Staring down the crystal ball

I really want to believe it’s all a hoax.

Why else would not one mainstream media outlet be reporting on the massive danger posed by the unused fuel rods in Fukushima Reactor 4?

Today I learned (through a link posted by on Facebook by my friend, the author Susan Griffin) that a group of high-level scientists, diplomats and civil society organizations has issued an urgent call to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, requesting U.N. leadership in an international effort to stabilize the fuel the wrecked Fukushima plant.

This call has been endorsed by U.S. Senator Roy Wyden, who visited the plant in April and reiterated the call for urgent international action.

If the fuel in the plant were released into the atmosphere, which would be almost inevitable in the event of another earthquake, “this could result in a catastrophic radiological fire involving nearly 10 times the amount of Cesium-137 released by the Chernobyl accident,” according to the letter to Secretary Ban.

Fukushima burning

Given the climatological realities of wind and ocean currents, this could potentially put hundreds of millions of people at risk of radiation poisoning—not to mention the devastating effects on flora and fauna.

Remember the reports of thousands seals with fatal skin lesions washing up in the Arctic? Apparently polar bears and whales are also known to be affected.

Imagine that multiplied tenfold, and affecting not just marine life, but humans as well.

And then ask yourself, why is only one U.S. Senator engaged with this issue?

Why are we frittering away our precious time on White House Correspondents Dinners and sports events, when in so many ways our future hangs in the balance, connected by a very short fuse to multiple forms of total catastrophe?

Sometimes I look down at my peacefully sleeping dog and think, maybe he has the right idea.

Why fret and worry about the future?  It will come soon enough…might as well enjoy life while it lasts.

But that is what separates us humans from other species.  We can see into the future.  We can spin out possible future scenarios based on how we act today.

And given these crystal balls of ours, can we really in good conscience shrug our shoulders and head off peacefully to bed?

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  1. In our heart of hearts I think we all know we’ve fucked it up. Totally. For everyone.

    Three years ago, people and animals died around me and my family, and I have this weird sense of having been left behind while a concentrated release from life around me occured. I’m pretty reductionist in my take on life and spiritualism. Reckon we’re an evolutionary event of no cosmic significance (who take, take, take and hurt, hurt, hurt then expire – and I wish we hadn’t happened), but that day still felt profound. Maybe like the twin towers, with fewer humans, but many farm animals, pets and roos, echidnas, wombats, birds and other wildlife making up a collective of souls/awarenesses/sentiences departing together. Obviously, my compassion is greater for the human children, their parents and the other individuals, but that the animals died matters, because those fires were not their fault at all, while we people, even kids (unknowingly) participated in bringing abou the conditions that caused them.

    I’ve had my Collapse primer.

    So I don’t fly. I don’t eat meat. I buy second hand and local if I can.
    I am no saint! I drink booze, cave in to my kids’ (and own) disposition for easy comfort and lovely things, and drive rather than bike. I have an oversized house. I type here instead of baking my own bread etc, and I end up back at the large supermarket chain for cheap less ethical stuff. Nontheless my efforts make living with my guilt possible. I am so ashamed, because I knew where we were heading, and I still fully participated in our insane contemporary capitalism. I knew, not because of computer modelling, Leavergirl, but because it takes a mere nano-second, when we drop our psychological protective devices and be totally honest in asking “is the human condition viable?’ to know where we’re heading. This convergence of wreckages (climate, resourses, soil, biodiversity, economy, animal wellbeing, etc) owes itself to our truly remarkable talent for self deception.

    I think often of Jewish people embedding their jewellry in bread and swallow it on hearing the approach of Nazi soldiers.

    We’re doing that.

    But God, what use is our “jewellry” when we face death?

    Grace screamed in the fire “you promised we wouldn’t be here” when she and I thought her dad was dead outside and the house was on fire.

    Should the next fire come, or my family and I are attacked for our produce by food rioters, or there is a reactor meltdown, war etc, I want to find a little peace in knowing I did my best to not participate in the demise.

    And if I’m wrong, and we all live happily ever after, yay, I stopped being a proxy abattoir worker!!

    So that’s another rant. I “share” the fire story, embarrassed at my own ad neauseumness, but hoping to cause new readers to pause and consider.

    I’m thrilled that you’re watching your local permies, Jennifer. Maybe, hopefully IMHO, this represents the first inklings of a new chapter for you and your community!

    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  May 3, 2012

      Angie, thanks so much for sharing your story–to me it is not repetitive at all, and even if it were, it bears repeating and repeating until people begin to listen truly and hear all the nuanced allegorical detail in it (there’s the lit prof in me coming out).

      I agree with you that a) we’re fucked; and b) we’re not that important in the grand scheme of things. The other day I posted a photo of myself against a huge wall of rock that I think I will put in the blog as well, because I need to talk about how drawn I am to rocks these days–how appreciative I am of the story of a much longer geological life that they tell. They give me a better perspective on my grief over the passing of this epoch in which I have lived.

      And I am also so interested to hear you talking about death in spiritual terms, because I have been steeling myself up to start blogging about that…you give me courage to speak out loud what I have so far only been thinking about (rather obsessively). More on that soon.

      I also have been thinking about the Jewish Holocaust and the way so many people either refused to believe it could happen to them, or looked the other way when it happened to others. We are in a time like that now, on an even bigger scale.

      Although I also play the nightmare scenarios in my head over and over (especially the food shortage one, where the armed gangs take over–and I would classify the police and military among the armed gangs), there is still a part of me that refuses to give up hope. That’s the part of me that gets me out of bed each morning to go off and meet with the young people in my classes, keeping us all on a productive path; it’s the part of me that encourages my children to study and work hard so they will be successful in the future (all the while wondering in my heart what use their studies will be in the future that awaits us); and the part of me that keeps sending out these blog messages in a bottle, hoping that if enough of us kindred spirits start talking with each other, we can create a conversation that can change the future for the better.

      More on all of this very soon. Thanks again, Angie, for sharing such powerful, honest writing. Blessings on us all.

  2. leavergirl

     /  May 2, 2012

    I love the way you extend the conversations! 🙂
    No, we can’t see into the future. That’s human hubris.

    The problem is, we have a nonfunctional political system that refuses to look the present in the face. I don’t expect them to know the future, but they sure could stop lying about what is happening now, and respond to the realities.

    Helen Caldicott has also warned about Fukushima… she says she is moving to the southern hemisphere if it blows. What I don’t understand is why the Japanese are not burying it all under a massive shroud of concrete, like the Russians did with Chernobyl? Some people say it’s worse than Chernobyl… but I really don’t know if that is really so… there are so many damn panic mongers on the internet…

    A friend in Santa Cruz is reporting that radioactive debris from the tsunami is close to reaching the coast of California.

    Maybe Kunstler is right, and the bigwigs should be hanging from the lamp posts. Me and what army, eh? Shrug. I am off to bed.

  3. Hi leavergirl, if I could extend the discussion to your taste, I would. Wish I was cleverer with words, sarcasm and emoticons.

    Japan. They’re first in line now to have to adapt to the Collapse of ready electricity, due to the collapse of their nuclear industry. Those are the predictions we’re reading here, even without further Fukishima disaster.

    Hopefully they’ll adapt. I like to think they have more realistic expectations apropos entitlement. that they’re not fully infected with the pathetic West’s abrogation of personal responsibility to our governments, even while we bleat at their ineffectualism. Maybe that’s cos I’ve read Fukuoka’s One Straw Revolution.

    God (?) help them.

  4. I’m wondering, is it hubris to take on board the predictions of those who specialise in climatology, oil extraction, planetary ecology, anthropological and other history who strongly warn against BAU? Is it hubris to change your behaviour accordingly and to engage with projects that put these predictions out there for the consideration of others. Or is it hubris to dismiss all this, and much more, as hubris?

    You are exasperated with the political system, with “exhortionists”, with permaculturalists and transitioners.

    We all are! we’re not stupid. But we’re doing what we can, that’s all.
    Sleep well.
    Grumpy face

    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  May 3, 2012

      BAU? What does that mean?

      Let’s try not to get too grumpy with each other, my friends! We’re all on the same side, aren’t we? Just trying to figure out how to make some progress in the right direction, when the overwhelming tides are pulling us the other way–

      • leavergirl

         /  May 3, 2012

        BAU is business-as-usual. 🙂

    • leavergirl

       /  May 3, 2012

      Hey Angie. Oh, you are clever all right. You just thrive on grump, as I thrive on critical stances. 🙂

      I too hope the Japanese will finally get it, and turn away from modernity and its evil jinnis. They did awesome well with medievalism… though the cruelty that went on then was mindboggling. I like to think they would do better this time around.

      Predictions are hubris. Nobody knows the future. Nobody can legitimately claim the mantle of a seer, no matter their expertise…

      I am not exasperated with Transitioners nor with permaculturists. Political systems? Exasperated is too mild a word. I am furious with them, if I really dwell on it. But that’s waste of good energy, so I try not to.

      The point I am trying to make is that we don’t need any effing predictions. We need to start living differently, acting on what we see around us and what common sense urges us to do.

      And if you want to influence others to change their ways, pointing to what can be described today, what is happening now, is IMO more effective than scary scenarios. At least, that is working better for me when I talk with people around me…

  5. Hi Jennifer, may I call you Jen or Jenny?
    Bit tickled that the lit prof detected the nuanced allegorical stuff! Ta!

    Seriously though, the reason why I’ve pushed our experience is precisely because it requires no future guesswork. I am as confident that we are facing horrible times as I am that the sun will “rise” in the morning. We can only deduce from our best information and experience. I get that it’s depressing to dwell on miserable scenarios, but Leavergirl, I think we have to. People refuse to believe that our situation is dire. Everyday, everywhere we are going on with BAU. Like Jen I’m concerned that my kids are well educated in the interests of their future. I’m simultaneously thrilled that our WWoofers (Willing Workers on Organic Farms or backpackers) are introducing them to edible weed species. Hedging my bets? Actually, if I really believed the girls will be scrabbling to subsist on bits of chickweed, I’d go mad. The grief that you articulate Jen is too much.

    But what to do?

    The mantra for the enlightened is something like;

    1. Get out of debt
    2. Get into food growing and preserving
    3. Find people in your community with whom you can build a local “economy” of trading necessities, including assistance.

    There’s a fourth one.

    And we’ll have to factor in care for the vulnerable.
    I’m depressed.

    Our shitaake mushroom innoculants have arrived so we have to go cut branches on which to grow them. There’s solace in productivity.

    It’s time for the Aussie Government to bring down the budget. Three years ago my husband would have flown to our capital to be in the Lockdown with the important people. Today he taught a bunch of young people how to mange an axe, adze, bowsaw and assortment of tools. Crap pay, but he says he’s never felt like he’s made more meaningful contributions.
    Sorry to be myopically fixated on my own little family; It’s possible to shift down from privilige to hippy-ish. You will cop a lot of flak from friends and family though for being “radical”. But it’s good that people have things to giggle about, even if it ouches a bit…?

    Thanks again

  6. On a roll…

    Jen, for we budding misanthropes (apropos the human species’ significance and insult to the scheme of things) my cosmologist dad says that as far as we know the human species is the only in the universe that endows it with awareness. He explains it better. I’ll chase the idea up if you like. It’s nice. We do matter!

    And then there really is that issue of our spirituality. I’m thinking the buddhists are wise wise people.

    And then there’s love.
    But animals love too, at least the higher order mammals do. So we’re not that special on that count.

    Maybe it’s our human potential that’s the real treasure? At the prosaic level we get it all wrong, which is why we’re in this mess, but somewhere in the ether we rock at being significant and good.

    That’s a bit too random? :[

    • Jennifer Browdy de Hernandez

       /  May 4, 2012

      Yes humans have so much potential, Angie–but also such a frightening capacity for evil. Our potential runs both ways, and the dark side of us is very dark indeed. It is no accident that all human mythology sees the human condition as a struggle between good and evil, forces of dark and light. There are those who say we have to embrace our dark side, or at least go through the wounds to come to the light. I want to ponder this more, going forward.

  7. leavergirl

     /  May 4, 2012

    I think, Angie, people refuse to believe that the situation is dire because so many panic-mongering scenarios in the past did not pan out. And I don’t mean just the religious ones by any means. Greer has written a whole book about it, and the one he lists this week is an excellent example.

    There are no doubt other reasons, like denial et al… but people are far more likely to believe you if you show them the facts — what is happening now. Just yesterday, there was a story about how many more Americans are inclined to give credence to a warming planet after the weather disasters and heat waves of last year. (Mind you, they don’t *prove* anything, the planet is not a stable place most of the time, but people do pay attention to what is happening in the real world far more than what is happening in computer projections or on drawing boards or in scientific papers.)

    The fourth one? I would say…
    4. Grow soil
    Would you agree?

    I think your husband is right… he made the good choice (and I am betting, some of those people who are still embroiled in the govt envy him, secretly of course.) 🙂

    Jennifer said: “Although I also play the nightmare scenarios in my head over and over” — um, mayhap you are trapped in doomer porn addiction? Not healthy to do this to yourself… and the planet needs you healthy. America is awash in food. Most of the world will go food-deprived before America does. And if you fell for Kunstler’s cries of panic not so long ago, well, I looked to his sources, and they were bogus, reverberating all over the internet nevertheless.

  8. Yes Leavergirl. Grow soil!! Experimenting with swale alternatives as we speak…

    The problem could be with the distribution of all that food. No fuel, no trucking into urban shops, even if harvesting is manual. Could end up with heaps of rotting food, as happens sometimes with aid deliveries when the workers are immobilised by fighting. It bears considering so we can figure out ways around these possibilities for ourselves. That’s not porn indulgance, I don’t think. It’s pragmatism isn’t it? If these worst case scenarios eventuate, a difficult problem for the prepared is around sharing with the hungry versus survival. If they don’t eventuate, confronting this moral dillemma is not an unhelpful personal exercise?

    • leavergirl

       /  May 5, 2012

      And right you are, Angie. The distribution system here is pretty fragile. But as long as food exists, and plenty of it, then there are workarounds… like England did in the war, with rationing and govt distribution, and here in the Depression, where people organized coops and went directly to the farmers. Of course, in those days, urban people were still in the minority… so much more effort would be required now.

      As you know, I am not arguing against preparedness and widespread food growing… I was arguing against falling for panic mongering and staying up nights worrying about horrible scenarios that really have at the moment little or no basis in fact. Food riots and zombies are not high on my ladder of worries. 🙂

      Swale alternatives? Please tell more!


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