Planet Earth is densely populated and resources are dwindling. Extreme weather events are increasing, threatening property, lives, crops, water supplies, and habitable land.
An asteroid impact threat exists as do threats from volcanic eruptions and destructive earthquakes. Wars are raging. Extremists without conscience are exhibiting a blatant disregard for human life. Politicians are in the stranglehold of the very wealthy and influential few. Corporate management is rife with greed and disregard for the well-being of others. And right now, the Ebola virus is spreading with the potential to effect whole swathes of humanity.
Disturbing though these phenomena are, they are all survivable by some. What is NOT survivable however, is the unstoppable release of radioactive material from damaged, neglected or deliberately targeted nuclear facilities. According to euronuclear.org, March 2014, across the surface of the planet right now there are 435 nuclear power plants in operation, generating electricity, and 72 plants are under construction.
In addition, there are numerous smaller plants in use at medical and military facilities. It will take only a handful of these sites being severely impacted by any of the extreme events endangering the planet for radioactive particles to leak into the atmosphere at a rate that would be unstoppable and terminal for humanity. With the extreme events threatening the existence of so many people where are the guarantees that there will always be enough surviving, qualified people available to maintain these nuclear installations at a permanently safe level?
You have only to look at the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011 to see the impact of two extreme events occurring almost simultaneously. The Fukushima nuclear energy plants were severely damaged in a way that no-one had predicted and the radioactive material released into the atmosphere far greater than was initially admitted. Furthermore, the situation is not yet under control with contaminated water still leaking and this, when there are sufficient, qualified people available to attempt to rectify the damage.
While visiting Japan in 1960, the scientist J. Robert Oppenheimer, (he had worked at the Los Alamos Laboratory, New Mexico, on neutron chain reaction) speaking of the first atomic bomb detonation in 1945 said,
“We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita… ‘Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’”
I remember the chill that came over me when I first heard him say that in a news clip. Oppenheimer was a clever scientist but as he pushed the boundaries of scientific knowledge which led eventually to the development of nuclear reactors, he did not appear to have used his intelligence to think through the consequences of his work, or if he did, he wilfully ignored the possibilities. He did indeed create a potential destroyer of this world, Earth, this life-supporting, beautiful, blue jewel of the universe.
In the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plants disaster Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, and her government, showed foresight and decisive leadership in agreeing to bring to an end the operation of nuclear power plants in Germany. All are to be closed by 2022 and ongoing energy needs met from renewable resources.
No amount of effort to plant forests, grow your own crops etc. etc. will help in the face of unstoppable radioactive contamination. If humanity and the survival of life on earth is to be guaranteed, the use of nuclear power must be phased out and nuclear facilities rendered harmless. It needs other governments to follow Germany’s example while there is still time.