Politicians, scientists and activists offer a range of options for reducing greenhouse gases in an effort to mitigate climate change. One popular approach is to expand the use of nuclear power, the so-called “clean” energy source. The argument is that nuclear power plants, when operated correctly and efficiently, release very little carbon into the atmosphere and could replace carbon-emitting coal plants.

While I am not a big fan of coal power plants, I see big problems with supplementing our energy production by building more nuclear power plants. Call me crazy, but I’ll take manageable air pollution over toxic waste we will have with us for MILLIONS of years. And while I applaud the increased interest in reducing greenhouse gases, there has to be a better way to address these concerns than by building more nuclear power plants.

Apparently I am not alone in thinking such things. Dr. Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, in cooperation with the Nuclear Policy Research Institute, has produced a report titled “Carbon-Free and Nuclear Free: A Roadmap for US Energy Policy.”

According to the press release for the report, “The overarching finding of this study is that a zero-CO2 U.S. economy can be achieved within the next thirty to fifty years without the use of nuclear power and without acquiring carbon credits from other countries. In other words, actual physical emissions of CO2 from the energy sector can be eliminated with technologies that are now available or foreseeable. This can be done at reasonable cost while creating a much more secure energy supply than at present. Net U.S. oil imports can be eliminated in about 25 years. All three insecurities – severe climate disruption, oil supply and price insecurity, and nuclear proliferation via commercial nuclear energy – will thereby be addressed. In addition, there will be large ancillary health benefits from the elimination of most regional and local air pollution, such as high ozone and particulate levels in cities, which is due to fossil fuel combustion.”

I admit that I haven’t read the full report, but clearly there are ideas out there that offer the opportunity to achieve the same goals voiced by the pro-nuclear crowd. Perhaps these ideas are worth a second look before we commit ourselves and our grandchildren to lifetimes of nuclear waste.

Earth Day Everyday

April 23, 2007

Like most environmentally-conscious indviduals, I try to do my part to reduce my ecological footprint. That effort can be hit or miss, but as an eternal optimist I believe that the effort and the desire to do more are most important. The “misses” are usually do to a lack of time or just the propensity to be lazy in the midst of a busy schedule, like the days that I drive to the store when I could walk or throw away the messy ziploc bag instead of washing and reusing it. Sometimes the combination of laziness and desire to do good have some interesting results.

For example, right now our faucet in the kitchen drips. It used to only drip if you didn’t get the handle in just the right place, but the other day I realized that it drips regardless of how carefully you turn off the water. Clearly we need to fix the faucet, but it is one of those things that I only think about when I am in the kitchen trying to fix dinner or doing something else that doesn’t allow extra time for fiddling with the kitchen sink faucet. But I feel bad about the dripping and I know that we are wasting a reasonably large amount of water. So one night, I stuck a large cup under the faucet before going to bed. The next morning, the cup was filled to the rim, so I drank the water as I rushed around getting breakfast ready and put another cup under the faucet. This practice continued for a day or two before my husband got the idea to put the water filter container under the faucet and allow it to collect water. I have to say it actually works pretty well and takes care of two problems–keeping the perpetually empty water filter container filled and preventing us from wasting all the water that drips from the faucet.

Of course any process is not without its faults. Doing anything else in the sink while the filter is there is next to impossible. And while the drip is regular, it’s not the fastest filling process.

Maybe we should stop trying to be so creative and celebrate Earth Day by fixing the faucet.

Just a thought.

This week’s tragic events in Blacksburg demonstrate how one person can affect the lives of so many. Cho Seung Hui’s actions not only affected his immediate victims, but also their loved ones, the students and faculty at Virginia Tech and all of us who have watched the news unfold in the media. I often think of the potential impact of one person as a positive force in our society. And it is that positive impact on which I would like to focus, but I can’t help noticing that the negative is more often what grabs our attention.

Thankfully, there are other individuals who are making a difference in this world, for better and not for worse. Bill McKibben is the force behind the Step It Up 2007 campaign, which focused on bringing more attention to the issues of climate change and global warming. The kick off event, a “nationwide do-it-yourself mass protest” included more than 1,400 locally-organized events involving thousands of people all over the country on April 14. McKibben’s writings leading up to and since the event are heartfelt and inspiring. His enthusiasm embodies the kind of energy and commitment we need more of in our country and our world.

I started blogging last year when I took a break from the traditional 40 hour work week and explored the world of freelance consulting. As I continue that endeavor, I will use this blog as a place to share my thoughts on issues like climate change and organizational development, while also creating a center for resources and ideas. Check back weekly for new material and a take on the world through blue green glasses.