All posts by Robert Hunziker

Toxic Chemicals Engulf the Planet

Worldwide chemical emissions are six times global warming emissions. This hidden dilemma is fully exposed in a superbly researched new book by science writer Julian Cribb: Earth Detox, How and Why We Must Clean Up Our Planet, Cambridge University Press, scheduled for release August 2021.

The planet has become a toxic soup of tested, untested, and inadequately tested chemicals that includes deadly toxins. Within only a couple of generations, and largely unnoticed, this startling episode is unique to our generation. Far and away, it exceeds global warming emissions. Yet, it’s a pressing issue that’s not publicly recognized as such.

Earth Detox is an eye-opening exposure of unintentional toxic chemical warfare lodged against humanity virtually everywhere, all over the planet. Throughout this challenging subject matter, Cribb’s work is supported by extensive scientific data, for example: “Americans are a walking cocktail of contaminants.” That statement alone is provocative enough to demand more facts, a whole lot more. For example, why and how has American life been reduced to such a degenerative status? More on this to follow.

But most alarming of all: “More than 25,000 human lives are being lost daily to chemical poisoning.” That statistic of 25,000 deaths/day comes from UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) in its 2019 Global Chemicals Outlook II report, which Cribb disparagingly describes:

With unassailable scientific evidence that more than 25,000 human lives are being lost daily to chemical poisoning, and in the face of a mountain of fresh evidence of chemical harm that has accumulated since its 2013 report, the 2019 report betrays a chilling lack of urgency. Its language is softer and less candid, its proposals more soothing to industry than its predecessor. Indeed, it asserts: ‘We cannot live without chemicals’. It is hard to escape an inference that UNEP has been ‘got at’. (p. 216)

It’s a compelling invisible issue. What else in the world accounts for 25,000 daily deaths?

Yet, across the globe there are no signs of concern, no long banners flapping in the breeze on Main Street, no NGOs, no marches, no petitions, no pesky fund-raisers, no signature gatherers at grocery store parking lots, no public demonstrations of concern about this hidden peril found throughout the planet from the top of Mount Everest, where researchers, to their dismay, discovered toxic compounds in-excess of EPA standards, to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, where small crustaceans that live in the pitch-black waters of the trench, captured by a robotic submarine, were contaminated with 50 times more toxic chemicals than crabs that survive in heavily polluted rivers in China.

Still, society fails to address this most pressing issue of the 21st century. According to Cribb: “A worrisome component of the poisoning of the planet is the absurd fact that modern society exists and functions as a result of these poisons. For example, industrialized food production uses five million tonnes of specialized poisons to control weeds, insects, rodents and moulds to feed the world.” Here’s the kicker, the vast majority of the chemicals used to produce food negatively impact “non-target organisms,” like honeybees, farm workers and consumers.

Cribb has produced a landmark study that demands further analysis and investigation at the highest levels. It belongs on reading lists of every educational institution and in the hands of policymakers as well as consumers worldwide. Cribb’s gifted science-oriented prose provides an ideal fundamental resource for: (1) supplemental textbooks (2) advocacy groups (3) policymakers (4) critical information for every householder in the world to better understand what’s at stake in everyday life. For example: “Never eat any food containing a substance you can’t pronounce or you don’t trust.” (p. 67) In other words, read the damn labels!

Earth Detox is truly a masterpiece of deeply researched facts exposing a very, very big story, as big as the survival and condition of Earth’s basic resources that support existence.  An opening statement in Cribb’s own words sums up the extent:

Earth and all life on it are being saturated with chemicals released by humans, in an event unlike anything that has occurred ever before, in all 4 billion years of our Planet’s story… Ours is a poisoned world… this has all happened quite quickly and has burgeoned so rapidly that most people are still unaware of the extent or scale of the peril… crept up on us unseen… in a social climate of trusting acceptance of authority, over barely the span of a single human lifetime… impacts are only now starting to emerge. (pp. 3-4)

Accordingly, a 2020 study by a team of international scientists led by Switzerland’s Institute of Environmental Engineering:

Over 350,000 chemicals and mixtures of chemicals have been registered for production and use, up to three times as many as previously estimated… identities of many chemicals remain publicly unknown because they are claimed as confidential.  (p  7)

The Swiss study is the world’s first-ever compilation of global chemical inventory and surprisingly discovered three times previous estimates, which speaks to the lax governance issue, nobody really knows for sure what’s going on, three times previous estimates is evidence of failure to observe. The study uncovered “widespread secrecy, misidentification and obfuscation,” leading to a question of who effectively monitors this darkened world that ultimately reaches into everyone’s home?

It’s the vastness and fragmentation of worldwide manufacturing that makes regulation so difficult. After all, one thousand (1,000) new chemicals are added to the mix every year. The chemical industry is the second largest manufacturer in the world, totaling 2.5 billion tonnes each year.

Yet, according to Cribb:

Regulation has so far banned fewer than one per cent (1%) of all intentionally made dangerous chemicals – and then only in certain countries… large parts of the world’s most polluting industries are relocating away from countries where high standards of regulation and compliance, and high costs, apply. (pp. 191-92)

All of which conforms to economic dicta following post-Reagan globalization schemes subsequently embraced by neoliberalism’s penchant for weakening regulations and powerfully goosed ahead via massive deregulation under the Trump administration’s “intentional collapse of scientific wherewithal,” one of America’s darkest hours.

Indeed, chemical usage is an ever-present quandary that’s a challenge to navigate if only because so much of it is necessary in today’s world, leading to one of the great paradoxes of all time, a virtual “Catch-22”:

Man-made chemicals are so widespread in the world today because they are very useful, very valuable, very profitable and help to enhance billions of lives. They are central enabling technology in the modern global economy. They are never going to be universally banned – and nor should they be. But neither should they flood the Earth uncontrolled. The magnitude of our chemical – especially toxic chemical – exposure has crept up on the human population unawares. (p. 192)

Cribb has created nomenclature for the chemical epidemic: Anthropogenic Chemical Circulation (“ACC”).

The ACC is just like our carbon emissions – only much bigger and far more noxious… For the first time in the Earth’s history, a single species – ourselves – is poisoning an entire Planet. (pp. 20-21)

ACC aptly defines the risks: Man-made chemicals are always on the move constantly in space and time, all around us, traveling on wind, in the water, attached to soil, within dust and plastic micro particles, in traded goods. Chemicals stay with us forever reforming, recycling, recombining, and reactivating as part of an unending planetary river, the Anthropogenic Chemical Circulation. Nothing escapes toxic pollution: “Even the mud on the sea floor is becoming poisonous.” (pp. 35-37)

Polluted People

It is highly likely that readers of Cribb’s exposé will have been exposed to toxic chemicals without knowing it. You only know, or suspect, after something goes wrong, like cancer or Alzheimer’s but by then forgetfulness masks the original cause/effect.

According to Cribb:

A chilling glimpse of the big picture comes from the USA, among the heaviest chemical users on the Planet. For more than two decades its Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has run a national survey of chemical pollution in the blood, serum and urine of up to 2500 Americans every year. (pg. 53)

The survey reveals:

Americans are a walking cocktail of contaminants. The CDC readily admits that the health effects of many chemicals are not yet clear. WHO says the number of chemicals is ‘very large’ and health risks ‘are not known… Ipso facto, never eat any food containing a substance you can’t pronounce or you don’t trust. (p. 67)

The modern industrial food supply chain, from A to Z, is loaded with chemicals. For starters, pesticides used to grow food and livestock end up in human bodies one way or another, and in high enough concentrations proven to influence cancers, brain, nerve, genetic and hormonal disorders, kidney and liver damage, asthma and allergies. Besides pesticides, some 3,000 chemical food ingredients are permitted by the FDA used to enhance freshness, taste, and texture. Preservatives, for example, which extend shelf life, are chemicals that poison the bacteria and moulds that cause food to rot.

Common chemical preservatives such as sodium nitrate and nitrite, sulphites, sulphur dioxide, sodium benzoate, parabens, formaldehyde and antioxidant preservatives, if over-consumed in the modern processed food diet, may also lead to cancers, heart disease, allergies, digestive, lung, kidney and other diseases and constitute a further reason for avoiding or reducing one’s intake of ‘industrial food’. (p. 70)

By all appearances, based upon Cribb’s extensive research, the Industrial Food Frankenstein, which traverses pesticide-laced farmland-to-artificial (toxic) plastic packaging-to home refrigeration, given enough time, kills or cripples wide-eyed consumers. There’s little middle ground with industrial foodstuff.

It should be noted, aside from Cribb’s book, a major Rand Corporation study shows “sixty percent (60% or almost 200 million) U.S. adults have at least one chronic condition, 42% have more than one, and 12% have five or more,” e.g., high cholesterol, high blood pressure, anxiety, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes. Whereas, European chronic conditions at 30% are one-half the U.S. on the same timeline as the Rand study. Thus, connecting the dots, it brings to mind whether adverse conditions, like excessive exposure to toxic chemicals, cause chronic conditions?

Interestingly, Europe only permits the use of 400 food additives out of 3000 permitted in the US. Essentially, Europe has banned 4/5ths of the chemicals allowed in the US food chain. Europe outlaws any chemicals that do not meet its criteria for “non-harm to humans or the environment.” (p. 73)

“It is important to remember that the universal penetration of man-made chemicals into the food chain has mainly happened in just the last half-century. No previous generations were subjected to such a wholesale chemical exposure.” (page. 76) “There could be anything up to 16,500 different chemicals in the modern food chain today that simply weren’t a part of your grandparents’ diet.” (p. 90) That one sentence says it all in less than 25 words with an underlying message: Avoid industrial food. Eat fresh food.

A major test of a family of five in San Francisco that ate industrial packaged food for a period of time followed by a diet of fresh food for a comparable period of time showed significant reduction of toxic BPA (used to make plastics) and phthalates (used to make household goods) of 67% to 90%, which is extraordinarily meaningful. (Earth Detox) (According to Mayo Clinic, research shows BPA may be directly linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Phthalates makes plastics more durable used in hundreds of household products and can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system.)

Unfortunately, the full scale of the impact of toxic chemicals to humans is not yet fully understood by science, not by governments, not by industry and not by communities. However, numerous studies show mixtures of chemicals connecting dots to cancers, autism and several other diseases.

We are, every one of us, the ‘laboratory rats’ in a vast worldwide chemistry experiment involving an immense cocktail of substances, over which we have neither say nor freedom of action. It is an uncontrolled global experiment that defies the very ethics which outlaw the scientific testing of mixture toxicity in humans.  (p. 96)

While global chemical use is forecast to intensify, growing by around 3 per cent per year up to 2050, the world’s ability to regulate and restrict it is weakening… The main reason for this is that, in their efforts to evade regulators, chemical corporations are winding back their operations in the developed world and moving to more poorly regulated countries, mainly in Asia. In the first two decades of this century, chemical output in Asian countries grew three to five times faster than in North America and Europe. (p. 196)

Earth Detox offers solutions. Here’s one:

A core finding of this book is that we must build a Global Detox Alliance… Such an alliance would not engage in consumer bans or boycotts, physical confrontation, lawsuits or other direct action against industry or science; to do so will only entrench mutual mistrust and opposition, delay the move to clean production and drive industry into greater secrecy and into unregulated parts of the world. Clean up will do best if founded on principles of co- operation, consensus, openness and equality between society, industry and government. (p. 236)

Above all else, readers of Cribb’s fact-filled gem must read the Postscript: “A Cautionary Tale From Deep Time,” which is an extremely intriguing very thought-provoking detailed description of how life on Earth originated, from day one, with some surprising results along the way. Don’t miss it. After all, who doesn’t wonder about the wonders of life’s creation?

Postscript:

Ours is a poisoned world… this has all happened quite quickly and has burgeoned so rapidly that most people are still unaware of the extent or scale of the peril… crept up on us unseen… over barely the span of a single human lifetime… impacts are only now starting to emerge. (Julian Cribb)

Someday we shall look back on this dark era of agriculture and shake our heads. How could we have ever believed that it was a good idea to grow our food with poisons? (Jane Goodall, Harvest of Hope, 2005.)

Annotation: The quotes with page references in this article come from the publisher’s “Proof” and may not conform to the final book publication.

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The Net Zero Mirage

“Net Zero by 2050” is the rallying cry of scientists and policymakers throughout the world. However, that epithet echoes past decades of climate change/global warming mitigation plans, one after another, all failures.

The world’s continuing failure to come to grips with the dilemma led three notable climate scientists, deeply involved at the highest levels, to publicly ridicule past and future attempts to fix climate change in a blockbuster article entitled:1

That article is a must-read exposé of failed schemes that unintentionally hoodwink the general public, and scientists, and policymakers into believing in the merits of “feel-good proposals to save the planet.” But in reality, the scientists expose these projects as foolhardy, in part, based upon their own personal experience in actually helping to formulate some of the proposals in the first instance.

It is a thought-provoking article that cannot be dismissed, as it essentially implies we’re screwed unless global policymakers face up and react, immediately. They suggests foregoing the conceptual “Net Zero by 2050,” instead cut to the chase by cutting fossil fuels now!

As a follow up to the stirring article, Dr. Alison Green of ScientistsWarning interviewed the authors, May 8th, 2021:

The authors, not pulling any punches, take academia and international policymakers to the woodshed for decades of fairytale fixit schemes that always, always, always hold out hope, great promise to save civilization from burning up in a self-afflicted earthly hades, but never deliver, postage required.

The message behind the scathing article is simple, straightforward: Enough is enough, we’re fooling ourselves and getting nowhere fast, stop the madness, get real. Here’s how the authors see it:

Collectively we three authors of this article must have spent more than 80 years thinking about climate change. Why has it taken us so long to speak out about the obvious dangers of the concept of net zero? In our defence, the premise of net zero is deceptively simple – and we admit that it deceived us.2

A “Net Zero” search on Goggle brings up 1,630,000,000 hits within 0.89 seconds, and that’s just for starters. Deferring to the authors:

We have arrived at the painful realisation that the idea of net zero has licensed a recklessly cavalier ‘burn now, pay later’ approach which has seen carbon emissions continue to soar. It has also hastened the destruction of the natural world by increasing deforestation today, and greatly increases the risk of further devastation in the future.2

Their article goes on to describe “Steps towards Net Zero” starting with James Hansen, as administrator of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies June 1988 testimony to Congress, demonstrating how humans were warming Earth’s climate, famously stating, “The greenhouse (“GHG”) effect has been detected.” Then, four years later at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, all nations pledged to stabilize GHGs and the 1997 Kyoto Summit re-emphasized these goals, but at the time when something very constructive should have, could have been accomplished, the parties failed.  Subsequently fossil fuels never looked back, zooming ahead in the face of nations of the world agreeing to stabilize GHGs but continuing to fail.

As follows, the next approach was to link economic activity to climate change via “Integrated Assessment Models,” which became, and remain to this day, the principal guidance for climate policy, implicitly implying that “market-based” approaches work, thereby removing any requirement for “deep critical thinking.” This has been, and according to the authors, remains a huge mistake.

The next step to solving the problem was introduction of Carbon-Capture and Storage, a feel-good plan for policymakers but one that failed to address increasing levels of fossil fuel usage. By the Copenhagen 2009 summit it was clear that Carbon-Capture and Storage did not exist in the real world; it was another big bust.

Thereafter, a new magic bullet, Bioenergy Carbon Capture and Storage – BECCS, became the new savior technology, burning biomass instead of coal. However, BECCS, which is very much in favor today, carries manifold issues, including the insanity of burning trees that absorb & store CO2 if left alone.

According to the authors:

Alas, BECCS, just like all the previous solutions, was too good to be true.2

The following information about BECCS was not included in the relevant article but has been included herewith as BECCS has become the rage, especially in the EU, which generates more energy from burning wood than from wind and solar combined. Biomass is now a $50B global industry.

The title of a recent article tells the story of BECCS 3  For example:

Solar panels can produce 100 times as much power per acre as biomass.2

And here’s another snippet:

In February, more than 500 scientists and economists wrote to President Joe Biden and other leaders to warn that converting wood into power is a carbon disaster, a forest destroyer and an absurdly inefficient way to generate energy… Trees are more valuable alive than dead.2

According to Earth Institute, woody biomass power plants actually produce more “global warming CO2” than fossil fuel plants; i.e., 65% more CO2 per megawatt hour than modern coal plants and 285% more CO2 than natural gas. Meanwhile Canada and the U.S. deliver wood to Europe like there’s no tomorrow.

According to LSA – University of Colorado/Boulder: Wood accounts for 79% of biomass production and accounts for 3.2% of energy production. Wood dominates the worldwide biomass industry. Today 50% of EU renewable energy is based upon biomass, and it is on the rise.

For example, in the UK, the Drax Group converted 4 of 6 coal-generating units to biomass, powering 12% of UK electricity for 4 million households. The Drax biomass plant has an enormous appetite for wood; e.g., in less than two hours an entire freight train of wooden pellets goes up in smoke (easily qualifying for Ripley’s Believe It or Not).

According to Drax’s PR department, their operation has slashed CO2 by over 80% since 2012, claiming to be “the largest decarbonization project in Europe.”4 ; however, when scientists analyze Drax’s claims, they do not hold up.

When wood pellets burn, Drax assumes the released carbon is “recaptured instantly by new growth.” That is a fairy tale.

According to John Sherman, an expert on Complex Systems Analysis at MIT: The “carbon debt payback time” for forests in the eastern US, where Drax’s wood pellets originate, compared to burning coal, under the best-case scenario, when all harvested land regrows as a forest, the wood pellet “payback time is 44 to 104 years,” which is mindboggling, thus prompts a query: Whoever did the research on biomass? Fire them!

Study after study proves that “burning coal instead of woody biomass” reduces the impact of CO2 atmospheric emissions. Coal is the clear winner, but problematically coal has already been cast into no-man’s land as a horrific polluter. Therefore, a massive complexity is at work as countries commit to using trees to meet carbon neutral status, but the end results are appallingly diametrical to their own stated intentions, and flat-out wrong.

According to scientist Bill Moomaw, co-author of several IPCC reports and widely recognized as one of the world’s leading experts on “carbon sinks”:

If we let some of our forests grow, we could remove an additional 10 to 20 percent of what we emit every year. Instead, we’re paying subsidies to have people cut them down, burning them in place of coal, and counting it as zero carbon. 5

Dr. Moomaw led a group of 800 scientists that petitioned the EU parliament in January 2018 to: “End its support for biomass.” Nevertheless, in June 2018, the EU Commission voted to keep biomass listed as a renewable energy, joined in their position by the support of the U.S. and Britain. Is this conclusive proof that policymakers, at their peril, ignore science? Answer: Yes!

Back to the original article for this story, by 2015, with CO2 emissions still skyrocketing, Paris ’15 brought the world together to limit warming to 2°C, hopefully 1.5°C vs. pre-industrial levels. At the end of negotiations, predictably, worldwide media celebrated an alleged marvelous achievement by the nations of the world to limit global warming, actually implying a halt to global warming, full stop at 2°C. Oh, please!

Yet, the bitter truth about Paris ’15:

But dig a little deeper and you could find another emotion lurking within delegates on December 13. Doubt. We struggle to name any climate scientist who at that time thought the Paris Agreement was feasible. We have since been told by some scientists that the Paris Agreement was ‘of course, important for climate justice but unworkable’ and ‘a complete shock, no one thought limiting to 1.5°C was possible’. Rather than being able to limit warming to 1.5°C, a senior academic involved in the IPCC concluded we were heading beyond 3°C by the end of this century.2

But, at the conclusion of Paris ’15 policymakers and the world’s media focused on a celebration with bright colored streamers and champagne popping and lots of backslapping, continuing the false narrative that a fixit was orchestrated by the nations of the world by simply keeping temperatures below 2°C and maybe even 1.5°C. It’s that simple.

But, getting there may be very complex, accordingly, atmospheric CO2 emissions since 2015: 399.89 ppm January 2015 versus 419.05 ppm April 2021 and increasing at twice the rate of the last century, which makes Paris ’15 a laughing stock.

Furthermore, the three author/scientists discount all of the current proposals on the table like Direct Air Capture, BECCS, and Solar Radiation Management to control and reduce the impact of global warming: “The problems come when it is assumed that these can be deployed at vast scale. This effectively serves as a blank cheque for the continued burning of fossil fuels and the acceleration of habitat destruction.”2

Rather than acknowledge the seriousness of our situation, we instead continue to participate in the fantasy of net zero. What will we do when reality bites? The time has come to voice our fears and be honest with wider society. Current net zero policies will not keep warming to within 1.5°C because they were never intended to. They were and still are driven by a need to protect business as usual, not the climate. If we want to keep people safe then large and sustained cuts to carbon emissions need to happen now. That is the very simple acid test that must be applied to all climate policies. The time for wishful thinking is over.6

  1. “Climate Scientists: Concept of Net Zero is a Dangerous Trap”, The Conversation, April 22, 2021.
  2. Ibid.
  3. “The ‘Green Energy’ That Might Be Ruining the Planet,” Politico, March 26, 2021.
  4. Biomass Energy: Green or Dirty? Environment & Energy – Feature Article, January 8, 2020
  5. Europe’s Renewable Energy Policy is Built on Burning American Trees, Vox, March 4, 2019.
  6. Climate Scientists: “Concept of Net Zero is a Dangerous Trap”, written by: James Dyke/University of Exeter, Robert Watson/University of East Anglia, and Wolfgang Knorr/Lund University.
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Chernobyl Alert and The Doomsday Clock

Like the mythical Phoenix, Chernobyl rises from the ashes.

A recent… “Surge in fission reactions in an inaccessible chamber within the complex” is alarming scientists that monitor the ruins of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine. 1

It is known that this significant renewal of fission activity is located in Sub-Reactor Room 305/2, which contains large amounts of fissile material from the initial meltdown. The explosion brought down walls of the facility amongst tons of fissile material within the reactor as extreme heat melted reactor wall concrete and steel combined with sand used to control the explosion to form a lava-like intensely radioactive substance that oozed into lower floors; e.g., Room 305/2. That room is so deadly radioactive that it is inaccessible by humans or robots for the past 35 years.

Since 2016, neutron emissions from Room 305/2 have been spiking and increased by 40% over the past 5 years. It signals a growing nuclear fission reaction in the room. According to Neil Hyatt/University of Sheffield-UK:

Our estimation of fissile material in that room means that we can be fairly confident that you’re not going to get such rapid release of nuclear energy that you have an explosion. But we don’t know for sure… it’s cause for concern but not alarm.2

If it is deemed necessary to intervene, it’ll require robotically drilling into Room 305/2 and spraying the highly radioactive blob with a fluid that contains gadolinium nitrate, which is supposed to soak up excess neutrons and choke the fission reaction. Meanwhile, time will tell whether the monster of the deep in Room 305/2 settles down on its own or requires human interaction via the eyes and arms of a robot, which may not survive the intense radioactivity. Then what?

Meanwhile, an enormous steel sarcophagus, a $1.8bn protective confinement shelter, the New Safe Confinement (NCS) was built in 2019 to hopefully prevent the release of radioactive contamination. NCS is the largest land-based object ever moved, nine years construction in Italy delivered via 2,500 trucks and 18 ships. It is expected to last for 100 years. Thenceforth, who knows?

Nevertheless, according to nuclear professionals, the question arises whether this recent fission activity will stabilize or will it necessitate a dangerously difficult intervention to somehow stop a runaway nuclear reaction.

Inescapably, the bane of nuclear power, once dangerously out of control, remains dangerously out of control, forever and on it goes, beyond human time. Unfortunately, one nuclear accident is equivalent to untold numbers, likely thousands, of non-nuclear accidents.

“We thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”3

The Doomsday Clock

Along those lines, the world-famous Doomsday Clock, initially based upon the threat of nuclear warfare, measures humanity’s nearness to utter annihilation: The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (“BAS”) a global organization of science and policy experts, has set the famous clock at 100 seconds to midnight: “The bad news is that we’re still closer to midnight than we’ve been at any time since the clock was introduced more than 60 years ago because: (1) widespread mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic in nations worldwide (2) little progress in eliminating nuclear weapons (3) insufficient mitigation of destructive climate change, and (4) threats to national security by rightwing extremists, the BAS decided to hold the clock at the present unsettling time slot, as a warning and “wake-up call.” 4

The perilous setting of the clock so close to midnight is warranted on several counts; e.g., COVID pulled back the wizard’s curtain, revealing a cartoonish figurine of irresponsibility by governments of the world to handle emergencies: “An historic wakeup call that governments are woefully unprepared to handle pandemics.”2

Moreover, “global carbon emissions, a major driver of human-induced climate change, temporarily dropped about 17% due to the pandemic, but have largely bounced back… still, the impacts of escalating climate change led NASA scientists to declare 2020 the hottest year on record,” according to Susan Solomon, a professor of environmental studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and a BAS Science and Security Board member. 2

And, of utmost concern, the nuclear threat remains “unacceptably high,” according to Steve Fetter, professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, with the U.S. allocating more than $1T to modernizing its nuclear weapons programs, as China, India, No. Korea, and Pakistan expand arsenals. “By our estimation, the potential for the world to stumble into nuclear war — an ever-present danger over the last 75 years — increased in 2020.2

Of special note, the forward momentum in the clock’s proximity to midnight occurred recently, with the advent of Trump’s presidency. In 2018, it ticked to two minutes to midnight. The only other time it advanced that far was in 1953 when the U.S. and Russia conducted their first hydrogen bomb detonations within 6 months of each other.

The Doomsday Clock stood still in 2019, but ticked forward again in 2020, to reflect humanity facing “a true emergency — an absolutely unacceptable state of world affairs that has eliminated any margin for error or further delay.”2

Thus, the world is at risk on multiple fronts never before seen throughout the history of the Doomsday Clock (est. 1947) initially set at seven minutes to midnight when nuclear weapons were humanity’s biggest threat. Now, nuclear war shares that formidable baton in an on-going hazardous marathon with: (1) climate change, (2) inept governments, and (3) widespread use of social media platforms that spread misinformation that erodes trust in media and science, throughout the world.

Moreover, according to the BAS, the enlarging rightwing movement threatens U.S. national security: “These extremists represent a unique danger because of their prevalence in federal institutions such as the military and the potential that they might infiltrate nuclear facilities, where they could access sensitive information and nuclear materials,” BAS representatives said. “Officials need to act decisively to better understand and mitigate this threat.” 2

Throughout history, political parties that rely upon lies bring society down to its knees with shameless destruction, for example, the fall of Rome, the 5th century AD:

By the time of Augustine (354-430 AD), the Roman Empire had become an Empire of lies. It still pretended to uphold the rule of law, to protect the people from the Barbarian invaders, to maintain the social order. But all that had become a bad joke for the citizens of an empire by then reduced to nothing more than a giant military machine dedicated to oppressing the poor in order to maintain the privileges of the rich. The Empire itself had become a lie: that it existed because of the favor of the Gods who rewarded the Romans because of their moral virtues. Nobody could believe in that anymore: it was the breakdown of the very fabric of society; the loss of what the ancient called the auctoritas, the trust that citizens had toward their leaders and the institutions of their state. 5

  1. Nuclear Reactions at Chernobyl are Spiking in an Inaccessible Chamber, NewScientist, May 11, 2021.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Albert Einstein, telegram to prominent Americans, 24 May 1946, in New York Times 25 May 1946.
  4. Do0msday Clock Stands at 100 Seconds to Midnight, LiveScience.
  5. Cassandra’s Legacy, The Empire of Lies, February 8, 2016.
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Seaspiracy’s Nightmarish Odyssey

Seaspiracy is a powerful new documentary about the hazardous, unruly world of industrial fishing and stomach-churning abuse, overuse, disregard for life, as shown on Netflix, released by Disrupt Studios March 24th 2021.

The opening scene of the film sets the tone with a long-shot of an isolated fishing trawler at sea as the voice-over of a former fishing vessel crew member, who escaped forced slavery after 10 years non-stop at sea, exclaimed: “When ships are in the middle of the ocean. When problems occur. They can throw you overboard into the sea. It is dangerous for you to make this documentary. There are many risks.” A second escapee intones: “If you’re scared of dying, go home.”

The War Zone

War flattens terrain and kills. Based upon Seaspiracy’s story, industrial commercial fishing fits this description to a tee.

Above all else, the film depicts a war zone, bloody and creepy with myriad red-ish/orange-ish streaked rusty hulls of cadaverous trawlers prowling, dropping gigantic nets, denuding entire seafloors, nothing escapes this creepy crawl in a dark otherworldliness of villainous shadowy Mafioso-type slave-infested fishing vessels that drop 10-mile nets or long-line fishing with enough hook-lines to wrap 500 times around the planet, on a daily basis. Nothing survives this war zone.

According to Seaspiracy, fisheries crime is the same as transnational organized crime. The syndicates that operate behind the scenes of illegal fishing are the same as those behind drug trafficking and human trafficking.

Fishery workers at sea are involved in the most dangerous jobs on Earth, 24,000 deaths per year. Slavery is commonplace, as for example, according to Seaspiracy; there are 51,000 fishing boats in Thailand waters under the Thai flag. Those boats are uneconomic without free cheap labor. Seaspiracy traveled to Bangkok to interview escaped fishing boat slaves: Some spent 10 years non-stop at sea. Nobody could get off the vessel with its hired guards, similar to the infamous overseers of the Deep South. One interviewee claimed the ship’s captain used an iron bar as a weapon to control workers.  Dead bodies were simply dropped overboard.

This film captures horrific scenes of massive splashing bloody deaths behind industrialized commercial fishing, which is depicted as the preeminent issue of whether fish stock survive on planet Earth, 2.7 trillion caught per year, five million killed every minute. Global fish populations have plummeted; e.g., halibut -99%, cod -86% Bluefin tuna -97% haddock -99%. These are extinction-type numbers, as industrial fishing knows no limits. If current trends stay on track, by 2048, the oceans will be empty! Thereafter, the seas will emit strange sour odors as pitch-blackness gradually discolors, displaces its rich vibrancy of life.

The oceans are home to 80% of all life on Earth, rapidly dwindling by the day as 4,600,000 commercial fishing vessels work away, many ethical, honest hard-working, but far-far-far too many violating international rules and regs, crime on the high seas, murdering difficile workers, as well as death of law enforcement officers, but mostly, in the big picture, slaughter of marine life by the tons, literally wiping out some species as Seaspiracy searched for impossible answers to a most difficult question: “What is sustainable fishing”?

At its heart, Seaspiracy depicts the fishing war zone as epitomized by the callous slaughter of sharks. Sharks kill 10 people per year. The fishing industry kills 11,000-to-30, 000 sharks per hour. Yes, per hour. Alarmingly, one-half of the kill is “by-catch” thrown overboard as waste by commercial fishing fleets, 50,000,000 sharks caught annually in nets, side by side with your favorite seafood, tossed overboard as waste or “by-catch.”

Not only that, but shark slaughter Phase 2 is “shark-finning, a Mafioso directed enterprise of shark fins shipped to Asia, predominately China, for shark-fin soup, a status symbol that has no nutritional value and no special flavor, but can cost up to $100/bowl. HK is known as Shark Fin City, where Seaspiracy’s video cameras were decidedly pushed back by more than idle threats.

Sharks are known as “apex predators” at the very top of the food chain. Loss of sharks topples the entire marine food chain from the top down. Sharks keep the ocean healthy and maintain healthy fish stocks. Without sharks the oceans turn into swamps. They are as important as dolphins and whales for survival of the oceans.

According to Seaspiracy calculations, shark species are crashing, thresher shark -80%, bull shark -86%, hammerhead shark -86%, overall, the total shark population is down by 80-99%. These are disturbing extinction-type numbers, comparable to the planet’s worst extinction event, the Permian-Triassic of 250 million years ago that wiped-out 95% of marine life. The planet is thus fast approaching an endpoint of ‘extinction of the seas.’ Obviously, a bigger question is how long does humanity hang in there?

Inordinate shark deaths bring in their wake death of almost all other ocean species. For example, the abundance of seabirds has declined 70%. Why? Marine predators such as sharks drive fish near the surface for feeding purposes where seabirds dive and grab dinner. No predators, no near surface fish for seabirds to catch.

As exposed in the film, several issues threaten total decimation or unmitigated deadening of the oceans. As a matter of fact, people comfortably seated at home see TV news items of whales washing up on beaches or turtles or birds strangled in netting or stomachs filled with plastic. Fishing nets are the single biggest cause of unintentional marine death because of industrialized fishing, as trawlers lose miles of netting. Forty-six percent (46%) of the notorious Great Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean consists of lost commercial fishing nets.

As explained in Seaspiracy, whales and dolphins drown when caught in fishnets. Yet, they are integral to the survival of the ocean. When they surface to breathe, their excretion fertilizes tiny marine plants called phytoplankton which, on an annualized basis, absorbs 4x the amount of carbon dioxide as rainforests, keeping the oceans alive and serving as one of the planet’s major sources of oxygen. Alas, according to Seaspiracy, “Our oceans have turned into a toxic plastic soup.”

Along the way, Seaspiracy discovered double-trouble for whales, as Japan resumed commercial whale hunting, heading out to Antarctica despite the worldwide ban since 1986. Not only Japan, several countries have been killing whales under the radar.  The International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986 because of “extreme depletion of most of the whale stocks.” Nevertheless, Japan and Iceland hunt under the guise of “scientific whaling.”

Seaspiracy discovered Japan’s national fixation on whales and dolphins extends to mass slaughter in the south of the country at Taiji, where dolphins and small whales are rounded up for an annual kill-off. Japan’s government attempts to cover up this slaughter or war on dolphins. Upon arrival at Taiji, Seaspiracy encountered pushback by police monitoring strangers with cameras.

Taiji’s annual dolphin slaughter: Fishermen bang poles against the hulls of their boats to herd the dolphins into a cove where they are slaughtered, every day during the duration of this bloody celebration. It’s done under the guise of “pest control.” Dolphins, which are very smart mammals, are considered “competition” for the fishing industry. For years now, Japan has pointed the finger at the dolphins as “the culprits behind over-fishing.” Yes, believe it or not, it is true.

Seaspiracy hooked up with one of the few NGOs in the world that attempts to police the international illegal fishing trade named Sea Shepard, a nonprofit marine conservation group that works with governments to track down and arrest illegal fishing vessels, for example, in Liberia. According to Stefano Tricanico of Sea Shepard: “We have mostly international fleets coming from countries where they’ve already depleted their own local stocks, and they’re pushing further and further away to try and make up for that. And using more and more sophisticated technology to increase catch numbers. They are illegal, and they catch huge amounts.”

The Seaspiracy crew witnessed Sea Shepard and the Liberian Coast Guard track down illegal vessels, which are virtual floating slaughterhouses, blood everywhere in the water. In Liberian waters, they boarded a Chinese trawler with enormous quantities of illegally caught fish stored away in its hold. The vessel was detained and fined.

Sea Shepherd travels the world policing violators of international rules. By and large, over 100 fishing regulations are not enforced. Shocking discoveries ensued as Seaspiracy discovered, for example, 10,000 dolphins are killed every year as “by-catch” just offshore France. Come to find out, the greatest threat to whales and dolphins is commercial fishing. Over 300,000 whales and dolphins are killed annually as “by-catch” and tossed aside into the sea.

Even though many fisheries claim “dolphin-free tuna,” the authorities caught 2 tuna boats that caught and  killed 45 dolphins, tossed away, per 8 tunas kept and then claimed “dolphin-free tuna.”  The vessel was working for “Dolphin Safe canned tuna.” In turn, The Earth Island Institute is behind the Dolphin-safe labels. When Seaspiracy met with and interviewed Earth Island personnel, to their dismay, nobody really goes to sea to witness whether dolphin-safe is a reality. Earth Island admitted this and admitted that when they do send observers, they can be “bribed” into agreeing to label the catch as “dolphin-free.”

Earth Island, a non-for-profit observer of sea catch on behalf of the general public, is paid to license their dolphin-safe label by the fishing industry. Along the way, they generally take the vessel captain’s word for it that the catch is dolphin-free, meaning “no dolphins killed during the catch.” This is a bold-faced lie, hoodwinking consumers around the world.

Based upon interviews of people in the know, the internationally recognized dolphin-free label is a fabrication, no guarantees according to a spokesperson at Earth Island.

Meanwhile, Pacific Bluefin tuna, with less than 3% remaining in the wild as a result of overfishing puts the $42 billion tuna industry at risk of imminent collapse, as a result of its own overfishing, fishing-out the most glorious fish of the sea, the queen of the sea, a powerful swimmer that crosses the Pacific Ocean in 55 days. Because of the plunging decline of the species, The Monterey Bay Aquarium (Ca) recommends that consumers say “no thanks” to restaurants that dare serve Pacific Bluefin tuna.

According to an investigation by Seaspiracy, the Marine Stewardship Council (“MSC”), a nonprofit whose label is found on cans of fish on grocery store shelves, certifies fisheries that unfortunately produce astonishing levels of “by-catch.” MSC refused an interview to discuss “sustainable fishing.” Unilever (owner of a seafood retailer) is a founder of MSC, which is the world’s largest promoter of “sustainable fishing.” In fact, 80% of MSC yearly income is from licensing its imprimatur on seafood as “sustainable catch.” But, as Seaspiracy questioned, how can commercial fishing that includes 40% “by-catch” carry sustainable labeling?

Is there such a thing as sustainable fishing?

Seaspiracy talked to Captain Paul Watson, former National Director of the Sierra Club who quit because “they didn’t want to come out against fishing and hunting because they thought they would lose membership support.” According to Watson, “Well, first of all, there’s no such thing. It’s impossible. There’s no such thing as a sustainable fishery. There’s simply not enough fish to justify that. It’s not sustainable, it’s just a marketing phrase, that’s all.”

Oceana is the world’s largest marine conservation group. Oceana advocates sustainable fishing. But they could not define “sustainable” when questioned by Seaspiracy about the meaning behind the phrase. Yet, they’re one of the world’s biggest advocates: “Eat sustainable fish.”

Beyond the issue of whether “sustainable fishing” is even a reality, another very serious issue is the impact of commercial bottom trawling, as vessels cast 10-mile nets scooping up everything in sight. This form of extracting fish, also deforests the oceans. Seaspiracy interviewed Richard Oppenlander who informed them “bottom trawling by big fishing boats wipes out 3.9 billion acres of underwater life forms every year. Equivalent to wiping out the land area of Greenland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Turkey, Iran, Thailand and Australia combined, every year.” Marine plants per acre store 20 times more carbon than forests on land. Most of the planet’s CO2 is stored with help of marine vegetation, algae, and coral.

Fishing vessels are death machines that mop up the basis of the whole marine food chain. Which also removes a source of nutrients for coral reefs, which feed off fish excrement. As it happens, commercial fishing has become a major threat for coral reefs around the world. For example, 90% of the large fish which prospered in the Caribbean coral reefs through0ut the past 1,000 years are now gone.

Seaspiracy, in search of a sense of relief, made the decision to look at fish farming with its eco satisfying reputation. After all, 50% of the world’s seafood now comes from fish farms. Scotland is one of world’s leading producers of farm salmon. Seaspiracy discovered issues. Fish farming requires enormous quantities of fish oil and fishmeal that comes from wild fish. So, in essence, fish farming lives off the catch of wild fish. Seaspiracy met with Dan Staniford, a whistleblower that exposed the problem of severe sea lice infestations in the farms. The crew filmed salmon being eaten alive by sea lice parasites, which, according to Staniford, is common in fish farms worldwide. Additionally, and kind of icky to consider, each fish farm in Scotland produces organic waste equal to a town of 10-20,000 people. Thus, salmon restrained in confined fish farms swim in their own feces.

According to Dan Staniford, 50% of salmon in fish farms die from anemia, lice infestation, chlamydia, heart disease, “Salmon farming is a waste of resources.”  As explained by Staniford, farm salmon without colorants added to the feed would be completely gray. The pinkish coloration is artificial.

After discovering so many serious issues with the commercial industry, Seaspiracy decided to check out marine protected areas. An expert on the subject informed them that yes, there are ocean-protected areas. Presently, 5% of the oceans are marine protected areas, but that is misleading. Over 90% of those protected areas still allow fishing on a sustainable basis. In reality, less than 1% of the oceans are being regulated via marine protected areas.

Seaspiracy interviewed Dr. Sylvia Earl, founder of Mission Blue and founder of Deep Ocean Exploration and Research. According to Dr. Earl, based upon current commercial fishing activities, “by the middle of this century, commercial fishing will cease to exist because, there won’t be enough fish to catch.”

In support of Dr. Earl’s statement, in the middle of the North Sea in the mid 19th century, a typical fishing boat (one vessel) would catch one to two tons of halibut per day. Today, the entire fishing fleet at the same location catches two tons of halibut per year.

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Poisoning the Planet’s Web of Life

The Web of Life is under attack but almost nobody is aware because it’s happening mostly below surface. Scientists have identified a rampant worldwide Bugpocalypse that’s methodically killing the planet’s most significant and most crucial life support system, and it’s intentional!

The victim is soil, which is the life source for 95% of the foods we cram down our throats three times per day, 365 days per year.

A new landmark study has identified the killer of nature’s greatest achievement of all time, soil. Based upon this major new research only recently released, the culprit or soil killer is agricultural pesticides, as follows: “Study after study indicates the unchecked use of pesticides across hundreds of millions of acres each year is poisoning the organisms critical to maintaining healthy soils,” Donley added. “Yet our regulators have been ignoring the harm to these important ecosystems for decades.”1

“Below the surface of fields covered with monoculture crops of corn and soybeans, pesticides are destroying the very foundations of the web of life,: said study co-author Nathan Donley, a scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity… “A handful of soil contains an estimated 10 –100 million organisms belonging to over 5,000 taxa… Soils contain an abundance of biologically diverse organisms that perform many important functions such as nutrient cycling, soil structure maintenance, carbon transformation, and the regulation of pests and diseases.”2

All of which prompts a troubling thought: What impact does pesticide have, not only on the organisms within the soil but on the entire network from industrial farming to food processors to supermarkets with packaged goods that people buy to satisfy hunger and/or just plain ole gluttony, binging, gorging, or on occasion pigging out? Answer: It’s not a pretty picture.

It should be noted that the study is classified as “the largest, most comprehensive review of the impacts of agricultural pesticides on soil organisms ever conducted.”3

By all appearances, this is a monstrous scandal that’s hidden from sight within the world’s soil as well as hidden behind lackadaisical, slipshod regulations. Worse yet, after years of unbridled poisoning, nobody seems to care enough to do anything about it because it’s not on the “Save the Planet” top ten list.

Moreover, similar to other toxins spread throughout the world, like nuclear radiation exposure, it takes many years for the harmful impact to be fully recognized; e.g., according to the Ukraine Health Ministry, three decades after the fact, there are 2,347,863 Chernobyl-related cases, including 453,391 malformed and/or diseased children, not yet born in 1986. Their parents were children when Chernobyl’s nuclear core melted down.4

Hopefully, this landmark study, which clearly proves massive poisoning of the web of life, arrives in the public’s hands early enough, and is taken seriously enough, to do something about an impending crisis like no other crisis throughout all of human history; i.e., universal toxicosis.

The study concludes that sweeping changes are needed to protect the web of life: “It’s not just one or two pesticides that are causing harm, the results are really very consistent across the whole class of chemical poisons… Co-author Tara Cornelisse, an entomologist at the Center for Biological Diversity, concurred that ‘it’s extremely concerning that over 70% of cases show that pesticides significantly harm soil invertebrates.”2

According to statements by the researchers: “The paper constitutes a comprehensive review of the impacts of agricultural pesticides on soil invertebrates. We found that pesticide exposure negatively impacted soil invertebrates in 70.5% of 2,842 tested parameters from 394 reviewed studies.”

Those percentage results for invertebrate loss interestingly jive with a recent report of vertebrate loss issued September 10th 2020 by the World Wildlife Foundation, in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London entitled: “The Living Planet Report 2020,” which shows a loss of 68% of vertebrate life in less than 50 years. Figures like that are within earshot of extinction-type numbers from millions of years ago.

These extraordinarily high percentage losses of life make it nearly impossible to grasp the true gravity of the situation. These are ‘off the charts’ numbers of destruction of the most basic forms of life, gone forever. How long can this persist?

The Gunstone study “Pesticides and Soil Invertebrates: A Hazard Assessment,” which is the subject of this article, conducted 51 studies within Europe, 30 in the United States, eight in Australia, seven in Canada, and five or less in Argentina, Brazil, Cameroon, Columbia, Egypt, India, Japan, Madagascar, Mexico, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, South Africa, and Yemen confirming the conclusion that “from these data it is apparent that, as a set of chemical poisons, pesticides pose a clear hazard to soil invertebrates”.2

“The United States Environmental Protection Agency does not have sufficient testing requirements or tools in place to quantify risk to soil dwelling organisms. The European honeybee is the only terrestrial invertebrate included in mandatory ecotoxicological testing of pesticides. The practice of using the honey bee as a surrogate underestimates harm to many taxa and often results in narrow efforts to mitigate pesticide impacts solely to honey bees and other pollinators, not soil organisms.” 2

The entire planet has become a chemical enterprise. Sixty-five hundred (6,500) different man-made chemicals are used in the production, formulation, preservation, and packaging of our modern food supply.5

Rachel Carson blew the whistle on global poisoning in her 1962 book Silent Spring, which focused on one particular chemical, DDT, leading to a worldwide ban in 1972. (Ed. If it had not been banned, today only airplanes would be flying in the sky, maybe) Since she wrote her book, worldwide production and use of pesticides in agriculture has more than quadrupled, exceeding 5 million tonnes in 2017. (Cribb)

In recent years, a growing flood of scientific papers has reported more and graver health impacts as a result of the chemicalisation of our food supply, for example, in 2018 Irva Herzz-Picciotto and colleagues reported brain damage to unborn children and adult deaths resulting from exposure to organo-phosphate pesticides, which are widely used in agriculture all over the world… what consumers often fail to understand is that many of these toxic chemicals used in food production do not just vanish after they have been used and continue to cycle through the natural world, lingering in the soil and concentrating up the food chain to result in doses often times many times stronger by the time they reach humans. (Cribb)

The Gunstone paper is a landmark study that exposes a frightening side to the world that has been hidden from public view for decades. But, what can be done? Are there “save the soil” advocacy groups?

Soil is alive, a complete self-sustaining ecosystem with 10-to-100, 000,000 organisms per handful! Whereas, dirt does not support life, with few, if any, minerals, no nutrients, or living organisms, no worms, no fungi, and lacking texture and structure. Poisoning the planet’s soil, or its web of life, turns it into dirt.

Who would’ve ever guessed that agricultural practices would turn soil into dirt? The paradox is beyond breathtaking, but it does fill some open slots within ”The World is Insanely Stupid” jigsaw puzzle.

Someday we shall look back on this dark era of agriculture and shake our heads. How could we have ever believed that it was a good idea to grow our food with poisons? 6

  1. Tari Gunstone, et al, “Pesticides and Soil Invertebrates: A Hazard Assessment,” Frontiers in Environmental Science, May 4, 2021.
  2. Ibid.
  3. “Pesticides Threaten the ‘Foundations of the Web of Life,’ New Soil Study Warns”, EcoWatch, May 4, 2021.
  4. BBC special report: “The True Toll of the Chernobyl Disaster”, July 26, 2019, and USA Today, “Chernobyl’s Legacy: Kids With Bodies Ravaged by Disaster”, April 17, 2016.
  5. Julian Cribb, Food or War, Cambridge University Press, 2019.
  6. Jane Goodall, Harvest of Hope, 2005.
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An Urgent Call for Action by Nobel Laureates

Our Planet, Our Future, An Urgent Call for Action” is the title of the 2021 Nobel Prize Summit. As a follow up to that summit, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine recently published Our Planet, Our Future: An Urgent Call for Action d/d April 29th 2021.

The opening paragraph of the Noble Laureate declaration implicitly calls for immediate unified worldwide action:

The first Nobel Prize Summit comes amid a global pandemic, amid a crisis of inequality, amid an ecological crisis, amid a climate crisis, and amid an information crisis. These supranational crises are interlinked and threaten the enormous gains we have made in human progress.

The context and content of that prestigious summit is well worth analysis and contemplation. The Nobel Laureates identified looming risks to “the enormous gains we have made in human progress.” In other words, the Nobel Laureates foresee a distinct possibility that human progress may be on a path of diminishment if the world does not join together to take care of and fix the biosphere, our planet Earth. In that regard, President Biden’s infrastructure plan is merely a big blip.

The Nobel Laureates clarion call implicitly exposes neoliberalism’s driving force of globalization as a core issue that impacts the planet by reaping riches without any hesitation or concern for the disintegration of ecosystems. Not one ecosystem is left unscathed, not even one, as the planet huffs and puffs and exudes gas under the most severe stress in millions of years, “unprecedented” has become the most favored word in scientific jargon.

Although not mentioned by the Nobel Laureates, one of the biggest challenges to their concerns is a burgeoning worldwide right-wing anti-science populist movement, which may be the Achilles heel to any and all agreements amongst major nations to fix the planet. In such case, there’s a distinct possibility that the world’s right-wing populist crusade may take civilization down a rabbit hole, sans a return ticket.

Trump-style leadership is found throughout the world, and it’s not going away any time soon. Quite the opposite as it’s the most extreme anti-intellectual, anti-establishment, anti-science faction in modern history. Trump’s anti-science stance chased top-flight scientists out of the country, several fled to France. In the first two years of the Trump administration, more than 1,600 federal scientists left government according to Office of Personnel Management employment data analyzed by the Washington Post. Similar articles in other publications describe nearly total decimation of key science personnel and loss of access to crucial scientific information that will take years and years to replenish. Trump tossed science out the window and crushed access to crucial data that’s needed to meet the very goals required to repair the planet, as suggested by the Nobel Laureates.

Moreover, anti-intellectual right-wing populists are not finished. They’ve only just begun. “Across Europe, right-wing parties have become not just increasingly authoritarian and anti-democratic but anti-fact, anti-expert, anti-reason.”1

The Nobel Laureates didn’t mention, and likely would never mention, the biggest obstacle to their plans, which is the growing powerful right-wing anti-science populist crusade. America’s Congress is filled with them: “Rejection of mainstream science and medicine has become a key feature of the political right in the U.S. and increasingly around the world.2

It’s likely that the Nobel Laureate proposals (see link at end of this article) don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell as long as major countries are poisoned by lowly ignorance and make-believe lies, thus exposing a universal failure to provide the basics of education, thereby spewing out reams of anti-science nitwits. In the end, it spells trouble for a very troubled planet. Failure of education is fatal!

Alas, history does repeat:

The destructive potential of anti-science was fully realized in the U.S.S.R. under Joseph Stalin. Millions of Russian peasants died from starvation and famine during the 1930s and 1940s because Stalin embraced the pseudoscientific views of Trofim Lysenko that promoted catastrophic wheat and other harvest failures.2

In similar fashion, repeating Stalin-type lunacy but 80 years later:

The Trump White House launched a coordinated disinformation campaign that dismissed the severity of the epidemic in the United States, attributed COVID deaths to other causes, claimed hospital admissions were due to a catch-up in elective surgeries, and asserted that ultimately that the epidemic would spontaneously evaporate. It also promoted hydroxychloroquine as a spectacular cure, while downplaying the importance of masks. Other authoritarian or populist regimes in Brazil, Mexico, Nicaragua, Philippines and Tanzania adopted some or all of these elements.2

Currently, three nationwide surveys show white Republicans, including one-in-four Republican House members, refusing COCID-19 vaccines. This obstructionist behavior originated with protests against vaccines as a major platform of the Tea Party with its “health freedom” rallies when a measles epidemic hit parts of California. The same health freedom rallying cry then spread to Texas. Nowadays, Public refusal of COVID-19 vaccines extends to India, Brazil, South Africa, and several lower income countries and in parts of Europe, providing first-hand real-time evidence that ignorance spawns avoidable deaths.

Right-wing populism and the practice of science naturally clash. Studies show that science is (a) evidence-based (b) objective and (c) demands proof of statements, whereas populist politics is based on emotional, easily falsifiable annunciations, but the truth destroys their agenda. Therefore, truth must be avoided at all costs. “If you tell a big enough lie and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” (Joseph Goebbels)

The Nobel Laureates offer guideposts for the initial stages of saving the planet: (1) the next decade is crucial (2) global emissions must be cut in half (3) destruction of nature must stop. They “get it” in terms of what ails the world, and their declaration is remarkably similar to statements made by a few bold outspoken scientists over the past couple of decades. In fact the Nobel Laureates endorse warnings found throughout peer-reviewed literature over the past couple decades that unfortunately never found loud enough voices to make a difference.

Thus, the Nobel Laureates “Urgent Call for Action,” has exposed serious threats to the planet already recognized over the past several years, as stated: “Societies risk large-scale, irreversible changes to Earth’s biosphere and our lives as part of it.”

That warning has been repeated, but largely ignored, over and over again over the past several years but voiced by too few scientists, until recently, things are changing so fast that they’re coming out of the woodwork with warnings of the loss of ecosystems, meaning loss of habitat, loss of vertebrates, loss of the Great Barrier Reef, loss of the Arctic, loss of flying insects in ‘protected’ European nature reserves, loss of arthropods in tropical rainforests in Puerto Rico and Western Mexico, loss of rainforest throughout the world, and irreversible Antarctica disintegration, as the world’s Nobel Laureates finally plead for “An Urgent Call for Action.”

Throughout years of concern by scientists of loss of the planet’s remarkable capabilities, nature has never really had a chance. It simply can’t avoid the impact of the Anthropocene Era humongous wayward human footprint that arbitrarily crunches and munches everything in site. Nature is an easy target.

In the final analysis, saving the planet may be beyond the clarion call by Nobel Laureates simply because the challenges of accomplishment may be bigger than the final solution: “One would be hard-pressed to find a region of the world that populism didn’t touch in the 2010s. The decade brought us the election of Donald Trump in the United States and the Brexit vote in Britain. It witnessed the rise of the Alternative for Germany—the first far-right party to enter the country’s national parliament in decades—as well as the ascent of populist parties in countries such as Austria, Brazil, Italy, India, Indonesia, and Poland. By 2018, as many as 20 world leaders held executive office around the world.”3

The aforementioned article identifies the next big target of right-wing populists, as follows: “Whereas much of the past decade revolved around arguments over issues of immigration and sovereignty, the 2020s could be dominated by a new, more pressing narrative: climate change.”

  1. “Right-wing Politics and Anti-Science Positions are Locked Together in a Literal Deadly Mix”, Daily Kos, March 31, 2021.
  2. The Anti-Science Movement Is Escalating, Going Global and Killing Thousands,” Scientific American, March 29, 2021.
  3. Source: “Populism is Morphing in Insidious Ways,” The Atlantic, January 5, 2020.
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If Fukushima’s Water is Safe, Then Drink it!

By now, the world knows all about the decision by Japan to dump tritium-laced radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. According to Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso, the treated and diluted water will be “safe to drink.” Furthermore, he claims the country should have started releasing it into the ocean earlier. 1

In response to Deputy PM Aso, Chinese Foreign Minster Lijian Zhao replied “the ocean is not Japan’s trashcan” and furthermore, since Japan claims it’s safe to drink, “then drink it!”

Mr. Zhao may have stumbled upon the best solution to international concerns about TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) dumping tritium-laced radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. Instead, TEPCO should remove it from the storage tanks at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and deliver it to Japan’s water reservoirs where, similar to the ocean, it will be further diluted but not quite as much. After all, the International Atomic Energy Agency/Vienna (IAEA) and the Japanese government are full of praise and confidence about how “harmless” the radioactive water will be. Let Japan drink it and/or use it for crop irrigation!

Japan has approximately 100,000 dams of which roughly 3,000 are over 15 meters (50’) tall for flood control, water supply and hydroelectric power some of which are used exclusively for irrigation of crops. These water reservoirs are more than adequate to handle TEPCO’s “harmless” radioactive water. In a straightforward approach, Japan should use water trucks to haul the Fukushima radioactive water to various dam reservoir locations throughout the country. The bigger the reservoir, the better it’ll be for dumping/dilution purposes.

For example, one of the largest drinking water reservoirs in Japan is Ogouchi Reservoir, which holds 189 million tons of drinking water for Tokyo. TEPCO is currently storing 1.3 million tons of radioactive water at Fukushima Daiichi and nearing full capacity. Ogouchi alone should be able to handle at least 1/4, and maybe up to 1/2, of the radioactive water without any serious consequences, especially as both the IAEA and the government of Japan have clearly given thumbs up. No worries, it’s safe.

The citizens of Tokyo should be okay with this plan since their own government and the IAEA and the U.S. have re-assured the world that dumping Fukushima’s radioactive water into a large body of water is safe, in fact, safe enough to drink. Eureka! Problem solved!

With the blessing of the IAEA and the U.S. via Biden’s Climate Envoy John Kerry, Japan’s government plans to start releasing radioactive water from Fukushima Daiichi’s water storage tanks into the sea effective 2022, allegedly removing the toxic deadly isotopes like Cesium-137, leaving behind less deadly toxic tritium. Why not dump that “harmless water” (according to Japan’s own statements) into their water systems rather than into the sea? It doesn’t make sense to dump drinkable water (according to Japan’s Deputy PM) that simply needs a bit of dilution in a larger body of water, like the sea, when reservoirs are nearby to put it to good use and of adequate size to effectively dilute the toxic water, similar to the ocean.

Identical to all radioactive substances, tritium is a carcinogen (causes cancer), a mutagen (causes genetic mutation), and a teratogen (causes malformation of an embryo). The good news: Tritium is relatively weak beta radiation and does not have enough energy to penetrate human skin. The main health risks are ingesting or breathing the tritium-laced water in large quantities.

Cancer is the main risk to humans ingesting tritium. When tritium decays it emits a low-energy electron (roughly 18,000 electron volts) that escapes and slams into DNA, a ribosome or some other biologically important molecule. And, unlike other radionuclides, tritium is usually part of water, so it ends up in all parts of the body and therefore, in theory, can promote any kind of cancer. But that also helps reduce the risk because tritiated water is typically excreted in less than a month.2

Some evidence suggests beta particles emitted by tritium are more effective at causing cancer than the high-energy radiation such as gamma rays. Low-energy electrons produce a greater impact because it doesn’t have the energy to spread its impact. At the end of its atomic-scale trip it delivers most of its ionizing energy in one relatively confined track rather than shedding energy all along its path like a higher-energy particle. This is known as “density of ionization.” As such, scientists say any amount of radiation poses a health risk. 3

Tritium is very mobile and can enter biological systems and has the potential to damage living cells. 4

Tritium can potentially be hazardous to human health because it emits ionizing radiation, exposure to which may increase the probability that a person will develop cancer during his or her lifetime. For this reason, it is very important that human exposure to any radioactive material, such as tritium, is minimized within reason. 5

Perhaps TEPCO, the government of Japan, the U. S., and the IAEA are counting on the hedged statement in the aforementioned paragraph as their primary rationale for dumping radioactive water into a larger body of water: It’ll be “minimized within reason.” Hmm.

In point of fact:

The storage tanks now hold seawater that has been used to continue cooling the reactor cores, and this water is contaminated with such radionuclides as Cesium-137, Carbon-14, tritium (including the more dangerous “Organically Bound Tritium”), Strontium-90, Cobalt-60, Iodine-129, Plutonium-239 — and over 50 other radionuclides. Some of this has reportedly been removed, but some has not (e.g. radioactive tritium and C-14). The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) that owns Fukushima, and is now responsible for the cleanup (that is likely to last the remainder of this century), didn’t admit until recently that the wastewater contains significant amounts of radioactive Carbon-14. As C-14 has a half-life of 5,730 years, and is known to bio-accumulate in marine ecosystems and cause cellular and genetic impairment, this is a very serious concern. 6

According to the aforementioned article, TEPCO’s treatment system is subpar and likely not up to the task of thorough cleansing.

Furthermore, according to Ken Buesseler, marine chemist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution:

Would this open the door for any country to release radioactive waste to the ocean that is not part of normal operations? 7

Based upon the news flow on the international front, Japan’s government did not consult its neighbors about the plan. China issued a warning, “the international community is watching” calling on Tokyo to “fulfill its international responsibilities to the environment.” A harsh South Korean Foreign Ministry complaint said Japan will “directly and indirectly affect the safety of the people and the neighboring environment… difficult to accept… without sufficient consultation of neighbors.” Meanwhile, local Japanese fishermen are fit to be tied because dumping radioactive water into the ocean is essentially a death sentence for their industry.

On the other hand, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is just fine with the scheme since it meets “global standards.” They say it’s a normal process for nuclear plants around the world to release some amount of tritium into the seas. There is nothing positive about that, nothing whatsoever.

TEPCO has deployed an Advanced Liquid Processing System that purportedly removes 62 isotopes from the water, all except tritium, which is radioactive hydrogen and cannot easily be filtered out of water. Thus, allegedly all radioactive isotopes will be removed, except tritium, which is hard to separate.

Greenpeace/Japan has expressed strong reservations, more than once, about the comprehensiveness and adequacy of the removal cleansing process, claiming that several highly toxic/deadly radioactive isotopes remained after processing. Who knows whether this still holds true?

It is highly unlikely that the international community, other than the United States, will ever be totally comfortable with Japan’s decision to dump toxic radioactive water into the sea. Therefore, the country should take it upon itself to dispose of all radioactive water in their extensive network of water reservoirs.

Of course, nuclear power advocates argue that it’s insane to dump the radioactive water into any body of water other than the ocean because of its massive circulation capabilities, which will disperse the radioactive water throughout the world. But, that’s precisely what other countries do not want!

Deliberately, Japan has made the problem a simple one to deal with by publicly admitting that the treated water will be harmless, good enough to drink. As follows, they can keep it. Enough said!

Postscript: Doubling down-

Japanese Deputy Prime Minister Taro Aso repeated his claim Friday that it is safe to drink treated radioactive water accumulating at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant after China asked him to personally prove it. 8

  1. “China to Japan: If Treated Radioactive Water From Fukushima is Safe, ‘Please Drink It’”, Washington Post, April 15, 2021.
  2. “Is Radioactive Hydrogen in Drinking Water a Cancer Threat”, Scientific American, February 7, 2014.
  3. “How Radiation Threatens Health”, Scientific American, March 15, 2011.
  4. Bundy, et al. (2012) Tritium, Health Effects and Dosimetry: Meyers R.A. (eds) Encyclopedia of Sustainability Science and Technology. Springer, New York, NY.
  5. HPS- Health Physics Society, Specialists in Radiation Safety, Tritium Fact Sheet, March 2011.
  6. Rick Steiner, “The Danger of Japan Dumping Fukushima Wastewater into the Ocean”, The Hill, April 17, 2021.
  7. “Japan Plans to Release Fukushima’s Wastewater into the Ocean”, Science, April 12, 2021.
  8. “Japan Plans to Release Fukushima’s Wastewater into the Ocean”, Science, April 12, 2021; “Taro Aso Repeats Claim That Treated Fukushima Water is Good to Drink”, The Jakarta Post, April 16, 2021.”
The post If Fukushima’s Water is Safe, Then Drink it! first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Doomsday Glacier Lives up to its Billing

Earth.com

The 21st century serves as an inflection point of acceleration of climate instability caused by human-generated greenhouse gases, as CO2 emissions increase well beyond the rate of the prior century. It’s also a defining timeline of an astonishing ice mass loss rate of 500% more than the last decade of the previous century. Throughout human history, this has never happened with such far-reaching extent so rapidly.

The proof is found in the numbers. For example, Greenland and Antarctica combined ice mass loss is truly an eye-opener:

“The assessment is supported by NASA and the European Space Agency… The team calculated that the two ice sheets together lost 81 billion tons per year in the 1990s compared with 475 billion tons of ice per year in the 2010s—a sixfold increase.”1

In all honesty, this article should end right here as 475 billion tons of ice mass loss per annum versus 81 billion tons per annum within only two decades is so riveting and daunting and over the top that nothing more needs to be said. But, there is more….

That troubling signal is only a starting point of much bigger trouble down the road. Recent research conducted in West Antarctica has exposed a whole new ballgame, the prospect of collapsing glaciers, in toto, big glaciers, and big meltdowns, unbelievable but yet distinctly possible and yet largely ignored by every major country. If it were otherwise, countries would be flip-flopping fossil fuels to renewables and installing mirrored technology to reflect solar radiation back to outer space, for example, contact: Dr. Ye Tao at Harvard University, and/or paint rooftops with “ultra-white” paint known as “cool roofs” that reflect 98% of sunlight:.  NYC and California are already promoting “cool roofs.”

Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier (100 miles across by 4,000 feet deep), aka: The Doomsday Glacier, labeled “A Climate Time Bomb” by research scientists is an ice shelf in West Antarctica that’s nestled next door to the equally notorious Pine Island Glacier.

A new discovery at Thwaites is bone chilling and nearly impossible to fathom. Thwaites is melting at key points that anchor it to land. The consequences of total release would be/will likely be earth shattering as, and when, the 74,000 square mile ice block breaks lose, but even more earth shattering yet, it could take down the entire West Antarctica Ice Sheet. That’s 10+ feet of sea level rise!

How soon? Stay tuned for updates.

But, seriously, how could anybody know for sure when it’ll completely collapse? Guesstimates may be forthcoming. Will it be decades or less or more or much more? It’s worth noting that climate models have been way too conservative, many estimates by climate scientists have already proven to be off the mark by decades. Climate system scientist Paul Beckwith, University of Ottawa, says global warming has advanced so unexpectedly, so rapidly that “2030 is the new 2100.” The implications of that are simply too much to contemplate.

Significantly, new research techniques employed at Thwaites are leading to much better scientific analyses than ever before. The techniques have given scientists the best-ever look at what’s happening under the massive ice sheet, providing reams of new data that will take time and additional research to properly analyze.

A robotic submarine named Ran, after the Norse goddess of the sea, is exploring the underneath side of the glacier, measuring the strength, temperature, oxygen content, and salinity of the ocean currents flowing beneath the glacier. Simultaneously, ship sonar from above enables high-resolution ocean mapping of the cavity floor. As a result, scientists have already spotted three main inflows of water that warm the underneath connections of the glacier to land. The upshot is for the first time ever scientists have the capability of more precise data to model the dynamics of the glacier. This is important in helping to clarify the uncertainty throughout the world about the prospects of global sea levels.

According to the initial reports by the scientific team: “Our observations show warm water impinging from all sides on pinning points critical to ice-shelf stability, a scenario that may lead to unpinning and retreat,” according to the study published April 9th in the journal Scientific Advances. In other words, the entire ice-shelf could detach and then flow into the ocean. 2

Thwaites is only one-half of a bigger potential problem on a scale that people would rather not think about. Recently, researchers published an article about neighboring Pine Island Glacier surpassing a tipping point because of warming waters, similar to the dilemma surrounding the surprisingly advanced stage of deterioration found at Thwaites. 3

It’s difficult, in fact, almost impossible, to imagine the consequences of actual complete glacier collapse(s) especially since it’s never happened on such a scale throughout human history. The referenced article in Cryosphere gives a generalized viewpoint:

Mass loss from the Antarctic Ice Sheet is the main source of uncertainty in projections of future sea-level rise, with important implications for coastal regions worldwide. Central to ongoing and future changes is the marine ice sheet instability: once a critical threshold, or tipping point, is crossed, ice internal dynamics can drive a self-sustaining retreat committing a glacier to irreversible, rapid and substantial ice loss.4

Thereupon, it’s not exactly rocket science to figure out the meaning of “rapid and substantial ice loss.” As such, it’s probably not too early for every major coastal city in the world to start formulating plans to build sea walls. Already, low-lying areas like Miami Beach are raising streets by 2-to-3 feet (a photo can be seen at: “Miami Beach is Raising Streets by 2 Feet to Combat Rising Seas”).

Meanwhile, CO2 emissions continue setting new record highs by the year and unfortunately, methane emissions, which amplify global warming more so than CO2, are cranking up like never before, thus, locking in ever more global warming as these greenhouse gases blanket the atmosphere and retain heat. More CO2 into the atmosphere equals more heat.

The current scorecard for atmospheric CO2 reads as follows at Mauna Loa, Hawaii:  417.64 ppm (March 2021) versus 414.74 ppm (March 2020) versus 368.13 ppm (2000).

Fossil CO2 emissions are up nearly 40% at 36B tons per year now versus 26B tons at the turn of the century. That’s a whopper of an increase that relentlessly continues increasing. As such, the outlook for some semblance of a stable climate system is decidedly negative. In due course, the repercussions of a whacked-out climate system will shock people beyond their darkest nightmares and catch the world’s political leadership obliviously flat-footed.

By then it’s too late, tipping points cannot be reversed!

Postscript:

The last time the atmospheric CO2 amounts were this high was more than 3 million years ago, when temperature was 2°C–3°C (3.6°F–5.4°F) higher than during the pre-industrial era, and sea level was 15–25 meters (50–80 feet) higher than today.5

Logical question: What about sea level 50-80 feet higher back then with CO2 the same as today’s CO2? Answer: The normal time lag between increasing atmospheric CO2 and increasing temps leading to rising sea levels is one decade, or more.

  1. “Greenland, Antarctica Melting Six Times Faster Than in the 1990s”, Global Climate Change, NASA, March 16, 2020.
  2. “Antarctica’s ‘Doomsday Glacier’ Close to Tipping Point, Unmanned Sub Reveals”, LiveScience, April 14, 2021.
  3. “The Tipping Points and Early Warning Indicators for Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica”, European Geosciences Union, The Cryosphere, March 25, 2021.
  4. Ibid.
  5. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA, Climate.gov August 14, 2020.
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Cooling the Planet?

Grandiose plans to cool Earth, saving the planet from overheating by utilizing low-tech balloon flights sprinkling particles into the atmosphere to reflect solar radiation back into outer space have been delayed. Nobody knows for sure when, or if, it’ll proceed.

The planet-cooling scheme referred to as Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment aka SCoPEx headed by Harvard professor Fran Keutsch hopes to save humanity from hothouse Earth with plans to sprinkle aerosols of calcium carbonate and other substances at 12 miles above Earth’s surface to reflect solar radiation to outer space. The initial flight scheduled for June 2021 was set to test the balloon and gondola equipment sans release of aerosols until later in the year.

But heavy lobbying by prominent groups against the “alleged insanity” of toying around with the planet’s climate system put an end to this test run. Still, it’s an open question as to whether it really is insanity. Although, nobody knows for sure what consequences may follow. Nobody! On the other hand, civilization has been insanely altering the climate system by spewing carbon dioxide CO2 and sulfur dioxide SO2 into the atmosphere for years upon years. The question now revolves around whether SCoPEx makes it worse by trying to fix it. As such, is it the issue at hand? Answers: maybe and yes.

It should be noted that research to help/repair/fix Earth’s climate system, which is severely broken, is ongoing at major universities throughout the world and for good reason. It’s an open secret that the Anthropocene (direct human influence) is disrupting the planet’s climate system in very big pronounced ways, geologically at warp speed. The proof is found in numbers. For example, throughout the Holocene Era of the past 10,000+ years the natural rate of CO2 emissions was ~0.003 ppm/year which equates to +36 ppm over a time span of 12,000 years versus today’s rate of 2.0 ppm/year or +40 ppm in only 20 years or geological light speed. It’s highly probable the planet has never experienced such a rapid rate of change as it has, especially since WWII. There’s absolutely nothing positive about that.

The risk of geoengineering, especially unimaginable unknown unknowns, has prompted prominent reconsideration of the efficacy of SCoPEx. Raymond Pierrehumbert, University of Oxford physicist and renowned expert on climate dynamics, claims that widespread adoption of SCoPEx would be the sword of Damocles hanging over humanity, meaning, unless CO2 emissions are taken down to zero

… each year that goes on, you’ll have more CO2, which gives you more of a warming force which has to be counteracted by an even larger amount of geoengineering. You go into this death spiral, where you try to keep the Earth habitable in the face of ever-increasing CO2 and set ourselves up for a bigger and bigger risk of catastrophe.1

Pierrehumbert’s criticism is analogous to running endlessly on a treadmill that continues to grow bigger and faster multiplying until it morphs into a monolithic monster that overwhelms everything.

Moreover, critics argue the consequences of SCoPEx are not well understood. They claim stratospheric aerosol injections (SAI) on a ”large scale” could (1) damage the ozone layer, (2) cause excessive heating in the stratosphere, and (3) disrupt ecosystems. Any one of which is cause for pause.

Just imagine depleting some, or too much, of the ozone layer. Ozone molecules protect the planet from burning up, no questions asked. According to NASA: “Ozone absorbs harmful components of sunlight, known as ultraviolet B or UV-B… above weather systems a tenuous layer of ozone gas absorbs UV-B, protecting living things below.”

Study of ozone amounts before and after the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo show that there were significant decreases in lower stratospheric ozone (Grant and others, 1994). The amount of ozone in the 16-28 km region was some reduced by 33% compared to pre-eruption amounts. 2

Sulfate aerosols pose well-known risks such as ozone depletion and stratospheric heating.” 3

However, according to the same source:

A prior modeling study from our group suggested that calcium carbonate (CaCO3) might enable stratospheric geoengineering with reduced ozone loss or even ozone increase, but that study lacked measurements of important CaCO3-specific reaction rates… This uncertainty needs to be resolved by empirical methods. 4

As such, SCoPEx plans to sprinkle aerosols of calcium carbonate as preliminary research indicates this mineral dust may be an acceptable fix, but the jury is still out. It’s far too early to know. Empirical studies for this are not easily accomplished. With geoengineering, uncertainty is common.

Still, proponents of SCoPEx advocate experimentation of redirection of solar radiation regardless of uncertainties, thus, hopefully upending or reducing the impact of multiple ecosystem risks associated with global warming, thereby humanity continues eating, drinking, and pretending to be happy. Drinking helps.

Nevertheless, according to the state-owned Swedish Space Corporation (SSC), which operates the Esrange Space Station in Kinuna, Sweden whence the test was to commence:

The scientific community is divided regarding geoengineering,5

Johanna Sandahl, president of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation:

It’s time for all countries in the world to live up to the de facto moratorium on geoengineering introduced by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity of 2010… The test will not be conducted in Sweden and should not be anywhere.6

Both sides of the solar engineering argument have agreed to meet to see if there is a middle ground, but from the outside looking in, it doesn’t look all that promising. The list of questions, concerns, and observations is endless, for example: What, where and for how long? Forever? Really? What of slip-ups, the unknown unknowns? What of loss of ozone or something comparable, out of the blue? What if hydrological cycles misfire, disrupting agricultural seasons? If SCoPEx does an A-plus reflection job whilst fossil fuels chug along in tandem, will oceans absorb so much CO2 that whales go belly up?

And, towering above all other considerations: What if world opinion remains sharply divided? Then what?

  1. “Balloon Test Flight Plan Under Fire Over Solar Geoengineering Fears,” The Guardian, February 8, 2021.
  2. Volcanic Gases, Oregon State University.
  3. Zhen Dai, et al, “Experimental Reaction Rates Constrain Estimates of Ozone Response to Calcium Carbonate Geoengineering”, Nature, December 15, 2020.
  4. Ibid.
  5. “Controversial Test Flight Aimed at Cooling the Planet Cancelled”, PHYS.ORG, April 1, 2021.
  6. Geoengineering Monitor, April 1, 2021.
The post Cooling the Planet? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Nuclear Fuel Buried 108 Feet from the Sea

San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station (Credit: Nuclear Regulatory Commission)

The most toxic substance on Earth is separated from exposure to society by ½” of steel encased in a canister.

— Paul Blanch, registered professional engineer, US Navy Reactor Operator/Instructor

That eye-opener comes from renowned nuclear expert Paul Blanch in reference to spent fuel rods removed from San Onofre Nuclear Generation Plant buried near the sea on California’s southern coastline 50 miles north of San Diego.

Seventy-three 20-foot tall canisters of highly toxic nuclear spent fuel rods are nestled underground within 108 feet of the Pacific Ocean and not far from Interstate 5 from which passersby catch a glimpse of 73 large rectangular lids poking above ground, thus sealing the most toxic substances on Earth ensconced in ½” dry casks. (Note: In contrast, German CASTOR V/19 ductile cast iron casks, with permanent integrated monitoring, are nearly two-feet thick)

What could possibly go wrong on the seashore?

At the outset of San Onofre’s plans for its 73 buried canisters, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission itself admitted: (1) the thin ½” stainless steel canisters could crack within 30 years (2) there’s no current technology to inspect, repair or replace cracked canisters (3) limited monitoring means leaks may not be detected soon enough. 1  It is not believed the foregoing has changed one iota.

Unfortunately, when it comes to nuclear risks, what can go wrong isn’t known until it actually goes wrong.  Then, it’s too late. Which explains the contention of a professional group associated with publicwatchdogs.org that discussed issues of credibility and truthfulness of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission at a public hearing on March 9th, 2021. More on that follows later.

The 73 San Onofre rectangular lids symbolize the final act of decommissioning San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, remnants of 50 years of nuclear power. Nobody knows with any degree of certainty the consequences of highly toxic spent fuel rods buried within 108 feet of the ocean. Is it risky or not risky? Is it even possible to define the risk?

In truth, the risks of nuclear power cannot be adequately defined. Experience shows that the risk factors have no ceiling, no comparisons, no analogies, nothing similar, only disastrous results when things go wrong. More to the point, it’s a grand experiment of juggling the most potent substance on the planet. Like a hot potato, nobody knows what to do with it, other than bury it somewhere somehow that hopefully keeps it secure. Is a beachfront 108 feet off the ocean a good, secure location?

Still, given enough time, nuclear risks are defined via incidents; e.g., Fukushima, which exposed the consequences of failure of identifying nuclear risks. If it were otherwise, Fukushima would’ve been better prepared. They weren’t!

According to Prime Minister Naoto Kan /Japan, 2011: “We did not anticipate such a huge natural disaster could happen.” At the tensest moments, PM Kan was briefed on plans for complete evacuation of Tokyo, a horrific beyond belief event that came far too close for comfort! Nowadays, the former PM is an antinuke protestor.

It’s worth noting that Fukushima houses 10 nuclear reactors and 11 open pools of water containing spent fuel rods.  If exposed to open air, spent fuel rods erupt into a sizzling zirconium fire followed by massive radiation bursts of the most toxic material known to humanity. It can upend an entire countryside and force evacuation of major cities, literally begging the impossible question of whether San Onofre’s remnants threaten all of Southern California?

Throughout America nuclear facilities contain open pools of spent fuel rods. According to the widely recognized nuclear expert Paul Blanch: “Continual storage in spent fuel pools is the most unsafe thing you could do.” Some spent fuel rods have been removed and stored in dry casks, but what if the dry casks are buried 108 feet from the Pacific Ocean?  And, what of dry casks only ½” thick filled with radioactive spent fuel rods running a 500°F temp inside and 400°F on the canister’s exterior? By all appearances, it is an extremely lively affair!

That goes to the heart of questions posed at a recent Nuclear Regulatory Commission public hearing on March 9th. Thereupon, on behalf of the general public, three professionals drilled down into the procedures of the NRC whilst questioning its credibility. The bios of those three professionals:

Paul Blanch, registered professional engineer, US Navy Reactor Operator & Instructor with 55 years of experience with nuclear engineering and regulatory agencies, widely recognized as one of America’s leading experts on nuclear power.

Stuart H. Scott, founder and Executive Director of Facing Future, best known for bringing Greta Thunberg to the 2018 UN climate negotiations in Poland (COP-24) and for convincing Dr. James Hansen, the 32-year veteran Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies to COP-21, to attend Paris ’15.

Charles Langley, Executive Director of publicwatchdogs.org, a public advocate with more than 25 years of experience in the field of energy law, energy policy, and utility rate setting.

According to publicwatchdogs.org, the NRC is a “captive regulator” that accedes to nearly every request for regulatory relief for the nuclear power industry, as well as relaxation of safety rules and enforcement for the industry, in fact, following the command of industry insiders. But, when it comes to the general public, the NRC summarily rejects nearly every public petition aimed at strengthening the rules or following enforcement of existing rules. The petition process at the NRC is a one-sided affair that leaves the public out in the cold. From 1975- 2012 there were 387 petitions filed under provisions of the code, only two granted substantive relief, and one of those was from the nuclear industry. So, over 37 years there were, in actuality, more like a thousand petitions submitted by the public, and only one made it. It should be noted that rejections of petitions cannot be appealed.

On the other hand, when an industry player makes requests, according to Paul Blanch, working for a public utility, asking NRC for “a deviation from the rules” on a phone call got approved within one hour.

As it happens, the field of play with the NRC is lopsided. Industry players can ask any questions of NRC, but the public can only ask “process questions,” which does not lead to adequate answers, if any answers at all. Moreover, according to publicwatchdogs.org:

The NRC is providing inaccurate and false information to the public… At issue is the fact that the NRC is claiming that a flooding event at the SONGS (San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station) Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation or ISFSI is ‘non-credible’.

Really? Non-credible? What does that mean?

According to publicwatchdogs.org:

ISFSI is an Orwellian word used by the NRC to describe a toxic beachfront nuclear waste dump containing a spent nuclear fuel depot that is deadly radioactive for 250,000 years. The SONGS “ISFSI” is located 108 feet from the beach, in a tsunami inundation zone next to an earthquake fault line. It contains 73 thin-walled stainless steel cans weighing upwards of 100,000 pounds each. Each 20-foot high canister contains the same amount of Cesium-137 that was released into the atmosphere during the entire Chernobyl event. The cans themselves are only guaranteed to last for 25 years.

What happens if a king tide, during full moon, or tsunami strikes and triggers a loss of cooling for the containers? Therefore, publicwatchdogs.org demanded the NRC provide a realistic flood analysis, with consequences spelled out. But, according to the petitioners, the NRC has never analyzed a loss of cooling of the 73 buried canisters. That fact alone is beyond comprehension. How could they not? Will they now?

Furthermore, nobody can explain what happens with ruptured casks. The San Onofre casks are filled with helium gas with natural conduction airflow surrounding each individual container, which are thin casks ½” thick.

In all, Public Watchdog’s research found that NRC misrepresented information. At the hearing, petitioners exposed inept Nuclear Regulatory Commission processes, responses, and a lack of credibility, claiming the NRC is merely a rubber stamp for the nuclear industry and not at all responsive to public queries.

The following is a condensed version of the issues brought forth on the virtual meeting with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission:

It should be noted that NRC rejected the group’s October 13th petition on the dubious grounds of the term “not credible.” Failure or leakage of the canisters, according to NRC, is “not credible.” But “not credible” is not defined anywhere in NRC documents. Of course, no answers came at the scheduled meeting.

An important pursuit at the hearing was exposure of deficiencies of the Holtec Umax spent fuel storage system at San Onofre, as well as exposing its use at other locations in the US. Not only that but a king tide could wash over the canisters, no tsunami needed. A few feet of water would be disastrous.  Meanwhile, there are no contingency plans to remove flooded water from the canisters in an emergency. Which is insidiously irresponsible: “Each canister contains more radioactive cesium than released at Chernobyl, each of 73 canisters, plus there are over 3,000 in this country.” (Blanch)

The Holtec canisters provide a 1/2” to 5/8” barrier between the most toxic material in the world and a Chernobyl-size release of radiation. The canisters must be kept full of helium gas, welded shut, thus they can never be examined on the inside for cracks or leaks, and scandalously, not monitored for temperature, pressure, or radiation. But yet, the NRC says failure is “not credible.”

Was Chernobyl not credible?

Making matters worse, there’s no provision for drainage of water in the underground canisters. A king tidal wave could flood, and as water boils off, nobody would know what to do to save Southern California from some level of mass evacuation. Additionally, there are no provisions to refill the canisters with pressurized helium should pressure drop. These are obvious risks factors, plus: San Onofre is located within an inundation zone for tsunamis. It’s also close to Camp Pendleton, a legitimate enemy target.

“We regard the NRC’s preliminary decision to reject our petition as irresponsible and wrong and it places millions of people in Southern California at risk that is unquantifiable.” (Petitioners)

When NRC receives petitions, they can be rejected by an unspecified number of PRB members and the petitioner does not know if it’s only one member a minority a majority or whatever. No logical reasons are given for rejections of petitions and no supporting documentation.

The San Onofre canisters need to be removed and placed into thick-wall casks and transported to a new repository in New Mexico. “The biggest problem is the NRC failure to admit there is a problem.” (Blanch)

In the final analysis, the NRC abrogates its own mission statement, which is to license and regulate civilian use of radioactive materials to protect public health and safety to promote the common defense and security and protect the environment. Yet, by all appearances, the NRC is more akin to an emotionless Frankenstein monster that belittles detractors via evasion and disdain without any answers for credible questions. What a trip!

  1. Sanonofresafety.org
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