Tomyamaguchi’s Weblog

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My Donation to Donald Trump

A few weeks ago, I received a fundraising letter from Donald Trump. I decided to send him a donation in the postage paid envelope that came with the letter.

trump-contribution-envelope

trump-contribution-front

trump-contribution-back

My message on the back of the letter:

I have voted for Republicans in the past. Would I vote for Republicans in the future? When I find a Republican who takes global warming seriously and listens to scientists. When I find one who doesn’t engage in immigrant bashing or appeals to white supremacists. When I find one who really supports LGBTQ rights. Until then, you’ve lost me. 

khizr-kahn-with-constitution

Khizr Kahn lends his pocket constitution.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7z7lN7nQjG0

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October 3, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear, a book review

I just ran across a pro nuclear power book from the 1970s called The Health Hazards of Not Going Nuclear. The title page of this old paperback displays the word Not in red so that we cannot possible mistake the title’s message and meaning. Originally, published in 1976, this updated edition is from 1979, so it includes the Three Mile Island accident. There is an introduction by Edward Teller.

Author Dr. Petr Beckmann, now deceased, really knew his stuff about the safety issues involving nuclear power. In addition to the book, he published a regular newsletter called Access to Energy. That newsletter continues decades after his death, http://www.accesstoenergy.com. The book addresses all the concerns raised by the antinuclear movement, including health risks from radiation exposure, waste storage, nuclear proliferation, and reactor accidents. It does this with well documented facts, geared to the average reader. You do not need a science degree to understand his arguments, even as he goes into some quite technical detail.

Beckmann is clear that he has no love for folks like Ralph Nader, Barry Commoner, and David Brower, as he pulls apart their arguments and exposes their illogic. In his 1979 update, he poses to himself the question if Three Mile Island would change any part of his book. His response, “Not a word.”

In the three decades since Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, Beckman’s book and pro nuclear arguments still stand. They have been restated in books by Stewart Brand (The Whole Earth Discipline) and Gwyneth Cravens (Power to Save the World). These environmentalists now realize that they were wrong about nuclear power and Beckmann was right. (See also the documentary Pandora’s Promise.)

Beckmann’s focus is on the health impacts of nuclear, in contrast to coal and other fossil fuels. The health impacts of radiation exposure are minuscule compared to those from air pollution created by burning fossil fuels. In addition, the dangers of coal mining far outweigh the risks of mining and refining uranium.

Being the late seventies when he wrote it, there is less than one page about carbon emissions and climate change. On page 175, Beckman refers to it as the “greenhouse theory.” He acknowledges that the theory may one day prove true and that some pronuclear advocates were advancing it in their arguments. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough evidence at that time that Beckmann found convincing.

What struck me as I read through Beckmann’s criticism of antinuclear activists is the similarity with today’s climate change deniers. Beckmann was right, our arguments were based on emotion and not on science. We listened to what we wanted to hear and refused to accept any information that contradicted our preconceived world view. We were the climate deniers of the late twentieth century.

Unfortunately, Beckmann goes off the rails when he tries to explain the motivations of the antinuclear movement with the chapter titled Why. His libertarian politics actually start to show when he argues against Environmental Protection Agency regulations. In Why, he rants against activists with little or no data to back him up. He quotes conservative commentators like Irving Kristol. He even engages in red baiting, although backs away from actually calling antinuclear activists communists.

This is not to say that his comments are not entirely without validity. The fringe left of the antinuclear movement do have an anti capitalist and anti corporate agenda. They were a major force in the demonstrations inSeattle during the World Trade Organization meeting and the Occupy Wall Street movement. Of course, those political actions contained a wide spectrum of people, many of whom do not share that “Smash the State” agenda.

Maybe, there are other possible explanations for the rise of the antinuclear movement and why that movement may be currently on the decline.If there is any movement left, Fukushima is keeping it alive. Back in the late twentieth century there arose a backlash against science and technology. This is where we got the bumper sticker Question Authority. Vietnam and Watergate gave us good reason to distrust the authority of government. The Gulf of Tonkin resolution, which passed 50 years ago this month, was based on a sea battle that did not happen. A government had lied to get us into war. The space program was seen as an instrument of American military power, even though it was civilian based with completely peaceful objectives. The landing on the moon was viewed as another battle in the cold war. Our only objective was to beat the Soviet Union in getting there first. It didn’t help that tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States increased during the Reagan years, heightening the threat of nuclear war. The linking by activists of nuclear power plants and nuclear bombs further fueled the anti technology backlash.

Modern environmentalism rose as a backlash to the excesses of science and technology. There was spiritual aspect to the rise of this movement. The Hippies advocated going Back to the Land, seeking out a simpler life that reconnected to nature. That search for meaning in the context of nature began to resonate with the larger, twentieth century culture. More people returned to religion to find meaning for their lives after failing to find in it in the excesses of materialism and technology.

Then, there could be other explanations that have less to do with politics and more with biology. We humans are not always the rational and objective beings we believe we are. We use our brains to make sense of a complex world and try to do it with the simplest explanations we can find. To do this, we create world views to make sense of all the data that is reaching our brains, Many times, we filter out data that conflicts with that view. We tend to accept what we wish to be true and reject what doesn’t fit with our biases.

In addition, we are not very good at evaluating risk. Many times we act emotionally, especially when we are afraid. When our fight or flight instinct takes control of our brains, our logical reasoning process shuts down. Fear is a strong motivator, and we are strongly motivated by the fear of radiation, cancer, and the atomic bomb.

The good news is that millennials have not shared in much of the technophobia that guided baby boomers for the past few decades. Even many of us older folks have warmed up to technology with our acceptance of personal computers and the Internet. Yes, we are still a bit nervous about Big Brother and the loss of privacy, but that has not stopped us from sharing on Facebook or sending very non secure emails to each other. Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates helped change our attitudes about science and technology by placing that technology in our hands. Bill Nye, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Star Trek, and the Big Bang Theory have helped to make science and scientists look cool. Instead of complaining about the cost of sending people to the moon, we mourn now that we left the moon and never returned. We cheer the rovers sending back photos of Mars.

Now it is the acceptance of science and technology that alerts us to the urgency of climate change, which brings us to the final irony of Beckmann’s legacy. The newsletter he originally published in Boulder, CO now originates from Cave Junction, OR. While Beckmann did not take a position on global warming, the new publisher Art Robinson has. He is in the denial camp. His website links to a petition to reject the Kyoto Protocol, stating, “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gasses is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.” The first signer shown on http://www.petitionproject.org is the late Edward Teller.

Scientists are people and make mistakes like other people. They have biases and blind spots as other people do. That should not cause us to suspect the validity of science. Better than I can say it, I refer to Dr. Stuart Jordan, writing for the Skeptical Inquirer in 2007:

“Most people understand that science is a process for seeking the truth about how the natural order works. It is the process itself, not the results of applying it, that lies at the heart of science. Fewer people may realize that this process virtually guarantees the integrity of science in the long run even if individual scientists make mistakes, as all occasionally do, or if a (very) rare individual is actually dishonest and falsifies data. This guaranty results not from any intrinsic moral superiority of scientists themselves, but from the fact that research examined by scientific colleagues in the most prestigious medium, the refereed publications, is quickly subjected to ruthless examination for any errors. Those who detect an error often gain as much credit for their scrutiny as those whose work survives it. Scientists who deliberately avoid this scrutiny by publishing their work in less respected media are understandably and properly given less credence for their efforts.”

http://www.csicop.org/si/show/global_warming_debate_science_and_scientists_in_a_democracy/

A scientific debate should not be a political debate. Unfortunately, the debate on climate change has been caught in politics. Liberals accept that humans are the cause of global warming, while conservatives deny it. Liberals are correct to tell conservatives to listen to scientists on climate change. However, liberals need to listen to scientists, as well, about nuclear power.

August 11, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment