Helen Caldicott, the world’s most reknown nuclear expert when it come to its effects on humans, pointed out that one in twenty five people are sociopaths. She asked the question of who? Who is the sort of person that looks at all of the dangers of nuclear energy and radioactivity and thinks it is worth the price of filling this planet up with cancer causing toxins? There were several points that I wasn’t able to get to after writing about Dr. Caldicott’s talk last week.
Helen described the scene in Los Alamos (Los Alamos, NM is where our national lab on all things nuclear is located). Many times folks who are really whizzes at their studies – like nuclear physicist – are exceptional students because they are able to hyper focus on the questions at hand in the lab. In the elite field of those studying nuclear energy and weapons (as in any hi tech, socially isolating, academic field) there is often a neurotic drive to get to the answers in the lab that precedes the social development ( we’ve all seen the super brainy student that is aces in the lab and not so smooth with the social interactions). Those developers in Los Alamos have been isolated, coddled by government budgets, pushed to prove their worth (produce something), and kept in the insular environs of the lab community. Pretty much everyone in Los Alamos is connected to the lab and “on board” with the program. It’s hard to believe that a culture of independent, unbridled curiosity, and community spirit surrounds the classified lab. One of the reasons they used Los Alamos to begin with was due to its distance from the population.
Workers in this clandestine environment (and similar labs around the world) are the ones that continue to innovate and problem solve for nuclear power. Even if the intention is to make nuclear energy “safe”, not another dime should be spent on its development and proliferation without solving the issue of radioactive waste.
Since I wrote about Helen’s talk last week, I’ve read a bit more on some of her detractors. The chief complaint I hear against Helen is that she does not connect the dots from “clean energy” to people; she presumes that all nuclear power facilities are bombs waiting to happen. That is she assumes that each plant that is trying their darndest to be clean and safe will poison those in their communities and around the world. Not being a nuclear scientist, I can’t comment on that, but I do know that accidents happen, earthquakes happen, tsunamis happen, terrorism with jets happens, human error happens, equipment failure happens, poor design happens, and lack of communication is epidemic. It’s the Titanic syndrome – does anyone really think that anything humans design and build can outlast nature? Are you willing to bet the whole boatload of the population of the planet on it?
Sociopaths don’t empathize (they’re definitely not progressive thinkers, empathy’s the calling card) which doesn’t necessarily make them conservative or any other philosophy, usually they are totally self serving. That does mean, however, that a sociopath is easier to spot in a progressive crowd than a conservative one because in a crowd of empathizers, the odd person eventually stands out. Conservatives have several value systems that give cover to sociopathic tendencies – chiefly the idea that helping oneself is the most moral thing one can do for the world and that the more resources one can hoard for itself, the more moral that person is. Check out this list of sociopathic characteristics. Sociopaths don’t care about how the consequences of their actions impact others, neither do nuclear proliferation advocates. One psychotherapist cited one and only one criteria to tell if someone is a sociopath – do they ever feel guilt or regret for their actions? If they honestly do, they are not sociopathic.
Both Helen and I are speculating about the mental state of those that support nuclear proliferation, but it is worth looking into. We can’t know the cure until we know the cause – if sociopaths are crafting this Pandora’s box, we need to find them, get them out of power and into some sort of place devoid of sharp objects (or reactors).
What we have is fallible humans and fallible equipment trying to manage an infallible technology – that’s a paraphrase from Helen. She pointed out how socialism is such a dirty word in America, yet wondered at how we’ve socialized nuclear power, socialized nuclear weapons, and socialized killing with no problems – it’s All American. Meanwhile, the real world costs of the fallout are felt around the globe.
There is more to post about this issue, it is huge. As world powers become increasingly concerned about the continued crisis at Fukushima, specifically Reactors 4 and 3 and their neighboring spent fuel pools, and how fallout will effect all of us, hopefully the concerns of the world will outweigh the money and power grabs of those potential sociopaths that have been running the show. Stayed tuned and speak up in your neck of the woods.