Monday, December 7, 2015

News Briefs 12/7

Nuclear Power Will Kill Everyone!!!!!
Greenpeace: the PETA of Environmental groups

Just kidding. Actually, nuclear power is one of the most viable "clean" energy options for cleaning up and combating the effects of climate change. But as with GMOs and electric cars, people make assumptions based on buzz words and groupthink rather than individual research. But I stumbled last night upon this article that was hopeful about the shift in popular thought over nuclear energy, and felt initial hope myself. So then I started doing some research to see if this paradigm shift is, in fact, occurring. While some articles hurt my heart (like this one that says, "by 2030, India’s coal consumption could triple or quadruple"), most of them seemed to concede that the ideas of nuclear energy are shifting across the pond in Europe. I'm delighted, and conflicted.

Why am I so delighted? Nuclear energy is affordable, efficient, and clean. Let me break down why these first two are great and the last is problematic. Electricity produced at nuclear power plants are the most affordable of all electricity sources. Cool. It takes only one fuel pellet of nuclear energy to equal a ton of coal, 149 gallons of oil, or 17,000 cubic feet of natural gas, so it's incredibly efficient. And it's clean! But what does that mean? That means nuclear energy has no carbon emissions, so it has perhaps the lowest ecological impact of any energy source used today.

PAUSING FOR A MINUTE TO ADDRESS COUNTERARGUMENTS: The main attacks against nuclear energy are that radioactive waste is a byproduct and it's risky. Well. There are such stringent procedures being taken to ensure the safe storage of radioactive waste that this is essentially a nonissue. Similarly, we've moved past the Chernobyl days; technology has increased to the point that reactors across the world are ensured with such safety measures that a meltdown isn't likely to occur, and if it does, it won't have the devastating effects Chernobyl, for example, did. The meltdown in Fukushima in 2011 wasn't a result of faulty construction, for example; the reactor was safe the entire time. The meltdown occurred because a tsunami broke down the entire city's electricity supply, so the water around the systems couldn't be properly cooled. Still, the "devastation" was a bit blown out of proportion; the main adverse effect was that it caused panic.

So why am I conflicted? This paradigm shift is incredibly important, but I predict the same groupthink that currently rails against nuclear energy soon swapping sides and hailing nuclear energy as the all-mighty savior. While nuclear energy is one of the best options to reduce the carbon footprint of a country and more viable currently than most other alternative energies, one does need to drill for that Uranium. One of the problems with fossil fuels we currently use is that drilling for coal, or oil, or natural gas destroys the environment; drilling for Uranium is still drilling, and will still be detrimental to the land upon which we drill. So sure, it fixes one problem of emission but disregards another of land environmental impacts. But the word, "clean," is a good buzzword, and if people don't stop and think of where we get Uranium from, it's easy to slip into the dream of "clean energy." Clean just means "zero carbon emissions" - something to keep in mind.

I'm very excited that the stigma is being lessened about nuclear energy because we need it, but I think we should view it as a stepping stone on our way to a cleaner world - not the resounding answer.



We Should All Be Feminists

Every 16 year old in Sweden will be handed out a free copy of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's book We Should All Be Feminists. It is based on her award-winning TED Talk. A talk so popular that even Beyoncé included it in one of her music videos.

I think this is a powerful movement. And a much needed one. The book is only 52 pages long, and it is a personal essay. It is not meant to be preachy, but to open up a discussion on the topic, on taking the word "feminism" and exhibit it for what it truly stands for: equality for all genders.

Today's world is a world that makes girls dress a certain way so that boys don't get distracted, instead of teaching boys how not to get distracted. It's a world that is afraid of the word "feminism" and even asks UN speakers to omit that word in their speeches, even if the their speech is about feminism

When did the word become so hostile?

"Some people ask: "Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?" Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general - but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human. For centuries, the world divided human beings into two groups and then proceeded to exclude and oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem acknowledge that." 
“The problem with gender is that it prescribes how we should be rather than recognizing how we are. Imagine how much happier we would be, how much freer to be our true individual selves, if we didn’t have the weight of gender expectations.”
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, We Should All Be Feminists 

For a girl that is always resistant to call herself a feminist, I must admit, I agree with a lot of what Chimamanda says. In her words, the whole movement makes sense to me.

I think it is a much needed discussion to have and it still amazes me that after CENTURIES with the same ol' problem, we have yet to achieve complete equality.


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