It is Day 8 of my 365 Days of Living Deliberately blog. I ended yesterday’s blog with a quotation from Thoreau about how we must give up our prejudices and about how what seems true today may be found false tomorrow.
Thoreau’s quotation got me thinking about the politics of government-directed and influenced science, about the scientific propaganda built into regulations, statutes, and legislation that govern the production and disposal of products and waste that are toxic, hazardous, and radioactive.
It got me thinking about the Copernican Revolution in the 1500’s, how the scientific thinking of the day was influenced by the politics of the day. After much scientific research, Copernicus theorized that our universe is not geocentric but heliocentric, yet he hesitated to publish his thinking because he believed people would not understand him and would scorn his new ideas. His On the Revolutions of the Celestial Sphere was published just before he died.
Later, Galileo’s scientific investigations confirmed the Copernican theory that our universe is not earth-centered but sun-centered, yet astronomers and high church officials opposed the position, and for his scientific beliefs Galileo was tried by the Holy Church, suspected of heresy, forced to deny his beliefs, and shuttered under house arrest for the rest of his life.
I got to thinking of today’s fettered scientific status quo, how it is affecting the planet for perhaps hundreds of generations and how the uranium and nuclear industries and the politicians and government officials who promote and defend them utilize a scientific language of smoke and mirrors.
I got to thinking of how Virginia uranium mining proponents maintain that regulations based on modern day, “so-called” “best practices” mining, milling, and radioactive waste disposal will guarantee environmental and public health protection. Yet the very standard upon which the regulations are based — the “as low as reasonably achievable” (ALARA) standard — is an explicit admission that radioactive contamination is an inevitability.
I got to thinking about the history of the science of waste disposal as I have experienced it first-hand in my PCB landfill battle, how EPA regulators used to claim they could build lined, Cadillac, dry-tomb landfills that would have zero-percent discharge and how now that landfill failure has been universally confirmed by the scientific community, they write into the regulations that landfill liners are permitted to allow so much water per day to leak through and that air emissions are permitted at “acceptable levels.” Here in North Carolina, our legislators even added in recent legislation that leachate collection systems designed to capture contaminated water in landfills do not have to be monitored. Clearly, as scientific knowledge is evolves, the political winds change, and weakened environmental and justice standards are the result.
Yet all is not lost. What is also happening as the public begins to be informed on the dangers of blindly accepting the political and scientific status quo of the uranium and nuclear industry, is that opponents of these destructive industries are beginning to join to make a difference. Because the Fukishima nuclear disaster has revealed the catastrophic effects of damaged nuclear reactors; because the public is learning more and more about the uncontained radioactive fallout that is spreading worldwide from Fukishima; and because the public knows that there is no safe way to contain nuclear waste in perpetuity, the support for nuclear power is waning as evidenced by a recent statement from the Nuclear Information Resource Service:
“The nuclear industry was on the run in 2013. Spurred on by high costs and citizen activism from coast-to-coast, five nuclear reactors announced permanent shutdowns this year–the most ever in one year. The proposed Calvert Cliffs-3 reactor was denied a license due to NIRS’ intervention, and utilities have cancelled seven other proposed new reactors. Meanwhile, clean solar and wind power is growing by leaps and bounds–and providing a cost-effective alternative to obsolete nuclear power and fossil fuels.”
To learn more about how people all over the country and beyond are demanding that unfettered science determines our environmental policies, go to the Nuclear Information Resource Service at www.nirs.org. Also, I am getting a lot of valuable information about uranium mining and the natural gas fracking and nuclear industries from the blog of Associate Director of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) Beverly Kerr.