Wednesday, September 30, 2009

In a Dark Time the Eye Begins to See: Indian Activists Confront the Nuclear Issue

Update, March 2011: Links relating to the Indian Nuclear Industry and the ongoing crisis in Japan:
  Two simple lessons: What India can learn from Japan's ongoing natural and nuclear disaster.
  Nuclear poison: our toxic's page
  Background: Jude Sessions on the situation in India, here and here
  Background: Kafila on the situation in India
  Stop: CNDP and NAAM demand moratorium on nuclear construction
  Petition: Greenpeace against Jaitapur nuclear plant
  Petition: Avaaz against Jaitapur nuclear plant

As many of you know, the Greenlight Dhaba is open 24/7; still, we generally only post new menus on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. This week we're moving the schedule around because there is just so much happening. Sorry, there won't be a lot of laughs today--but I promise to make up for that next post, which will run either tomorrow or Friday.

Last week's controversy over India's 1998 nuclear test has generated a lot of heat.
Here at the Dhaba, we said that the whole issue was being distorted by a misunderstanding of some fundamental truths regarding nuclear war. At the Guardian, Randeep Ramesh argued that the resumption of our nuclear testing program would lead to diplomatic isolation for India and a dangerous escalation in the arms race. Unfortunately, the mainstream argument was between those calling for a new round of testing, regardless of the consequences, and those saying we could build plenty of great bombs without any new tests, thank you very much! You can see a sampling of the press (including us!) here.

So it's refreshing to see two groups going against the grain on this issue, especially given the fact that Friday is
Mahatma Gandhi's birthday. Please do join join these actions--and by all means spread the word. One is a real event, the other is-line, so anyone in the world can help.

Also, if you know of other things happening around this issue, please post them in the comments section so we can all get to know about them.

October 1 and 2: Delhi
Nuclear Threats to India’s Children and Their Futures
Organized by National Alliance of Anti-Nuclear Movement (NAAM), Indian Youth Climate Network and others.

This is a two day event. Here is Friday's schedule as posted on the IYCN website:
10:30 AM : Wailing and Crying at Gandhi Samadhi about India ’s reckless nuclear policies, programs and projects. National appeal from Rajghat to all the Gram Sabhas across the country to pass a resolution condemning India’s nuclear policies and programs, and demanding the closure of the local nuclear-related projects, both ongoing and upcoming.
11:00 AM : “Delhi Rally” starts at Rajghat
2:00 PM : “Delhi Rally” ends at Jantar Mantar
3:00 PM : Discussion at Teen Murti Auditorium
4:30 PM : Pledge-taking to make India Nuclear-Free

5:00 PM : Theater Y performance on Peace
6:00 PM : Plenary - Youth Vision for Peace
For more information, see the Facebook Event Page here or the IYCN website.
Worldwide: Ongoing
Say No to Uranium Mining in Meghalaya, India!
Activists are worried about a Meghalaya government cabinet decision to allow the Uranium Corporation of India Limited (UCIL) to initiate "pre-project" development programmes in the West Khasi Hills. The government argues that this will create jobs and reduce climate change. Activists argue that there are better forms of power, and that there are few things more toxic than uranium mining (plutonium mining?)

I'm not going to go into the whole nuclear power issue here. Remember, this is a virtual dhaba, not a Five Star News Organization, with reporters who are paid very little to stay up until all hours. Here we pay our reporters nothing to stay up until all hours, and for that, you sometimes have to sacrifice a hyperlink or two!

But let's just say that nuclear power is and always has been a very dirty business. Though many people argue nuclear reactors can help reduce climate change, we must not forget that CO2 is not the only form of pollution on the planet; and the poison that results from nuclear mining and waste lasts for tens of thousands of years. Before we expand our nuclear program--which will n
ever meet all our needs anyway, we need to do much, much more with renewable sources of energy. The sun, after all, is the largest nuclear reactor in the solar system--and it is located a very safe distance from all of our homes.

Here's what you can do to help:
  1. If you do Facebook, join the Say NO to Uranium Mining in Meghalaya, India! group, and repost it to help it go viral.
  2. Sign the online petition against Uranium Mining in Meghalaya.
  3. Get more information at activist Bremley W.B. Lyngdoh's blog post on the issue. There you will find videos and a lot of background information.
That's it for today. Come back soon for a literary discussion of Gandhi's legacy and the limits of "blogging for change." Maybe I'll call it The No Salt Man. And for those of you wishing you could read the poem from which I stole the title of this post, you can read it here: In a Dark Time, by Theodore Roethke.


  1. SB, That is a fascinating read. I liked it's underlying optimism. But I wonder. Who was it that said World War IV will be fought with sticks an stones? I actually don't think WWIII is the only way to get to that state of affairs; societies have collapsed for far less dramatic reasons--the Lorax comes to mind! In any case, when I was 15, I thought it would be either nuclear war or the stars; now I'm not so sure. Thank you for sharing this. It was well worth reading.

  2. I tried to link that on fb but wasn't able to for some reason. My reaction was, it's either incredibly cynical to believe that such revisionism is possible (I can believe this) or very naive to imagine we might actually live long enough as a sepcies to be able to look back to a long-ago nuclear age.

    Ah well. No surprises there for any Foundation reader, huh?

  3. I do think the assumption that we will go through multiple generations of nuclear reactors--which technology is going to fix all our problems-- is optimistic and naive to the point of irresponsibility. I mean, who knows? I'd love it if some guys figured out safe cold fusion: you know, so we could carry around a power plant in the stainless steal thermos bottle strapped to our shoulder bag. But I'm not sure I'd want to bet the future of billions of people on the chance that's going to happen!

  4. As far as radiation goes, a coal power plant of the same output as a nuclear power plant emits a hundred times more radiation. Also from the statistics, nuclear power has caused 50 times fewer fatalities than coal or hydroelectric power.

    With proper sequestration, I think nuclear fuel is a good medium term solution - right until we build mass scale renewable sources. While it's true that there are other dangers for nuclear fuel, I feel that we can't afford fossil fuels any more. While millions of people are killed each year due to air pollution (both indoor and outdoor), deaths caused due to nuclear power are negligible.

    France has set a great example by getting 80% of their energy from nuclear fuel. We need to learn something from that achievement.

  5. To add, here is a great URL for comparisons of nuclear power vs fossil fuel power:

  6. Bhagwad,

    I know a lot of reasonable people think nuclear power is an important part of the solution. I don't want to be dogmatic about it, but I admit I'm skeptical. I remember reading an argument many years ago in response to how expensive nuclear power is. It went something like this: it's only expensive because of all the strict regulations in the west. But then we had Chernobyl--in part because the old USSR did not care to regulate the industry enough, even though it owned it. The point is, some things are mostly safe until they aren't. In other words, if the chance of a leak at a nuclear facility is very low, but the danger, once it happens, is very high, then it is very hard to measure risk. Insurance companies know this; you need a few fires to know how much to charge for fire insurance.

    For me, I am skeptical in part because I see how we dispose of other kinds of toxic waste in Delhi--like CFL bulbs that contain mercury, for one. They just get chucked, right? And people say, oh we'll get good people on the nuclear stuff, like we did with the Metro. But even there, we've go things falling down and cracks forming because of shoddy workmanship. People are dying because of this already. Imagine what happens when we build a nuclear waste facility that develops cracks after a few decades; it's cancer all around, and you know it's going to be poor people who get those facilities in their back yards. I think aggressive solar is a safer solution--and there is a lot more of that out there. Anyway, it's a good discussion to be having, I think.


  7. Also, how do you dispose of nuclear waste? So far, it's been the First World shipping it to Third World countries. Not In My Backyard is a myopic attitude to take, no? (Read Monbiot's article in the Guardian a week or ten days ago.)
    Also, one ought to work on reducing consumption rather than trying to find resources that will keep up with, or even feed the hunger for energy.

  8. SB, I think that's right. Kids always say, "Shoot it to the sun!" But of course then it only takes one rocket crashing to spread the stuff all over the world. NOBODY wants that stuff in their backyard, so it always ends up going to places which are poor, politically weak or too worried about other things. And do you trust the containment facilities? They have to last how many years? I don't think we can justify living high now at the expense of people 100 years from now--or 6 months from now if the cracks in the recent Delhi Metro construction are any indicator!

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What do you think?