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10 reasons why climate activists should not support nuclear

By Simon Butler - Climate and Capitalism, June 23, 2021

In a recent Guardian article, Jacobin magazine’s founding editor Bhaskar Sunkara declared that “If we want to fight the climate crisis, we must embrace nuclear power.” He praised nuclear as a clean and reliable and suggested that opponents of nuclear power are either gripped by “paranoia … rooted in cold war associations” or are relying on “outdated information.”

I disagree entirely. Here are 10 reasons why nuclear power is still no solution for climate change.

1. Nuclear is dangerous. Building many new nuclear power plants around the globe means a higher risk of unpredictable Fukushima-type accidents. We know more extreme weather events are locked in due to climate change, adding to the danger as time passes.

What if a nuclear power plant had been in the path of Australia’s huge bushfires in 2020? What nuclear power plant could withstand super typhoons like the one that flattened Tacloban City in the Philippines in 2013? What if a nuclear plant was submerged by unexpectedly massive floods, like those in Mozambique for the past three years in a row?

Planning for a hotter future means switching to safer, resilient technologies. Building more nuclear power plants in this context is reckless.

2. Nuclear wastes water. Nuclear power is an incredibly water-guzzling energy source compared with renewables like solar and wind. We know climate change-induced droughts and floods will make existing freshwater shortages a lot worse. So it’s a bad idea to waste so much water on more nuclear.

Uranium mining can also make nearby groundwater unusable forever. Half of the world’s uranium mines use a process called in-situ leaching. This involves fracking ore deposits then pumping down a cocktail of acids mixed with groundwater to dissolve the uranium for easier extraction. This contaminates aquifers with radioactive elements. There are no examples of successful groundwater restoration.

The National Black Climate Summit

As Flint Water Crisis "Emergency" Ends, Bigger Heads Need to Roll

By Michele Oberholtzer - Occupy.Com, August 18, 2016

This week, the emergency is officially over following the Flint Water Crisis. One year ago, the city of Flint, Mich., joined the ranks of Sandy Hook, Ferguson and other previously obscure cities that became a metaphor for man-made tragedy. In Flint the trauma came not at the barrel of a gun but through the faucet of a sink, as the infrastructure that was meant to provide life-sustaining water was made toxic through a negligent cost-cutting measure that altered water sources and treatment procedures. Flint entered a Federal State of Emergency to respond to the crisis, and that emergency expired this week.

First, the good news. Reports have showed significant improvements to water quality in a large number of Flint homes. State money amounting to $25 million and additional federal money is under consideration to address the temporary and long-term needs of residents, while charges have been brought against nine past and current state employees for their involvement in the crisis.

However satisfying one's reaction to this might be, the reality is that the water emergency in Flint continues. The ending of the state of emergency and the felony charges have a mollifying effect on the accumulated outrage, but no amount of federal appropriations or scape-goated employees can begin to address the root of the crimes that transgressed human rights in Flint.

Before considering the charges now being brought again Michigan employees, consider the true crimes of the Flint Water Crisis. First, there was the poisoning of the water itself, which involved switching from treated Detroit water to improperly treated water taken out of the industrial and highly polluted Flint River. Second, there was the failure of local and state governments to identify the problem or heed the immediate vocal outcries coming from residents and local businesses for over a year. Third, there was the capitalization of government that started with “emergency management” and ended with single-bottom-line decisions like the water conversion.

The charges brought against these individuals address a small aspect of issue number two: specifically, that government officials destroyed emails with incriminating evidence of lead level tests. Those emails revealed that the information about the low water quality was known and not acted on. According to Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, “Each of these individuals attempted to bury … information that contradicted their own narrative… and their narrative was ‘there’s nothing wrong with Flint water.'”

There appears to be convincing evidence of a coordinated effort between Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) employees (those who received the lead reports) and Department of Environmental Quality employees (those who issued the lead reports) to delete emails that contained alarming and actionable data showing high levels of lead in the blood of Flint residents.

What reason could these people have for deleting emails that contained such alarming information? A person is not guilty of neglect unless s/he fails to act, yet these emails contained new and vital information that the recipients could have conceivably acted on and avoided any need for burying information. The destruction of the emails suggests that either the employees already considered that they had previously ignored information, or knew that they would be unable to correct the problem (since that would involve acknowledging the city's failed water system). Righting this kind of wrong would be terribly expensive, and the whole premise of Flint’s new water system was to cut costs. Delete.

As offensive as the willful neglect of these individuals has been, the fact is that the charges against those people refer to events that took place in July 2015, when the water crisis had already been ongoing for more than a year.

Conspicuously absent are charges against the engineers of the water switchover plan – including Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley, the architect of Flint's subverted democracy, and Gov. Rick Snyder – not to mention the premise that these individuals represent government-as-business and profit-over-people. Those pillars will go unshaken regardless of whether a few middlemen take the heat. A recent report by the Water Advisory Task Force placed the responsibility for the crisis on the state (specifically the DHHS). Note: This task force was appointed by Gov. Snyder.

Michigan can lock up the guys who buried the dirt, but people should not be distracted from the individuals who created the mess in the first place. The cognitive leap here, for the Attorney General’s investigation, is not to necessarily uncover hidden actions but to consider the crimes that took place in broad daylight. The decision of Flint leadership to switch from Detroit to Flint water sources was a financial one, made under the guardianship of emergency management. (“Emergency” in this case refers to a financial emergency, not a human one, which only came later). In this crisis, it is clear that decisions to prioritize money over people were not incidental, but rather inherent in the emergency management process.

Much has been said about the destruction to the physical infrastructure of Flint in recent years. But just as important was the destruction to the political infrastructure that began deteriorating not when the water sources were switched, but when emergency management was declared. The checks and balances between government and constituents were dismantled across cities in Michigan, with a direct hierarchy that led all the way to the governor. While a total of nine former state employees spend time awaiting trial, the architects of democratic deconstruction rest easy. Meanwhile, the rest of Michigan dreams of a world where “emergency management” is only used for human crises, not financial ones – in which case it may be about time find an Emergency Governor.

Californians Deliver 350,000 Signatures Calling on State, Gov. Brown to Stop Irrigation of Crops With Oil Wastewater

By Julie Light and Patrick Sullivan - Center for Biological Diversity, August 9, 2016

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— Pushing a wheelbarrow filled with 350,000 petition signatures, concerned Californians gathered outside the capitol today to urge Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Water Resources Control Board to stop the potentially dangerous practice of using wastewater from oil drilling to irrigate California’s crops. The wastewater, sold by Chevron and California Resources Corporation, is now being used to irrigate over 90,000 acres in the Cawelo Irrigation District and the North Kern Water Management District, and is slated to expand in the near future to other districts.

The group, which included Assemblymember Mike Gatto, UCSF nurse practitioner Lisa Hartmayer, Center for Biological Diversity scientist John Fleming and California consumers, delivered a petition with more than 350,000 signatures, gathered around the state and nation, calling for an immediate halt to the practice. The petition signatures were collected by CREDO, Care2, Food & Water Watch, the Center for Biological Diversity, RootsKeeper, Center for Environmental Health, Breast Cancer Action, Center for Food Safety, Courage Campaign, and the Center for Race, Poverty and the Environment.

“Californians want to know what is in the water and the soil that is used to grow their food. This should not be a problem, especially if there is nothing to hide,” said Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles).

California produces almost half of the fruits, nuts and vegetables that feed the United States, and more than 100 farms in the Central Valley use oil wastewater for irrigation. Some of the United States’ most popular brands grow food in the Cawelo and North Kern water districts, including Trinchero Family Estates (makers of Sutter Home wines), Halos Mandarins (formerly known as Cuties) and The Wine Group (makers of Cupcake and Fish Eye wines).

At the same time, there hasn’t been a comprehensive, independent study to determine if the wastewater is safe for crop irrigation. The limited analysis done used outdated methods; regulators don’t screen for all the chemicals used in oil extraction, many of which are carcinogens. The Los Angeles Times reported that a test of the wastewater sold by Chevron to the Cawelo Irrigation District contained acetone and benzene.

Some of the chemicals used in oil operations are linked to cancer, kidney failure, reproductive issues and liver damage. No comprehensive and independent analysis has been conducted to assess the safety of the wastewater. Oil-industry wastewater can contain high levels of benzene and other cancer-causing chemicals. State oil officials’ own study detected benzene levels in oil wastewater at thousands of times the federal limits for drinking water.

“As a nurse, one of the simplest yet most important recommendations I can give a patient is to eat more fruits and vegetables,” said Lisa Hartmayer, nurse practitioner at UCSF. “How can our governor and water regulators sleep at night knowing that the fresh foods that millions of people eat to stay healthy may actually be threatening their health? We don’t know if our tangerines, almonds and grapes are contaminated with water that could be carcinogenic.”

In addition to the dangers posed to consumers, agricultural workers are exposed daily to the oil and gas wastewater with no protection for their health and safety.

“Oil wastewater doesn’t belong on California’s crops. It’s irresponsible to take this kind of risk with our food supply,” said John Fleming, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity. “We should take a precautionary approach to mixing oil with food and wait until there are studies proving this practice is safe before we even consider it.”  

“I’m here for my kids. It concerns me that Governor Brown would allow this practice without thorough testing. This is the food that I feed my kids every day. The thought that they could get sick from tainted food really worries me,” said Sue Chiang from Oakland.

Petition signers from around the state appealed directly to the governor and his desire to be perceived as an environmental champion. Rev. and Mrs. Don Baldwin from Nevada City wrote in their comments: "Dear Gov. Brown - If you are to truly go down in history as our 'environmental' governor, you MUST see this as one of the most significant actions you need to take."

A growing number of Californians are raising concerns about the use of wastewater for crop irrigation and organized Protect California Food, an affiliate of Californians Against Fracking, which is calling on Governor Brown and state water regulators to immediately ban the practice. Californians Against Fracking is a coalition of about 200 environmental business, health, agriculture, labor, political and environmental justice organizations working to win a statewide ban on fracking and other dangerous extraction techniques in California. Follow @CAagainstFrack on Twitter.

What Solidarity Looks Like: Nearly 100 Unions Pitch In to Help Flint

By Brandon Weber - The Progressive, March 16, 2016

Unions from all over the midwest have donated time, water, dollars, and more to help the residents of Flint, Michigan get through the water crisis that still rages on there.

Firefighters, electricians, nurses, teachers, teamsters, auto workers, plumbers, and government workers have been working to provide help and a sense of humanity in a situation that, frankly, lacks a lot of both. Many have come from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New York, as well as across the state of Michigan to help lend a hand where necessary, including installing water filters—all with volunteer labor.

“A lot of our members live here in the community,” said Jeff Peake, organizer at Local 370. “We have a responsibility to pay back.”

It’s a community that has been on hard times for decades. The one-two punch of auto plants moving to places like Mexico resulting in a loss of union jobs, combined with the further economic damage of the Great Recession, means this city, once boasting 200,000 people, has about half that these days, and just over 40 percent of them live at or below the poverty level. 

In an article from The Grio, one Flint resident talked about watching it change. “It was a wonderful place to grow up,” said Lynntoia Webster, thirty-two. “But I saw a lot of changes by the time I was in the ninth and tenth grade. I could see our economy was changing. People in my family were getting laid off from the auto industry, and that’s when it became not such a great place to live.”

Recently, Flint residents learned that General Motors switched back to the Detroit River for its water after just four months because the Flint River water was rusting the engines at one of its auto plants. The troubling story continues to unfold. It’s clear that the people of Flint took the hit, while business leaders and the state officials responsible for the crisis looked the other way.

There are still many things that need to happen for Flint to be safe again, like replacing corroding water pipes to houses in many neighborhoods, but things are finally progressing — thanks in large part to the help of organizations like Flint Rising, which is leading a grassroots effort to push for change.

Flint had Many Betrayers

By Gregg Shotwell - Socialist Worker, March 17, 2016

"The water crisis has also stoked the UAW's social-justice mission, union officials say."
-- Mike Colias, "How GM Saved Itself from Flint Water Crisis," Automotive News, January 31, 2016

"I put The Heretics in the deepest part of hell, though Dante had them spared, on higher ground."
-- Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones), The System of Dante's Hell, 1963

PUNDITS EXPRESS astonishment at the perdition of Flint, Michigan, as if the degeneration of a renowned American city is rare rather than emblematic of municipalities throughout the nation. Where have they been? Do they not recall the collapse of the Interstate 35W bridge in downtown Minneapolis during rush hour in 2007? Can a head in the sand feel so comfortable that they can't feel the tremors, quakes and reverberations?

New Orleans flooded in 1915, 1940, 1947, 1965, 1969 and 2005. Love Canal, Hinkley, California, and the Louisiana Industrial Corridor aren't anomalous cancer alleys. The United States is riddled with environmental depredation.

The calculated failure of American institutions not only to invest in vital infrastructure but to provide basic care for citizens isn't a shock, it's status quo. Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers [ASCE] publishes a report card for the nation's infrastructure. In 2013, the U.S. got Ds in drinking water, wastewater, inland waterways, roads, schools, dams, levees, aviation, transit and energy.

I guess it's uncivil for engineers to flunk an American marvel of mediocrity like Interstate 35W and other bridges, which were ranked at a C+. The overall D+ grade point average indicates that we did get some Cs in a few less precarious spots, like ports, parks and bridges. Take your hat off, hold your breath and pray to the EPA--we are about to cross the river of denial.

Gun ownership makes a home less safe, according to the statistics, but when a person feels surrounded by perilous social institutions and structural instability, it's natural to reach for a security prop, come as it may--blanket, rifle or bottle of gin.

For all the self-proclaimed greatness and chest-thumping bravado, Americans' expectations are low and receding like opinions pursued by dogged facts. Our characteristic emphasis on individuality and private property narrows and subverts the circumspection of our social purview to a belly-button muse.

The American Dream has shriveled into a gated community--the modern version of the besieged frontier stockade, now struggling to survive on minimum wage. What do you want to bet that more Americans invest in the lottery than the stock market?

The year before Delphi, a spinoff of General Motors, filed for bankruptcy in 2005, management garlanded the factories with a new slogan: "The Future Isn't What It Used to Be." And a sign posted on the demolished Buick City plant in Flint, Michigan, proclaimed, "Demolition Means Progress."

The policy of neglect is the counsel of despair. No wonder we have a volunteer army and multiple foreign wars. The homeland is hopeless. The walls of denial are caving in.

Well, If You Ask Me: Flint

By Dano T. Bob - IWW Environmental Unionism Caucus, January 23, 2016

Wow, the current situation in Flint, Michigan is fucked up. In a situation brought on by a so called “Emergency Manager,” who was appointed to run the city by Governor Rick Scott, Flint has been getting its drinking water since April 2014 from the Flint River, via pipes that have caused massive lead contamination, poisoning and sickening city residents.

Wow, the sheer incompetence and idiocy of the state government in Michigan is astounding and the fact that it is destroying the health of citizens is appalling. So, what are the how and why of this water crisis, how can it be fixed and how can we finally stop things like this from happening? As someone who was living in West Virginia during the chemical spill and water crisis of 2014, I am all too familiar with the blindness and greed of politicians and industry. We must move to get these things fixed ourselves and demand our own citizens driven solutions, because we can’t rely on paid off hacks for our protection, that’s for sure.

Let’s start with the “Emergency Manager” position, created and implemented by Governor Rick Scott. It is an austerity measure at heart, a way to usurp municipal control from cities in Michigan and install top down bureaucratic leadership beholden to the state government, and meant to slash city budgets, services and labor. The reason that this “Emergency Manager” switched Flint’s water supply from the Detroit municipal system to the Flint River was to “save money”. This was not a democratically made decision, there were no studies of the health and infrastructure impacts. It was rushed into and now people are paying the price, with water that has been polluted with lead for well over a year.

Quintero zona de catástrofe

By René Cumplido - El Ciudadano, October 28, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

La gran mancha de petróleo derramado aún permanece en el fondo de la bahía de Quintero según el informe dado a conocer por las autoridades este fin de semana. Según el biólogo marino Hugo Poblete, del Movimiento de Pescadores Artesanales de Quintero, el nivel de PH en las aguas arroja una acidez de 2,7, lo que provoca la muerte de toda la flora y fauna del lugar.

Esto coincide con la última declaración de la Enap, propietaria del crudo, reconociendo que el derrame, hasta el momento, supera los 22 mil litros, una cifra diez veces mayor a la dada a conocer durante la semana pasada.

Entre el puerto de Ventanas y  la empresa Oxiquim, en una superficie de 1.800 metros de largo por cinco metros de ancho,  la playa quedó cubierta por petróleo crudo, el que lentamente, pese a los esfuerzos de los equipos de limpieza, comenzó a desplazarse a través de las corrientes por toda la bahía.

La mancha de petróleo aún es visible en el mar en una extensión de 25 kilómetros entre la península de Los Molles hasta cerca de Chachagua, sumando más de 20 playas y pequeños requeríos contaminados con el crudo. Al acercarse, por ejemplo, a playa Las Conchitas, a varios kilómetros del accidente, y aunque la empresa ya dio por concluidas las labores de limpieza, aún se observan restos de hidrocarburos en las algas de los requeríos.

Four Years After the BP Disaster, Vietnamese Oyster Fishermen and Shrimpers Struggle to Survive

By Cherri Foytlin - The Life Support Project, October 6, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

Undeterred by the blazing sun and high humidity of a mid-August afternoon in Biloxi, Mississippi, Tuat Nguyen and Bien Do moved nimbly around their shrimp boat, making last-minute preparations to leave for Lake Borgne, where the Louisiana shrimp season would open in a few days. Watching them work, moving with ease from one end of the boat to the other, climbing up and down, it was hard to believe both are in their seventies and each has been making a living on the water for more than six decades.

While Bien made final preparations to depart– they’d already had mechanical problems earlier that day – Tuat, who speaks only a little English, invited community leader and interpreter Thao Vu and myself to sit down for a few minutes at the small table in the boat’s tidy galley.

Tuat says her father taught her how to shrimp when she was only 8 or 9 years old. The invention of GPS and modern technology were still decades away, so at night the moon and the stars were their guide. She remembers following the sun during the day, following it as it moved from east to west. Everything was done by hand. Someone would blow a horn to guide them into the dock after dark.

She says her husband, Bien, can’t remember a time he didn’t work on a boat. He’s a hardworking oyster fisherman and a shrimper, livelihoods that go back generations.

After leaving Vietnam, they settled in Biloxi, drawn by the warm Gulf waters where they could make a living dredging for oysters and shrimping. The Gulf’s abundance and their own hard work allowed them to be productive, independent and part of a thriving community.

But that was before BP.

Chinese Abolone Farmers, Angry Over Pollution, Shut Down Shipyard and Smash Equipment

By Brenda Goh - Reuters, September 23, 2014

Disclaimer: The views expressed here are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s.

(Reuters) – A shipyard in China‘s southeast has suspended operations after at least 500 farmers, who blame water pollution from the yard for killing their abalone harvest, stormed the yard and smashed its offices, an official at the shipyard said on Tuesday.

There has been no work at the Fujian Huadong Shipyard, which sits on the north coast of Luoyuan Bay in Fujian province, since last Wednesday, said an assistant manager at the factory who gave only his surname, Zhang.

Luoyuan Bay is home to numerous floating farms that cultivate the sought-after shellfish, a delicacy that is eaten in Asia at banquets and even exchanged as gifts.

Public awareness over China’s industrial pollution has grown in recent years and Chinese leaders have vowed to clean up its waterways and skies.

However, violent protests over such incidents in China are comparatively rare. Sixteen people were sentenced to prison last year for their involvement in an environmental protest.

Zhang said farmers from surrounding villages visited the offices of the Luoyuan Bay area Communist Party committee after an unusually high number of abalone deaths in August.

Villagers decided to target the shipyard directly after they received no reply to their petition, Zhang said.

“On the 16th (last Tuesday) some villagers cornered one of our bosses and wouldn’t let him leave, they wouldn’t let him drink or eat,” Zhang said.

“There were at least 500 villagers who arrived the next day,” he said. “After work at the yard stopped, they entered the locked offices of our finance and administrative departments and smashed the computers, cupboards … They left after they got tired,” Zhang said.

Media reports said the villagers blamed the factory for polluting the water in which the abalone was farmed. A Luoyuan government official said they had sent a team to investigate.

The factory, which opened in 2011, switched its focus to ship repair last year after the global shipping slump sapped demand for new vessels, Zhang said. Ship repair usually has a greater impact on the environment, he said, but the reasons for the abalone deaths were likely to be more complex.

He said the factory was waiting for the local government to give the go-ahead before restarting work.

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