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  (ARCHIVES)Back to Current
The risk factor (02/24/2008)
By Janet Lewis Burns
You don't see things as they are. You see things as you are. Americans have been spoiled and disillusioned for decades!

We have been programmed to believe that we live in a risk-free society. Our country's tenets, judicial system, and people of authority have led our society to believe there's a fix for everything and that prevention is always an option to potential disaster. Sadly, we learn the painful way that that is unrealistic.

In 1997 a study was released detailing an increase in road rage incidents of as much as 7% each year since 1990. These incidents are being categorized as an "epidemic of aggressive driving", an exaggerated term, due to the exploitation of the handle "road rage" in the news.

In the article "All The Rage" by Andrew Santella, in the Dec. '07 Utne, he reports a bizarre catastrophe labeled "vending machine madness." The scoop is , the AMA reported "15 serious injuries, 3 fatal, as a result of irate men rocking vending machines that had taken their money without giving them snacks." (That's besides all the gals who have likely sustained numerous broken fingernails and multiple fractured toes.)

What's next? "Shopping cart deadlock" at Wal-Mart? "Roller blade rampage?" "Bike path wrath?" "Dollar store uproar?" "Closeout shove and shout?" "Short fuse in the waiting room?" On a much more serious note, it seems complacency has caught up to earth's inhabitants. An environmental movement to take a second look at nuclear power as an alternative to carbon emissions is due to the urgency of the global warming factor.

Journalist Jason Mark wrote "Atomic Dreams" in the Feb. Utne magazine. This is powerful stuff! Say the words "nuclear power" and everyone breaks out in a cold sweat! Hold on, say certain nuclear proponents! Some claim that "there is no other technology that can do what nuclear does: produce large amounts of electricity 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with no carbon emissions."

Over the past 20 years, environmentalists have been forced to use coal combustion, which releases millions of tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

The argument is, "The country still lacks a safe way to handle the radioactive waste formed during the fission process." Another worry is, "the possibility that terrorists could attack a plant or obtain nuclear materials to make ‘dirty bombs' or atomic weapons."

Consider cost. Mark writes, "Most estimates put nuclear-generated electricity at around 8 - 11 cents per kilowatt-hour. By comparison, wind prices currently average 5 cents per kWh." ""¦swapping out incandescent light bulbs for compact fluorescents amounts to less than 4 cents per kWh."

The urgency is NOW! Nuclear plants wouldn't kick in until nearly 2020. Jason Mark's article stresses that a practical and safe solution is to educate citizens to create lifestyles that don't demand as much electricity, no simple task.

He writes, "The dilemma for environmental organizations is that the word conservation is sometimes interpreted to mean compromise - and asking Americans to sacrifice has become the untouchable third rail of U.S. environmentalism."

Who would deny that we Americans can make-do with a lot less stuff and be more self-reliant? Tapping into nuclear power would be an irrelevant issue if the citizens of our country would work seriously together to put a halt to drastic, harmful environmental changes caused by human consumption that's gotten way out of hand.

Environmental activist Bill McKibben makes a telling remark by stating, "The only reason we're pursuing nuclear power is that there are people who stand to make a great deal of money from it, especially if they can get the government to subsidize all the potential downsides for them." What's new?

There is promise in plain and simple, commonsense energy conservation. What a great way to proclaim, "NO, NO, NO" to wasteful spending and to the kids' demands for more button pushers, and to say honestly, "It's for your own good."

Janet Burns lives in Lewiston. She can be reached at patandjanburns@embarqmail.com.

 

 

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