Nuclear or Solar Energy?

Manual García, Jr. interviewed by Salvador López Arnal and translator Germán Leyens for the Spanish site Rebelión, rendered in English here.

The impetus for this interview (Sobre poder atómico, cambio climático, energías limpias y formas de organanización ciudadanas) was the publication of a Spanish translation of Garcia’s CounterPunch article “To Power A Nation: Nuclear Bombs Or Sunshine?

Salvador López Arnal: Let us start with a few basic notions. When we talk about nuclear fusion, what do we really mean?

Manuel García, Jr.: Nuclear fusion is the application of energy to a pair of atomic nuclei so as to force them into each other despite the electric and nuclear forces of repulsion that normally keep nuclei separate and distinct, so that some of the combined nuclear mass is transformed into energy by Einstein’s formula E = m c-squared, and is emitted as nuclear radiation; and the remaining combined mass is reformed into an new single nucleus of a different chemical element.

SLA: This new source of energy is sometimes associated with a defeat of climatic change. Why? Do you think this is a fantasy of self-interest by governments, military powers and large corporations?

MG,Jr.: The consensus of modern science is that the carbon dioxide (CO2) gas emitted by the many, many sources of combustion of hydrocarbons (petroleum and many forms of natural and processed organic matter) inherent in human activity has made the Earth’s atmosphere warmer and more insulating (it traps more infrared radiation, which is heat) than it was before the industrial exploitation of petroleum. So, human activity in combination with natural cycles of climate are producing an effect that is called global warming (“Climate and Carbon, Consensus and Contention“).

By comparing the quantity of CO2 in the atmosphere today with conditions and climates of the distant past, so far as science can detect them; and by running computer simulations of Earth’s climate into the far future, scientists can arrive at a wide variety of possibilities of what our climate might evolve to during this century. Many of these predictions are unpleasant, some generally, and others for particular regions and portions of humanity. For example, some island nations may disappear because of the rise of the ocean level due to the melting of the ice caps.

The difficulty faced by modern society is that the great work-saving technologies, comforts and advances much of the developed world enjoys are possible because of abundant energy, which we generate by the combustion of coal (for electricity and industrial process heat) and petroleum (for transportation technology and military mobility), and this combustion is the source of the CO2 that might trigger a major change in Earth’s climate to much less hospitable conditions. Do we forsake today’s comforts and conveniences for decades, even longer, solely based on fears arising out of computer simulations, and which may not come to pass? Or, do we proceed emitting enormous quantities of waste heat (CO2 and entropy) to continue our capitalist mode of industrialized resource exploitation, and wealth accumulation for a select few, even if it triggers a catastrophic shift in climate and a drastic reduction of food production?

How to respond to the uncertainties and challenges of global warming, by finding the right balance between our old technologies of energy production, new ones that emit less CO2 but may need development and investment before achieving their full potential, and imposing stricter measures of energy conservation and accepting greater inconveniences (like the reuse and recycling of current items) is a subject of major contention today. Nobody wants to give up their particular way of making a profit just because it may contribute to global warming, and also many would like to find profitable business ventures that exploit the concerns over global warming. So what begins as a discussion of geophysics and its impact on society degenerates into many arguments about making money, and politics: who is going to “win” and who is going to “lose?”

Clearly, if we can find new ways of generating abundant energy without also emitting CO2, then the comforts of the First World can be continued, and the necessary improvements for the Third World can be made without causing a change of the world’s climate. So, many suggest that their favorite technology or hoped-for future profit-making scheme will provide energy without CO2 emission. Some of these claims have more merit than others, and many groups that make such claims are seeking government subsidies (research money or tax breaks).

The nuclear power industry is advertising itself as a “green” technology, one that does not emit CO2. This is blatantly false as all the mining, fuel processing, transportation, construction and waste disposal activities associated with nuclear power create CO2 emissions. Wind and solar energy are the most efficient as regards energy produced per mass of CO2 emitted. The deficiencies of wind and solar in terms of their convenience are that they are energy sources of low concentration (they may require a large area for collection) and low power (low to moderate temperature or limited electrical power from any single generator). Conservation is the most cost-effective “green” technology today, it simply means reducing the waste associated with whatever energy generation methods are already in use.

SLA: So, at this point fusion is promoted as the solution?

MG,Jr.: One dream that grew out of nuclear physics is the vision of devising fusion reactors to power society. We are familiar with the enormous output of energy from nuclear fission (the splitting apart of a nucleus) whether slowly in nuclear reactors or suddenly as in explosions of nuclear bombs. But, there is a much larger yield of energy from nuclear fusion; and an essentially unlimited supply of fusion fuel. The fusion of deuterium and tritium, isotopes of hydrogen, powers our Sun (the Sun’s own gravity from its huge mass squeezing the nuclei together at its core). Here on Earth, deuterium and tritium occur naturally in trace quantities in the oceans; and they are readily made from ordinary water irradiated with neutrons in nuclear reactors. The fusion dream is to use deuterium and tritium to make power reactors of much greater yield than nuclear fission reactors, and which do not use radioactive metals for fuel, nor generate the same quantities of radioactive waste.

The leading idea in the quest for technological fusion energy has been the magnetic compression of hydrogen (deuterium and tritium) plasma (a highly electrified gaseous form of matter) in devices called tokamaks (magnetic fusion energy has nearly 60 years of research). A more recent idea (over 35 years) is laser-fusion (called inertial confinement fusion). The NIF facility I discussed in my recent article is a laser-fusion facility (“¿Bombas nucleares o luz solar?“).

Fusion works marvelously in stars because they are so massive. Their huge gravity forces nuclei into fusion at the star’s core, and the huge bulk of the star is of sufficient depth and density to easily capture and contain the nuclear energy released by fusion reactions. Fusion is a process of energy generation that is mismatched to the much smaller scale of our Earth. The Sun extends 109 times further from its center than the Earth, and it is 333,000 times more massive. Science has yet to devise an artificial star, a steady fusion reactor; but it has devised impulsive ones, which are nuclear (hydrogen) bombs. My article described how NIF (National Ignition Facility) and facilities like it assist in the design of nuclear weapons.

SLA: What are your criticisms of nuclear energy, generally?

MG,Jr.: My criticism of nuclear power in all the forms described, for the purpose of providing a steady supply of electricity to a nation, is twofold:

1, the technology is not well matched to the end-use, there are many complexities, dangers, and inefficiencies between the fuel source and the electrical output, the entire cycle from fuel production to waste management is excessively costly (per kWh of electricity produced) fiscally, environmentally and politically;

2, the nature of the technology makes for highly centralized generator sites (which must also be high security zones, and are very expensive), requiring an extensive distribution network (which will have transmission losses).

Highly centralized power generation serves the needs of highly centralized economics: exclusive capital accumulation at extensive social cost. Distributed power generation serves the needs of a distributed population: communal technical networks provide local control and personal economic independence.

Solar and wind technologies can generate electricity locally and practically over much of the Earth’s surface, whether land or sea. There are far fewer conversions of energy forms from the sources to the electrical output, so there are fewer types of inefficiencies; and there are never the types of hazards associated with radioactive materials and nuclear technology. Because the energy generation processes are natural to the Earth’s environment (solar-electric, solar-thermal, wind-torque-electrical, hydro-torque-electrical), the entire process cycle: from source to generation to recycling of used equipment and material, is much simpler and cheaper (by fiscal measures that are socially complete in that they account for environmental and political liabilities). Solar, wind and hydro technologies are “natural’ to the Earth, and well-matched to the end-use of residential electricity, and many industrial applications.

The dispersed nature of “the source” of solar energy (wind and hydro too, but they are more localized) means that generators and users are closer to each other (even coincident), so distribution networks will be smaller and more efficient. This means proximate local networks can have overlap, providing redundancy and thus a greater degree of overall reliability over regional and national scales. It also means the local “owners” of the generators are much more likely to be among the users of the electrical output, so the entire economics of the system becomes as distributed and decentralized as the energy source. Micro-networked solar energy is intrinsically communal. An energy system that offers a family the possibility of gaining its energy independence by harvesting the sunlight that falls, and catching the wind that whisks through the space they occupy to live, would be a wonderful thing.

However, if you are part of a group — we could call them capitalists, or industrialists, or pirates, it’s all the same — who wish to control a large source of energy, which they meter out to many individuals at a distance for a profit, then you would prefer a highly centralized energy generation technology. This is why I wrote that nuclear power is prized by the mentality that sees the taxi meter and the cash register as the purpose of organizing society. The hazards, complexities and inefficiencies that make it necessary to isolate and make large nuclear power generation sites, also fits them to the needs of monopoly control, and leaves the nation vulnerable to societal blackmail through the energy dependency of its people.

SLA: In a recent article published in CounterPunch — “To Power a Nation: Nuclear Bombs Or Sunshine?” — you mention that Hugh Gusterson wrote, in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, that the recently inaugurated National Ignition Facility (NIF), near San Francisco, was in its entirety a program of nuclear weapons development. Do you agree with that opinion? How does NIF support nuclear weapons development?

MG,Jr.: My article covered that point. NIF is funded to provide data on fusion phenomena that are created on a microscopic scale, with extremely intense pulses of laser light bombarding micro-balloons filled with deuterium and tritium. NIF will also be used to provide data on the properties of uranium and plutonium when they experience extreme pressure; microscopic samples will be compressed by laser bombardment, and fission reactions initiated. This data from experiments is then used to refine and correct computer codes that simulate the intricate physics. These codes can then be used to help design full-scale nuclear bombs. NIF is intended to fill the gap left by the cessation of full-scale nuclear tests at the Nevada Test Site. There has never been any secret about any of this, but Thomas Friedman did not mention it in his paen to NIF as a prototype fusion energy system, published recently in the New York Times. That was Gusterson’s point.

SLA: As you say, NIF belongs to the mentality that “sees the taxi meter and the cash register… as the purpose of social organization.” But, you add, “this flow of energy in unlikely to be as safe, reliable, freely available, poverty alleviating and socially uplifting as could very easily be the case today.” What sense does it make then to choose a road of so limited value? What is hidden behind that decision?

MG,Jr.: This is because public resources are being invested for the benefit of a profiteering capitalist elite, and all risks and liabilities are being socialized. Don’t ever think that socialism is disliked in the United States. On the contrary, it is highly prized by the apex class of our economic pyramid as the best way of eliminating its wastes, expenses and responsibilities. Centralized energy technology is preferred by monopolists, and their sole focus is exclusive capital accumulation. Decentralized power generation puts more control into the hands of local communities and individuals. This method of powering the nation is clearly of superior social value (and an essential necessity in the rural Third World, with solar electricity generators of the simplest type), but it is not championed by the US government for the same reason national health care is not championed by the US government: it has been bought off by corporate money. The key political point here is that the US government does not work primarily in the interests of the public, it is an agent of corporate interests, protecting them FROM popular democratic action. By far the most devastating deficit in the U.S. today is the democratic deficit; the fiscal ones are trifles in comparison, they only entail money.

SLA: You also mention that nuclear weapons only have a functional value if their design is proved by tests and that this requirement was the reason for the many nuclear tests carried out by many countries since 1945. How many tests have been carried out to date by all nuclear nations, including Pakistan and Israel? Where are they carried out?

MG,Jr.: Since 1945 over 2000 nuclear tests have been carried out, about half were conducted by the U.S. (1054); Russia did 715, France 210, the U.K. 45, China 45, India 6 and Pakistan 6 (this total is 2081). Not all tests have been acknowledged or verified, so there are some uncertainties as to the exact number. South Africa, under the apartheid regime, and Israel may have conducted a joint test in the South Atlantic, but South Africa claims never to have tested and has since dismantled its stockpile; Israel says nothing and is not known to have conducted a nuclear test. Tests have been carried out in many places. Most US tests were in the Pacific southeast of Hawaii, and at the Nevada Test Site. Both Russia and China conducted their tests at remote sites within their territories. France conducted tests in the South Pacific, and the U.K. conducted nearly half its tests in Australia or territory controlled by it, and the rest at the Nevada Test Site. India and Pakistan used remote and desert locations for their underground tests. The test by North Korea in 2006 was of such low yield that many believe it was really a failure.

SLA: What are the difficulties and risks of working with large quantities of materials with high levels of radioactivity?

MG,Jr.: The risks are of (1) radiation exposure to people, causing illness or disability or death; (2) the possibility of grouping too much radioactive material together and initiating a chain reaction (a critical mass that proceeds to “melt down”); (3) theft of nuclear material, and its malicious misuse; (4) accidental release into the environment, introducing a pollutant with heavy metal toxicity as well as radioactivity; (5) producing a large amount of radioactive waste: the machines, materials and containers used to shield workers from radioactivity, which must be stored and kept secure for a long time; (6) incurring large and continuing expenses to pay for all the activities required by the possession of a nuclear materials industry and its legacy.

SLA: Is there any link between the use of nuclear energy and the possession of nuclear weapons?

MG,Jr.: Yes. The material for bombs is usually produced in reactors built for that purpose, but it can also be harvested from the fuel rods of civilian power reactors. All uranium nuclear reactors produce a build-up of plutonium. This is why the U.S., Russia and the major atomic powers wish to control the fuel cycle of reactors in client states that have “peaceful’ atomic power, like South Korea. The fuel cycle is the production of fuel rods for civilian reactors, and their eventual removal and “reprocessing” to remove the plutonium build-up, and recycle the remaining uranium-235, or package the rod for “disposal.” The situation of Iran’s nuclear program illustrates the intrinsic connection between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons (“Iran’s Uranium“).

SLA: What do you think of the pressures by the US and Israel to prevent Iran’s development of nuclear energy?

MG,Jr.: Both Israel and the U.S. want to prevent the rise of any competitive regional power in the Middle East and Central Asia. This is because the U.S. seeks to control the sources and economics of petroleum, and Israel seeks to undercut the source of economic sustenance to the resistance movements in the territories it invades and occupies (and its vision is large in this regard). I have elaborated on these themes elsewhere (“Iran’s Uranium“).

SLA: Please give us five reasons against the peaceful use of nuclear energy.

MG,Jr.: Nuclear power is:

(1) inefficient: it is likely that more energy will have been used to build, maintain and secure nuclear power sites, and to manage the waste legacy of the nuclear power industry than it will ever supply as electricity;

(2) insecure: nuclear reactors require massive amounts of cooling water, those located along rivers have had to be shut down in times of drought (in recent years in Europe) creating shortages of supply; because nuclear power is so centralized, any reactor site that is incapacitated for any reason will cause a deficit in its network, and this will require purchasing fossil-fuel energy on short notice, or doing without;

(3) slow: it takes so long to build a nuclear power station that this technology cannot really be mounted, nor easily disassembled as the case might be, to respond to changes in the volume and geographical distribution of energy demand;

(4) dangerous: it uses the most physically hazardous substances we know of, though I suppose they do kill germs, and this extreme hazard creates monumental problems of risk management and security; also, the possibility of nuclear weapons proliferation is all too real;

(5) expensive: the features noted each add to the expense of the technology, and this cost is considerable in each of the fiscal, political and environmental dimensions; expense is always a relative measure, and my view is that if solar (and related generation and storage) and micro-networks were given the same quantity of government subsidy, and not even for as many decades as nuclear power has enjoyed, we would have a much better system of national electrical power by every criterion imaginable, except that of monopoly control of a societal dependency.

SLA: You mentioned that NIF is presented as the positive answer, in the U.S., to the question many nuclear weapons states are now asking: “can we keep a nuclear weapons arsenal at reduced cost and also bypass the ‘danger’ and ‘political’ disincentives of having them, by eliminating most of the weapons testing infrastructure and workforce, and instead relying on the virtual reality of computer simulations.” Why do you think that those simulations will never be able to replace tests of real life-sized weapons?

MG,Jr.: By definition a simulation is incomplete, it relies on projections and approximations to some of the details that make up a real item and a real phenomenon. The details of the dynamics of ultra-rapid (billions of a second) compression and nuclear fusion of millimeter-scale capsules will have unavoidable differences to the much slower (microseconds) implosion of full-scale nuclear devices. The characteristic length scale of the phenomenon plays a role in determining how the dynamics of the imploding fluid mass will evolve.

Let me give an analogy. The distance over which molecules of air interact by collision (at sea level) is about 60 billionths of a meter, call it lambda. The air friction resisting the motion of an object through the atmosphere is the accumulated effect of molecular collisions: air pushed away by the object in turn collides into surrounding air molecules, and some of these rebound back into the object. The net effect is “drag” caused by the viscosity of air. The effect of this viscosity is most pronounced against the surface of the object, but soon fades away with distance from it (say within thousands of lambdas). In the case of a typical airplane wing, the fluid disturbed by viscous interaction with the wing surface is confined to a relatively thin layer called a boundary layer (which might build up to a few percent of the wing thickness). For many calculations of aeronautical engineering, a slight increase to the thickness of the wing is used to account for the boundary layer of fluid that tends to move with, or ‘stick,’ to the wing, and then the overall lift of the wing is calculated as if this modified shape were moving through a frictionless atmosphere. This method is quite good when the length scale that characterizes the size of the wing is large in comparison to the thickness of the boundary layer. This is easily the case with large wings at high speed, as with our airplanes. However, this method fails when trying to understand the workings of the wings of small insects. Gnats that may be of millimeter scale will be swimming in a viscous soup of an atmosphere, since their wings and bodies are easily within the length over which air viscosity acts.

Because not every force and physical interaction changes its characteristic length scale as the length scale of the object in question is changed, there are inevitable differences in the dynamics of fluid motion, between situations of different size. Another example is the dynamics of planetary atmospheres, like our weather, which is highly influenced by gravity because of the size and mass of the Earth. Yet, gravity has essentially no influence on the dynamics of gnat flight; gnats are nearly suspended in weightlessness, paddling through a three dimensional syrup of atmosphere.

So, micro experiments in fusion will certainly help to refine codes simulating intricate physics, which can be used to help design full-scale nuclear bombs, but neither these experiments nor the codes will ever fully account for all the details of the full-scale dynamics. Of course, all that is needed, for the purposes of engineering warheads, is that they be good enough, and that is ultimately determined by the complexity of the warhead designs and the accumulated experience of the weapons designers.

SLA:You mentioned that, in any case, the crucial point is that nuclear weapons are unnecessary for a reasonable national defense. How do you justify that statement? Because of the monstrous effects of their actual use?

MG,Jr.: Let me point you to an article (“Nuclear Weapons Obsolescence“). My basic points: (1) the globalization of world economies makes any nuclear war a permanent loss of wealth to the investor population of world capitalism, so nuclear weapons have lost their strategic value, and (2) the improvements in shooting and bombing accuracy given by the integration of computer, electronics and GPS space technologies makes it unnecessary for advanced military powers to use the massively powerful blasts from nuclear explosions in order to achieve tactical objectives in their colonial wars or wars for dominance against rivals.

SLA: You ask yourself: “Is the investment in NIF as an ICF (Inertial Confinement Fusion) system prototype a wise public policy, regardless of NIF’s role for nuclear weapons?” You answer by saying that “it depends on the type of society you want to power and when you expect to start doing so.” Why? How do you justify that relation?

MG,Jr.: I can only repeat what I said in the article (“To Power A Nation: Nuclear Bombs Or Sunshine?“). Highly concentrated power generation systems serve the needs of narrowly focused capital accumulation at great social expense. Fusion energy systems fit that type, but they will take a very long time and a lot of money to develop.

SLA: You also mention that you prefer to organize society “in a socialist or classless manner, or at least more egalitarian and certainly not corporate-controlled,” and that you would prefer a decentralized national energy supply system, where “the generation, control of, storage and use of energy were all local.” What type of systems would these be? What sources of energy are you thinking about?

MG,Jr.: A solar collector unit, perhaps the size of a large refrigerator, that can generate enough heat to power a small Stirling engine that then cranks a generator, and produces as much electricity as a typical wall outlet (115 VAC, 15 A) during four hours a day, and which could be built locally with generic components, could transform the lives of people in Third World villages and rural areas. Imagine having the energy to pump water, refrigerate essential food stores, recharge batteries that provide lighting for nighttime study, run power tools, provide electric heat for cooking, boil and purify water. Such simple and small systems of “gridless green energy” could have a major impact on the conditions of most of humanity, including the people at the bottom of the economic ladders in our First World nations. Fancier versions of such systems (e.g., using the batteries of electric vehicles as storage units of household electricity generated by a solar-photovoltaic system), and micro-networks of generation and storage as mentioned several times, could maintain the level of comfort we have grown accustomed to in the First World, and do so with much less danger and in a much more egalitarian and economically liberating way. There are no physical laws barring such a vision, only the small-mindedness of our greed as institutionalized in our politics.

SLA: You state that we already have all the technical means to implement such a system, a national network of micro-networks or local networks. “Solar energy focused as heat onto pipes carrying oil along the focal axes of parabolic trough collectors, and the oil transferring its heat through a heat exchanger to water, generating steam, which in turn drives a turbine that turns an electric generator, can produce electricity from sunlight with from 1% to 5% efficiency, steadily during the day.” Are you thinking basically of the U.S.? Would it really be posible in other tecnologically less developed societies? Wouldn’t it be necessary to have technological or even geographical conditions that are within reach of very few states?

MG,Jr.: Clearly, the more elaborate and technically refined the nature of solar, wind or hydro systems and the networks connecting generators with storage units and users, the less likely they will be first used in the Third World. But, the general type of thinking behind such systems can be used to build simple examples that are within the reach of less developed societies.

Face it, there isn’t a corner of this globe that is so remote that it hasn’t been reached by the gun trade. Well, why not the solar energy movement? We can assume that there is enough of a population of artisans anywhere, with sufficient hand tools and knowledge that they could fabricate the simplest of solar collectors, ovens and windmills, Stirling motors and even electric generators if they have access to basic materials, and clearly drawn plans or sample units. Anywhere such a local system of energy-from-the-sun is built will become a focal point of new construction of newer and better systems, and these will spread to other sites and other groups of people. Yes, I admit this is a step up from giving a completely helpless and ignorant person in the wilderness a shovel and a cow; but it is not that big of a larger step. And, like the shovel and cow, giving such a person both the knowledge and the essential materials to produce a system that provides a greater quantity of clean energy right at his location is an investment in humanity that can only grow to everyone’s benefit. Read the reports on the energy needs of the Third World written by the United Nations Development Programme (my article on the subject can be read here).

As to geography, most of the Third World is in equatorial latitudes, sunshine may be one of the few things they have in abundance.

SLA: Wind-power, you say, “is the most abundant source of non-fossil non-nuclear energy today.” Do you see any inconvenience in the widespread use of this type of energy?

MG,Jr.: Large wind power arrays are best isolated to sites with little nearby population and frequent winds. An obvious location is away from the shore, for example instead of oil derricks at sea. Small wind-energy modules are already being built, which can be mounted on rooftops and add to the household electrical supply. “Inconveniences” are really just problems of design and engineering, and ultimately a source of satisfaction to the innovators of the technology, who overcome them.

A national system of electrical energy supply will be the integration of solar, wind and hydro generators of micro or residential scale, which are coupled with storage units and use sites by a micro-network, and the micro-networks are then coupled by the types of regional networks we are accustomed to now, which also connect to industrial-scale generator sites (e.g., “solar farms,” “wind farms,” large hydroelectric facilities), in order to create a quilt of overlapping local networks which in total is then a robust, reliable and multiply redundant system of national electrical energy supply.

SLA: From your point of view, the hurdles for change are only political. Is it so? What political hurdles are you thinking about?

MG,Jr.: The hurdles are: (1) public awareness of what is truly physically possible — this is the target of my writing, (2) the fear of change and loss of continuity of service (continuity of mindless comfort, as long as one can afford to pay for it), (3) the opposition of powerful capitalist “energy industry” interests, who do not want any change in their profitable modus operandi, and (4) the democratic deficit of the U.S. government (and others), which is held hostage by corporate money and is unresponsive to the public will.

SLA: Please let me ask two final questions. Why do you think Einstein supported the research on atomic energy during the Manhattan Project?

MG,Jr.: He was influenced by people he knew and trusted (Leo Szilard, like Einstein, a Jew), and were afraid the world might indeed succumb to the domination of Hitler and the Nazis. One has to remember how formidable the Third Reich was at its peak in 1939. Europe had essentially capitulated to it: France would fall in 1940, England would be isolated and on the defensive, and Stalinist Russia was formally in compliance with its non-aggression treaty with the Third Reich. The very idea of democracy and free society seem threatened. The thought of Nazi Germany, Stalinist Russia and Militarist Japan (in China since 1937) dominating and having their types of mass oppression spread over the globe was inducement enough for Einstein to urge the one major power left, the United States, to invest in the physics that could turn the tide of the world war: the atom bomb. Great fears give rise to great weapons.

SLA: Could you imagine a world without nuclear weapons? What realistic steps could be undertaken to bring us nearer to that ideal?

MG,Jr.: Yes, I can imagine a world free of nuclear weapons. The more people become self-confident in their own lives, and free themselves from their personal fears, the less likely they will be fooled by fear-inducing propaganda, which is the main tool of social control. People who have liberated their minds in this way are best able to become aware of the realities of their national societies, and to become advocates for the egalitarian betterment of their societies. Part of this betterment will include alterations to personal lifestyle, undertaken freely so as to remove oneself (as well as one can) from the support of imperialism and anti-environmental and exploitative capitalism. One then is able to drop prejudices and broaden one’s sympathy to include all who suffer in the world. At this point, your actions in the cause of creating a just and authentically peaceful world are a matter of taking advantage of whatever opportunities the accidents of birth and the vagaries of fate make available to you. Others will be influenced by your example, and in this way the effectiveness of the cause spreads.

A political movement to bring a nation to implement nuclear disarmament, and to then urge other nations to do likewise, must be populated by individuals who have gone some way along the process I described, above. The generosity of the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons, they being replaced by compassion and respect as the basis of international relations, can only arise from a political movement that reflects these ideals as the general sense of the personal values of its people. A people obsessed with their own gain and their entertainment, and living in fantasy worlds of parallel isolation enveloping them from their laptop screens, is a mass of atomized disengagement, a sea in which the managers of the corporatocracy wash away their cares and sink their wreckage.

I could recommend the philosophy of Epicurus, or Zen. Most basically, I would ask anyone to realize that we are living in a world that would be paradise if we cooperatively chose to make it so. Learn what you fear, and overcome it; then be grateful for life and express it. The rest will come naturally.

Manuel Garcia, Jr. is an occasional writer who is always independent. His e-mail address is: Read other articles by Manuel, or visit Manuel's website.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. lichen said on May 19th, 2009 at 1:45pm #

    Yes, solar, wind, tidal, and geothermal are enough and sufficient when coupled with losing less energy.

  2. Don Hawkins said on May 19th, 2009 at 5:38pm #

    Climate Change Odds Much Worse Than Thought

    ScienceDaily (May 19, 2009) — The most comprehensive modeling yet carried out on the likelihood of how much hotter the Earth’s climate will get in this century shows that without rapid and massive action, the problem will be about twice as severe as previously estimated six years ago – and could be even worse than that.
    The study uses the MIT Integrated Global Systems Model, a detailed computer simulation of global economic activity and climate processes that has been developed and refined by the Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change since the early 1990s. The new research involved 400 runs of the model with each run using slight variations in input parameters, selected so that each run has about an equal probability of being correct based on present observations and knowledge. Other research groups have estimated the probabilities of various outcomes, based on variations in the physical response of the climate system itself. But the MIT model is the only one that interactively includes detailed treatment of possible changes in human activities as well – such as the degree of economic growth, with its associated energy use, in different countries.
    Study co-author Ronald Prinn, the co-director of the Joint Program and director of MIT’s Center for Global Change Science, says that, regarding global warming, it is important “to base our opinions and policies on the peer-reviewed science,” he says. And in the peer-reviewed literature, the MIT model, unlike any other, looks in great detail at the effects of economic activity coupled with the effects of atmospheric, oceanic and biological systems. “In that sense, our work is unique,” he says.
    The new projections, published this month in the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate, indicate a median probability of surface warming of 5.2 degrees Celsius by 2100, with a 90% probability range of 3.5 to 7.4 degrees. This can be compared to a median projected increase in the 2003 study of just 2.4 degrees. The difference is caused by several factors rather than any single big change. Among these are improved economic modeling and newer economic data showing less chance of low emissions than had been projected in the earlier scenarios. Other changes include accounting for the past masking of underlying warming by the cooling induced by 20th century volcanoes, and for emissions of soot, which can add to the warming effect. In addition, measurements of deep ocean temperature rises, which enable estimates of how fast heat and carbon dioxide are removed from the atmosphere and transferred to the ocean depths, imply lower transfer rates than previously estimated.
    Prinn says these and a variety of other changes based on new measurements and new analyses changed the odds on what could be expected in this century in the “no policy” scenarios – that is, where there are no policies in place that specifically induce reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Overall, the changes “unfortunately largely summed up all in the same direction,” he says. “Overall, they stacked up so they caused more projected global warming.”
    While the outcomes in the “no policy” projections now look much worse than before, there is less change from previous work in the projected outcomes if strong policies are put in place now to drastically curb greenhouse gas emissions. Without action, “there is significantly more risk than we previously estimated,” Prinn says. “This increases the urgency for significant policy action.”

    To illustrate the range of probabilities revealed by the 400 simulations, Prinn and the team produced a “roulette wheel” that reflects the latest relative odds of various levels of temperature rise. The wheel provides a very graphic representation of just how serious the potential climate impacts are.
    “There’s no way the world can or should take these risks,” Prinn says. And the odds indicated by this modeling may actually understate the problem, because the model does not fully incorporate other positive feedbacks that can occur, for example, if increased temperatures caused a large-scale melting of permafrost in arctic regions and subsequent release of large quantities of methane, a very potent greenhouse gas. Including that feedback “is just going to make it worse,” Prinn says.
    The lead author of the paper describing the new projections is Andrei Sokolov, research scientist in the Joint Program. Other authors, besides Sokolov and Prinn, include Peter H. Stone, Chris E. Forest, Sergey Paltsev, Adam Schlosser, Stephanie Dutkiewicz, John Reilly, Marcus Sarofim, Chien Wang and Henry D. Jacoby, all of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change, as well as Mort Webster of MIT’s Engineering Systems Division and D. Kicklighter, B. Felzer and J. Melillo of the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole.
    Prinn stresses that the computer models are built to match the known conditions, processes and past history of the relevant human and natural systems, and the researchers are therefore dependent on the accuracy of this current knowledge. Beyond this, “we do the research, and let the results fall where they may,” he says. Since there are so many uncertainties, especially with regard to what human beings will choose to do and how large the climate response will be, “we don’t pretend we can do it accurately. Instead, we do these 400 runs and look at the spread of the odds.”
    Because vehicles last for years, and buildings and powerplants last for decades, it is essential to start making major changes through adoption of significant national and international policies as soon as possible, Prinn says. “The least-cost option to lower the risk is to start now and steadily transform the global energy system over the coming decades to low or zero greenhouse gas-emitting technologies.”

    This work was supported in part by grants from the Office of Science of the U.S. Dept. of Energy, and by the industrial and foundation sponsors of the MIT Joint Program on the Science and Policy of Global Change.

  3. Don Hawkins said on May 19th, 2009 at 6:06pm #

    I am watching the energy and climate change bill on c-span and it is painfully stupid. What was it that Einstein said about keeping it simple?

    Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler

  4. Marjorie Mazel Hecht said on May 20th, 2009 at 7:50am #

    Solar and wind energy, despite the ideological rant presented here, will condemn two-thirds of the world’s population to death, which is exactly why Prince Philip, Prince Bernhard, and the environmentalist movement they created are pushing these backward technologies. To support 6.7 billion people and future generations requires the efficiency and transformative power of advanced nuclear and fusion technologies.

    For the technical details see “The Astounding High Cost of `Free’ Energy,”

    You can also read about the 4th generation nuclear plants, which are small, modular high temperature reactors with direct conversion gas turbines (which are suitable for small power grids and don’t require water for coolant), and reprocessing, which turns 97 percent of the spent nuclear fuel into new fuel. And you can find
    more background on the Malthusians and their population control policies. See

  5. Manuel García, Jr. said on May 21st, 2009 at 10:22am #

    I always feel vindicated when an article is so accurate that it elicits attack. I recall the fulminations of the coal industry’s internet monitors against “Climate and Carbon, Consensus and Contention,” (which DV did a great job in laying out). Marjorie Mazel Hecht’s comments here confirm that I’ve got it right on nuclear versus solar energy. If you prefer Lyndon LaRouche to Isaac Newton and Galileo, and you can dismiss quantum theory and relativity, then you may find Hecht’s cult attractive:

  6. lichen said on May 21st, 2009 at 1:33pm #

    No, solar, tidal, wind, and geothermal energy do not and will not condemn people to death; nuclear will. Nuclear power plants are bombs just waiting to go off.

  7. RL Jenkins said on May 25th, 2009 at 3:29pm #

    Sounds good.

    Explain how people without any level of formal education (at least 1/2 the world if not greater) is going to maintain and operate a solar or wind system. They are systems because they require “stuff” to work.

    A solar panel works great while the sun shines but once you start increasing the complexity of the system with inverters, chargers and batteries the system becomes more difficult to understand and maintain. Are you going to use heavy metal based rechargeable batteries, or are you going to hydrogen generating lead /acid batteries for back-up? Each with their own unique environmental and safety concerns.

    Wind generators require substantial maintenance. The side loading on the bearing require a good lubrication system. The blades needs cleaned and the generator and gearbox needs maintenance. Even on the simplest system without a gearbox (individual home system) maintenance is required.

    The nations that currently use carbon to generate energy will be the nations what with the knowledge to move to solar and wind, but individual ownership becomes difficult without the knowledge to maintain the system. At that point the individual becomes dependent on someone else and the repair and maintenance prices will reflect this need.

    Coming from rural America where a water well and septic system was used to bring “city comfort” to the farm, these systems are not everlasting and do require maintenance. The water well will freeze or lose it’s prime and someone (everyone in the house) needs to know what to do and how to fix it OR YOU DON’T HAVE WATER.

    I doubt if someone living in a tin, mud or stick hut will be able to maintain a solar or wind system. They can use the energy no doubt but they will not be able to fix the problems that will occur in the systems. The idea is great, but I find it difficult to believe it really could be sustained by the people in remote areas.

    Lack of maintenance leads to random failures, which would lead to a high likelihood that one or more systems in a small community would be down on any given day. The loss of a dependable system will with a few years have the community back to its original ways. An example of this can be seen in many homes where low income people, elderly or uneducated cannot pay to fix a heater so they do without – and all that is wrong with the system is the thermocouple has failed that keeps the gas valve open (an 8 dollar item).

    I do believe that indivudual ownership will occur (I am currently planning a rural home for retirement that will include solar
    (passive and collective) and wind; with a natural gas generator backup. As I show people the system their eyes begin to roll and you can see they are lost with the simplest part of system. They understand the solar (not how it works) they understand the wind (not how the mechanical energy is converted) they certainly do not understand the maintenance schedule required on each of the systems.

    Good Luck with your effort.

  8. solar energy said on June 4th, 2009 at 7:11am #

    I think solar energy is going to go mainstream soon. It won’t be long before there is cost parity with conventional fuels. Then it will explode.