Energy and Our Future with Earth
Copyright © 2011 Suzanne Maxx
There is a Groundhog Day effect in our revolving world with the cyclical repetition of the choices we make regarding energy. In Japan, the earth quaked at magnitude 9.0, and a tsunami followed. Last spring, the catastrophic Deep Water Horizon Oil Spill captured our attention, and we lived through a season of discovering contamination of our precious natural resources. This year, again, we are confronted with escalating contamination with a partial melt down of nuclear reactors, and radioactive rods stored in fuel pools at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant . We see another potential global catastrophe. We have another season to live through with the unknown consequences of the reality of harm to both people and environment. This time, it is from radiation in our air and, water, and spread throughout our earth's ecosystems. We witness catastrophic events and human's attempts to engineer for the unpredictable. Have we lost touch with our proper relationship to the earth? Our feeble attempts to anticipate nature reveal our outmoded choices with regard to the generation of energy.
Why is it so hard for us humans to consider the earth as an entity that can unleash untold energy in a moment? Perhaps we might consider that “energy” goes beyond our human need of oil; nuclear, coal, and natural gas? Let's review the timing of recent years worst disasters related to our non-renewable energy choices; on March 11th Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant , March 24th Exxon/ Valdez Oil Spill , March 28th Three Mile Island , April 5th Upper Big Branch Coal Mine , April 20th the Deep Horizon Oil Spill , and April 26th Chernobyl . These events leave us with unknown and immeasurable damage to our resources. They all began in the spring season, but we don't know when they will end.
Could our relationship to energy be related to a life out of balance with nature and the earth's internal dynamics, as summed-up in the Native American term Koyaanisqatsi?
Is the earth suggesting to us to follow the lead, and not continue on an addictive path that doesn't win for the earth or for humanity? Certainly these events make us pause and hopefully reflect. Natural law, observed, may help us by the truth demonstrated. If so, how does that translate into governance and policy?
At the United Nation's Earth Summit/Global Forum in 1992, I was there for World Team with hope for an international environmental policy that would have results towards global transformation. After the Climate Change Convention , the Kyoto Protocol , and many other unenforceable declarations like the Copenhagen Accord , we are trying with the Cancun Agreements ; but it has been a challenge. We still have the possibility to agree on enforceable binding international environmental policy before the Kyoto Protocol expires, hopefully by Rio+20 in 2012.
It is surprising how long it takes for us to realize the obvious, and to consider that perhaps the earth itself is trying to communicate with us who live here. Can we respond by making responsible choices that respect the earth and the future of humanity? Why does this conversation seem impossible for so many? Do the energy choices we make help humanity to live in better balance with our resources? Does that question live beyond economic or social status, culture, religion, or country? Do our choices regarding energy exploitation really look at the bigger picture, at the future for the earth and for all humanity?
Nuclear energy is now considered “clean energy” from the US government's point of view for policy. Austria has abandoned all nuclear energy, and Germany, in light of the Fukushima disaster, may phase it out entirely. How nuclear energy is categorized affects our energy future and we do have to make some conscious choices now both nationally and internationally. While some countries have adopted energy policy, the USA has a gridlocked Congress that seems to be stuck in the reverse position of review, while the rest of the world moves fast forward. We, the people, of the USA and the world deserve energy policy – and with no more delay. We can no longer afford to trust companies like BP and TEPCO and individual governments to direct the emergency response to disasters which affect all of us and the whole world's water, air, food and fragile eco-systems.
There appears to be a great need for a global team that responds to major environmental crises with rapid response and proper scale that is committed to the wellbeing of people, the stewardship of the earth and protection of our collective natural resources.
Another issue to look into is creating objective regulatory bodies for industry sectors that have strong checks and balances and genuinely serve the public first. The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), for example, currently monopolizes all authority with its five representatives that act for both a state and federal level over nuclear power plant safety. In the USA, for example, it is concerning that a state government cannot reject a nuclear facility within its borders on grounds of safety and only the NRC has that power . It is time for us to think about the future with strong global policy, that integrates local options with flexible ways of execution.
Why are we spending time in the US Congress to strip the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of all its resources and power? Why are there various plans to reverse EPA's ruling based on the scientific finding of harmful to human effects of greenhouse gases, and efforts to permanently block EPA from addressing climate pollution, gut the Clean Air Act from the ability to regulate pollution, take away new subsidies and incentives for all the renewable energy, including solar, wind, geothermal, and add natural gas to the category of “clean energy.” Why secure 36 billion in new tax payer financed loan guarantees to help with the cost for nuclear power plants to be built after a moratorium in the USA for new construction? Permits of old nuclear power plants have been extended, for example; San Onofre and Indian Point – both with numerous safety citations for non-compliance. These plants, along with others, are at the end of their recommended years of functionality and are built along fault lines, within close proximities to two of our most populated urban areas in NY and CA and furthermore adjoining to major bodies of water – the Hudson River and the Pacific Ocean.
We have no national repository for nuclear waste; the radioactive rods have no place to go except into storage onsite of the antiquated nuclear power plants. Where is the wisdom here in the USA by storing and containing the contaminated rods with radioactive ingredients that are used to build nuclear bombs – from both a health and security perspective? If we look to the Earth, it seems to have a response to these actions and this inquiry. We do have a choice to continue on this path with “energy”. What I love about the USA is our virtues of freedom, diversity and choice. Let's set an example of those virtues and choose what works best for all.
The radiation level is “not harmful to human health” is what is often being communicated from government regulatory agencies. Since when is human health not affected by the food we eat, and the soil we grow things in, the air we breathe and the water we drink? This situation affects a more complex biodiversity-interconnected, fragile eco system that has been patient to a degree with our arrogance and ignorance. To think what matters is just human health – doesn't that statement only, even if it were true – imply guilt? Is it a litmus test on where our collective consciousness is now about the rest of the species and life on our planet? These events prompt us to reflect on the old, do some spring cleaning on our relationship to the Earth, and consider incentivizing renewable energy. We can allow solar, wind, geothermal and tidal energy (the real renewable energies) to have an equal chance. We could spur a new global economic paradigm that marries the financial world with consciousness for example with; carbon offsets or a cap and trade system.
Humans' relationship to the earth has shaped the collective consciousness since our beginnings. The earth and its seasons and epochs have been home to us with many cycles of birth and destruction, and will most likely continue regardless of despite humankinds erroneous choices.
On earth, we celebrate this change of seasons with different rituals. Regardless of the name in most all cultures and religions, these rituals give significance for the old dying out and the new beginning. During this season of reflection and change, we are called to recognize a new possibility. We are presented with the opportunity to make different choices. We recognize the earth's rituals and see the beauty of the emerging flowers, and new growth. Hopefully the timing of the more recent environmental disasters will cause contemplation and then motivate action. This spring, with the season of Lent to Easter – which parallels many cultural celebrations; such as Passover, The Vernal Equinox, Nowruz, and Earth Day – is the time to reflect and consider the displaced people of Japan as one of us all. Will humanity rise and awaken to the reality of the situation we are in with our only home, for now: Earth?
Suzanne Maxx is a writer/producer and entrepreneur. She is the founder and president of the social and environmental non-profit, World Team Now , the CEO of World Team- Building, LLC, and the leader of the emergent World Team multi-media project. She has produced many global “outside of the box” projects since her first multi-media production, which was part of the Asia Pacific Expo, in Japan 1989. Suzanne's global policy journey began in 1992 when she worked for USA Presidential Candidate Jerry Brown. From there, she was involved with the United Nation's Earth Summit/Global Forum in Rio and has continued to participate in the UN conferences around the world. For Environment News Service & World-Wire Suzanne covered COP15 and the E-Race. Suzanne, as the Executive Director of World Team Now leads both global initiatives and local campaigns for the environment; recently on the nuclear incident in Japan, and in Malibu, California on electric vehicle chargers. A review paper, Vehicle Electrification: Status and Issues will be published in June for the IEEE. The World Team development journey has included collaborations and support from academic organizations such as Columbia University's Computational Learning Systems, CCLS; Pepperdine University's Graduate School of Public Policy, and the International University of Monaco's Business School. Her Bachelor of Arts degree from Sarah Lawrence College gave her the framework to acquire knowledge and inspired her global travels that wove an adventure for an experiential education.
World Team Now is a 501c3 non-profit organization registered in both New York and California