Archive for the ‘war and peace’ Category
A scientist, Chernobyl-experienced, may not be lying: Any time you have a nuclear facility that size that is not meeting requirements for cooling, you have a real emergency on your hands.”
Ron Chesser, Center of Environmental Radiation Studies
For days now, arresting lines from a poem by James Haba ring in my head - I paraphrase:
An official is speaking on the radio
He is lying
An earthquake of nearly impossible magnitude,
followed by tsunami destruction beyond human comprehension,
fill our world,
dominating even the great floods of New Jersey rivers and streams in this spring of discontent.
My heart aches along with the people of Japan, people of the globe, shattered by these multiple disasters.
On television, officials play down the seriousness of explosions and escaped vapors. They want us to see it as mere steam. They want us to deem it harmless. They tightrope around the word ‘meltdown.’
The true tragedy is that — as in Katrina, as with BP’s oil disaster off our shores, nobody knows what to do.
We are being given the nuclear equivalent, in translated phrases, and by the Japanese Ambassador to the United states, of BP’s “500 gallons a day” admission. You remember –I asked NJ WILD readers from first hours, if you believed it. (You know the outpouring ultimately climbed into millions.)
We are assured that only a handful of people ‘reveal levels of radiation’, as 100,000s of thousands are evacuated. [And what happens when your home has been suffused with radioactivity - what hope ever of return?]
One official blithely announced that any radiation would simply float out to sea. Wonderful. First we oil our amniotic seas. Then we radioactivate them, and air currents above.
In pictures of damaged American harbors, we have been given vivid proof of the very short distance between the shores of Japan, the coasts of Hawaii, California, Oregon and Washington. Not only wave energy makes that journey.
In turbulent times, especially in times where deception is the norm, I turn to the past, as NJ WILD knows.
Lately, I’ve been leaning on Eleanor Roosevelt, that consummate truth-teller. We know that even her husband did not always welcome Eleanor’s integrity.
I came across a new paperback of her legendary My Day columns. She wrote them even on her lap in uncomfortable planes flying to visit American troops in the Pacific. My Day appeared in hundreds of newspapers in the days of healthy journalism.
Eleanor ceased turning in her columns for a mere four days around President Roosevelt’s death. In Depression, War, and now on the morning after peace, Eleanor told the truth to America.
The VERY FIRST My Day WORDS I read this morning, [Sunday, the 13th of March, while a tsunami of images of submerged houses and flattened cars and overturned boats and mud-inundated fields and severed highways and empty roadways and far too few official anybodies rescuing anyone, surge through my head,] were:
The new atomic discovery has changed the whole aspect of the world in which we live. It has been primarily thought of in the light of its destructive power. Now we have to think of it in terms of how it may serve mankind in the days of peace.
This great discovery was not found by men of any one race or any one religion and its development and control should be under international auspices. All the world has a right to share in the beneficence which may grow from its proper development.
If we allow ourselves to think that any nations or any group of commercial interests should profit by something so great, we will eventually be the sufferers.
It is a challenge to us. For, unless we develop spiritual greatness commensurate with this new gift, we may bring economic war into the world and chaos instead of peace.
The greatest opportunity the world has ever had lies before us. God grant we have enough understanding to live in the future as “one world” and “one people”.
These are excerpts from an undated column, with a New York dateline, at the time when “word was flashed that peace had come to the world again.”
Eleanor reveals a great heaviness: “I had no desire to go out and celebrate. The weight of suffering which has engulfed the world during so many years could not be so quickly wiped out.”
Always in touch with the larger picture, Eleanor leapt quickly to concerns over the nuclear wand which scientific wizardry had brought into the world.
Her words of long ago prove profoundly prophetic. We are a world united. However, not by peace. Unfortunately we have become ONE in the unparalleled pursuit of technology. Events of recent days have united us in horror and grief. And impotence.
Officials, not only in battered Japan, insist on “no harm to human life” from white clouds issuing from severely compromised nuclear reactors.
Where are the experts on our own Three Mile Island, on Russia’s Chernobyl? Who is drawing parallels and lessons?
Among the few who address the perils of catastrophic climate change, are many who insist that the only solution is increased construction of nuclear power plants. Many of our existing ones are built dirctly upon faults. We are being urged to build more when we don’t know how to resolve disaster in those already in use.
What radio announcement on the New Jersey Turnpike triggered Jim Haba’s poem, we do not know. The universality of his response reverberates into this new century:
An official is speaking on the radio
He is lying…
Eleanor’s prophecy: We will eventually be the sufferers.
It is now Sunday Evening: from AOL
KORIYAMA, Japan - Japanese officials warned of a possible second explosion Sunday at a nuclear plant crippled by the earthquake and tsunami as they raced to stave off multiple reactor meltdowns, but they provided few details about whether they were making progress. More than 180,000 people have evacuated the area, and up to 160 may have been exposed to radiation.
Four nuclear plants in northeastern Japan have reported damage, but the danger appeared to be greatest at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex, where one explosion occurred Saturday and a second was feared. Operators have lost the ability to cool three reactors at Dai-ichi and three more at another nearby complex using usual procedures, after the quake knocked out power and the tsunami swamped backup generators.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Sunday that a hydrogen explosion could occur at Dai-ichi’s Unit 3, the latest reactor to face a possible meltdown. That would follow a hydrogen blast Saturday in the plant’s Unit 1.
“At the risk of raising further public concern, we cannot rule out the possibility of an explosion,” Edano said. “If there is an explosion, however, there would be no significant impact on human health.”
FROM MY SCIENCE DAILY E-ALERTS:
Ron Chesser, director for the Center of Environmental Radiation Studies at Texas Tech University, was the first American scientist allowed inside the exclusion zone in 1992 following the Chernobyl disaster. He can discuss issues that Fukushima workers may be facing in light of the cooling system troubles.
Chesser said that though reports have stated the reactors were shut down safely, the reactors still must be cooled constantly to avoid a meltdown of the core.
All four reactors have been shut down at Fukushima Daini.
“The fact they’re having trouble cooling the reactors is going to trigger an emergency,” Chesser said. “There are certain trigger points for declaring an emergency at nuclear reactors. Reduction in cooling capacity would be one of those. Release of radiation would be another. Reactors are not like your car that you can turn off and walk away. They’re going to continue generating a great amount of heat until the core is disassembled. Without cooling water, then you stand a real chance of a meltdown of core that could result in a large release of radiation, potentially.”
However, Chesser, who has toured a smaller Japanese nuclear power plant in Chiba, said Japanese designers put many precautionary measures and contingency plans in place to ensure reactor safety in the event of an earthquake.
“I was very much impressed with the amount of attention to safety, especially regarding potential of earthquakes,” he said. “I was a little bit surprised when I saw they had a looming crisis at the Fukushima power plant just because of all the great attention the Japanese pay to earthquake safety.”
Also, the Fukushima reactors appear to have containment vessels over them unlike Chernobyl, he said.
Though there is cause for concern, Chesser said he thought workers at the plant must have some cooling capacity available, since the evacuation radius from the plant was only 1.9 miles and affected 3,000 people. [most recent t.v. reports reveal 200,000 now - late Sunday night]
“I think that sounds like that’s a low-level alert,” he said. “It didn’t sound like there were that many people being evacuated. At Chernobyl, when it went, they eventually were evacuating people 18 miles away from the reactor. It doesn’t sound like there’s an imminent issue, but it is serious. Any time you have a nuclear facility that size that is not meeting requirements for cooling, you have a real emergency on your hands.”
According to the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s (TEPCO) website, the Fukushima Daiichi plant has six functioning nuclear reactors with two more that are scheduled to come online in the next two years. Recent reports from the company have said reactor Nos. 1, 2 and 3, were shut down because of the quake, but 4, 5 and 6 were down because of regular inspections.
At Fukushima Daini, all four reactors have been shut down, according to the website.
According to the 2008 World Factbook, Japan ranks third in the world for electricity production. A recent story on the United Nations University’s website states that 30 percent of Japan’s energy is produced from nuclear power.
“My great hope is that they are going to be able to rectify this quickly enough that they can maintain cooling capacity,” Chesser said. “I think that a reactor meltdown could be a major disaster, especially in a highly populated country such as Japan. It would be a real setback when we are battling to find alternatives to fossil fuels considering the potential that nuclear energy has.”
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When Rain Blessed
Once upon a time, rain was soft and welcome, –gift of summer’s days.
And not only good for farm crops and grass, rain brought especial joy to children.
I just discovered that I had forgotten gentle rain. I have been reading three 1970’s library books on Cape Cod, –where I summered during those years with teen-aged daughters. One memoirist muses, “It is beginning to rain lightly.” I was thoroughly startled. How long has it been since I experienced or even thought of ‘rain lightly’?
My mother would welcome “a good soaking rain”. It was good for our Victory garden, products of which she would can and pickle on steamy August days, usually rainy days. She even canned green beans, and most tomatoes. Dill in my house right now takes me right back to Lathrup pickle days. Rain was also good for Daddy’s ‘Creeping Bent’ grass, of which he was inordinately proud for some reason we girls could not fathom.
‘Rainy days’ for my little sister and me meant coloring, cutting out paper dolls, making scrapbooks from Mother’s shiny magazines. In gentle rain, we would do this out on the screened-in back porch. Rain was everywhere around; but we were safe, warm and dry. That small square porch was entirely surrounded by blue morning glories I’d planted from seeds. A special dappled light came through the petals even in hot sunshine. The twiney vines braided themselves along multicolored chain-stitched supports - the only crochet skill I ever mastered. To be out there together in the soft air, as rain sifted down all afternoon, around our little brick house and our sheltering porch, was simply magical.
Rainy day air was light on my child-skin. Our little round arms reached out for crayons and scissors, beyond sundress straps or pinafore ruffles, — summer ‘frocks’ our mother had sewed and ironed. I realize that we were dressed up a good deal of the time, even in rain. Even though nobody saw us.
Best of all was paddling outdoors in one-piece homemade bathing suits. We loved being barefoot in new puddles. We would squat a long time on solid tanned legs, studying patterns sketched by varying combinations of drops on shallow water. Barefoot, bare-torso’ed, bare-headed of course, that warm rain coursing along our toddler bodies like blessings. This could have been the grace they were always prating about in church, without explaining it once. Out in warm rain, we knew the state of grace.
Rainwater was actually good for our naturally curly hair. We’d save rain in fat low wooden slatted buckets out at the side of the house. The wood would swell tight with liquid, holding it for shampoos (in Castile soap) and rinses that made our hair curlier.
That rain was also good for Mother’s dark purple violets, hidden among heart-shaped leaves. Violet blossoms seemed snipped of silk. They would tremble in the softness of that rain. We thought the roses looked up gratefully, lifting pink throats to sip and sip what British storybooks called ‘a mizzle of rain.’
In rain, I used to love being up in Aunt Betty’s Toledo attic, when we were taking care of her four girls and a boy. I treasured rain’s song on her roof. Alone by the grey yet luminous attic window, I’d page and page through volumes we didn’t have at home. There was no library in our town nor school, so Aunt Betty’s was my only one. And I loved it best in rain. Its patter on her roof sounded like unsteady new kittens walking around upstairs in Lathrup, Michigan, while we were down in the living room, waiting for Daddy. I don’t remember an attic, in Michigan. At Aunt Betty’s I’d particularly love leafing through a long set of books we never saw elsewhere: “My Book House.”
This may have been the poetic influence I have never been able to trace, having majored in science in high school and college, –no time for the Romantic (in more than one sense.)
Childhood rain made a relaxing sound, a sleepy sound. I wasn’t a sleepy girl, so found this sensation odd and memorable. Childhood rain was soothing as lullabyes. Not menacing. Not run-for-your-lives. Rather, “Curl up here and read of new worlds.”
Now, we WOULD have to run outside, hurry the laundry off the summer lines, before it actually got wetter! But this was not a frantic task, and often a silly one. Pre-rain winds would wrap the (always only white) sheets around our young bodies, sometimes tripping us, while purple-black cumulo-nimbus clouds (learned for my Girl Scout weather badge) piled and piled in the west. Tripping onto sheet tails was bad, because Creeping Bent made long green stains under the pressure of a child’s unwitting foot.
Billowing in our arms, even partly dried sheets were redolent of wind across Lake Michigan, in Traverse City or Naubinway, our favorite places on earth. The hard part was then where to put the sheets indoors. The Lathrup house did have long ropes all along the most unfinished basement, but I can’t imagine that I could reach them. We had a drier the basement ofRoyal Oak.
Soft Separate Raindrops
Somehow, rain slowed our mother. She didn’t make us run around and finish everything in rain. We could even do things that didn’t HAVE to be done, –like making fudge in the steamy kitchen.
Soft rain meant dreamy times — sit on the window seat upstairs and imagine, while drops cascaded softly and almost as quiet as tinsel on Christmas trees. Gaze past mother’s bearded purple and lavender iris, toward the apple tree where we could sometimes read unseen.
The world became a shimmering place on the window seat in rain. On my narrow lap would be my fat favorite Evangeline –”dual language” - prose and poetry! but I only wanted Longfellow’s. “This is the forest primeval, the murmuring pine and the hemlock… the deep-voiced neighboring ocean…” (which I’d never seen.)
On the window-seat, I’d wish rain would continue until Daddy came home, as I wept over Evangeline’s lost love. I would yearn for the faraway country that belonged to Little Anne of France, determining to go there someday, never guessing I would manage even to live there.
No one else in Michigan had interest in “going overseas.” To everyone there, ‘overseas’ meant war, –Hitler, Mussolini and death. On the window seat in rain, there was no war. Everitt Allen, in his Cape Cod memoir, blurts, “Do not ask me which war, for all wars are the same.” Yes, and no. Not all wars have Hitler and Mussolini.
Our Cottage Was Only Slightly Larger than The Outermost House
Our Chatham cottage had but one floor, right on Nantucket Sound. Every rain there was rain on the roof. Every rain there was blessing, even the hurricane I determinedly stayed through because I wanted to feel one. Rain on the Sound formed a whole new landscape, –waves churned along that usually peaceful surface. Intricate drop designs would be scrawled one moment, effaced another. The Sound would become an enormous silvery canvas. After rain could come fogs, electric and alive. Returning sun would create round rainbows in every fogged square of the front door screen. Returning sun would bring back the rare birds - godwits and once a phalarope, the long-tailed jaeger down by the Light.
Nowadays, even a “30% chance of rain” triggers red alerts. What lies in wait for us now, instead of drifty dreamy days is downpours, lightning and thunder, “line storms.” A friend from New Jersey, who moved to a farm in the rural South, is building “a bunker” for storms. He tells me how many feet thick the concrete is, and how broad the sand shoveled in beyond that, to hide from weather.
Today’s rains tear up the lawn here above Canal Road. It’s a tough grass untended; not fragile, like Daddy’s, let alone vulnerable as violets. Huge black scrapes scar this grass, open all the way to the mud, like skinned knees. These wounds arrow down from house toward driveway. This is what happens in run-off, and there’s run-off in every rain. Rain-divots. Imagine what today’s rains would do to Mother’s violets!
Today I was supposed to take a friend for her first trip on the River Line Train. We planned to glide river town to river town all along my beloved Delaware River. But dire forecasts, –of thunder, lightning, downpours, flooding and “line storms”, whatever those may be–, caused us to cancel our plans. It’s beautiful now, but I don’t want to be in Camden, looking for Walt Whitman’s house, during a line storm.
Paddling in puddles came to an end when I was eleven. As I wrote in an early poem, “One day, clouds went both ways, fast!” That day, tornadoes exploded into Flint, Michigan, not far from us. They also ‘touched down’ in Port Huron, and Ontario, oddly south of Michigan, Canada south of the United States, wreaking untold damage - as bad as war newsreels we’d see before Saturday movies, and even bringing death.
How Lathrup skies looked, as this happened in Flint
Our father was so astounded, the next day he took us all on a tornado tour — ever the newsman. In a nearby neighborhood, my high school friend Marion’s neighbor’s house was shattered. Meanwhile, in Marion’s Mother’s garden, frail blue delphinium still stood upright.
After that, every rainstorm seemed fraught with thunder. (I was only afraid of thunder - loved lightning, and knew I was being irrational and it didn’t matter a whit. Lightning was beautiful. I still can’t stand loud noises.)
After that, every thunderstorm brought tornado warnings. We learned to spend time in the basement. This had never ever been the case, until ‘Flint’. In Lathrup, after that, to say ‘Flint’ meant ‘the tornado.’ Even as an eleven-year-old, I thought the Great Lakes might have changed temperature and/or volume, so that there was a greater contrast between the air and those broad waters, setting up long ragged tongues whirring out from the clouds, in a green-black world with its odd chemical smell. If there were a hell, it would smell like the world before tornadoes.
In all three Cape Cod books, not one of these journal-keepers mentions living through a hurricane. Although Everitt Allen describes a very old tumbledown house, for which “the first ravaging had been by hurricane, unprecedented for decades.” That might’ve been 1938’s that so demolished his New England and our Long Island here.
In our growing up, there weren’t hurricane seasons. There wasn’t even one a year. I remember ‘Hurricane Diane’s’ ravages during High School. A friend at the Detroit Times was named Diane. The newsmen mercilessly teased her — until she never wanted to hear the word ‘hurricane’ ever again. And we basically didn’t.
I never meant to long for the ‘good old days’.
However, one blessing of childhood was that rain was respite.
I yearn to return to the time of soft soaking rains.
Loss, of course, is universal. Why is it so much harder to bear between Thanksgiving and the New Year?
And, now that we’re sending more troops to Afghanistan, not only to be in jeopardy of death, but also to be taught how to kill — there will be hundreds if not thousands more to whom this ‘modern parable’ will need to be sent. Do what you can, hot-link-wise to remind our leaders of the lessons of Korea and Vietnam.
On this day of all days, the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, I must add, “Days that live in infamy are no longer limited to the Japanese.”
Doesn’t anyone see that far more of our brothers and sisters have died in these vengeful wars than in the World Trade Center disaster? What good is war? All my life, I have sen only harm.
This essay appeared in The Times of Trenton, on the OpEd Page, some Christmases ago. I feel it is always in order to remind people that this time of year, meant to celebrate the return of the light, can truly strafe those who have experienced unbearable loss. Reach out to those you know, for whom this is the case. Reach out in empathy:
HOLIDAY LOSS – a modern parable
Here they are again, the relentless “Holidays”. Season of the return of the light for so many people of so many faiths. But, for those who have lost the very dear, this time can wear a dark cloak.
This Season, luminous for others, looms for the bereaved. Attention should be paid to those who mourn while others rejoice. The grieving need to be reassured that surviving holiday loss is possible. No, it’s not easy. And yes, there will be fascinating blessings in this seemingly impossible journey. Some days, the sad person must hammer out a way. Other days, the way simply unrolls, when and where least expected.
There are certain steps which assist in this process. A motto of the 1940’s instructs, “When you’re blue, little girl, when you’re blue – do something for somebody, do.” That works. So does creating one or two small celebrations: not only when the heart is not in it, but BECAUSE it is not! It is hard to believe that a heavy heart can generate glows in holiday faces, but this does indeed happen. Deep inside, no matter the sorrow, light remains.
Visiting a video store which encourages the taking out of many films for many days can bring inner miracles. Old favorites are helpful. Even more astonishing can be the gifts in movies never seen, possibly never even heard of. The 1992 film, “A Midnight Clear”, carries the viewer to a time of global bereavement. Its literally stellar cast includes Gary Sinise as Vance (“Mother”) Wilkins. Set in a mountain fastness in 1944 France, an American Intelligence squad, –chosen, ironically, for their intelligence (I.Q. scores)–, encounters a German platoon. Simplicity of setting sets the drama’s outstanding acting into high relief. Its final moments bear guaranteed relief, along with a healthy dose of reordering of priorities.
One can be on the lookout for the Southern tradition of “Little Christmas”. This can arrive on any date after Thanksgiving. It happens whenever the Holiday Spirit surges, –unexpected, even startling. Perhaps unwelcome, at first. I first experienced this phenomenon when a newcomer to Savannah invited me to her first caroling party. It was so hot, we didn’t even need coats. I didn’t feel one whit of Holiday spirit. After singing to a very surprised new neighborhood, my generous friend served cocoa and cider and cookies to the soft-spoken families who had helped create that musical offering. Afterwards, I helped my friend ‘put the house to bed.’ As we walked to my car, we were given “a rainbow ‘round the moon.” When I told my hostess that this, to the Indians, is great good luck, she announced, “Well, then, this is Little Christmas!”
Sometimes others provide the lift, having no idea that one’s heart is leaden in this season. Last year, I stopped to talk with the man from Vermont who sells trees across from Montgomery Cinema. “I usually get my greens for the table here, but today I don’t see them,” I blurted. (It was not his fault I was blind…) “Right over there, ma’am,” he said, brightly. “Please, help yourself!” Soon my car was awash in fragrances of pine, spruce and balsam. He would not accept a penny for his greens. That was last year’s Little Christmas. December 15.
Sometimes, the only avenue open to the grieving is to flee scenes shared with the lost ones. Other times, it helps enormously to take others — to Nutcracker at McCarter, Messiah at Richardson. Once I persuaded a new widow to join me at the latter performance. Reluctantly she agreed – and found herself transported, just walking up the circular staircase she had trod so many times with her husband. It was her first pleasurable outing since his death, many months before.
Dreaming up anti-grief rituals is every bit as important as wrapping presents, maybe more-so. Most of the time, I’ve made it work. But there was a year, 1990, when I crumpled at the first string of Christmas lights, spurting along a white porch railing. “Oh, no!,” I cried out in my empty car. “I’m not ready!” My dread lay deep, far below tears.
In my dark car, in ponderous tones, I was suddenly corrected: “Who are you to place your daughters before My Son?” Although a poet, no, I do not customarily hear voices. There was no mistaking this intense challenge. It was painful, as though someone had lanced a boil without anaesthesia. I apologized to the Presence whom a humorous friend names “The Great Whomever.” Each year it seems that decorations go up and carols descend, ever earlier. However, also every year, that reminder of priorities returns and works its cure. And every year, there is the prospect of noticing “Little Christmas.”