Designed for Death Guernica , Helen Caldicott interviews Hugh Gusterson September 4, 2012 As we grapple with the legal, political, and cultural implications of drone warfare and targeted killing, the renowned anthropologist draws on an older turning point in military ethics—weapons design at Los Alamos…
…. . A pioneer in the anthropology of science and current professor at George Mason University, Gusterson has studied the culture of nuclear weapons scientists and antinuclear activists in the United Sates and Russia. He is a vocal critic of government recruitment of anthropologists in counterinsurgency projects in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a founding member of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists.
The following interview is excerpted from the forthcoming Loving This Planet: Leading Thinkers Talk About How to Make a Better World, a collection of transcripts from the weekly radio program of physician-turned-activist Dr. Helen Caldicott. …. . A pioneer in the anthropology of science and current professor at George Mason University, Gusterson has studied the culture of nuclear weapons scientists and antinuclear activists in the United Sates and Russia. He is a vocal critic of government recruitment of anthropologists in counterinsurgency projects in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a founding member of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists.
The following interview is excerpted from the forthcoming Loving This Planet: Leading Thinkers Talk About How to Make a Better World, a collection of transcripts from the weekly radio program of physician-turned-activist Dr. Helen Caldicott. ….
Hugh Gusterson: There are two nuclear weapons labs: one is Los Alamos, which developed the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the other is Lawrence Livermore in San Francisco, which was established in 1952. I have done extensive fieldwork at both labs….I vividly remember one weapons scientist telling me that he could never work on conventional weapons, because it would be immoral. He felt much more comfortable working on nuclear weapons, because he was convinced that nuclear weapons would never be used. I was very struck that he felt morally cleaner working on weapons that could destroy a city than he would have felt working on napalm….. most of the weapons scientists didn’t see much conflict between Christianity and designing weapons of mass destruction, and they were quite sure the weapons would never be used……
Hugh Gusterson: They also talk about missiles being connected to the outside world by umbilical cords. The very first bomb tested was referred to as Oppenheimer’s baby. The one dropped on Hiroshima was Little Boy. So there is this language of metaphors of birth that surrounds this bomb enterprise. They talk about the results of radioactive decay processes as being daughter products. So there is this language of fertility and birth….. The language of death is banished from the world of nuclear weapons scientists; they don’t talk about killing people; they talk about collateral damage. People are not incinerated; they’re always carbonized—anesthetizing language from which death is banished. But there’s this very rich set of metaphors about birth. I’ve always wondered if that wasn’t an attempt on their part to say, We’re really about life, we’re not about killing people. Which you can see as a form of denial…..
As an anthropologist, I find it particularly offensive when you talk to weapons scientists, or to other kinds of nuclear weapons professionals, that there’s a uniform assumption that Americans are the only people who can be uniquely trusted with nuclear weapons in a way that black and brown people, non-Christians in particular, cannot. You hear it said that only Americans and Europeans have the strength required of people to have nuclear weapons. This flies in the face of the evidence, since the United States is the only country ever to abuse weapons….. http://www.guernicamag.com/interviews/designed-for-death/
Nuclear Workers Stressed After Japanese Quake Med Page Today, By Michael Smith, August 14, 2012 Reviewed by Dori F. Zaleznik, MD; Associate Clinical Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston and Dorothy Caputo, MA, BSN, RN, Nurse Planner
This study of psychological distress and post-traumatic stress response among workers at two nuclear power plants involved in the Fukushima earthquake/tsunami found high levels of self-reported distress especially among workers at the plant that suffered the meltdown…
Psychological distress and post-traumatic stress response (PTSR) were common among workers at two Japanese nuclear plants in the wake of the March 11, 2011 earthquake, researchers reported. But rates were significantly higher among workers at the Daiichi
plant, which suffered a meltdown, than they were at the Daini plant, which was damaged but remained intact, according to Takeshi Tanigawa, MD, PhD, of Ehime University Graduate School of Medicine in Ehime, Japan, and colleagues.
Both groups of workers were exposed — at much the same rate — to slurs and discrimination because the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which operates the plants, was widely criticized for its response to the disaster, Continue reading
Thousands More Radiation-Related Deaths Expected From Fukushima, Asian Scientist, Study By Rebecca Lim July 20, 2012 Thousands of deaths could still be expected from the Fukushima nuclear fallout in the years to come, according to the first estimate of the disaster’s worldwide impact AsianScientist (Jul. 20, 2012) –
The research, published in the latest edition of the journal Energy & Environmental Science, found that inhalation exposure, external exposure, and ingestion exposure of the public to radioactivity may result in up to 1,300 cancer mortalities and up to 2,500 cancer morbidities worldwide, mostly in Japan.
Stanford University researchers John Ten Hoeve and Mark Jacobson feel that the risk of a meltdown is not small, given that “modest to major radionuclide releases (occurred) in almost 1.5 percent of all reactors ever built.”….
Estimates in the paper do not account for the increased radiation risk to the roughly 20,000 workers at the plant in the months following the accident.
Psychological effects such as depression, anxiety, fear, and unexplained physical symptoms which were seen post-Chernobyl, are likely to be repeated in evacuees after Fukushima, they say….
The “white male effect” – psychologists show that affluent white men are the most accepting of nuclear waste dumps
Where to put nuclear waste? e! science news, , June 19, 2012 Researchers in Finland have found that acceptance of the site of a spent nuclear fuel repository can depend on gender and economic background. Writing in the International Journal of Environmental Technology and Management, the team reports that affluent men more often have a positive opinion on the location of such facilities than women or disadvantaged people.
While the actual quantities of nuclear waste around the globe are relatively small, the disposal or storage of such materials remains a controversial and sensitive issue and one
that is likely to grow if more nuclear power plants are built. Matti Kojo of the University of Tampere and Mika Kari and Tapio Litmanen of the University of Jyväskylä have recently canvassed and analyzed local opinion on the siting of a nuclear waste repository in the
municipality of Eurajoki, Finland. They have demonstrated what they refer to as a “white male effect” associated with acceptance of such facilities close to a residential area…..
How to convince climate sceptics to be pro-environment, New Scientist, 17 June 2012 by Michael Slezak, Climate change might eventually cause millions of deaths and all kinds of natural disasters. But don’t tell that to a climate-change sceptic if you want them to do anything about it.
Instead, focus on how mitigation efforts can help people become more warm and caring towards others or how it can promote economic and technological development. That’s the advice psychologists give after confirming the strategy in an experiment. Continue reading
NIMHANS psychiatrists, to their shame, are striving to help people ”understand the importance of the nuclear power plant.” They treat opposition to nuclear power as a disorder like schizophrenia, paranoia, or craving for victimhood.
Demonising anti-nuclear protests, The Daily Star, Praful Bidwai, 15 June 12, So monumen-tally arrogant is India’s nuclear establishment that it brazenly brands its critics insane and in need of psychiatric treatment. It has asked the state-run National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS) to “counsel” the tens of thousands protesting against the Koodankulam nuclear power station in Tamil Nadu that it’s perfectly safe.
This marks a new offensive to impose nuclear power upon people who have resisted Koodankulam’s Russian-made reactors since 1988. After Fukushima, the presumption that fears about nuclear hazards are irrational betrays delusional insensitivity.
The police have filed 107 First Information Reports against an incredible 55,795 people in Koodankulam, charging 6,800 of them with ”sedition” and “waging war.” This sets a new record in harassment of popular protests anywhere. Leave alone sedition, there hasn’t been one violent incident during the seven-months-long Koodankulam protests. Continue reading
If anything, then, the really delusion-prone people are on the other side, in the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL). The day the Fukushima crisis took a turn for the worse last year, with hydrogen explosions ripping through three reactors, DAE secretary Sreekumar Banerjee said the blasts were “purely a chemical reaction and not a nuclear emergency …”. NPCIL chairman SK Jain went one better: “There is no nuclear accident….It is a well-planned emergency preparedness programme …“
No margin for error Hindustan Times Praful Bidwai June 04, 2012 When it comes to thrusting nuclear power down the throats of unwilling people, official India sets a record of violations of dignity and rights that is embarrassing. Which other government but India’s maligns all anti-nuclear protesters as foreign-inspired and lacking any agency? Where else would the police file 107 FIRs against 55,795 peaceful anti-nuclear protesters, but at Koodankulam, charging 6,800 with “sedition” and ”waging war against the State”?
And which other government has asked a psychiatric institution, in this case, the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (Nimhans), to “counsel” people and convince them that the project, despite the hazards, is good for them?
To its discredit, Nimhans despatched psychiatrists to Koodankulam to ”get a peek into the protesters’ minds” and help these insane people to “understand the importance” of the plant. According to reports quoting its director, Nimhans has “commenced the collection of primary data” and is now seeking “field reactions” to write “multiple strategies” to address “the problem” (the opposition to nuclear power).
Such opposition is thus equated with schizophrenia, fear of sexual intimacy, paranoia or craving for victimhood, to be cured by drastic means. By this criterion, more than 80% of the people of Japan, Germany, France and Russia – who oppose new nuclear plants – must be considered abnormal. Continue reading
Japan grapples with post-tsunami suicides Daily Mail, By Arata Yamamoto, NBC News , 12 May 12 TOKYO, Japan – More than 60 people have committed suicides related to last year’s 9.0 quake and tsunami, which triggered meltdowns at a nuclear plant in Fukushima, the Japanese government says.
The data comes as a family prepares to file the first lawsuit against the Tokyo Electric Power Co. over the suicide of Hamako Watanabe, a 58-year-old woman who set herself on fire in wake of the disaster.
In 2011, 55 people committed suicide, with another six cases reported since the beginning of 2012. Suicides linked to the Fukushima nuclear accident are included in the numbers, but attribution to the nuclear crisis has been omitted due to privacy concerns. The data was collected using local police reports since last June…..
Watanabe’s family will seek $910,000 in damages in the death of Hamako Watanabe from TEPCO, the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant, according to The Japan Times and The Mainichi . They plan to file the lawsuit – which would be the first over a suicide linked to the nuclear crisis – on May 18 in Fukushima District Court….
Hamako Watanabe had been a poultry worker until her workplace was shuttered after the tsunami, and she began to show signs of insomnia and had a poor appetite. A group of lawyers representing victims of the nuclear crisis said her depression and suicide were due to the nuclear disaster, The Mainichi reported. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2142849/Haunting-shots-Chernobyl-nuclear-disaster-revealed-true-scale-catastrophe–cost-photographers-lives.html?ito=feeds-newsxml
North Korea’s Performance Anxiety, NYT, By WILLIAM J. BROAD, May 5, 2012 “IT’S a boy,” Edward Teller exulted after the world’s first hydrogen bomb exploded in 1952 with a force 1,000 times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima.
From the start, the nuclear era seethed with sexual allusions. Military officers joked about the phallic symbolism of their big missiles and warheads — and of emasculating the enemy. “Dr. Strangelove” mocked the idea with big cigars and an excited man riding into the thermonuclear sunset with a bomb tucked between his legs.
Helen Caldicott, the antinuclear activist, argued in the 1980s that male insecurity accounted for the cold war’s perilous spiral of arms. Her book? “Missile Envy.” Today, the psychosexual lens helps explain why North Korea, in addition to dire poverty and other crippling woes, faces international giggles over its inability to “get it up” — a popular turn of phrase among bloggers and some headline writers.
“Things like this never go away,” Spencer R. Weart, an atomic historian and director emeritus of the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics, said in an interview. “There’s little doubt that missiles are phallic symbols. Everybody agrees on that.”
On Friday, April 13, North Korea fired a big rocket on a mission to loft the nation’s first satellite into orbit. But it fell back to Earth with a splash……. The phallic symbolism once centered on success. Nowadays, at least with North Korea, it seems as if it’s more about dysfunction. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/06/sunday-review/north-koreas-fizzling-missiles.html?pagewanted=2&_r=1
Even if nuclear science and the impact of a nuclear meltdown on human health were simple to understand (and they are not), there is still the rather uneasy fact of dealing with a daily foe: invisible, odourless radiation.
Working with Safecast , which crowdsources radiation readings gathered by volunteers, and combines it with data from other outfits to give a clearer picture of what’s going on, Saito wanted people to be able to determine what was safe for them based on fact, not paranoia or nuclear industry propaganda.
Japan’s radiation: Ignorance isn’t bliss Feeling that officials aren’t doing enough, everyone, farmer to housewife, is learning about radiation contamination. Aljazeera, D. Parvaz 10 Mar 2012 Iitate Village, Japan – Second-generation farmer Muneo Kano has not been able to tend to his cattle or grow crops since the Daiichi nuclear power plant contaminated land, air and sea after being damaged by last year’s earthquake and tsunami.
He had his 11 cows scanned for radiation and sold them to another farm outside the radiation area. Kano’s own seven-hectare farm is 45km from the nuclear site, and the soil has been deemed too contaminated for farming.
And Kano has had to learn all about radiation and soil fast – he now tracks and maps radiation dips and spikes on an iPad, and has a series of maps he consults to check what authorities say about farms in the area.
Soil samples tested in Iitate still contain ten times the acceptable levels of the radioactive isotope Caesium-137 for agricultural soil, and the government has yet to remove the top layers of contaminated soil and wash the streets…. Continue reading
they live in fear of the invisible threat in their midst. …. there is agreement that the Fukushima case is unprecedented.
conflicting information has left them confused and fearful about the future.
“We’re being treated like lab rats. The authorities should have told us as soon as they knew the reactors had melted down and helped us leave immediately
Fukushima residents plagued by health fears of nuclear threat in their midst A year after the power plant’s triple meltdown, conflicting official information leaves families confused and fearful for their future, Justin McCurry in Fukushima guardian.co.uk, 9 March 2012 The noise levels soar inside Fukushima city’s youth centre gymnasium as dozens of nursery school children are let loose on bouncy castles and pits filled with plastic balls.
The handful of teachers and volunteers on duty are in forgiving mood: for the past year, the Fukushima nuclear accident has robbed these children of the simple freedom to run around.
Instead, anxious parents and teachers have confined them to their homes and classrooms, while scientists debate the possible effects of prolonged exposure to low-level radiation on their health. Continue reading
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