“If you don’t take over your country now, the earth is doomed.” So says Helen Caldicott, Nobel prize nominee and long time nuclear crisis educator. She is the world’s most informed (and vocal) person on how radiation effects the human body. Thirty eight years after quitting the private sector, Dr. Caldicott is still traveling the globe trying to get the message out: radiation kills. Slowly for some, quicker for others, but radiation will build up in this planet and never go away (for human practical purposes). It is killing us now and will only concentrate more and more in our children and grandchildren. Radiation gets on the ground, into the water, and into the air, it is sucked into plants, eaten by animals and is concentrated more and more as it makes its way up the food chain – to land in human bellies. Radiation may incubate for years before causing a cancer so it is hard to trace it to a direct cause, but it only takes one one millionth of a gram of plutonium to create cancer.
Because we don’t know how to handle radiation in a safe manner, nuclear power and weapons must stop being created and the issue of waste must be focused on.
Helen says that if she could get a half an hour with Obama, she thinks she could convince him to turn away from nuclear power and perhaps begin disarmament. She wants the face time, but says that she alone can’t do it, she needs the American people to wake up and pressure the powers that be. Basically her message was the same that Obama had for the country before he took office – we cannot wait for a Savior if we want to change the way things are.
There is a lot of emphasis on voting this year, many Americans follow the elections and vote their opinions on election day, the thing is that that isn’t really cutting it. We have a plethora of issues around voting – election funding, representatives in revolving doors, corporate influence, black box voting issues, and a general lack of confidence that democracy is working. You can no longer count yourself as a participant in democracy if your only participation is voting. If you don’t even vote, please do us all a favor and move to a country that is no democratic. This country is supposed to be for the people, by the people – the people should lead the way – not blindly follow leaders (that due to campaigning cannot be informed on the issues at hand).
Our leaders are not keeping our country or planet safe to live in. When Helen speaks, she is a font of information about nuclear by products and their effects on the human body. She has amazing stories about chatting with presidents, heads of state, and near world destruction. She has love and compassion for all while delivering a story about radiation that can beat any Hollywood produced horror imaginable. Even when taking notes, it is impossible to record all of the extremely important factual science she can drop in one evening. I’ll share some of the hard hitting points she made Wednesday while addressing a crowd in Asheville, NC.
Women have been key in the fight against nuclear power. Women traditionally have the role closest to children and they are most often charged with bringing up a healthy family. With nuclear power comes radiation and no one on this planet has a plan for what to do with the radioactive waste that we create, so we are creating piles and pits full of cancer causing material that no one knows how to keep away from humans – even in the even of, let’s say, an earthquake. Women don’t give up on protecting their children – ever. The biggest motivator for stopping nuclear power is the desire to have a healthy future for all of humankind, all of the kids. Even money won’t protect kids from radiation sickness.
The Japanese government (run by Tepco – the power company) has committed a crime against humanity due to their shame or fear of creating a “panic” around Fukushima. If there was ever a cause for panic, Fukushima was – and is – it. As the people evacuated the areas around Fukushima, the fled right into the path of where the radiation was blowing and the Japanese government let them. Women, children, and the unborn (the most vulnerable) all walked into a toxic “safehaven” and their government let them. They also have withheld information on the general direction and danger of the radiation that continues to spill into the environment, ocean, and air.
Speaking of Fukushima, Helen described Reactor 4 which is in danger of collapsing. If it does collapse, the fuel rods would be exposed to the open air and ground and it means a “gusher” of radiation levels like the world has never seen. The Japanese government has said publicly that if this happens, they will evacuate Tokyo! (That’s 30 million+ people!) She is so concerned about this happening that she says if it does collapse, she is flying to Boston to collect her family and taking all of them to Australia for good. The wind currents would make Boston radioactively toxic, but not Australia. In Seattle, the ambient levels of radiation went up 40X after the onset of the Fukushima disaster.
She described the nuclear bribery that happens with every community that eventually embraces nuclear power. Those communities are always desperate for jobs and resources and the nuclear industry is always happy to solve their mundane domestic problems for a license to expand the market. They may provide short term (or even long term) jobs, but the families who work and live around them pay with their lives. Those of us a little further away may not get as sick as quickly, but there is no shortage of cancer in any community I’ve lived in.
It is impossible to trace all causes of all cancers. She used the example of Hershey chocolates being made less than ten miles away from Three Mile Island, the site of the worst U.S. nuclear accident in history, a partial nuclear meltdown. She mentions the cows that graze on the grass and how nature just carries the radioactive particles from air, to plant, to animal, to waste, to ground/water, to plant, to animal…
When you compound leakage here with accident fallout there, with some x-rays at the airport, and x-rays for the dentist, compound it all by eating some fish or seaweed from radioactive waters near Japan, eating irradiated food, or food grown in areas known to have high radiation levels, you get sick people. The exposures to children and the unborn are worse than the same levels to adults, add to that the prolonged time our children are exposed to a greater amount of radiation.
We are not being stewards of this earth or showing the least bit of interest in the well being of our children or grandchildren if we do not act now to stop nuclear power.
Fortunately there are actions to take. For starters, we could all use an education that is not beholden to a corporation, a government or a political party. Helen is a pediatrician, her concerns for the earth’s future spring from her love of children and talent for caring for their health. Learn from Nuclearfreeplanet.org, download (for free) a plan for a new future at ieer.org, try to get Helen Caldicott’s film (banned in the USA by the DoJ ), If You Love This Planet shown, listen to her radio show of the same name. Call you senators, your representatives, support your local nukefree organizations with your time, money or skills. You want to be able to tell the kids in the future that you were a part of the resistance.
Maybe we should start a campaign to get Helen to get her 30 minutes with Obama? And maybe another 30 to listen to some of the rest of us. I hope he brings the whole fam.
There’s much more to be said on this topic, much more to learn but one thing is clear – you can’t fill up a finite space with an infinite amount of poison and expect to live. No amount of promises of power can change that fact. For tradition, for legacy, for family, for the planet, for our neighbors around the world – let’s wake from our slumber and let it be know that we don’t want this kind of power anymore.
Thanks to Asheville Greendrinks for hosting Dr. Caldicott.