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Saturday, February 08, 2003

"Sustainable Consumption" -- The UN Keeps Joking as the World Withers

The following article documents all-too-well the problems facing the wide adoption of environmental education programs -- especially where they are most needed: the nations on the "winning" side of the game of Empire. As my "Towards Ecopedagogy" paper also shows, the UN (a global federation that has been the source of utopian dreams for populist democrats) is being hopelessly co-opted by the forces of neoliberal business. In order for programs like UNEP (the environmental programme) to run, they require the donation of finances from the developed transnationals -- but this money is increasingly coming with more and more strings attached.

Hence, Nelson Mandela -- free of the UN bureaucratic edifice that is haunted by capital agendas -- is free to voice globally that this war being led by Bush and Blair is unquestionably wrong and that the propaganda that it is about anything other than oil is an outright lie...let us remember that Mandela is one of the world's leading statesmen, privy to information that citizens, or even specialized academics like myself, can only imagine. Yet, for Mandela's boldness, his UN counterpart -- Kofi Annan -- noble peace prize laureate, and defender of international law, has only been able to keep a low profile, work behind the scenes to avert war (as he also works to prepare for its inevitability by securing funds and commitments for refugees in surrounding nations), and promote UN processes wherever possible.

Mr. Annan, if asked, and if brave enough to admit his position, as head of a federation without funds or arms in a world dominated by the same, would explain that the present historical conditions for the UN as a defender of global populism are not ripe and his own situation leaves him caught in the ugly contradictions of the progressive diplomat -- speaking nice and coaxingly to power, even as power undermines and destroys UN ethical mandates and reasons-to-be. It is small wonder that anyone who is aware of the issues that the UN has taken upon itself to announce and defend internationally can increasingly see in such global institutional frameworks (and their mouthpieces, like Mr. Annan) only the string-work of a puppet act that performs how transnational military and capital powers invest their interests disproportionately within forums for international policy.

Of course, it is not simply a "cover" -- there is contest to what is going on within the UN (and around it) and I think we can take it as a sign of such contestation to imperial wants that hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children are not either dead, dying, or running for their lives in Iraq right now. The UN is not blatantly one-sided -- it neither stands for the people and peace, nor for the interests of the rich and powerful...it is a hybrid territory, shifting and making contradictory pronouncements -- a complex institution wrought by the complex forces at work in the globalization of technocapital.

Thus, we can criticize the obvious co-optation of UN bodies like UNEP -- which also serve to investigate and document the devastation of war upon regions and the use of highly dangerous (and secret) weapons like DU munitions upon civilian populations (as in Iraq, the Balkans, and Afghanistan) -- without denying that their are positive aspects to their work as well. We can recognize that such institutions are staffed by people, many people, each working within differing constraints and for differing purposes -- some of which may be utopian, democratic, egalitarian, and critical of status-quo agendas in the best possible sense. Yet, we can also look the corruptions of Power in the eye and speak truth to it and name it for what it is. It is in this sense that we can laugh loudly at the joke that is the UN's present move away from promoting the sort of educational strategies that might serve to break radically with the transnational lifestyle modes of empire-building (e.g. the ethics of the Earth Charter?) in favor of a highly dubious behavioral science functionalism...the self-proclaimed "win, win, win" strategy that complicitly links "sustainability" to the known anti-ecology of over-production and consumption societal practices.
The United Nations is turning to social science in its quest to steer the world towards greener lifestyles.

The UN Environment Programme (Unep) is working with psychologists and behavioural scientists to understand what makes consumers tick.

It thinks there is little benefit in making people feel guilty about the way they live. It wants instead to make sustainable living something consumers will increasingly desire.

Unep officials disclosed their new approach to delegates to the organisation's governing council, meeting here from 3 to 7 February.

They define sustainable consumption as "enjoying a good quality of life while consuming fewer natural resources and polluting less".

But they say studies show only 5% of people in developed countries have chosen to live sustainably.

Prevention better than cure

Dr Klaus Toepfer, Unep's executive director, said: "Messages from governments exhorting people to drive their cars less or admonishing them for buying products that cause environmental damage appear not to be working.

"People are simply not listening. Making people feel guilty about their lifestyles and purchasing habits is achieving only limited success.

"So we need to look again at how we enlist the public to reduce pollution and live in ways that cause minimal environmental damage."

Jacqueline Aloisi de Larderel is director of Unep's division of technology, industry and economics (Unep/DTIE).

She told BBC News Online: "We've said for some time in Unep that we should try to prevent trouble, not just remedy it. That's what this is about - it's economically, socially and environmentally viable, so it's win-win-win."

Buy one, get one free

In November 2002, Unep and the Japanese Government hosted a workshop on sustainable consumption in the Austrian capital, Vienna, organised by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA).

It was attended by social scientists from Japan, Europe and the US, and Unep is planning two more in March 2003, in Paris and Tokyo.

Bas de Leeuw of Unep/DTIE told BBC News Online: "We've asked the people coming to Paris for specific advice.

Consumers want real choice

"Traditionally we've looked at the impact on the environment of different economic sectors, and tried to work from there to sustainability.

"Now we want to change to what we're calling a function-based approach, looking at human needs - for food, shelter and mobility, for example - then seeing how to meet those needs more sustainably.

"We hope the behavioural scientists will help us there. There are bound to be winners and losers from this.

"The losers will be those who won't work with the idea of sustainable consumption. The winners will be those who identify core needs and rethink what they do. They'll realise it's another way of making money."

Examples Unep gives of positive ways to influence consumers include a car manufacturer which in the UK provides a mountain bike with every car it sells, urging buyers to use the bike for short journeys.

And European detergent makers tell consumers to switch to low-temperature washing liquids and powders, not just to save energy but because it is good for their clothes.

In a similar UK initiative, the Centre for Environmental Strategy at the University of Surrey is undertaking "a critical review of different theoretical conceptions of consumer behaviour".

By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent in Nairobi


Posted by Richard
2/08/2003 08:46:15 AM | PermaLink

 
Friday, February 07, 2003

Updates to My Paper on Developments Within the Field of Environmental Education

Towards Ecopedagogy: Radicalizing Environmental Education for the Task Ahead by Richard Kahn
I. The Edge of the Abyss: The Dance of Global Capital, Human Oppression, and Ecological Catastrophe
As we begin the 21st century on Earth, the inhabitants of the planet stand positioned within a great wave of social crisis and structural transformation. The most-powerful countries, under the leadership of a U.S. push for world hegemony, have used the last few decades to penetrate and establish the neo-liberal marketplace of socio-political controls throughout the former Soviet-bloc of nations, Latin America, and the ever-colonized Africa. In so doing, unprecedented disparities in wealth and power have been created throughout the world. [1]   While the neo-liberal capitalists have benefited greatly from the boom-time policies of such organizations as the World Trade Organization, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund, their claim that the culture of freedom, democracy (and loans) also has enriched the lives of people in the less developed nations amounts to little more than propaganda for a global version of class warfare. In fact, the strategic use of finance to create cultural fall-out through the displacement of resources has harmed many more people than the G8 could ever have helped. What makes this capital disparity a truly criminal act, beyond its moral failings, is that it has been the direct or indirect catalyst for an untold number of wars amidst programmatically de-stabilized regions, a litany of global health and environmental catastrophes, as well as a causal agent for mass-induced starvation and its correlate of incomprehensible poverty. [2]

In his book, The Enemy of Nature, the ecosocialist and activist Joel Kovel begins by documenting the terrible legacy of natural resource degradation (and its consequence for humanity) that spans the thirty-odd years that have now elapsed since the first Earth Day and the release of the Club of Rome's benchmark economic treatise The Limits to Growth (1969). Echoing the findings of eminent environmental and ecological groups and personages such as The Union of Concerned Scientists, Edward O. Wilson, and Peter Raven, the picture that emerges from Kovel's work is that of an institutionalized, transnational, phase-changing neo-liberalism that is loosed as a cancer upon the Earth, a form of "endless growth" political economy that is literally over-producing and consuming the planet to death in the attempt to stave off its own demise. [3] .........

Posted by Richard
2/07/2003 08:25:53 AM | PermaLink

 
Thursday, February 06, 2003

One More Reason Not To Renew Bush

I've posted about Bush's bluster in the recent State of the Union address in which he tried -- sadly -- to pass himself off as an environmentally friendly corporate bureaucrat (sort of like an Al Gore in a Texan oilman's clothing). At that time, I questioned his motives about promoting "renewable" energy, like the hydrogen-based car, by pointing out that such a car would still likely be reliant upon natural gas or petrol as the fundamental source powering the conversion to hydrogen.

Now, as environmentalists have had an opportunity to browse the fine print of Bush's future-busting federal budget (this was the candidate that ran on a "no more big government platform"?), the three-card monty of Bush's commitment to renewables and hydrogen is revealed.

Hydrogen cars, it is stated, are not expected to be a real possibility until the year 2020 -- and it is not until 2015 that the concept is to be evaluated as commercially viable (in the way that Kyoto apparently has recently been deemed "not viable" even though the US signed a commitment to the treaty years ago). So, this is a smoke and mirrors game -- there is no product and no necessity to insure and mandate such a product, there is only the investment in industry research and technology economy.

Further, underlining the laugh that this president and his administration represent anything but neoliberal industry apologists, is the fact that the Bush budget plans to finance the investment in renewable energy by sizing up and exploiting one of the more environmentally-treasured reserves of NON-RENEWABLE ENERGY -- the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge! Despite being told by Congress and the American people a few times now that the ANWR is off-limits to oil and gas drilling with a resoundingly democratic mass "No!", the budget for the Dept. of the Interior includes language that "assumes that the first oil and gas lease sale in the coastal plain of the ANWR would be held in 2005...producing $2.4 billion in receipts," to be split 50/50 between the feds and the state of Alaska. The Federal government's portion would then be "used to fund increased renewable energy technology research and development over seven years."

Now, despite the fact that this proposal flies directly in the face of the Statehood pact -- which dictates that Alaska is to receive a 90/10 revenue split on all extraction from the state's federal land -- and despite the fact that drilling in the ANWR will destroy one of the last and best remaining habitats for traditional cutlures and a variety of important polar animal and plant diversity, the notion that Bush and co. would fund renewable energy by exploiting non-renewable energy underlines the logic and reality of this administration's commitment to everything that lacks an Inc. at the end of its name or title.

Posted by Richard
2/06/2003 11:21:26 AM | PermaLink

 
Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Columbia Nose Cone

Aside from nuclear watch groups on the Internet, I haven't seen any serious discussion -- hell, I haven't even seen it raised by the mainstream media! -- as to the make-up of the downed shuttle's nose cone...which survived apparently almost wholly intact and buried in a massive pit in Louisiana forestland. There was some discussion about whether or not the shuttle debris -- which authorities quickly issued warnings about toxic contamination (though linked to rocketfuel and not onboard plutonium or other radioactive materials) -- but the case has been laid out well on the Internet that the nose cone would be expected to be made out of depleted uranium or a tungsten alloy (as is the case with missles, etc.) for added ballast.

Now the nose cone has been found and the shape that it is in (unexploded) and the depth of its crater (DU is used as an anti-tank and bunker busting missle b/c of its ability to penetrate), is all importantly in line with claims about a DU fortified nose cone. The surrounding area has been quarantined.

It is true that the area in which it has fallen is relatively unpopulated. Still, however, considering the importance of whether or not NASA, with the okay of the US government, is sending up radioactive materials over our (or anyone else's) land, to potentially explode and rain down as radioactive clouds and DU missles into ecosystems and cultural populations, it strikes me as illegitimate that the media has instead focused on the spectacle of "A Nation Mourns" -- as if this somehow has to do with the attack on the WTC and Pentagon.

Who will step up, do the investigative research, and ask the tough questions until they get a real answer? Bloggers can act as gadflies to journalistic truth in such instances, but here is a clear case where the profession has a right to distinguish itself -- now, will it?

Posted by Richard
2/05/2003 11:46:38 AM | PermaLink

Save the Rainforest, Become Vegan

Over the last 25 years, the Brazilian Amazon lost an area of forest about the size of Germany. About 80% of that ended up as pasture or abandoned pasture.

Most deforestation took place on the Amazon's southern and eastern edges in Para, Matto Grosso, and Rondonia. In a fascinating study published in the latest issue of Agricultural Economics, Benoit Mertens from CIFOR and four colleagues from CIRAD and EMBRAPA use satellite images and economic data to analyze one of Para's main deforestation hotspots, the municipality of Sao Felix de Xingu.

Back in 1980, Sao Felix de Xingu had only 22,000 head of cattle. Today it has almost one million. Each new animal has meant about one less hectare of forest.

Large cattle ranches, or fazendas, cleared about 35% of the forest lost between 1986 and 1999. New roads connected south Para with northeast and southeast Brazil, giving south Para's meat and dairy producers access to major urban markets. To supply those markets investors built large refrigerated meatpacking plants, which have bought increasing numbers of cattle from the fazendas. The only thing that has kept the large ranches from growing even faster is that two years ago the government prohibited people from shipping beef products from Para to the southeast because of foot and mouth disease.

During the same period, small-scale ranchers in government colonization projects accounted for 42% of forest loss. These ranchers originally sold their cattle to municipal slaughterhouses that catered to nearby towns. However, the government closed many of those slaughterhouses for failing to comply with health regulations. Now the small ranchers mostly sell calves to the fazendas, who fatten them for sale to the big factories. The smaller ranchers also sell milk to modern dairy plants attracted to the area by public investment in electricity, roads, and credit.

The remaining 23% of pasture expansion came from medium-sized ranches and small ranchers outside colonization projects.

Conservation areas and indigenous reserves suffered less deforestation than other forests, although there was a lot of logging there. Steep slopes and wide rivers also helped protect certain forests.

The authors' analysis makes it clear though that protected areas were by no means the only policy that influenced what happened to the forest. Transportation investments, agricultural credit, land reform, energy projects, and health and sanitary regulations were just as important.

To request a free electronic copy of this paper, titled "Crossing Spatial Analyses and Livestock Economics to Understand Deforestation Processes in the Brazilian Amazon: the Case of Sao Felix do Xingu in South Para", in pdf format you can write Benoit Mertens at mertens@cirad.fr

To send comments or queries to the authors you can also write Benoit Mertens at the same address.

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) established the (CIFOR-POLEX) electronic listserver in July 1997 as a free information service to the global forest community. Previous CIFOR POLEX messages can be found at the CIFOR website: http://www.cifor.cgiar.org/"

If you would like to receive CIFOR-POLEX in English, Spanish, French, Bahasa Indonesia, or Nihon-go (Japanese), send a message to Ambar Liano ata.liano@cgiar.org

Posted by Richard
2/05/2003 11:34:01 AM | PermaLink

 
Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Bush Slips ANWR Oil Drilling Into New Budget

What is this -- like the 4th or 5th time we've been down this road in the last two years? Read our lips Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney -- "No. No. No. No. And No." And if you ask again after Iraq the answer is "No." And if you ask after North Korea the answer is "No." And Iran -- "No." And Libya -- "No." And Colombia -- "No." And Venezuela -- "No." These guys are like horney frat boys who think if they keep trying to cop a feel long enough that they're likely to gut lucky. Meanwhile, it feels and looks like rape to me...

President George W. Bush's proposed budget, released Monday, calls for Congress to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling and begin leasing tracts in the refuge to oil companies in 2005.
http://www.enn.com/news/2003-02-03/s_2494.asp


Posted by Richard
2/04/2003 06:30:32 AM | PermaLink

 
Monday, February 03, 2003

The Water Barons: A Handful of Corporations Seek to Privatize the World's Water

The privatization of public water systems around the world, driven by a handful of European corporations and the World Bank, is dramatically increasing despite sometimes tragic results, according to a new study by the Center for Public Integrity. The report, by the Center's International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, shows that the world's three largest private water utility companies have since 1990 expanded into nearly every region of the world, raising concerns that a few private companies could soon control a large chunk of the world's most vital resource.

The report can be read at http://www.public-i.org

To read more about the study, visit: http://www.icij.org/dtaweb/water/

Posted by Richard
2/03/2003 12:06:33 PM | PermaLink

Exxon and Sakhalin Energy Reported to Seek Development in Last Russian Grey Whale Sanctuary

I received this mail from Lidia yesterday, who is seeking to get the word out towards assisting grey whales in Russia against oil development there. Please read, assist, and/or contact Lidia below for more information:
Hello, I am a russian vegan who lives in San Francisco. I got an e-mail alert from russian animal rights group about the whale nursery in Okhotskoye See near Island Sakhalin.

Here is the situation:

Oil companies Exxon and Sakhalin Energy under the projects "Sakhalin 1" and "Sakhalin 2" are planning to develop oil in the last refuge of grey whales near Sakhalin Island in Okhotskoye See. Since 1999, when seismo surveys started, the population of less then a 100 animals has to struggle in the extreme conditions of constant noise and moving mashinary. They have to leave for their winter migration unusually thin. The number of skinny whales is growing. They can not survive in the cold waters without protection of skin fat.

Our russian fellow animal rights activists are asking everyone to help them to convince the Russian government to change the projects which havn't been approved yet.

They ask to prohibit the construction of piers, pipelines and new riggs in the location of the whales nursery. They beleive that with the help of the public they can save the animals. Russian government is getting more democratic and they do listen to the opinions. Please send letters (in russia they are still more effective) faxes and e-mails.

President Putin
103132, Moscow
Staraya Plashad', 4
Russia
fax: 0117-095-205-4330
president@kremlin.ru

Prime Minister Kas'yanov
103274, Moscow, Ul. Rochdel'skaya, 2
Russia
fax: 0117-095-205-6770

Minister of Natural Resources
Artukhov Vitaliy Grigor'evich
123812, Moscow, Ul. Bolshaya Gruzinskaya, 4/6
fax: 0117-095-254-4310, 0117-095-254-6610

Governor of Sakhalin Region
Farhutdinov Igor Pavlovich
6933000, Uzhno Sakhalinsk
Kommunisticheski Prospect, 39
fax: 0117-4242-72-18-01

if you have questions please don't hesitate to contact me.

Thank you very much,
Lidia Belknap


Posted by Richard
2/03/2003 09:38:35 AM | PermaLink

Making Nuclear Bombs 'Usable'

Washington -- The Pentagon has launched a fast-track program to develop computers that would help decide when nuclear weapons might be used to destroy deep underground bunkers harboring weapons of mass destruction or other critical targets, documents show.

The program, described in unpublished Pentagon documents obtained by The Times, seeks to design an array of high-speed computers that could take in structural and other data on a prospective underground target, calculate the amount of force needed to destroy it, then determine whether a nuclear "bunker buster" would be required.

In addition, the system -- supplemented by teams of experts -- would assess the potential for killing nearby civilians and inflicting other collateral damage, including the spread of radioactive dust thrown into the air by the nuclear device and the dispersal of toxic chemicals from weapons in the bunker.

The $1.26-billion program is the latest step in a little-publicized campaign by some senior administration officials, members of Congress and their supporters in the defense community to press for a new generation of smaller nuclear weapons as an alternative to the huge but obsolescent strategic missiles of the Cold War.

Both the White House and the Defense Department declined to comment.

"From the start of the Bush administration, we have seen increasing interest in 'usable' nuclear weapons," said Christine Kucia, an analyst at the Arms Control Assn., a research organization that studies nonproliferation and other issues.

Defense analyst William M. Arkin, writing in The Times' Jan. 26 Opinion section, reported a decision to examine possible roles for nuclear weapons in any war with Iraq. And the Washington Times reported last week that President Bush has approved nuclear weapons as an option for responding to attacks from weapons of mass destruction ? whether against the United States or its allies.

Advocates of considering new roles for nuclear weapons say that only by developing these smaller, tactical devices and their support systems can the United States deter rogue states and terrorist groups.

Existing strategic missiles are portrayed as too massively destructive to be a credible deterrent against an adversary such as Saddam Hussein. The U.S., these advocates say, could never use "city killers" against a terrorist group or a regional foe, especially in a sensitive area like the Middle East.

Critics, on the other hand, contend that pursuing new weapons makes their use more likely, breaks down a half-century-old taboo against considering their use except in the direst emergencies, and encourages other nations to seek their own nuclear weapons.

Also, some analysts argue, recent studies show that even small nuclear bunker busters would create so much collateral damage and set off such political shock waves that they would be impractical.

Kucia, a critic of the administration's new initiatives, said nuclear devices "have been reserved for decades as the absolute weapons of last resort."

"To put them in the realm of usable weapons is to take on a whole new definition that has never been explored and, frankly, should not be explored," she added.

Although advocates of exploring new uses for nuclear weapons believe they could have broad applications, nuclear bunker busters have become the focal point of the larger debate.

The new program, described in two documents dated Jan. 29 and drafted by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, appears to reflect that focus.

"In recent years," one document says, "potential adversaries have gone to great lengths" to protect themselves against U.S. air attacks "by placing critical infrastructure and [weapons of mass destruction] in tunnels and other deeply buried locations, or by structurally hardening some buried targets."

As a result, it says, the military "needs to consider and evaluate the option of using nuclear weapons against its most difficult targets."

Robert Nelson, a Princeton University physicist and senior fellow for the Council on Foreign Relations who has studied nuclear weapons as possible bunker busters, believes they are impractical. Even smaller nuclear devices would throw off enough radioactive dirt and dust to kill tens of thousands of people if they were exploded underground in an urban environment.

Moreover, Nelson said, evidence suggests that a nuclear explosion could not be counted on to destroy chemical, biological or nuclear material stored in a deep bunker.

Instead, it would probably spread such material over a substantial area, he said.

"You would end up doing exactly the opposite of what you wanted to accomplish," he said.

The problem, he said, is that earth-burrowing weapons cannot penetrate deep enough to destroy a heavily protected bunker without blowing out a large crater on the surface and leaking radioactive material into the air.

But advocates of nuclear bunker busters hold out hope that ways could be found to burrow them deep enough that no radioactive material would escape and other toxins would be destroyed. U.S. weapons designers have been studying earth-penetrating nuclear bombs since the 1950s because, if such a device can burrow even a short distance underground, the seismic power of its explosion is highly multiplied. The original goal was to build earth penetrators capable of wiping out the Soviet Union's missile silos.

Last year, congressional advocates succeeded in appropriating $45 million for new research on a "robust deep earth penetrator." The Pentagon's new program has progressed to the point of requesting proposals from defense contractors to begin research and development on the target analysis system. At least some of the work would probably be done at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory near Oakland and at the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico.

The new program is being carried out under the aegis of U.S. Strategic Command, or STRATCOM, a new joint command created to replace the Air Force's old Strategic Air Command and the Space Command.

The Bush administration has given STRATCOM dramatically expanded responsibilities for developing strategies and weapons systems to combat rogue states, terrorist organizations and other potential adversaries -- including the possible use of nuclear weapons.

at:Making Nuclear Bombs 'Usable'
By Richard T. Cooper, LA Times

Posted by Richard
2/03/2003 09:29:27 AM | PermaLink

 
Sunday, February 02, 2003

Space as the Frontier -- A Critique of American Propaganda Surrounding the Columbia Shuttle Tragedy

While the destruction of the second U.S. Space Shuttle should not be reduced to mere political wrangling, the notion that it is somehow non-political, as the destruction of the World Trade Center on 9/11 was constructed as being in the days after the affair, is false. In this case "non-political" means that the government and media present a "standard" view that it is inappropriate for media, intellectuals, and citizens to question deeply the underlying assumptions that were at work prior to the disasters.

Both, to the contrary, are certainly political and presented as such from the standpoint of power.

9/11 was presented as a fascist nightmare -- a call to quick and devastating arms, national unity behind a warring president, and the right for the US to intervene anytime and anywhere that the War on Terror deemed necessary. The American flag made a startling comeback and became the symbol of how the destruction of the Towers was at once to be considered non-political (i.e. not up for debate that might infringe upon the party line) and highly political (i.e. a justification for global war) at once.

In the immediate minutes of yesterday's tragedy, Dan Rather and his ilk were quick to begin sowing the "party line" of national tragedy -- a cause for unity, -- the historical importance for America of its space program (it helped us beat the "commies"), its overall safety (though closer analysis points otherwise), and the image of a mourning, God-fearing, but space-crazed American president.

The reality is that the president was doing major damage control and the media were for the most part happy to oblige in that respect. Bush's emphasis upon increased spending for hi-tech weaponry, satellite infrastructure, and the control of space suddenly found its Achilles' heel in the scattered toxic debris over his own state of Texas and he needed to distract and diffuse the situation -- the potential was suddenly too high for questioning into the potential dangers of carrying plutonium and other nuclear arsenals into space and over civic land, into the Bush administration's plan to help "jump start" the economy by handing out huge contracts in a time of recession to the aerospace military/industrial complex of corporations, and into American strategy (and the strategy of other competing global powers) for the imperial control of Earth through the colonization of the peripheries of Earth's near space oribits.

To counter all this, the myth of Gene Roddenberry's own version of American sci-fi apple pie -- "Space: The Final Frontier" -- is being trumped out in a variety of guises by powerful propagandists and the naive public imagination at all turns.

Of course, this image of the "frontier" runs deep in the American imagination generally and so is a powerful image for mass public consumption. But behind the facade of reality to this notion of the founding frontier spirit, of that which speaks to America's democracy, growth, and courageous independence, is the fact that it is largely an outright myth -- one which has a post-frontier origin in the ideological propaganda of Professor Fredrick J. Turner. The so-called "Turner thesis."

While the Turner thesis capitivated scholarly minds and policy agendas in the beginnings of the 20th century, many careful studies of Turner's work since have revealed that while it is the stuff of a good poem or novel, its claim to objective historical science is ludicrous and the most compelling aspect of the Turner thesis is the unmistakable centrality of the American spirit as colonizer of new spaces and growing empire.

So, ironically, those now floating the frontier metaphor -- as was done to grow the emerging Internet "virtual space" for the American economy less than a decade ago -- as part of the American destiny of freedom, truth, and democracy, these propagadists speak a half-truth. To the degree that the history of American life has always been co-constructed around the histories of empire building, the controlling and networking of peripheral spaces via centerilized power, and colonization, the Bush prophecy of American mastery of deep space unfolds expectedly and with necessity.

However, let's be clear about one thing -- for the sake of Fredrick Turner -- application of the Turner thesis to the American space program is propaganda and anti-democratic ideology, despite its many invocations of science and democracy.

The attempt to control space -- regardless of the potential costs to the public at large, or even the planet proper -- falls out of the logic of global imperialism and has nothing to do with an American essence or spirit of rugged individualism and courageous experiment. Kennedy's race to put a man on the moon in the 1960s unfolded as an aspect of the Cold War with Soviet communism. With the Soviets now fallen, the American expansion into outer space should be more properly read as the attempt to solidify the Pax Americana in the face of dynamic, destabilizing flows of transnational capital and the growing threat to American empire released by the continued proliferation of nuclear weapons to competing states and potential terrorist organizations.

Posted by Richard
2/02/2003 10:53:42 AM | PermaLink

Shuttle Tragedy Exemplifies Why Nukes in Space is Too Dangerous Now

In mourning the tragedy of the Columbia shuttle, the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power In Space stresses that it came as NASA has been moving to greatly expand its program to use nuclear power in space and underscores why deadly atomic materials must not be used in space operations.  

In what it calls Project Prometheus, NASA seeks to broaden its $1 billion Nuclear Systems Initiative begun last year and include development of a nuclear-propelled rocket.

Moreover, NASA is planning for additional nuclear-powered space probe launches and to put atomic power to other space uses, noted Global Network Coordinator Bruce Gagnon.

“While Columbia did not appear to have a nuclear payload on-board, consider the consequences if a rocket powered by a nuclear reactor came down in pieces over Texas or elsewhere on earth,” said Professor Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at the State University of New York and author of “The Wrong Stuff: The Space Program’s Nuclear Threat To Our Planet,” narrator of “Nukes In Space” television documentaries and a Global Network board member.

 In coming months—in May and June -- NASA intends to launch from Florida two rockets both carrying rovers to land on Mars, rovers that are equipped with plutonium-powered heaters. The Global Network has been conducting demonstrations to protest these launches.

 Gagnon points out that NASA’s own Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) says that “the overall chance of an accident occurring” for each launch “is about 1 in 30” and "the overall chance of any accident that releases radioactive materials to the environment is about one in 230.  "People offsite in the downwind direction...could inhale small quantities of radio nuclides" the NASA EIS says.

 “These are high odds for disaster which could impact—as NASA admits—on people as far as 60 miles from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida,” said Gagnon.

 “These and other NASA space shots involving materials must be cancelled in the wake of the Columbia disaster and safe space energy systems be used instead,” stressed Gagnon.

 Said Grossman: “Space exploration is dangerous but to include nuclear poisons in the equation makes any accident far, far more deadly—and it is unnecessary. In recent years there have been breakthroughs in energizing space systems safely especially through the use of solar technologies. But NASA under Director Sean O'Keefe is partnering with nuclear interests to heavily nuclearize U.S. space operations. The Columbia disaster must show us the awful folly of this atomic space path.”

 In recent years Congress has cut funding for the space program (in particular funding for shuttle maintenance) and NASA has turned to the Pentagon for financing of many of its missions. NASA’s O’Keefe said upon taking the helm of the space agency that all future missions will be dual use – with the military now in control of the space program.

Loring Wirbel, a technical editor and Global Network board member based in Colorado, stressed that “the shuttle accident occurring on re-entry, which is always been touted as much safer than launch, should serve as proof that NASA's planned nuclear propulsion program is far too dangerous to be considered.”

Also, “the hazards involved in aggressive space use also suggest that broader military use of space for first strike warfare or weapons in space is a dangerous game,” said Wirbel. 
 
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
PO Box 90083
Gainesville, FL 32607
(352) 337-9274
http://www.space4peace.org

Posted by Richard
2/02/2003 09:58:18 AM | PermaLink