?
Fires don’t just “happen” as fire science and alarms, sprinkler systems and contingency plans have shown for decades. But Big Ag and local and state regulators believe a few thousand animals burned to death is just the cost of producing a cheap product. And when food consumers embrace these “cheap” products without questioning their origin and production they are guilty, too.