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Saturday, March 12, 2011

This Awful Synchronicity I Wish Were Not True




Last night I read, in one riveted sitting, Lauren Redniss's Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and Fallout, a spellbinding book about the wonders and mysteries of radioactive materials that captures the lives of two amazing scientists and shares the story of what their discoveries lead to, including atomic bombs, the Nevada test site, and the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl Disasters.

This morning I woke to the news that a Japanese nuclear power plant is "teetering on a nuclear meltdown." As I type this, it might already be melting down. Either way, released radioactive material is already being carried by wind to who knows where.

In Radiation, Redniss explains how disasters are "created by multiple, unanticipated failures in a system--a collection of small, simultaneous mishaps that lead to one massive catastrophe" (102), and this is precisely what is going on at the Fukushima plant right now.

The tsunami cut the electrical power off at the plant, and without electricity the coils can't keep the core cool. There's a back-up generator, but guess what? The batteries last only 8 hours. Yes, 8 hours.

As I type this, I am not sure if scientists have stepped in to save the day. Or are in the process of saving the day, the night, the afternoon, the millions of people who live just 240 km from this plant, to everyone of us, because this cloud of radiation will circle the globe.

Take a close look at those pictures of Chernobyl. Look at the children. Then think about the costs and benefits of nuclear power.

Pictured above: a page from Radiation, by Lauren Redniss, the Three Mile Island Explosion, Japanese health official testing children for radiation exposure near the location of the Fukishima Nuclear Power Plant.

12 comments:

Sandy Longhorn said...

It's a hard day, Martha. A hard day.

Martha Silano said...

Yeah, it is. My antidote: listening to the Concert for Bangladesh. Imagine: a concert where all the proceeds went to feeding starving people. Do we live in that kind of world today? I don't want to be cynical; I would love be someone who inspires that kind of generosity, who is that kind of generous, but I don't think I am at all, that most of us are. Harrison and Lennon deserve to be worshipped!

Sandy Longhorn said...

The loss of generosity, the rise of apathy and selfishness, these do not bode well for our human condition. Still we can each choose to live a generous life to the best of our ability and maybe someday we'll even the scales out a bit more.

My antidote: the Cubs...lovable losers.

Martha Silano said...

There's been plenty of apathy and selfishness through the ages, indeed. I am not one of those people to say we are living in the worst of times because in actuality it's pretty much always been the worst of times, but then there's a King or a Gandhi or a Lennon. Or, sheesh, Jesus.

Cubs: the only reason I can think of to live in Chicago. That and the Institute of Art . . .

Sandy Longhorn said...

Thanks for the reminder.

Love your comment about the Cubs and Chi-town.

Martha Silano said...

I went to college at Grinnell, so I got to hang out in Chi-town for a spell (closest big city--only a 7-hour drive). I am already looking forward to being there for AWP in 2012!!

Sandy Longhorn said...

Grinnell! Holy cow! I had no idea you'd spent time in Iowa, my beloved home state. Sweeter and sweeter.

Martha Silano said...

1980-83. Running through the cornfields, sleeping on the golf course, frolicking in the prairies . . .

Sandy Longhorn said...

Ah, the memories! Yours sound perfect. What's a prairie for, if not for frolicking?

Kathleen said...

I wish all this were not true, too. But it is.

Then, how sweet to see you two frolicking on the prairie in the comments.

Martha Silano said...

Hi Kathleen,

Yes, the prairie.

The frolicking despite the horror reminds me of my first "grown up" funeral where we all laughed--the sons, the wife, the extended family, the friends--as much as we cried.

seana said...

It's funny that without even thinking about Japan and more along the line of reading graphic novels, I too was contemplating Radioactive.


v word=ineedalt

I probably need alt too, if I knew what it was.