Noilly Prattle: Missing the forest for the trees

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Missing the forest for the trees

Satsumasendai nuclear plant - on the coast as you can see
In the recent election for Governor of Kagoshima (in Kyushu, Japan) the anti-nuke candidate was beaten by the incumbent. “The 64-year-old incumbent has proposed the central government ensure safety and secure local acceptance for the resumption of Kyushu Electric Power Co.'s two-reactor Sendai plant in Satsumasendai, while pledging to freeze a plan to build a third reactor at the plant during his tenure...” He was backed by the major political parties.

Challenger Yoshitaka Mukohara, the 55-year-old president of a publishing house and secretary general of an antinuclear civic group, pledged to block the plant's restart and seek the scrapping of the reactors as quickly as possible.” He was supported by antinuclear activists and the Japanese Communist Party.

the picturesque city of Satsumasendai

Satsumasendai is one of those small rural cities like Fukushima where one of the important means of  livelihood for the locals is work at the nuclear plant—their rice bowl. The challenger offered to break their rice bowl. What would you do? 

I suppose it was ever thus. It's the way things are. しかたがない!Wrap it up in pretty paper and tie a nice shiny colorful bow around it and even a boa constrictor would look benign.

How do you sell something useful but potentially deadly? Why, wrap it up in caring words and sentiments to the tune of we're-only-here-to-serve-you, or trust-me-and-let-me-take-care-of-you. It's for your own good; you want jobs, don't you? You want air conditioning, don't you? Well then, baby, let us nuke you; our technology is the finest in the world, our flawless inspection and safety specifications are unequaled globally. Y'all know that our reputation for quality control is unchallenged in modern times.

Well, maybe the brakes didn't work on that car that time on the freeway, but that was a fluke—human error—the driver panicked. It wasn't a design flaw in our impeccable technology. Well, maybe the center of gravity was a little high, but if the vehicle hadn't been so out of control (because of an inept driver) it wouldn't have rolled over like that. It wasn't negligence on our part; you're supposed to follow the instruction manual bundled along with every car. It clearly says: keep your car in control at all times. He'd probably had one too many, as well.

What am I saying here? That industry intentionally makes shoddy products? No. After all, nothing is perfect and accidents do happen. My beef, in this case nuclear power plants, is not that shit happens. Avoidable shit like faking records, however, is another matter, as is denial of human fallibility and behind closed doors powwows. I'm not a Luddite; know perfectly well that we are where we are and nostalgia for some mythical agrarian Eden is the stuff of fantasy. No, the only really important question, as I see it, is where do we go from here? Just fire up the aging plants and simply sweep Fukushima under a new and bigger carpet and have faith in hopes and dreams? YUME (dreams) are very big here in Japan. A nice sentiment, but dreams can, à la Fuku, turn into nightmares. Or, consider the longer range goal of sustainable energy without living under the sword of Damocles? Not being big on nightmares, I prefer the latter—investment in renewable and sustainable energy whatever and however long it takes.

While it seems expedient in the short run to “drill, baby, drill”; with some 9 billion people on the planet with an increasing thirst for more and more energy, it doesn't take a mathematical Einstein to figure out that the black gold is running out. If the people on this planet (and not only the fabulously wealthy who can afford their own islands) do not wish lowered living standards we will, sooner or later, have to part company with the energy derived from fossil fuels and maybe even nuclear energy and its difficult to get rid of byproducts—think spent fuel rods hanging precariously above Fukushima #4.

We've got a long way to go, baby!


Anonymous said... would think that this would be a perfect worldwide forum...we are so far from that.

Who built The Tower of Babel, anyway?


Noilly Prattle said...

I believe this mythical tower was built by people who understood each other and confusion was thrust upon them by a jealous god who felt disobeyed and possibly threatened by their free will. You could say that the incomprehension we witness today is the result of interference by a malevolent spirit who thought better of granting free will to man. Give with the right hand and take away with the left. Of course, this is utterly unscientific and merely conjecture on my part. ;-P