Pembroke Ontario

Nuclear Hotseat

I recently came across the 'Nuclear Hotseat' Web site - a site with lots of info & podcasts on it. I immediately warmed to the phrase "nuclear hotseat." (heh heh...)

We are ALL on the nuclear hotseat, make no mistake about that!

Sometimes we even have nuclear facilities in our towns or neighbourhoods that we don't know about!

This is true in Pembroke, Ontario, where a small & visually unobtrusive little company called SRB (located in a residential neighbourhood, btw) makes products from tritium - a dangerous by-product of nuclear energy. Unfortunately for the residents of Pembroke, too many emissions go up the stack & into the groundwater. It should be shut down. Determined activists there have tried for years to do so. Yet most residents of Pembroke seem unaware it's even there. Lots of info about this on the TAP (Tritium Awareness Project) Web site. (I've mentioned SRB in some posting or other on this blog, but have not really written extensively about it. Note: on the TAP site, be sure to use the 'Categories' tab at the right to find lots more content/news stories, etc. & also use the "tags" - i.e, click on relevant words to find articles. Here's a doozy of a story...)

Same deal in Peterborough, Ontario. Another tritium company/polluter: this one called Shield Source Incorporated, or SSI. Tons of recent activism there has led to its near-shutdown - but don't count on it staying dormant for long. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission will almost certainly allow it to open again. Or maybe the owner will run away & leave a big radioactive clean-up mess for the locals (he's done this before, down in the U.S.). Find out more here (there is also quite a lot about SSI on the TAP site mentioned above). Ah, now I remember: I wrote a bit about all of this here.

Latest discovery of a nuke facility in the midst of a neighbourhood that I'm aware of is the GE place in Toronto (Lansdowne & Dupont). Big public meeting about it tomorrow! Read up on it here.

Now, here is what I saw on the Nuclear Hotseat site that grabbed my attention:

QUOTE: "If you feel frightened, helpless, depressed, triggered into obsessive or addictive behaviors or any other emotions when you think about Fukushima and what the ongoing radiation release means to the future of life on Planet Earth, only one thing will help you genuinely feel better: TAKE ACTION. DO something.  Write a letter stating your concerns to the president, your senators, your representative, your governor.  Follow up with phone calls.  Stay informed, not only about the current nuclear news but on what activist groups are doing.  Join them in any way you can — donate, forward their posts on social media, comment on blogs, connect with others who are willing to engage in the conversation.  This is no time to be alone.

There are also actions you can take to protect your health and the health of your family.  I’ll be sharing those as well as links to sites that will allow you to do further research by yourself.

The nuclear industry and its political apologists are working their PR firms overtime to convince you that nuclear energy is clean, green, safe and sustainable.  Don’t let them fool you; they are lying.  On this site, you’ll gain access to cutting edge information on nuclear energy, Fukushima, and the ongoing health dangers we face.  My goal is to inspire you to join the battle to turn off your neighborhood nuclear reactor.

As Helen Keller once wrote, “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” I invite you to join me and work to get us all out of the nuclear hotseat." END OF QUOTE

I second that invitation!!

Janet

p.s. all these nuclear situations? You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried! It's appalling. It's nasty. It's evil. You really & truly couldn't make stuff like this up if you tried! But see what Howard Zinn had to say, down below. It's all true! (btw too, it was in the pretty little town of Port Hope, Ontario that I first began thinking "You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried!" I wrote about that in a posting called 'Atomic Towns.' All these towns are tied together. For sure, we are indeed ALL on the nuclear hotseat...)

'Quote of the day' with this post: "Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience." – Howard Zinn (some good quotations about civil disobedience here)

More from Howard Zinn:

“We don’t have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. Even when we don't "win," there is fun and fulfillment in the fact that we have been involved, with other good people, in something worthwhile. We need hope. An optimist isn't necessarily a blithe, slightly sappy whistler in the dark of our time. To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places -- and there are so many -- where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” - Howard Zinn  <quoted by Rob Brezsny in Oct. 31/12 message>

Worlds Apart!

Evolution biologist & futurist Elisabet Sahtouris is a brilliant woman I had the great privilege of hearing speak at the Marguerite Centre in Pembroke, Ontario in November 2007 (my, but there were some over-the-top presenters when Paul Schwartzentruber was head honcho there!!).

Ms. Sahtouris said something that really stuck with me. (She showed an amazing film, too, called “Crisis As Opportunity: Living Better on a Hotter Planet”)

She pointed out that we all live in our own world. None of us live in “the same world” as anyone else does. Kind of a mind-blowing idea, when you think about it.

To nail the point home, she asked “Do any of you feel you live in the same world as the members of your family?”

Hooey. It brings on a smile just thinking about it. The answer is sooooo Noooooooo!!!

(I’m sitting on a crowded TTC – Toronto Transit Commission – subway car as I scrawl these words.

There are 100s of us on this subway car. We ALL live in different worlds.

Every one of us has a completely different world running, inside our own head.

Hooey.)

<end of subway-scrawled notes>

***

Yikes! Well, this helps explain quite a lot. I am in regular contact with some people I would swear are not just not from the same planet, they may not even be from the same galaxy. But as far as that goes, I also can’t begin to fathom people who work for/in the nuclear industry, who very clearly operate in a startlingly different world than the one I inhabit.

***

And, I’d just had a conversation, before the subway ride, about how I find Toronto a very friendly city, with someone who’d recently had a conversation with a man who finds it unfriendly & even downright snooty, only he didn’t “get” (until it was explained to him) that women in a big city are not automatically going to respond in a super-friendly way to random male strangers who speak to them out of nowhere. (This seems like such a “Duh” to us women, but there you go, men & women don’t live in the same world, either, do we??)

***

The world is full of people who say, “What can one person DO?” & that old “You can’t fight City Hall” line, while in my world, I (have mostly chosen to) muse on possibility & potential, rather than on limitations. People are always asking me questions that highlight their fear, whereas I like to focus more on courage & possibility.

***

Different worlds.

& paradoxes, hmmmm? My posting about circles, crosses & resurrection two days ago was about how we are not alone, we are not separate. And this is true.

Now I’m talking about how we all live in different worlds. & that’s true, too.

***

Well, shoot, Reader, I never promised you any uncomplicated rose gardens, did I????

I do think it would have helped the human race a whole great big bunch if we had maintained close ties with one another, with our own tribe, maybe, instead of fragmenting off the way we have (into aptly-named nuclear families, yikes, what a phrase, hmmmm??), so that now it’s much easier to accept the different worlds perspective than the one world one.

***

My spirits & energy are unusually low of late, not gonna lie to you. I’m still probably fundamentally cheerier (& more grateful) than lots of folks you run into.

But the state of the world is getting me down pretty seriously right now; true story.

My own personal “little” world is pretty pleasant. But the world “outside” is scarier (or even more terrifying) by the day.

How is one supposed to integrate all of this??

***

I keep reaching here to find some pretty, neat or insightful way to end this little set of musings, but nothing along those lines is coming to me.

******

Well, I know some folks who believe really spectacular things are going to happen for human beings in 2012.

What a lovely idea!

Sure hope they’re right!!

Janet

p.s. Gregg Braden on "2012 & Fractal Time."

p.p.s. an article about solar flares & nuclear power that I find pretty sobering. "Why a Likely Natural Event Could Cause Nuclear Reactors to Melt Down and Our Grid to Crash."

‘Quote of the day’with this post: “What lies behind us and what lies ahead are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

NW Conference: Awards! (part II)

<<December 2011: The Ottawa Citizen (Canadian newspaper based in our capital city) is doing a series on nuclear waste.>>

<Oct. 12/11.>

  • NW = Nuclear/nuke waste
  • AECL = Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.
  • CNSC = Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission
  • OPG = Ontario Power Generation

 

Other posts about this conference are:

 

 

Awards for the Nuclear Industry (continued)

(Part I, A – K, is here)

  • Obfuscation Above & Beyond the Call of Duty award to CSA (Canadian Standards Association) staff person M. Rhodes for a completely & utterly incomprehensible presentation on CSA Guideline N292.5 – a “Guideline for the exemption or clearance from regulatory control of materials that contain, or potentially contain, nuclear substances.” (check it out here! If you've got $200, they'll let you buy a copy!!) More from the conference program: [The guideline] “was recently developed to address a need for guidance on approaches for clearance [italics mine] and of materials from facilities licensed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) consistent with Canadian and international recommendations. This guideline is also applicable to determining if an activity associated with materials that contain nuclear substances is exempt from requiring a CNSC licence. The guideline summarizes [are you snoring yet?] the regulatory requirements associated with the exemption and clearance [italics mine] of materials and provides a graded approach to designing a survey based on the risk of residual contamination being present.” In layman’s terms, this appears to be about an industry committee having loosened regulations for radioactive materials to be “re-characterized,” & thus released with less (or no) scrutiny or oversight. I think. (Note that this man has won the opposite of a plain speaking award, & that I was completely unable to cut through his incredibly dense jargon-speak.) When asked how the so-called “public consultation” on this took place, Mr. Rhodes replied that it was posted on the CSA Web site. What?? That’s what the nuclear industry/CNSC calls public consultation??? Yikes. (Surely there are rules about public consultation?? As in, um, you have to actually consult the public???)
  • Overused Phrase of the Week award goes to almost every single speaker at this 3-day conference, not one of whom, if I am not mistaken, failed to use the phrase “going forward” – quite as though they were entitled to some kind of prize for … for going forward (instead of backward? Or sideways?? Or, hmm. Maybe down a rabbit hole?? I dunno. I am just sooooooo tired of this hackneyed, overused phrase).
  • Plain Speaking award – 4-way tie here. François Bilodeau from Hydro Québec, who admitted the refurbishment of the Gentilly-2 reactor will create a huge amount of new waste. Adrian Simper from the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in the UK, who was upfront about the fact that there is a VERY BIG mess of nuke waste there. (Program reads: “The UK’s nuclear legacy is a major public liability, and arguably represents the largest, most important environmental restoration programme in Europe.” (See article here) Tom Mitchell, OPG Prez & CEO, who admitted, “Nuclear waste is growing” & alluded to the “increased waste from refurbishments.” Finally, CNSC Prez/CEO Michael Binder allowed as how “We have tended to be secretive” & that “most of our conferences are us talking to ourselves” & have not included the public or the press. True story!
  • Pollyanna award – to M. Laraia of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for his skimming-very-much-along-the-surface talk about decommissioning work at Yankee Rowe Nuclear Power Plant & various other locations, & his cheerful exhortation to “Be creative!” (Hmmm. Possibly his award should be for “Providing Practically No Details.”)
  • Preposterous Suggestion of the Week award to the man in the audience who suggested that nuclear waste shouldn’t be called waste – as though calling it something else would render it less dangerous. Of course it would also then be less of a concern to all those foolishly misguided members of the public (that’s us, btw) who are scared out of our wits about waste that will require careful handling for, count ‘em, one million years.
  • Refreshing Frankness award to the speaker – Ian Barnes, I believe his name was – who in discussing the decommissioning of a “redundant UK Research Facility” (AWE Aldermaston; he didn’t mention what had gone on there; not sure I want to know!) stated that an aspect of the work was “on program, which is quite unusual with decommissioning” (this right after having stated that building rubble was being released with 95% certainty of the “waste classification.” Only 95% certainty, with radioactive materials?? Yikes).
  • Rocket Science (not) / Doh!! award to many of the speakers at the conference, who seem to think they should get a prize for acknowledging the brilliant insight that, when you are dealing with nuclear projects, you need to “think about waste all the way through, not just at the end.” (Geez, & I thought I’m not a rocket scientist!?)
  • Screw the Taxpayers!! award to the nuclear industry (& our government) for, is it … $16 billion in federal tax $$ to the Nuclear Waste Management Office (NWMO)?? How much to the Nuclear Legacy Liabilities Program?? $7 billion? How much for Port Hope & Port Granby? Chalk River Labs clean-up & decommissioning costs? Taxpayers’ money, folks!! They make the waste & the profits, we get to own the wastes, & pay the clean-up costs. Quite the deal, eh? Remember that old phrase ‘corporate welfare bums’??
  • Surreal Moments award goes to – the nuclear industry!! For their “Investigation of Tritium in Groundwater” workshop at this conference. I was there! Both at the workshop & at a # of CNSC hearings that have been held regarding this preposterous situation – in the flesh, as it were. I am also intimately aware of the long, sick history of the SRB company in Pembroke, Ontario that makes glow-in-the-dark products from tritium & whose goings-on led to this ever-so-dry workshop at a nuclear industry conference where the hired gun consultant, hired to do a study & later report to this conference, utterly failed to mention how the excessive tritium emissions were discovered at great personal effort & no doubt considerable psychic cost by citizen activists who persistently went to the CNSC over years & years & years & gave about a zillion pounds of their flesh & their time to force this company to at least greatly reduce its tritium-emission-spewing (we wish they’d shut the sucker down, but at least their efforts have resulted in a massive reduction of emissions). Near the end of the workshop, someone asked how the company had managed to reduce its emissions so substantially. Guess who had to answer the question? One of those same citizen activists who has given thousands (or 10’s of thousands) of hours of his personal time over the past 20+ years to protect not only his own children’s health, but that of all the citizens of Pembroke, Ontario. Phew. Yes, I’m a little passionate about this issue, the very one that brought me to awareness of how the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission operates, how very down-the-rabbit-hole/Mad Hatter’s Tea Party the whole nuclear business is. It was surreal to hear this sanitized little workshop – this dry little consultant’s spiel – about a very, very serious situation – & hear no background whatsoever (not one single word) about the citizen activism that led to such big changes at SRB in Pembroke, & also led to the CNSC carrying out the Tritium Studies Project ...which cost Canadian taxpayers who knows how many millions of dollars, & at the public launch event of which I recall CNSC staffer Dr. Patsy Thompson sheepishly admitting that the groundwater plume had not been predicted accurately, based on CNSC's "computer modelling." I call it all the Grand Tritium Experiment. The GTE. Citizens of Pembroke, guinea pigs for the Grand Tritium Experiment. Unconscionable.
  • Team Player award to … gosh, let’s just give it to everyone in the nuke industry, shall we? The industry’s many foot soldiers are outstanding in their efforts to prop one another up, even in the face of preposterous lies & secrets, & are experts at not asking one another inconvenient questions that might lead to…actually telling the truth.
  • 3 R’s Waste Reduction Hierarchy Highjacking / We can spin that one! award for disingenuous talk about how the nuclear industry is “doing the right thing” by beginning to talk about “recycling” nuclear waste. The posting ‘Recycling: The Good, The Bad & the Ugly’ delves into this & provides links for further information.
  • Understatement of the Year award – 3-way tie here. Frank Doyle, President of the Canadian Nuclear Society (the organization that put on the conference), who said in his opening address that there is a wide variety of wastes & “significant nuclear legacy liabilities” to deal with (a huge admission from the nuclear industry, actually) & CNSC Prez/CEO Binder for two of his remarks: “Public confidence [about the nuclear industry] is waning” & “The March 11th event in Japan was a wake-up call” & finally, Tom Mitchell, Prez & CEO of OPG, who acknowledged that the accident at Fukushima is “humbling” to the nuclear industry, with its intimation that “the unthinkable might happen.”
  • Utter Obliviousness to Reality award – self-explanatory…no??
  • What a MESS!? award – self-explanatory, yes?
  • Wizard of Oz award – the nuclear genie, the nuclear expert, the nuclear booster – the politicians, the industry people who have shoved & continue to shove nukes down our throats – they are all like the Wizard of Oz. Smoke & mirrors. Sound & fury, signifying nothing. Nothing but destruction, that is. Yours, mine – even their own. They get the prize. (We get the ruined environment, incredibly long-lived waste, & the cancers – & all the heartbreak & pain associated with all those illnesses & deaths & losses).
  • You Want it in YOUR basement?? – self-explanatory, I’d say…

Awards for the Activist Crowd:

  • Can’t believe we stayed through the whole darn thing! award or, alternatively,
  • Didn’t run screaming from the room! award
  • Digging through jargon & bullshit & fancy language award
  • I TOLD YOU SO award for all the truths the environmental community has been telling for years that the nuke industry is finally having to admit to publicly (not that these mild admissions are much comfort, you understand; the waste is still there & it still has to be safely contained for a million years…), or alternatively,
  • It’s the WASTE, Stupid!!just as the environmental community has been saying all along!
  • Telling the Truth award – for telling the simple unvarnished truth, a truth any 6-year old could tell you: no nuclear power is safe.

Awards for the General Public

  • Deer in the headlights / Deeply snowed award for falling prey to nuclear bullshit / bafflegab / snow jobs / jargon. (It’s pretty easy to do!)
  • Deeply puzzled award (Why is it we taxpayers are footing the bill for all this nuke waste clean-up again??)
  • Enemy of the People award (what any person living in a nuclear community would receive for speaking up / truth-telling. See Henrik Ibsen’s play An Enemy of the People).
  • Innocence & naivete award for finding the secrets, lies, deceptions & nastiness of the nuclear industry simply too much to attempt to fathom or swallow.
  • Quotation of the Year award to Frank Zappa for this gem: “Government is the Entertainment Division of the military-industrial complex.” Hooey!!!

 

The final post about this conference is here.

 

Darl. Hearings: Janet M. (aka me - March 31st)

March 31, 2011.

Members of the Joint Review Panel, OPG & CNSC staff & fellow members of the public:

I appreciate the opportunity to make this presentation to the Darlington New Build Joint Review Panel.

As I laid out in the outline I submitted in February, my presentation will consist of the following:

  • Introductory remarks
  • Comments on the limitations of the review process
  • Comments on projected costs & overall economics of this project
  • Nuclear fuel chain issues & implications
  • Issues of public trust
  • Concluding remarks

Introductory Remarks

I’ve been an environmental activist for more than 20 years now. I’m also a former long-time resident of Durham Region & spent most of my adult life in Durham Region & the Greater Toronto Area.

It was never my intent to become involved in nuclear issues & I’ll explain in a moment why I did. Most of my years of activism have been focused on waste, pesticides, cancer prevention & climate change initiatives.

It’s relevant that I am a mother. Concern for my children’s future began even before they were born, naturally enough, & the threats to their future seem to have multiplied exponentially.

Now that they are adults who might like to have children of their own one day, I have the motivation to keep on working on environmental issues – even though sometimes I’d like to just stop & pull the covers over my head – the way so many “ordinary people” seem to do.

I’ve been thinking for a couple of days now about panel member Mme. Beaudet’s question to Mark Mattson, Lake Ontario Waterkeeper President, about reaching “ordinary people” in this process.

For sure I am one of the ordinary people in the sense that, unlike so many of my brilliant colleagues who’ve spoken at this hearing, I am not a technical person. I don’t really have a clue how nuclear energy & nuclear power plants work. I’m not scientifically minded & I’m not mathematically minded, either.

I could never engage with an engineer about technical matters involving reactors, & most of the CNSC staff could silence me pretty quickly with their jargon.

But here’s the thing. Although I am not technical, I do have an ear for language, & I can still see pretty well. I can often tell when I’m being deceived, & I can spot when an Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes. I often recall that Jane Jacobs (internationally known for her work on urban issues) once said, “Always be prepared to believe that experts are stupid. They very often are.”

I’m a big believer in telling the truth, & in drawing attention to elephants in the room. This doesn’t always make me popular, of course! Sometimes we humans are pretty invested in leaving those elephants alone – whether on big scary matters like nuclear energy, or the “small” ones in our personal lives.

As regards telling the truth, I recall that Maggie Kuhn, founder of the Grey Panthers, once said “Speak your mind, even when your voice shakes.” …. so that’s what I am trying to do. Sometimes my voice does shake – it may very well be shaking now – but if we human beings are going to keep on living on this planet (something I am less & less convinced is going to be possible in the long-term), I think more & more of us are going to need to start telling the truth.

Now, as to how & why I became involved in nuclear issues.

After 24 years in Durham Region, I moved to Deep River for 6 years. Friends I made in Renfrew County told me about the little company in Pembroke that makes glow-in-the-dark products using tritium from CANDU reactors. The things I learned about the tritium pollution in air & groundwater in Pembroke shocked me deeply. That’s what motivated me to start attending Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission hearings. It’s been very illuminating!

The Limitations of This Review Process

The limitations of this process have been covered quite brilliantly by other intervenors – Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Northwatch, the International Institute of Concern for Public Health, Greenpeace, & others.

I would like to call attention to the document called Public Hearing Procedures (no file or document #) that states, in Section 1, ‘Background Information,’ that the proposal is “for the site preparation, construction, operation, decommissioning and abandonment of up to four new nuclear reactors” etc. etc.

The use of the word “abandonment” certainly sends up a red flag for me! I’m not sure how we can reasonably talk about “abandoning” nuclear reactors whose contaminants & waste will remain radioactive & dangerous for thousands & thousands of years. As far as I’m aware, the nuclear industry has no real experience in the safe decommissioning of used-up nuclear plants. The use of the word “abandonment” is a bit shocking to me, for sure.

In Section 2 of that same document, under “Role of the Panel,” it refers to this “environmental assessment of the complete life cycle of the project.” Again, I’m not sure how we can be properly said to assess the complete life cycle of a project whose carrying out involves the creation of dangerous wastes that will remain dangerous not just for my grandchildren’s grandchildren, but for their grandchildren’s grandchildren’s grandchildren… & perhaps beyond?? It seems a little preposterous, then, to me, to make this claim about the “life cycle” of the project.

There are other aspects of this plan for new nuclear reactors that I have trouble buying into. “Bounding scenarios.” “Multiple technology approach.” “Credible accident scenarios.”

The language all sounds more than a little absurd! It sounds like fancy jargon that intends not to illuminate or tell the truth, but to do quite the opposite. To cover up & obscure the truth.

I doubt very much that the BP oil spill – or the current nuclear crisis in Japan – would be classified as “credible accident scenarios.” Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. As one of the aboriginal speakers said on Monday, the unthinkable does indeed happen…

I have felt quite often during this hearing process that, like Alice in the story of “Alice in Wonderland,” I must have fallen down a rabbit hole. Some of the testimony I hear puts me in mind of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

OPG testimony on Tuesday about their ability to safeguard dangerous nuclear wastes for hundreds of thousands of years is an excellent case in point. I am not in the slightest reassured! In fact, OPG staff members’ inability to really get their heads around the really, really long-term storage challenge is frankly sobering & even downright scary to me.

I recall that a previous intervenor, Dr. Fairlie, called on the nuclear industry to demonstrate humility, not hubris, at this most extraordinary time, considering the escalating nuclear crisis in Japan.

Given the current nuclear crisis, this whole panel experience seems almost surreal. I doubt that I am alone in feeling this sensation.

As for the failure of this process to properly investigate non-nuclear alternatives, I’m reminded of Thomas Alva Edison – father of the light bulb – who said “I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait ‘til oil and coal run out before we tackle that.” Of course Edison very likely had no idea we’d come up with the madness of nuclear energy!

Comments on the projected costs & overall economics of this project

Many intervenors have by now made comments on this as well.

I do not recall how many millions of dollars over budget the first generation of reactors at Darlington came in at. (I do recall that an engineer friend of mine once said that if the money spent building the Darlington reactors had been put into solar panels for all the houses in Durham Region, Darlington wouldn’t have been needed. This friend is a nuclear engineer, by the way…)

How many millions of dollars over budget are all the current nuclear refurbishment projects? Some mind-boggling # that truly does boggle the mind so much that we “ordinary people” lay it aside almost casually & forget about it. We’ve heard it so many times before…

And yet, it is genuinely scandalous, really, isn’t it??

I also wonder how it is possible for OPG to give any realistic estimate of the costs for decommissioning reactors when, from what I gather, decommissioning nuclear facilities is not exactly “proven technology.”

Finally, I want to register my extreme frustration that, if all the money that’s been spent on this project had been put into research & implementation of conservation & efficiency measures (which have been known about for decades now, after all!) & renewable energy sources, a great many more jobs would have been created & they would be sustainable jobs.

The money that is being spent to conduct this hearing process would very likely fund a really efficient environmental non-governmental organization for years. So much waste of human energy, psychic potential & our hard-earned tax dollars! It’s enough to make a person weep….

Nuclear fuel chain issues & implications

I’m aware that you have chosen not to consider the entire nuclear fuel chain to be an integral part of your deliberations. But talking about building new nuclear reactors & failing to consider the rest of the stages involved is kind of like saying we’re going to undertake to protect fetuses from fetal alcohol syndrome – without bothering to talk to the fetuses’ mothers about giving up drinking!

Dave Kraft, director of Nuclear Energy Information Service has said “Authorizing construction of new nuclear reactors without first constructing a radioactive waste disposal facility is like authorizing construction of a new Sears Tower without bathrooms.”

The nuclear fuel chain is… bad news. Human health & the environment are damaged at every turn.

It is not precautionary at any point, & simply claiming it is so will not make it so.

The biggest single problem with the nuclear fuel chain, it seems to me, is the waste that will be created & left for future generations to “manage.”

It seems to me we have a moral duty as human beings to behave in such a way that future generations will be possible. A duty many of us are really only paying lip service to, I’d say.

We heard Dr. Caldicott speak last week, about the damage to children in the wake of the Chernobyl disaster. We all know there will be vast damage to the as-yet unborn in the wake of the current Japanese nuclear disaster.

I wonder about the possibility for future generations to survive at all, considering the overwhelming burden of nuclear pollution that already exists – never mind the bizarre & irresponsible notion of creating yet more.

We cannot properly deal with the wastes that have already been created. As has been pointed out by Mr. Kamps from Beyond Nuclear, “29 years after passage of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, 36 years after the repository search began, 54 years into commercial nuclear power, and 69 years after Fermi first split the atom during the Manhattan Project, the U.S. still has no safe, sound, permanent storage plan for high-level nuclear wastes.”

Nor, as we all know, does Canada.

In my opinion, put very very simply, nuclear energy is immoral.

I believe we have a moral duty to stop messing with it.

Issues of public trust

We know that the public does not trust the nuclear industry. We didn’t before Chernobyl, & we haven’t since. We didn’t before the accident in Japan & of course, we do so even less now.

I’m not sure that this matters much to the nuclear industry. Or to our governments.

There seem to be forces at work here that I don’t really understand.

I do believe, though, that one problem is an engineering mindset that is not serving us well.

I’ve had some interesting encounters with engineers in the past few years. Some of them have said things that have blown my mind.

One who used to work at the Chalk River nuclear facility expressed surprise that it had become clear that the ocean could not withstand all of humanity’s assaults on it. All the pollution we have dumped in it, & continue to dump in it. I was taken aback. He was serious! He thought we could go on & on & on using our precious water bodies as dumping grounds.

Another engineer (two, actually) outright denied what the retired, radioactive steam generators at the Bruce Power plant contain. It was pretty much a “Please! Don’t confuse me with the facts” conversation. The piece of paper I was showing them had information that had been provided by OPG – but these engineers were sure they knew better!

Hear no evil. See no evil. Speak no evil. This is a very dangerous mindset.

The nuclear industry seems to damage people at every stage along the way. People who live near uranium mines get sick. Bodies of water are destroyed forever. Workers at the Bruce were recently exposed to radiation.

Nuclear accidents happen & the public is lied to about the extent of the damage.

A previous speaker at this hearing (one of the articulate First Nations speakers on Monday) said, “No one is listening to us.”

We have good reason not to trust the industry.

Concluding Remarks

I’ve amended my remarks since I first wrote them. I was feeling pretty angry when I wrote my first draft.

Now we have another nuclear disaster, & now we have an opportunity to make this a watershed moment in human history. It may well be too late to save us, but it sure seems to me we ought to at least try!

I haven’t done a lot of stints in the corporate world in my working life. I do still have a powerful memory of one meeting I was part of, in my last corporate role.

I sat looking around the room at all the very bright & energetic people who were in the room & who were really working their butts off on the project we were engaged in. Well above & beyond the call of duty, for sure.

I thought, “Holy smokes. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could harness all the energy of all these brilliant minds to do the things that really need to be done to fix up the planet??”

And I’ve been having that thought again here, during the past days of hearings.

There’s a real “us & them” mentality at work here. It’s adversarial, & it sure doesn’t help us solve problems.

Last year I read an amazing book called Country of My Skull – Guilt, Sorrow & the Limits of Forgiveness in the New South Africa, about the Truth & Reconciliation Commission. I recall from time to time (when I’m not feeling angry about what a mess things are & wondering about & blaming who is responsible for all these messes) that we really are all in this together, & that keeping on with the us & them dynamic isn’t going to take us anywhere we really want to go.

I can’t help but wish we’d use this time now, in the wake of this horrendous Fukushima nuclear disaster, to put our minds to a little “truth & reconciliation.” Put all our bright minds together & find solutions – not keep making more & more problems.

I’m terribly naïve – I know that. We environmental activists are idealists. I guess somebody has to do it!

Einstein, as we all know, said “Nuclear power is one hell of a way to boil water!” He also said “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

While I have no expectation that this panel will actually decide to put a halt to this project, that is what I very much hope you will do.

Earlier this week, on Monday, after I left the day’s hearing here, I went down to the gate at the Darlington Generating Station, where I looked at the plaque on the monument that was erected by the Nuclear Awareness Project group in 1989. The group put a time capsule in the ground & then put up a monument over top of it.

The plaque reads:

“In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next 7 generations.” – from the Great Law of the Haudenosaunee/Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy.

“This monument marks the opening of the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station. We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors – we borrow it from our children. The time capsule contained herein shall be opened after 7 generations, in the year 2129. The capsule contains information reflecting the debate on nuclear technology.

Our children shall judge us.”

It is surely so.

Thank you.

Full Serve; Travel Light

Yesterday I attended a really neat workshop held in a church hall in Pembroke (Ontario, Canada). Hanging up on the internal balcony were 4 lovely wall-hangings.

The two that really caught my eye said a mere four words that I thought are pretty powerful.

"Full serve" & "Travel Light."

I thought, "Wow. There's a whole life philosophy!!"

Sometimes a very few words can really say a lot, hmmm?

Janet

P.S. As it happens, I was at this church hall for a family constellations workshop based on the work of Bert Hellinger, a quite fascinating man. Friends back in the small town I used to live in introduced me to Hellinger's book Love's Hidden Symmetry - What Makes Love Work in Relationships. A most interesting & inspiring read!! The family constellation concept is fascinating... The workshop was great, & I'm happy I saw those 2 very simple but very insightful wall-hangings. Some things in life are simple - but we sure do busy things up with complexities, don't we???

'Quote of the day' w. this post

“We are at this moment participating in one of the very greatest leaps of the human spirit.” – Joseph Campbell, US folklorist & expert on mythology (1904 - 1987)

SG / CNSC: some background…

If you are new to nuclear issues in Canada (although the things I have learned in Canada may very well apply in other countries that use nuclear power), there are a few things it is helpful to know. I’ll mention one or two, & my next post will have some specifics about the steam generator issue (SG) & recent CNSC hearing (you can see a Webcast of the hearing here.)

1. The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) claims it “regulates the use of nuclear energy and materials to protect health, safety, security and the environment and to respect Canada’s international commitments on the peaceful use of nuclear energy.”

Some of us would question that lofty claim. Many of us who've been active on nuclear issues have long found that the CNSC seems to be (to quote the words of NDP Member of Parliament Nathan Cullen, who gave a press conference on Parliament Hill on September 28th, right after another press conference on the SG issue, just before the hearing began) a “lapdog rather than a watchdog.”

CNSC frankly seems to be an agency that exists to promote & facilitate the operations of the nuclear industry. I say this after watching CNSC tribunal members & staff in action for some years now.

CNSC staff look & act very much as though they work for the nuclear industry, rather than for the Canadian public, whose tax dollars mostly pay their very generous salaries. (Complication: the nuke industry also gives the CNSC money in some kind of “cost recovery” scheme that I don’t begin to understand, so the employees, I guess, have a hard time “biting the hand that feeds them.”)

You will never be able to make sense of any nuclear goings-on in Canada without this basic understanding. The CNSC really does not work for you & me – unless you & I happen to be part & parcel of the nuclear industry.

And let’s conclude today’s civics lesson on this point by adding that there are other government agencies that are not independent of industry/corporate-driven priorities. Pesticides & Health Canada & the Pest Management Regulatory Agency spring quickly to mind. I gather Agriculture Canada has a similar dynamic.

We have lots of freedom of speech in Canada (although increasingly the media outlets are owned by a tight-fisted corporate/industry-driven agenda) – but our government is seldom really very much our friend at all. Sad, but true, I’m afraid.

2. The CNSC Tribunal (the bigshots who make the decisions & are paid very handsomely to do so) is heavily dominated by an engineering mindset. Gotta confess, I don’t really even understand what that consists of – but here are 2 things that have been said to me along the way that have helped me somewhat to understand how some engineering minds think…

First was by a fellow who was then employed in the nuclear industry (in a location where frequent heavy water spills made & presumably still make their way into the Ottawa River). In response to a news item on TV, he commented to the effect that “Gosh – we [meaning engineers? Nuke industry insiders?] always thought the ocean could hold all that stuff we dump in it.” I was taken aback. For sure, his royal “we” did not speak for me!! I have never believed that the planet’s rivers, streams, lakes & oceans were meant to be repositories for human garbage, toxins, toxic waste, mine effluent, nuclear waste, oil spills…etc. etc. The next comment that helped me out was when a young man I know who has a civil engineering degree (& another degree; not sure what the other one is; an MBA maybe??) commented to me that engineers are taught to go ahead & do things that are possible to do, without ever stopping to ask themselves what the consequences of their actions will be. In other words, there is no ethical component to their thinking. (They probably dismiss the precautionary principle as just so much frippery; for sure, they do not understand it.)

3. When the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission holds a public hearing, those who wish to “intervene” must usually register their intent to do so a full month ahead, by submitting 4 weeks ahead of time, in writing, the things they plan to discuss at the hearing. This gives CNSC staff plenty of time to prepare for the riff-raff (I’m sure that’s the way they conceive of those of us who oppose their shenanigans) & refute whatever the riff-raff plan to say. I have no idea how many of these employees there are. It appears the organization has gobs & gobs of staff. Lots of Ph.D.’s & “experts” among them. They always speak very, very authoritatively – even when what they are saying is utterly incorrect (maybe especially when what they are saying is incorrect??)

4. The nuclear business is very, very technical & complex. It is so technical & complex that unless you have about 5 Ph. D’s, odds are you will not understand a great deal of it in its full complexity. So, for example, CNSC staffer A who understands health-related matters (& those maybe not all that well, frankly) does not understand how a tritium plume moves underground through groundwater. The “expert” who supposedly understands how tritium plumes move may frankly not understand it at all, since it’s entirely possible that no human being really does understand this (& why should we? Shouldn’t we just stop causing such utterly awful things to happen in the first place???). (For sure the CNSC staff does not understand it; that’s why the migration of the tritium plume underground in Pembroke, Ontario, in the area of the SRB Technologies tritium light operation, has been very inaccurately predicted. And if you have no idea whatsoever what a tritium plume is, lucky you!! You probably don’t live near SRB in Pembroke & haven’t had your well water ruined forever by it!)

Dear me, I seem to be digressing here. My apologies.

Point simply being, CNSC staff is mostly Ph.D.-heavy, but what I would call wisdom-light. They know, as one woman I encountered in the nuclear town I used to live in once put it about some Ph.D. types, “more & more & more about less & less & less, until eventually they know absolutely everything about absolutely nothing.”

(Important point: I know lots of fine folks with Ph. D.’s who are very smart indeed. Not merely book-learning smart, but people-smart & social skills-smart. All-around lovely people - who have ethics & morals & try to exercise them on a routine basis, & who clearly understand what the term "precautionary principle" actually means. Basically it means "Gee, when there are risks of danger to human beings & the environment, put on the brakes & go real slow!")

But the folks at the CNSC seem to have their heads stuck in some kind of … tunnel? There isn’t much light in it, whatever it is they have their heads stuck in. Hmmm. Maybe it’s just that, as Upton Sinclair once so wisely put it, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” There is a whole very, very large nuclear industry on this planet that is staffed by people for whom this remark is presumably very apt.

So. The CNSC staff knows all kinds of arcane stuff about nuclear goings-on. They know policies & quote lots of bewildering acronyms, & can go on at great length about bamboozling things, very little of it indeed easy or even possible for ignorant peasants such as myself to grasp – but the greatly fortunate thing is that there are activists who are wildly intelligent & stubborn & feisty & passionate – & when their communities are threatened by nuclear nonsense of one kind or another (unfortunately, the nuclear nonsense is very, very widespread & nasty indeed), they learn about how all this stuff really works, & then they can take on the nuclear industry & make them look bad.

Of course, usually agencies like the CNSC just go right on ahead & allow the nuclear nastiness to continue anyway – I’ve certainly seen that happen! The citizens of the city of Pembroke, on the Ottawa River northeast of Ottawa, have been unwilling guinea pigs for a massive tritium pollution experiment for 20 years now, & the CNSC a few months ago extended the license of this nasty little business for another 5 years (the TAP – Tritium Awareness Project – Web site has plenty of information on this topic, btw).

But goodness me, do let’s get back to the steam generators, shall we?? Next post….

 

My Religion

<June 18/10>

On my very lovely walk this morning (beautiful day!) along the boardwalk (in the Beaches area of Toronto, Ontario, Canada), I articulated the key tenets of what I guess you might call my “religion.”

They are:

  • Gratitude
  • Walking
  • Community
  • Service
  • Solitude / silence
  • Music [added later; see P.S.]

I could elaborate on each of these, of course. Walking also takes in Nature, love of the Earth, & maybe canoeing, kayaking, swimming & snowshoeing… Community takes in love, family, conversation, smiling, friendliness & friendship. Gratitude takes in joy & leads to a happy spirit. Service takes in activism & caring & doing (which also lead to a happy spirit!). Solitude & silence are things I cannot exist without & sometimes wonder whether others might benefit from a wee bit more of…

& music!! Well – music sometimes catapults me straight from practically comatose, down at the bottom of a Very Deep Pit (or even a not-all-that-deep-but-still-definitely-in-a-pit-pit) into outright exhilaration!!

Janet

p.s. couple weeks later, on July 1st: I’ve been doing this odd nomadic gig lately. Some of the time I’m living out in the boonies, sometimes I’m in the small city of Pembroke, Ontario (up river from Canada’s capital city, Ottawa, & down river from leaking “legacy” pollution at the Chalk River nuclear facility; Gee – sure makes me feel better to know the pollution there is “legacy” as opposed to new…or, hmm…..does it??, & home to (notice I am not saying proud home: many of us here are not merely not proud but frankly appalled about) SRB Technologies, a tritium-emitting local business that has just outrageously been issued a 5-year license by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (boy are they un-aptly named!?!?!? Ought to be more like the Canadian Nuclear Danger Commission); check out the Tritium Awareness Project Web site to learn “the truth about tritium”…)

And some of the time I hang out in Toronto, Canada’s largest city & kind of an all-around pretty fun place...

Well.

On my long walk in Pembroke this morning, I observed, as I have on other occasions, how church-y this town is. It has a quite extraordinary number of churches. Off the charts, really!

Not sure what that’s all about, but the limitations of “organized” religion seem more & more apparent to me as the years go by.

I’ve written elsewhere about what I see as the problem with religion.

What sprang to mind this morning as I noticed Pembroke’s considerable churchy-ness is the sort of somewhere-else-ness of most religious teachings. “Heaven” is somewhere else. “Divinity” is somewhere/someone else. “Salvation” is some other time. “Holy” is other places or people.

Me, I’m convinced all these things are right here, right now, always.

Hmmm. In ‘Pulling Down the Pedestals’ & ‘I’m not OK – YOU’re OK’ I’ve written about our tendency as individuals to see others as…better ... more whole…than one is oneself. I don’t think this attitude & the dominance of religion & its “God/holiness/sacredness is somewhere else” message is a coincidence, exactly…

Certainly Eckhart Tolle’s thoughts about presence, & about the pain body (& everything else he talks about!) resonate hugely for me. (I’ve written about ET in a few blog postings Ducks Unlimited’, ‘Pain Bodies on Parade or Oh, To be a duck’ & ‘Flap your wings’, among others…)

Dear friend Lynn has just given me a copy of the book This is It – The Nature of Oneness – Interviews with Teachers of Non-Duality, including Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now, by Jan Kersschot.

That phrase “This is it!” resonated for me right away.

All is here right here, right now, in this moment & it is plenty!

The heck, I say, with the fear & poverty mentality we’ve been so immersed & drenched in for so long.

This is It!

p.p.s. weeks later, on July 24th: It became necessary to add that 6th item – music – to the list the other evening when, under the great spirits & energy-enhancing influence of some lovely, sing-y, dance-y, cheerful tunes, I got hours & hours of useful work done, instead of succumbing to the temptation to veg out in front of a movie. Music sure can be magical!! (Pat Conroy said, “Without music, life is a journey through a desert,” and isn't it true??)

p.p.p.s. 'My Religion, take 2' (from a couple years later).

Protests are Celebrations!

There are a lot of people around these days (some of whom may think of themselves as terribly “spiritual”) who are quick to express the view that “opposing” things has the opposite outcome to that we desire. “What we resist, persists,” they say. And I get what they're saying...

There is no question whatsoever in my mind that I am opposed to the company in Pembroke that spews tritium onto the local populace (& into local air & groundwater, in what I have come to think of as the GRAND TRITIUM EXPERIMENT or GTE), & I’ve worked hard to try & get it shut down (we failed, btw, & the company has just been given a new, 5-year licence by its nuclear “regulator,” the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, or CNSC. You can find more information about all this at the Tritium Awareness Project Web site, a site & project dedicated to "telling the truth about tritium").

For the record, I am not sorry I put in all those hours I put in. No regrets whatsoever about my role in this modern day David & Goliath struggle.

What’s occurring to me is this:

I see all the work I do – the writing – the efforts aimed at polluters of any & all kinds – the participation in “protests” – as a celebration!

I love to celebrate what is best in human beings & in this kooky mess of a society/culture we’ve created for ourselves here on Planet Earth.

I celebrate our

  • caring
  • compassion
  • energy
  • community-building
  • individuality
  • creativity
  • big generous hearts
  • capacity for fun/joy
  • music
  • freedom
  • laughter
  • love
  • hope

 

& the list goes on!

& I celebrate the possibility & promise of democracy & cooperation among those of us who work to build a better world – & even those of us who don’t, either because they are too lazy, apathetic, cynical, miserable, oblivious or fearful – or because they are really all caught up in the “S/he who dies with the most toys/power wins” game…

Because you know what?

We’re all in this together, whether we like it (& each other) or not.

As someone pointed out at the Citizens’ Inquiry on the Impacts of the Uranium Cycle held in Ottawa, Ontario (Canada) on Earth Day (April 22nd), 2008, we need a “big tent” story that is big enough for ALL of us – & you know what? He’s right.

So I’ll keep right on with the work I’ve been doing for 20 years now – working to build a “better” world. Sometimes that may take the form of opposing something nasty – & sometimes I’ll mostly use my words – & I’ll keep right on going to “protests,” because protests are joyful gatherings of like-minded, energetic citizens who care – & who, like me, celebrate what is best in all of us – as individuals, & as a society. & who like to get together once in a while in a big, noisy way – cos’ hey! That’s what democracy looks like!

& if that somehow makes me less “spiritual” than some of the folks I know, well…so be it!

We all gotta do what we gotta do!

Janet

p.s. I don’t know whether folks consider the Dalai Lama “spiritual” (heh heh), but I heard him quoted in an Elisabet Sahtouris DVD as having said, “The best meditation is critical thinking – followed by action.” (The film is called "Crisis As Opportunity: Living Better on a Hotter Planet.")

p.p.s. I am often reminded of Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892-1964), a Nazi victim who was imprisoned at the Sachsenhausen & Dachau prison/death camps in Germany, & who said so memorably, “First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”

More recently, in the March 2010 issue of the CCPA Monitor, monthly newsletter of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives– a most excellent group & publication – I saw an updated version of this:

The Price of Silence

When they came for the poverty-stricken,

I was silent because I was well-off.

When they came for the unemployed,

I was silent because I had a job.

When they came for the homeless,

I was silent because I had a home.

When they came for the pensioners,

I was silent because I had a good RRSP.

When they came for the Aboriginal peoples,

I was silent because I was Anglo-Saxon.

When they came for the immigrants,

I was silent because I was born here.

When they came for the sick and disabled,

I was silent because I was healthy.

When they came for the students,

I was silent because I had my degree.

When they came for the youth,

I was silent because I was middle-aged.

When at last they came for me,

No one was left to hear my cries.

 

(with credit to the afore-mentioned Paster Niemöller for his inspiration.)

p.s. EONS later: another posting about protesting here -- with essential quotations!!

‘Quote of the day’ with this post: “Energy always flows either toward hope, community, love, generosity, mutual recognition, and spiritual aliveness or it flows toward despair, cynicism, fear that there is not enough, paranoia about the intentions of others, and a desire to control.” ~ Michael Lerner, quoted in The Great Turning – From Empire to Earth Community, by David Korten

 

David & Goliath: Modern Day Battles...

The David & Goliath analogy keeps coming up.

Along with other activists, I’m currently involved in a D & G-type tussle with a very polluting company in Pembroke, Ontario (Canada), & its regulator, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC). Have a look at the Tritium Awareness Project Web site if you’d like to know more about this.

Now, I was raised in a (nominally if not really) Christian family, & as a child did faithfully attend Sunday school. But my familiarity with the Bible is very out of date.

The very bare bones of the story are that David was kind of a puny little guy who took on big, monstrous Goliath & defeated him in battle.

Along with tons of others, I’ve been engaged in David & Goliath battles for 20 years now. Victories seem few & far between, but there have been some. The enactment of a provincial pesticide by-law in Ontario (Quebec did it first & set the example) has been one memorable & happy achievement, for sure! Hundreds of activists devoted thousands of hours over many, many years, & eventually the work all came together (with outstanding contributions along the way by not just the many individuals who worked so tirelessly for so many years, but also the Toronto Board of Health & the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment) & voilà – no more lawn spraying. Yay!!

I was recently in Washington, D.C. to attend the conference of the Network of Spiritual Progressives (the past few blog posts have also been about this conference) & the David & Goliath analogy was brought up by 2 internationally known & widely (& wildly) outstanding & well-respected women: Sister Joan Chittister & Marianne Williamson.

Both are involved in the NSP. Sister Joan is a co-founder & co-chair (& also co-chairs the Global Peace Initiative of Women), while Marianne Williamson is a personal friend of co-chair Rabbi Michael Lerner as well as being an internationally known spiritual teacher (& co-founder of the Peace Alliance & founder of the American Renaissance Alliance).

(Btw, along with all the other fantastic speakers, all of whom are widely known & hugely respected, neither of these women received speaking fees for their part in this conference. The speakers all paid their own expenses, & were not paid for their participation.)

Sister Joan commented that “Goliath” is “out in the street,” meaning, I think, that it is our fellow human beings – the many millions who are not yet “activists” & perhaps as yet unaware of the depth of the crisis/crises facing our species – or perhaps she was referring to apathy itself as Goliath.

Marianne Williamson also spoke of the David & Goliath story, pointing out that David used his simple slingshot to slay Goliath by hitting him in the forehead – the “third eye,” or seat of the soul.

She also advised that, while the problems we face are huge & hugely daunting, we should “look at the problem, but not stare at it.”

I liked that.

It speaks to me about my own local issue, & it says, “Yes. This is a problem. It is a BIG problem. Work on it, yes, by all means work on it! But don’t be consumed by it.”

Life is about love, & joy & community. We work at slaying Goliath (this is life-long work, after all) – but not at the expense of love & joy.

(Tom Robbins articulated this about “crazy wisdom”: “Crazy wisdom is the wisdom that evolves when one, while refusing to avert one’s gaze from the sorrows and injustices of the world, insists on joy in spite of everything. Ancient Egyptians believed that when a person died, the gods immediately placed his or her heart in one pan of a set of scales. In the other pan was a feather. If there was imbalance, if the heart of the deceased weighed more than the feather, he or she was denied admittance to the afterworld. Only the lighthearted were deemed advanced enough to merit immortality.”)

So. We do what we are called/called on to do.

And we detach from the outcome. The outcome is never guaranteed – nor can it be.

But, since, as I’ve said elsewhere, activism is its own reward, an activist I will continue to be.

As Sister Joan Chittister puts it, “If you are expecting to see the results of your work, you simply haven’t asked a big enough question.”

Janet

p.s. As I’ve also said elsewhere, there is so much joy in this work because of the company we keep. Fine, fine, fine people. How does life get any better than doing challenging & rewarding work in the company of utterly awesome friends & colleagues??

p.p.s. I suppose my own personal slingshot is my voice??

p.p.p.s. The posting 'Courage, Apathy & Evil' may be of interest.

 

Speaking Truth to Power (power wasn't listening)

I went off to a Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) hearing in Ottawa the other day to “speak truth to power” about a very polluting little nuclear company in Pembroke, Ontario.

As I’d said to a number of friends in an e-mail before the hearing, we would be “speaking truth to power,” as the saying goes – all the while knowing that “power” wouldn’t really be listening.

And so it was. “Power” wasn’t really listening to the members of the public who were there to express their legitimate & long-time concerns. Well, that isn’t strictly true. At times they did actually appear to be listening, but you could sort of see their ears closing up again lickety-split. [Of course, they later did go right on ahead & grant SRB a 5-year license to continue polluting the city of Pembroke.]

I still feel grrrrreat about having said my little piece, though. I was in the awesome company of other activists, all of whom have more integrity in their little fingers than a lot of the folks who were in that room have in their whole bodies.

Of course, as Upton Sinclair said who knows how many decades ago, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

(Is it not so?)

For me, hanging around fellow activists of such intelligence, courage & integrity is very, very energizing. It renders all the work & energy & time one has put into this massive exercise (way over the top, trust me!!) utterly worthwhile.

Some of us had dinner together afterward, and I’ll bet we took our fellow diners in the otherwise quiet restaurant by surprise. We were crazily animated, discovered connections among ourselves we hadn’t realized existed, had lots & lots of laughs – &, quite clearly, were having a ball!

All you folks who “run” the world – the ones with power who are fuelled by greed (& personal insecurity)? I have a message for you:

Being an activist – doing worthwhile work that really matters – with passion & energy & conviction & commitment – is wildly, wildly, wildly enjoyable & rewarding.

Of course, it would be really cool if more often we achieved the kinds of results we were after.

But even when we don’t, hooey! Are we ever in fine company!!

Janet

p.s. Visit the TAP (Tritium Awareness Project) Web site if you’d like to learn "the truth about tritium" - especially the scene in Pembroke, Ontario, home to SRB Technologies, local tritium polluter.

p.p.s. much much later: there is also now a posting called 'Tritium Resources' with lots of tritium info links.

 

‘Quote of the day’ w. this post: “It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.” – Thomas Sowell

(Yesterday's was “A voice is a human gift. It should be cherished & used. Powerlessness & silence go together.” Margaret Atwood)

 

We Are TOO (Freakin’) Polite!

<Oct. 5/09>

This is a rant about being TOO polite. For sure, just to be clear, I was raised by my parents to be a very polite person. I always (almost always) remember to say my “pleases & thank-you’s,” and dutifully taught my children to do the same.

It’s a form of obedience, really. We are taught from Day 1 (by our parents & if not by them, by our culture) to be very obedient to the rules of our society. Not to “colour outside the lines,” as it were – and to be sure that we “play by the rules” and all that jazz. Yes??(1)

Sure we are. We live in an insanely (obscenely?) voracious culture that is destroying the Earth (a remarkably abundant and beautiful place, by the way, not to mention being our only home), yet we are all so damn polite that not only do most of us not speak up about what is taking place all around us, those of us who do are looked upon as “weirdos.” I know this because I’ve been perceived as a weirdo (by a lot of the folks who know me) for the past 20 years.

There are 3 things I’d like to cite about this being too polite business:

1. What got me started musing on this (again) recently was my attendance at an anti-uranium rally held at Queen’s Park in Toronto (Ontario, Canada) on Sunday, September 27th (2009). Increasing numbers of Ontario citizens have begun to oppose the mining of uranium – and with good reason. The rally was held at our provincial legislature to let our MPP’s (Members of Provincial Parliament) know that we want uranium mining stopped. There were several dynamic speakers to inform those in attendance about the issue & what needs to be done about it (namely, demand a legislated ban on uranium mining for all of Ontario – similar to the bans already in effect in three of our other provinces – British Columbia, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick – & the territory of Labrador).

Native elder Bob Lovelace told the crowd at the rally that in his view, we Canadians are too polite. He knows a lot about this, having been sent to jail for his part in trying to protect his native band’s territory near Sharbot Lake, Ontario, against uranium exploration. What he said really resonated for me. We are, indeed, much too polite.

If you want to learn more about the Ontario uranium mining scene, go to the Web site of Cottagers Against Uranium Mining & Exploration (CUME) There is also a ton of useful information at the site of CCAMU – the Community Coalition Against Mining Uranium.

2. Something that had got me thinking about this politeness business some time ago were the insights I had as a result of attending several Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission (CNSC) hearings in Ottawa. These were about tritium light facilities in Pembroke & Peterborough, Ontario (the companies are called SRB Technologies and SSI, for Shield Source International, respectively). Oh yes, there was also one on Zircatec Precision Industries Inc. a nuclear facility in Port Hope, Ontario – that I sat in on.

At each of these hearings, I’ve been absolutely blown away by the intelligence and information possessed by the citizen interveners who object to these 3 privately-run, profit-making nuclear facilities. Intervener presentations (firmly limited to 10 minutes per person, although the proponent – that is, the nuclear facility representative – has almost unlimited time and endless opportunities to state his case) are fact-filled, well-researched, and passionate, often, given the fact that their citizens, their neighbourhoods & their communities are bearing the brunt of the emissions and releases from these facilities.

The government-appointed CNSC commissioners seem to have very limited understanding indeed of the complexities (& risks) involved in nuclear technologies. Their knowledge very clearly represents a tiny fraction of that possessed by the citizen interveners (toward whom, btw, their demeanour is extremely patronizing).

My take, overall? These are “kangaroo” courts. They’re a joke. The CNSC does not exist to promote nuclear “safety” for Canadians; it exists to promote the nuclear industry.

I could go on here at length, because I have other insights & strong opinions about the CNSC hearing process – but I won’t.

It does frustrate the heck out of me that a) the “average” Canadian citizen has probably never even heard of the CNSC, has certainly never attended one of their kangaroo courts (oops, I mean hearings), & has no idea what this taxpayer-funded outfit gets up to & b) those of us who oppose these various nuclear operations can talk ‘till we’re blue in the face, present impressive evidence & studies from all over the world, cite human health impacts until the cows come home – but nothing ever changes. We put on our very best clothes, talk very, very politely in the hearings (which I suppose, come to think of it, are a little reminiscent of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party), and the commissioners (and the CNSC’s very considerable-sized & no doubt well-educated & well-paid staff) go right on ahead & do what they’re going to do – with no apparent real concern for the safety of the Canadian public they are all supposedly being paid their generous salaries to protect.

It was this that got me thinking some time ago now that we are too damn polite

It was either Benjamin Franklin or Albert Einstein (I’ve heard both being credited) who said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

So who is it who’s insane here, anyway??

3. All of this motivated me to take part recently in a Greenpeace “Climate Action Camp” to learn about civil disobedience. So glad I went!!

I learned lots, and had a lot of fun, too! It was interesting to be reminded of some of the very early & well-known practitioners of civil disobedience. Jesus Christ was one of its early agents when he kicked the money-lenders out of the temple. There was Gandhi in India, & Martin Luther King & Rosa Parks in the U.S.

Civil disobedience has a very proud history. Henry David Thoreau. Harriet Tubman. Nelson Mandela. Vaclav Havel. And so on & so on. People most of us now recognize as heroes for having put their necks on the line – for going to great lengths, and at considerable personal cost – to speak up very loudly & initiate change on critically important social issues.

Now Greenpeace is making itself heard loudly & clearly on the climate issue, with recent actions in the Alberta tar sands – home of the world’s dirtiest oil.

You can love Greenpeace or not love them, but one thing you have to admit: their stunts get our attention – and they force us to think & become better informed.

If you want to learn more about Greenpeace &/or the Alberta tar sands project, go here Scroll down on the left under ‘What we do’ for tar sands information. GP has also recently commissioned a film about the tar sands. Watch for it! (I believe it’s now making the rounds of film festivals & will be released to the public soon.)

Meanwhile, why not muse on this being too polite business?

Is it really necessary – or wise – or even excusable – that we remain silent – and “polite” – in the face of crimes against the planet – and humanity?

We all have to decide this for ourselves, of course – but surely it’s worth a little thought.

Janet

P.P.S. A while after this (end of November 2009, to be precise), I took part in some "civil disobedience" myself. There are several blog posts about this - good one to start with is 'Busted for Climate Justice.'

P.S. There are other films/YouTubes on the tar sands. I’ve heard of these so far (they are all also listed in the posting 'Tar Sands: Canada's Oil Shame.')

1. “The Dark Side of the Boom: Canada’s Mordor” - here

2. From National Geographic: here

3. “Dirty Oil: Alberta’s Tar Sands Explained

4. Tipping Point: The Age of the Oil Sands. 2 hour documentary.


(1) The blog essays ‘Looking Good’ and ‘Looking Stupid’ speak to this societal dynamic we’re all caught up in from Day 1. So does 'Good Girls & Boys.'