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New Book ”The Wretched Atom”

America’s Global Gamble with Peaceful Nuclear Technology Jacob Darwin Hamblin, 13 July 21Includes formerly secret documents from the CIA and State Department about American efforts to shape nuclear programs in Japan, Iran, Israel, and many other countriesDraws on more than a decade of archival research in national and international institutions in several different countriesIncludes documents never published before about cover-ups at the International Atomic Energy Agency.

July 13, 2021 Posted by | resources - print | Leave a comment

Review of Michael Shellenberger’s book on ”Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All”

Book review: Bad science and bad arguments abound in ‘Apocalypse Never’ by Michael Shellenberger’, Yale Climate Connections , By Dr. Peter H. Gleick | Wednesday, July 15, 2020   ”……………….. A recent entry in this debate is Michael Shellenberger’s “Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All” (HarperCollins Publishers, 2020). Shellenberger explains in his introduction that he seeks to counter and dismiss what he considers irrational, overwrought arguments of pending Malthusian catastrophes; instead, he seeks to promote the Cornucopian view that environmental problems can be eliminated if we’d just pursue aggressive economic growth, simple technological advances, and increased tapping of abundant natural resources. In doing so, he echoes previous efforts of authors like Herman Kahn, Julian Simon, and Bjørn Lomborg.

Shellenberger self-describes as an environmentalist activist and a bringer of facts and science to counter “exaggeration,

alarmism, and extremism that are the enemy of a positive, humanistic, and rational environmentalism.” He decided to write  this book because he believes “the conversation about climate change and the environment has, in the last few years,  spiraled out of control.”‘…
Unfortunately, the book is deeply and fatally flawed. At the simplest level, it is a polemic based on a strawman argument: To  Shellenberger, scientists, “educated elite,” “activist journalists,” and high-profile environmental activists believe incorrectly
 that the end of the world is coming and yet refuse to support the only solutions that he thinks will work – nuclear energy and uninhibited economic growth.
But even if the author properly understood the complexity and nature of global challenges, which he does not, and got the science right, which he did not, a fatal flaw in his argument is the traditional Cornucopian oversimplification of his solutions – reliance on economic growth and silver-bullet technology. ……
the book suffers from logical fallacies, arguments based on emotion and ideology, the setting up and knocking down of strawman arguments, and the selective cherry-picking and misuse of facts, all interspersed with simple mistakes and misrepresentations of science. Distressingly, this is also an angry book, riddled with ugly ad hominem attacks on scientists, environmental advocates, and the media.
I provide just a few examples of these flaws here – a comprehensive catalog would require its own book. In short, what is new in here isn’t right, and what is right isn’t new.

Two Cornucopian ideas lie at the heart of this book: The first idea is that there are no real “limits to growth” and environmental problems are the result of poverty and will be solved by having everyone get richer. This idea isn’t original and has long been debunked by others (for a few examples see hereherehere, and here).

View that nuclear alone can address needs

The second idea – and the focus of much of Shellenberger’s past writings – is that climate and energy problems can and should be solved solely by nuclear power. He writes, “Only nuclear, not solar and wind, can provide abundant, reliable, and inexpensive heat,” and, “Only nuclear energy can power our high-energy human civilization while reducing humankind’s environmental footprint.” (“Apocalypse Never” – hereafter “AN” – pp. 153 and 278) The many economic, environmental, political, and social arguments levied against nuclear are simply dismissed as having no merit, for example: “As for nuclear waste, it is the best and safest kind of waste produced from electricity production. It has never hurt anyone and there is no reason to think it ever will.” (AN, p. 152) ……….

Using the facade of ‘strawman arguments’

Shellenberger regularly sets up other strawman arguments and then knocks them down. [A strawman argument is an effort to refute an argument that hasn’t been made by replacing your opponent’s actual argument with a different one.] One of the most prevalent strawman arguments in the climate debate is that scientists claim climate change “causes” extreme events, when in fact, climate scientists make careful distinctions between “causality” and “influence” – two very different things. This area, called “attribution science,” is one of the most exciting aspects of climate research today.

Shellenberger sets up the strawman argument that people are incorrectly claiming recent extreme events (like forest fires, floods, heat waves, and droughts) were caused by climate change, and then he debunks this strawman. “Many blamed climate change for wildfires that ravaged California” (AN, p.2) and “the fires would have occurred even had Australia’s climate not warmed.” (AN p. 21) He misrepresents how the media reported on the fires, describing a New York Times story on the 2019 Amazon fires: “As for the Amazon, The New York Times reported, correctly, that the ‘fires were not caused by climate change.’” But here Shellenberger is cherry-picking a quote: If you look at the actual article he cites, the journalist makes clear the “influence” of climate change just two sentences later:

These fires were not caused by climate change. They were, by and large, set by humans. However, climate change can make fires worse. Fires can burn hotter and spread more quickly under warmer and drier conditions. (emphasis added)

He also misunderstands or misrepresents the extensive and growing literature on the links between climate change and extreme events, ……

……. Another example of a serious conceptual confusion is his chapter dismissing the threat of species extinctions. The chapter is full of misunderstandings of extinction rates, ecosystem and biological functions, confusions about timescales, and misuses of data. For example, Shellenberger confuses the concept of species “richness” with “biodiversity” and makes the astounding claim that

Around the world, the biodiversity of islands has actually doubled on average, thanks to the migration of ‘invasive species.’ The introduction of new plant species has outnumbered plant extinctions one hundred fold. (AN, p. 66)

By this odd logic, if an island had 10 species of native birds found only there and they went extinct, but 20 other invasive bird species established themselves, the island’s “biodiversity” would double. This error results from a misunderstanding of the study he cites, which properly notes that simply assessing species numbers (richness not biodiversity) on islands ignores the critical issues of biodiversity raised by invasive species, including the disruption of endemic species interactions, weakening of ecosystem stability, alteration of ecosystem functions, and increasing homogenization of flora and fauna………………

Another classic logical fallacy is to try to discredit an opponent’s argument by attacking the person and her or his motives, rather than the argument – hence the Latin “ad hominem” (“against the man”). Ad hominem attacks are pervasive in this book and detract from its tone and the content.

Shellenberger attacks “apocalyptic environmentalists” as “oblivious, or worse, unconcerned” about poverty (AN, p. 35) or for opposing a massive dam on the Congo river. (AN, p. 276) He attacks the finances of leading environmental groups and leaders like the late David Brower, arguing they have taken donations from fossil fuel companies to “greenwash the closure of nuclear plants.” (AN, p. 205) And he attacks the motives, reputations, and science of many individual environmental and geophysical scientists whose work contradicts his arguments……

 Shellenberger has a special level of animosity for the press:

News media, editors, and journalists might consider whether their constant sensationalizing of environmental problems is consistent with their professional commitment to fairness and accuracy, and their personal commitment to being a positive force in the world…….

In the most disturbing examples of vicious personal attacks, he paints broad categories of people who disagree with him as motivated by a hatred of humanity:

When we hear activists, journalists, IPCC scientists, and others claim climate change will be apocalyptic unless we make immediate, radical changes, including massive reductions in energy consumption, we might consider whether they are motivated by love for humanity or something closer to its opposite (AN, p. 275, emphasis added). We must fight against Malthusian and apocalyptic environmentalists who condemn human civilization and humanity itself. (AN, p. 274) (emphasis added).”

He argues in his closing sections that people worried about environmental disasters are playing out “a kind of subconscious fantasy for people who dislike civilization” (AN, p. 270) and suggests that people who oppose the solutions he prefers do so because they long for the destruction of civilization – a nasty attack on the motives of all those working in this field.

Finally, the book is riddled with a variety of simple errors…….  the number and scope of them here is problematic.  ….     one example is a massive misstatement of the amount of water required to produce energy. …..    in an important omission, he fails to note that key renewable energy sources such as wind and solar photovoltaics require far less water per unit of electricity produced than all fossil fuel and nuclear thermal plants. ….  He claims, twice (AN pp. 211 and 241), that nuclear power plants produce “zero pollution” ………

Dr. Peter H. Gleick
 is president emeritus of the Pacific Institute, a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, a MacArthur Fellow, and winner of the 2018 Carl Sagan Prize for Science Popularization.

March 17, 2021 Posted by | 2 WORLD, resources - print, spinbuster | Leave a comment

Deceitful nuclear propaganda exposed in ”The Wretched Atom”

The Wretched Atom

Coming in June 2021 from Oxford University Press

A groundbreaking narrative of how the United States offered the promise of nuclear technology to the developing world and its gamble that other nations would use it for peaceful purposes.

After the Second World War, the United States offered a new kind of atom that differed from the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This atom would cure diseases, produce new foods, make deserts bloom, and provide abundant energy for all. It was an atom destined for the formerly colonized, recently occupied, and mostly non-white parts of the world that were dubbed the “wretched of the earth” by Frantz Fanon.

The “peaceful atom” had so much propaganda potential that President Dwight Eisenhower used it to distract the world from his plan to test even bigger thermonuclear weapons. His scientists said the peaceful atom would quicken the pulse of nature, speeding nations along the path of economic development and helping them to escape the clutches of disease, famine, and energy shortfalls. That promise became one of the most misunderstood political weapons of the twentieth century. It was adopted by every subsequent US president to exert leverage over other nations’ weapons programs, to corner world markets of uranium and thorium, and to secure petroleum supplies. Other countries embraced it, building reactors and training experts. Atomic promises were embedded in Japan’s postwar recovery, Ghana’s pan-Africanism, Israel’s quest for survival, Pakistan’s brinksmanship with India, and Iran’s pursuit of nuclear independence.

As The Wretched Atom shows, promoting civilian atomic energy was an immense gamble, and it was never truly peaceful. American promises ended up exporting violence and peace in equal measure. While the United States promised peace and plenty, it planted the seeds of dependency and set in motion the creation of today’s expanded nuclear club.

January 10, 2021 Posted by | resources - print, spinbuster, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Book review: The Case for Degrowth

Book review: The Case for Degrowth, Jeremy Williams, The Earthbound Report  , 16 Nov 20,  “………….  What are the objectives of degrowth? It’s not shrinking the economy for the sake of it. The aim is to get GDP growth out of the driving seat and then steer towards “what really matters: not GDP, but the health and wellbeing of our people and our planet.”

As things currently stand, the drive for growth constantly stands in the way of good ideas. We know that fossil fuels should be left in the ground to avoid dangerous climate change, but growth says dig them up and sell them. We know that rising house prices are driving a wedge between the rich and the poor and the old and the young, but economic growth says don’t you dare intervene. And if it’s not delivering for you, if you’re one of those young people priced out of decent housing, then there’s a solution for you: more growth. It will trickle down to you, apparently, if you’re hard working and eternally patient.

Or there’s the alternative, which is to stop taking growth as the primary measure of progress and get on with delivering what people need. So many political directions open up when GDP growth takes a back seat and we get on with delivering what people need more directly.

Naturally this is an option for developed countries, as Katherine Trebeck and I describe in our book The Economics of Arrival. Growth has a purpose when it actually does lift people out of poverty, and when it is used to build the infrastructure and the institutions that a healthy society depends on. When it’s just feathering the nests of the already rich, and destroying the living world in the process, it’s time to move on to more qualitative forms of progress.

In fact, downsizing in the rich world may be a key enabler of flourishing elsewhere. “There is no technological or policy fix that can generalize to nine billion people the material standard of living currently enjoyed by a minority at high cost to others.” Instead, “high-consumption nations and people must degrow to free space for low-consumption ones.”

The Case for Degrowth explores these issues in concise terms, and presents five ‘path-breaking’ policies that would forge a new direction:
  • A Green New Deal
  • universal incomes and services
  • policies to reclaim the commons
  • shorter working hours
  • public finance that supports the first four

Being a short book, it no doubt opens up lots of other questions that the authors don’t cover, though the frequently asked questions at the end captures many of them. Perhaps the one that still sticks out for me is the word ‘degrowth’ itself. In my opinion it doesn’t capture the positivity of a vision for qualitative progress, for improvement rather than enlargement. I know it’s an old debate. We had it when founding the Postgrowth Institute ten years ago, and it doesn’t feel resolved today.

Still, The Case for Degrowth is a brief and straightforward explainer, and a good starting point for anyone who wants to get their head around the degrowth movement and what it wants to acheive.

November 17, 2020 Posted by | ENERGY, resources - print | Leave a comment

Plutonium: How Nuclear Power’s Dream Fuel Became a Nightmare

Nailing the Coffin of Civilian Plutonium, Plutonium: How Nuclear Power’s Dream Fuel Became a Nightmare, By Frank von Hippel,   Masafumi Takubo, and Jungmin KangSpringer Press, Reviewed by Thomas Countryman, November 2020

Even in the world of speculative investment bubbles, it would be difficult to find a parallel to the business of making plutonium. This “industry” has seen massive investment by private and mostly governmental funds in pursuit of creating the world’s most dangerous material, an investment that has failed to yield a single dollar in returns. Nevertheless, a combination of scientific ambition, bureaucratic inertia, and governmental hubris keeps alive a dream that should have been smothered long ago.

Leave it to three highly experienced specialists to briefly recount the history, clearly explain the physical realities, and precisely pick apart the ever-weakening arguments that have supported reprocessing spent nuclear fuel into a new plutonium-based fuel. Frank von Hippel, Masafumi Takubo, and Jungmin Kang accomplish all of this in Plutonium: How Nuclear Power’s Dream Fuel Became a Nightmare. Its planned translation into Japanese and Korean should help citizens participate in critical upcoming decisions about continuing plutonium projects by governments in Tokyo and Seoul.

The earliest rationale for using plutonium as a nuclear fuel rested on the fact that spent nuclear fuel, the leftover material from civilian nuclear power plants, still contained far more potential energy than had yet been consumed. In the 1970s, uranium was believed to be scarce in the natural environment, and the full utilization of its energy capacity made some engineering, logical, and economic sense. In succeeding decades, the economic rationale has been constantly undermined by the realization that natural uranium is sufficiently plentiful that its price is no longer the primary cost factor in nuclear power generation, by the unanticipated complexity of building advanced reactors optimized to use plutonium as fuel, by the cost of new and necessary safety regulations applicable to all reactors, and most recently by the continued fall in the cost of generating renewable energy.

In the face of these realities, only France, at a substantial economic loss, currently operates a full program for recovering plutonium from spent fuel for use as new nuclear fuel. Russia reprocesses spent fuel and is now testing plutonium in a breeder reactor. Japan has indicated it plans to open one of the world’s largest reprocessing plants in Rokkasho in the next two years, but that two-year time frame has been the boilerplate forecast for each of the past 10 years. India is actively reprocessing civilian spent fuel, and China is constructing a major facility for that purpose. South Korea has announced an end to its nuclear power program, but some officials and experts retain the aspiration to pursue civilian reprocessing.

No other nuclear-powered nation is actively pursuing “closing” the nuclear fuel cycle by reprocessing plutonium for energy generation. The economic and technical realities forced one country after another—Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, then the United States—to end their own efforts.

This weak support highlights the merits of the authors’ arguments. They systematically deconstruct the political and technical arguments in favor of such programs. Crucially, they demonstrate the factual inaccuracy of the primary argument advanced by Japanese and South Korean advocates that reprocessing spent fuel will diminish the volume and danger of nuclear waste that must ultimately be stored in geological repositories. They also knock down convincingly the claim that plutonium that is reactor grade, as opposed to weapons grade, is unusable in an explosive device.

Although it may be the prerogative of sovereign states to spend their own money irrationally, the authors focus also on important externalities, in particular the threat to the world’s security and environment from the continued production of plutonium. A commitment to the closed fuel cycle delays the inevitable decision that must be made by Japan and South Korea concerning permanent safe storage of spent fuels, a decision on which the United States also continues to procrastinate. In addition, it leads to unsafe practices concerning the storage of spent fuel rods destined for reprocessing. The authors describe for the first time how close the world was to a greater disaster in 2011, as overcrowded spent fuel cooling ponds could have led to a much greater radiation release following the accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The authors explain that moving the spent fuel to interim dry cask storage would avert such catastrophic risks.

Of still greater concern is the risk that even a sliver of the massive plutonium stockpiles could be acquired by terrorists to use in a nuclear explosive device or a panic-inducing radiological dispersion device. Since plutonium was first fabricated 80 years ago, nations have created more than 500 tons of what is arguably the world’s most dangerous material. The International Atomic Energy Agency defines a “significant quantity” of plutonium, or enough to make a nuclear weapon, as eight kilograms, although even a Nagasaki-size blast could be generated with significantly less plutonium. Thus, the 300 tons of plutonium designated for civilian use would be sufficient to create more than 35,000 warheads.

Continuing to accumulate plutonium is not only a terrorism risk, but also a source of tension between states. There is concern in Beijing that Japan holds greater stocks of separated plutonium than China and in Seoul that South Korea holds none. The authors note briefly but tellingly the normally unstated security considerations that in part motivate civilian reprocessing programs: an intention to sustain a latent weapons capacity.

The authors make a convincing case for the international community to act together to end further production of separated plutonium. The effort to negotiate a fissile material cutoff treaty, which would ban production of plutonium for weapons, remains frozen in a glacier at the Conference on Disarmament. Whether or when it moves ahead, there is a separate compelling need to negotiate a ban on civilian separation of plutonium.

Although less than 200 pages, Plutonium is not light reading. Its economic and scientific arguments are compact, thoroughly documented, and clear even to lay people. For policymakers and the public, it provides a clear picture of a dream whose claimed benefits have all evaporated but whose danger remains ominously present.

Thomas Countryman is the chair of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors. He served 35 years in the U.S. Foreign Service, retiring in 2017 as acting undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.

November 2, 2020 Posted by | - plutonium, 2 WORLD, Reference, resources - print | Leave a comment


Coming Close to Nuclear Holocaust, NYT,  By Talmage Boston, GAMBLING WITH ARMAGEDDON, Nuclear Roulette From Hiroshima to the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1945-1962, By Martin J. Sherwin   On Aug. 6, 1945, after Hiroshima was destroyed, President Truman declared the atomic bomb “the greatest thing in history.” On Oct. 21, 1962, during the Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy confided to a friend, “The world really is impossible to manage so long as we have nuclear weapons.” The two statements sum up the changes in thinking between those two dates.

Benefiting from more than a half century of hindsight, the Pulitzer-winning historian Martin J. Sherwin delivers a well-researched and reasoned analysis of nuclear weapons’ impact from 1945 to 1962 in “Gambling With Armageddon.” The book should become the definitive account of its subject.

Sherwin has three themes. First, history proves that the disadvantages of nuclear weapons outweigh their advantages. Yes, the A-bomb brought a quick end to World War II, but Dwight Eisenhower and Robert Oppenheimer both believed Japan’s defeat was imminent without the bomb. And while it tipped the balance of power until the Soviets developed their own nuclear weapon in 1949, this brief American advantage produced no geopolitical gains…….

The book’s final lesson is the unsettling one that regardless of how many wise decisions get made by prudent leaders,

 good luck is crucial. Sherwin reveals that on Day 12 of the crisis, a Soviet captain overruled a flawed order to unleash
a nuclear missile on American ships blockading Cuba. Similarly, an American Air Force captain refused to fire a nuke
into China until he double-checked the accuracy of what proved to be a mistaken communication. The little-known
 captains Vasily Arkhipov and William Bassett thereby become elevated onto the pedestal with Kennedy and

October 15, 2020 Posted by | resources - print, weapons and war | Leave a comment

In “The Button,” former Defense Secretary William J. Perry and Tom Z. Collina survey the dangers of nuclear escalation.

Book Review: The Nuclear Arms Race, Then and Now, Undark, BY MARK WOLVERTON  11 Sept 20, In “The Button,” former Defense Secretary William J. Perry and Tom Z. Collina survey the dangers of nuclear escalation.

 IN THE bad old days of the Cold War, both the United States and the USSR maintained thousands of nuclear weapons, ready to be launched at a moment’s notice. Only one person had the authority to unleash America’s nuclear forces: the president of the United States. He could do so at any time, without consulting Congress or the military or anyone else save his own conscience. Although the mechanism for doing so never actually consisted of pushing a button, that became the popular metaphor for setting off doomsday.

September 12, 2020 Posted by | resources - print, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Two excellent new books on a nuclear-weapons -free world

September 5, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, Religion and ethics, resources - print, weapons and war | Leave a comment

“Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World.” – new book


Fallout’: New book sobering reminder of nuclear devastation 75 years after entering atomic age  By Hevyn Heckes  31 Aug 20,  New Mexicans are perhaps more acutely aware of U.S. nuclear capabilities and the bomb, “Little Boy,” dropped on Hiroshima, since its predecessors were developed and tested in our own backyard. However, most people alive today will not remember the immediate aftereffects of the outsized attack on Japanese citizens that capped off the second world war.

Modern awareness of the atomic bomb and the events of WWII are mostly relegated to fictionalized accounts contained in films such as “Pearl Harbor” and “Schindler’s List.” The events surrounding WWII have long since become a cultural legend, and first-person memories of these events no longer exist. We’ve simply forgotten the horrors of global war — until now.

Leslie M. M. Blume set out to refresh our collective memory regarding the widely recognized end of WWII in “Fallout: The Hiroshima Cover-up and the Reporter Who Revealed It to the World.” She has done so in spectacular fashion – recalling our consciousness to the famous New Yorker article written by one John Hersey.

Blume details the difficulties Hersey confronted in reporting the truth of the atomic bomb’s lingering effects on Japanese citizens and the censorship levied against war correspondents prior to and during Hersey’s investigative presence in Japan.

Blume somehow manages to insert the reader in a manner usually only employed by fiction novels. She plies the reader with insight into how Hersey was able to convince Japanese victims to talk to him – a man they had every reason to hate and mistrust as a representative of their enemies in the U.S.

She explains that Hersey’s interviewees found him affable, educated and empathetic. His personal qualities endeared him to these people who would otherwise have gladly sent him on his way without a word.

Reading this book provides a timely and poignant reminder on the 75th anniversary of the bombings. One is forced to confront the human cost of nuclear weapons. Blume brilliantly interweaves Hersey’s reporting with her own so the reader is able to feel present with Hersey during his research and the victims of Little Boy’s aftereffects.

It becomes more and more clear that those who perished immediately with the bomb’s initial blast were the lucky ones.

Hersey and Blume graphically recount the physiological and psychological trauma Little Boy’s victims endured. One particularly memorable excerpt states, “(Japanese soldiers’) eyes had melted away in their sockets; the liquid had run in rivulets down their faces, which were burned beyond recognition.” Other excerpts tell of victims whose faces had “melted” with the blast so that their appearance seemed blurred.

Clearly, this novel contains sensitive and graphic depictions of physical trauma suffered by Japanese citizens of Hiroshima. This fact takes nothing away from the importance of the reader confronting these depictions to truly understand the catastrophic risks of nuclear war.

Fictional chaos theorist Dr. Ian Malcolm (played memorably by Jeff Goldblum) said in the film “Jurassic Park,” “Your scientists were so concerned with figuring out if they could that they didn’t stop to ask themselves whether or not they should.” This concept and ethical philosophy is perhaps more applicable to the invention of the atomic bomb — a weapon capable of far more devastating effects, up to and including nuclear winter, environmental devastation and species annihilation, than a few stray T-Rexes in a theme park.

As Hersey conveys and Blume emphasizes, nuclear weapons are a tool that could potentially bring about humanity’s self-inflicted extinction. Hersey’s reporting on the atomic bomb’s effects on the citizens of Hiroshima is perhaps a deterrent preventing nuclear disaster, but we must keep these consequences at the front of our minds to continue avoiding the doomsday clock finally tolling the midnight hour. “Fallout” is the poignant reminder we need right now.

Hevyn Heckes is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at or on Twitter @H_Squared90

September 1, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, resources - print, weapons and war | Leave a comment

BOOKS on The New Nuclear Threat

August 3, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, resources - print, weapons and war | Leave a comment

Book: Doom With A View: Historical and Cultural Contexts of the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant.

The Grieving Landscape, LONGREADS, Heidi Hutner | Fulcrum Publishing | June 2020 | 16 minutes (4,305 words)

We’re delighted to bring you an excerpt by Heidi Hutner from the anthology Doom With A View: Historical and Cultural Contexts of the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant. Edited by Kristen Iverson, with E. Warren Perry and Shannon Perry, the anthology arrives from Fulcrum Publishing in August, 2020.

At thirty-five, I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. One year before my diagnosis, my mother died from complications after heart surgery. At the time of her death, my mother had cancer — lymphoma. Five years prior to Mom’s death, my father passed away from a brain tumor, a metastasis from the cancer melanoma.

Two years after I had completed my chemotherapy treatment for cancer, I gave birth to Olivia. My miracle baby.

At first, I was ecstatic about the pregnancy. I had always wanted children, and with my cancer, I feared this would never happen. My doctors said I was lucky to give birth to a biological child after chemotherapy (my treatment left me with a 50 percent chance of remaining fertile afterward). But now, a mother-to-be, I was also afraid. How could I protect my child from our family cancer blight?

My desire to protect my daughter from a future cancer diagnosis drove me into a rabbit hole of reading and learning about the reasons for my family’s affliction.  I began with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and moved forward to more recent literature by Sandra SteingraberTheo Colburn, and numerous others, including the President’s Cancer Panel Report. I learned that the cancer rates today are off the charts: one in two men and one in three women will get cancer in their lifetimes. Carson predicted this plague in 1963. She warned us of humankind’s “hubris” in carelessly polluting our earth with toxic chemicals and ionizing radiation. The epidemiologist Alice Stewart’s study on the grave danger of X-rays on babies in the womb in the 1950s, sounded the alarm about ionizing radiation as well. Today, our world swirls with pollutants — these carcinogens penetrate mothers’ wombs and breasts. Mother’s milk is a toxic cocktail. Newborns today are born with hundreds of synthetic chemicals in their umbilical cord blood. Synthetic chemicals and ionizing radiation change our makeup, harm our genes, and cause mutagenetic damage. More than 80,000 unregulated pollutants fill our environment.

We are guinea pigs.

Fast forward about eleven years: one summer day, in 2009, on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, at lunch with a close friend (and cousin) of my deceased mother, Phyllis Resnick, I stumbled upon a story about my mom that I had never heard before. The tale Phyllis told would radically change my life. My then-preteen daughter, Olivia, was by my side. She listened rapt with me as we learned of our maternal nuclear legacy.

Phyllis described how in the early 1960s, my mother and she, along with their good friend Thalia Stern Broudy, had been a members of Women Strike for Peace (WSP), an antinuclear group led by Dagmar Wilson and the future congresswoman, Bella Abzug. During the Cold War 1950s and early 60s, the U.S. had detonated one hundred above-ground nuclear test bombs in the Nevada desert and one hundred and six atmospheric test bombs in the South Pacific. The government claimed these test bombs posed no harm and the fallout had not spread, but scientists and medical professionals were concerned. A team of experts in St. Louis, MO, directed by Dr. Louise Reiss, initiated a survey to determine the extent of the impact of the bomb testing. With a chemical makeup similar to calcium, strontium-90, a radioisotope found in fallout, is easily absorbed in teeth and bones. Thousands of baby teeth from across the U.S. were collected between 1958 and 1971 for the St. Louis Baby Tooth Survey. In 1961, preliminary results showed high levels of strontium-90 in baby teeth of children born after 1945 and these levels increased over the time period, as the test-bombing continued. When the mothers of Women Strike for Peace learned the results of the survey, they banded together to stop atmospheric bomb testing. 50,000 WSP members from across the U.S. wrote letters, gathered petitions, lobbied congressional representatives, initiated lawsuits, and protested through marches and street demonstrations. My mother and her cohort of 15,000 WSP members traveled to D.C. to protest, lobby, and meet with their legislators November, 1961. In 1963, the United States, the U.K., and the Soviet Union signed the Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, an agreement to halt atmospheric, under water, and outer space bomb testing. The signing of this treaty has been attributed to the efforts of WSP.

The government claimed these test bombs posed no harm and the fallout had not spread, but scientists and medical professionals were concerned.

After discovering this remarkable story about WSP, I became obsessed with feminist nuclear history. I wondered: Why had I never been told this tale when my mother was alive? What other vital nuclear histories involving women had been buried? So began my journey of exploring women’s antinuclear tales, traveling to nuclear disaster sites, and meeting with members of impacted communities. On this path, I met Kristen Iversen, the author of Full Body Burden, an investigative memoir about growing up next door to Rocky Flats, the former nuclear weapons facility in Arvada, Colorado. Kristen invited me to visit her in Colorado. She would introduce me to experts, scientists, and community members there. I brought my then eighteen-year-old daughter, Olivia, with me. She was about to leave for college. I wanted to share our maternal antinuclear and activist legacy with her before she left home. ………….

Operating from 1952 to 1992, the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility was located approximately 15 miles northwest of Denver, a city built by an influx of miners during the gold rush in the nineteenth century. During the years of its operation, the plant constructed more than 70,000 triggers for nuclear bombs. Rocky Flats would be the site of two major secret plutonium fires, blowing radioactive poison into sections of Arvada and Denver in 1957 and 1969. Hundreds of smaller fires also took place, as well as regular leaks, spills, and atmospheric plutonium releases. Plutonium clouds blew over houses, swimming pools, schools, churches, farms, fields, and streams. Rocky Flats is known for powerful Chinook winds — winds that would blow plutonium dust into local neighborhoods. Locals did not know that Rocky Flats was a weapons factory for most of its years of operation. Workers employed there were forbidden to speak of their work and often didn’t comprehend the full extent of the factory’s activities.

By 1989, The FBI and EPA suspected criminal negligence at Rocky Flats, which led to a raid, led by FBI agent Jon Lipsky.

A federal grand jury began an investigation, a settlement was negotiated, the court documents were sealed, and the plant closed. The story of this federal grand jury is fraught and complex, and cover-ups are suspected in the sealing of the documents and lack of full prosecution. The Rocky Flats cleanup was officially completed in 2004; however, numerous scientists, nuclear experts, local citizens, and antinuclear activists argue the cleanup is far from finished. Unknown but large amounts of plutonium and other contaminants remain on the land in what has been turned into a Superfund site, a designation made under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980. The primary industrial site (the Superfund area — 485 acres) was never completely remediated. There is a buffer zone, also heavily contaminated, although the EPA claims this area is fully remediated. The surrounding area, now called a National Wildlife Refuge, was not remediated. Significant contamination has been detected there in the soil and groundwater. Many other toxic and radioactive contaminants have also been found at Rocky Flats in addition to plutonium: americium, uranium, cadmium, PCBs, beryllium, and more. A 2019 study found plutonium “hot particles” in the soil frighteningly close to the homes abutting the Flats………

Rocky Flats is “a national sacrifice zone,” says Robert Alvarez, associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and former senior policy advisor to the secretary at the US Department of Energy“That’s what it is, although no one will say so officially. How much remains buried there? A tremendous amount — plutonium doesn’t go away. No one has done this yet — it’s costly and complex — but someone needs to go into those houses nearby in Arvada and take samples. We don’t know how much plutonium is in them.”…….. 

July 13, 2020 Posted by | environment, health, resources - print, USA, wastes | Leave a comment

‘The Triumph of Doubt’ – corporations’ war on science

Inside corporations’ war on science . A new book explains how corporations create a climate of doubt around science and expertise. Vox, By Sean  May 26, 2020

Johnson & Johnson announced this week that it will stop putting talc, a mineral linked to asbestos, in its baby powder products. The move comes after years of lawsuits alleging that the powder causes various cancers.

It’s also a surprising turnaround. Johnson & Johnson has spent decades funding biased science and lobbying the government to avoid regulating its products or labeling them as cancer-causing. It’s a tactic deployed by many other industries that have a stake in stifling regulation and the science behind it.

The history of this practice is documented in a new book by David Michaels, the former assistant secretary of labor for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under the Obama administration. It’s a close look at how powerful corporations fund junk science and misinformation campaigns in order to obscure evidence and undercut regulatory efforts.

Big Tobacco and the fossil fuels industry are obvious examples, but the problem goes well beyond that. From cancer-causing hair products and apparel to diabetes-linked food and sugary drinks, corporations have realized that you don’t have to convince the public or government officials of anything — all you have to do is create the illusion of doubt.

And they do that by piloting bogus studies, organizing partisan think tanks, supplying dubious congressional witnesses, and anything else they can think of to give regulators enough cover to plausibly look the other way. If you’ve ever heard a politician say “The science is still unclear” or “We need to keep researching the issue,” there’s a good chance that was made possible by industry-funded pseudo-science.

I spoke to Michaels about what this process looks like, why journalists and civic actors have been unable to stop it, and how the practice has become more pervasive in recent years. We also discussed the coronavirus pandemic and how the tactics he describes in this book helped lay the groundwork for the extreme skepticism of scientific expertise we’re seeing from conservatives.

“The Republican base,” Michaels told me, “has been acclimatized to be skeptical of mainstream science, and easily believe accusations that they are being manipulated by the deep state, the liberal media, and pointy-headed scientists.”

A lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Sean Illing

When you say that big corporations like DuPont or Exxon manufacture doubt around their products, what do you mean?

David Michaels

I mean that they hire scientists who appear to be reputable to produce or obscure evidence about the products they make. If there are studies or even suggestions that their product is dangerous, you can hire a scientist who will say, “The evidence is in question,” or, “The study is wrong.”

Corporations make sure those scientists get their opinions into what look like credible peer-reviewed journals, then they get picked up by newspapers, then they have the sound bites that commentators repeat, and that’s enough to convince people that there’s uncertainty. Not necessarily that the product is safe, but that the scientific evidence isn’t there.

That’s basically how it works.

Sean Illing

You used the phrase “appear to be reputable.” What does that mean?

David Michaels

They are credentialed people, but they typically work for consulting firms whose business model is to provide any result their client needs……..

One of the things the Trump administration has done is essentially take the same mercenary scientists who have been working for corporations trying to influence the agencies to do the wrong thing and then given them high-level positions in these same agencies – [EPA , the FDA  and other public institutions]…….

The example that I find most striking is a fellow named Tony Cox, who was appointed chairman of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee by former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, who is himself a longtime lobbyist for the oil and coal industries……..

Sean Illing

So we’ve just made the process more efficient. Industry doesn’t even need middlemen to muddy the waters on their behalf now because they just have their own people appointed to run the agencies charged with regulating them…….

David Michaels

As the abject and enormously tragic failure of the Trump administration’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic becomes increasingly clear, the president and his supporters are taking the tobacco road, applying the same strategy used by cigarette manufacturers, fossil fuel corporations, and a host of other industries whose products and activities damage public health.

Not only is it the same strategy, it features the same cast of characters, and it is promoted in the same social media and cable TV venues, especially Fox News. Right-wing punditsTrump administration officials, and scientists with long histories of discredited studies first declared the epidemic a hoax and then asserted the numbers of cases and deaths are wildly inflated. They have been eventually shown to be wildly wrong, but it has no impact on their credibility or their willingness to offer outrageous claims.

This strategy is successful because the Republican base has been acclimatized to be skeptical of mainstream science and easily believe accusations heard on Fox News or read on Facebook that they are being manipulated by the deep state, the liberal media, and pointy-headed scientists……..

When the Trump administration is finally evicted from power, we will need to rebuild our system of public health protections, not simply by pouring more funding into federal agencies that were weak and flawed even before Trump, but by reimagining how they can be far more effective and inclusive, and are able to apply the best available science. And we must do this in a way that overcomes the anti-science culture fed by the current administration and the Republican party.

If we are unable to accomplish these goals, I fear that the nation’s disastrous response to Covid-19 is likely to be a preview of a very troubling future.

May 30, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, resources - print, Resources -audiovicual, secrets,lies and civil liberties | Leave a comment

Wake up world -to the climate emergency – Naomi Klein’s new book “On Fire”

To avoid climate catastrophe, it’s going to take a revolution of the mind, 

As we approach a turning point in our civilization’s journey, author Naomi Klein has been sounding the alarm about how to shift the current paradigm and loosen our deadly chokehold on the living world. Fast Company, BY ANNA LENZER, 15 Mar 20, 

Antarctica just hit 65 degrees, the highest temperature it’s ever recorded, and a sea in Siberia is “boiling” with methane. Major parts of the U.S. drinking water supply are contaminated with “forever chemicals”—so called because they virtually never degrade—that are linked to cancers and liver damage, among other health problems. Climate models used to forecast warming are running red-hot and giving us far less time than we thought to turn things around. And last July was the hottest month in the 140 years that records have been kept, the 415th consecutive month with temperatures above the 20th-century average.

There’s a growing sense that we’re approaching a turning point in our civilization’s journey, in which the path diverges between two extremes—a re-flourishing garden planet and a bleak, burning wasteland of increasingly rationed resources. We’re pushing on dominoes that could fall into a runaway series of irreversible tipping points and feedback loops that will leave us to do emergency triage and run rescue-salvage missions on a dying and incinerated planet for the rest of our days. Peak Life is in sight, possibly already behind us, and our current trajectory is about to fling us off the cliff.

The UN is raising the alarm that the mass extinction of plant and animal species—which has already decimated large swaths of the planet—risks collapsing into a catastrophic point of no return, and that halting this destruction of the web of life (along with our food and water security) requires an unprecedented transformation of civilization beginning immediately.

A series of global summits through the end of this year is intended to kick off this paradigmatic shift and to loosen our deadly chokehold on the living world.

A few days before the UN’s Climate Action Summit in New York last fall, author Naomi Klein launched her latest broadside against the forces of inertia with the now best-selling On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal, a book designed to inspire a blueprint for the United States’ reemergence as a global climate leader………

March 17, 2020 Posted by | climate change, resources - print, USA | Leave a comment

Book review – “The Bomb”

The Bomb’ Review: Down the Nuclear Rabbit Hole
Until 1989, no president had ever been privy to the military’s list of specific targets in the Soviet Union.  WSJ, Paul Kennedy, Jan. 31, 2020,  In the summer of 1945, as a mushroom cloud rose high above the Japanese city of Hiroshima, the very history of war and diplomacy, and the world of Great Power relations, changed irrevocably. Science had created a weapon of such indiscriminate destructiveness that it ought, now that its ferocity was clear, never to be used again. This became even more obvious to contemporary observers when the more powerful hydrogen bombs appeared on the scene only a few years later, and when the Soviet Union also quickly acquired similar weaponry.

February 1, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, resources - print, weapons and war | Leave a comment

The Bomb: Presidents, Generals, and the Secret History of Nuclear War

Nuclear Nightmares– By Justin Vogt, NYT, Jan. 28, 2020, THE BOMB By Fred Kaplan, It’s an old joke, but a good one. “Doctor, my son thinks he’s a chicken,” a father tells a psychiatrist, who suggests treatment for the boy. “We’d like to do that,” the father says, “but we need the eggs.”

For decades, American presidents have found themselves in a similar predicament, as revealed with bracing clarity by “The Bomb,” Fred Kaplan’s rich and surprisingly entertaining history of how nuclear weapons have shaped the United States military and the country’s foreign policy. It is the story of how high-level officials, generals and presidents have contended with what Kaplan calls “the rabbit hole” of nuclear strategy, whose logic transforms efforts to avoid a nuclear war into plans to fight one, even though doing so would kill millions of people without producing a meaningful victory for anyone. As President Barack Obama once put it before weighing in during a meeting on nuclear weapons: “Let’s stipulate that this is all insane.”

Owing to the spread of those weapons and to the inevitability of competition between powerful countries, generations of policymakers have leapt into the abyss again and again. Nuclear strategy is an exercise in absurdity that pushes against every moral boundary but that has likely contributed to the relative safety and stability of the contemporary era, during which nuclear weapons have proliferated but major war has all but vanished. Apparently, we need the eggs.

“The Bomb” is a sequel of sorts to “The Wizards of Armageddon,” Kaplan’s 1983 book about the Cold War-era thinkers who established a template for how generations of American officials would approach nuclear weapons. The new book revisits the foundational debates and explains how they have played out in more recent years, making use of newly declassified material and a wealth of interviews with insiders. In less skillful hands, this could be a slog. But Kaplan has a gift for elucidating abstract concepts, cutting through national security jargon and showing how leaders confront (or avoid) dilemmas. ………..

January 30, 2020 Posted by | 2 WORLD, resources - print, weapons and war | Leave a comment