Thursday, March 17, 2011

Earthquakes Tsunami Nuclear Plants and Technology

by Ron Spangler

For centuries mankind has challenged nature and for centuries mankind has lost the battles. The recent tragedies in Japan should make it clear that even with the best of technology mere mortals will never conquer the fury of mother nature.

As the disasters inflicted on Japan continue to unfold before our eyes this should be a time we as humans finally admit we are not as brilliant as we claim to be. The experts are tripping over each other trying to explain what is going on and at the same time calm the world as to what may happen in the coming days. So far the experts have been wrong. The truth is, they don’t know with absolute certainty what happened at the nuclear plants to cause the over heating of the cores. Was it the earthquake, the Tsunami, or ill conceived design of the plants? Or, could it have been something as simple as mankind’s arrogance in believing we can ever build a structure designed to withstand anything and everything mother nature decides to throw our way?

It amazes me how here in the west we simply woke up one day and decided that since we are living in the 21st century, we have somehow entered a new world of technology. A world the likes of which we never knew in the 20th century. In reality we have better electronic toys and better communications but most of it began in the 20th century. The auto industry hasn’t really changed that much since most of our trucks, trains, plains and ships still rely on fossil fuels such as oil. We are experimenting with electric motors and battery powered alternatives but all of this came from 20th century technology. In come cases we are simply trying to advance on the failed attempts of our past.

Nuclear power plants are perfect examples of man’s arrogance and belief that we have become so advanced that we can build something that can never be destroyed. The truth, no matter what the experts say about Fukushima, is these power plants have been lost forever and nobody knows how much danger Japan will face in the future from these failed plants. Other countries like Germany have began to take a hard look at the future of nuclear power for electricity in their countries. Is this an over reaction or a prudent step to take in light of what has happened in Japan? That decision is up to each country to decide for themselves.

Every country and individual on earth must now face the most important decision of our lives. Will we remain humble and admit our limitations when it comes to the forces of nature or will we remain arrogant and believe we can defeat the fury of nature itself. For too long each generation has come to believe they are smarter and more advanced than the previous generation. In the west we call it progress and base everything on it. We look back at history and revise it because we are smarter than our parents or grandparents. After all they didn’t have all the facts back then like we do today. Here in America we build our nuclear plants designed to withstand earthquakes relative to the areas they are being built in. We look back at historical data and determine that if the largest recorded earthquake in that particular part of the country was a 5.5 on the rector scale, then the plant should be constructed to withstand a 5.5. Since we do not have Tsunamis in America, except for the west coast, designers and engineers are not required to considered these acts of nature during the design or construction phase. This is where the arrogance of mankind shows how much disdain man really has for nature and the unforeseen fury that nature can release at any given time or any given place on the the planet earth.

In America we have determined that since nature has not delivered a devastating blow to any one area of the country in over a hundred years, she will not do it again for another 100 years. This is a fallacy of mankind in the understanding of how nature really works. One thing our fathers and grandfathers knew that we forgot was, always expect the unexpected when it comes to mother nature. We cannot foresee the future and we will never be able to control natural events like earthquakes, cyclones, tornadoes, hurricanes, tsunamis, volcanoes or the dreaded climate change. Some scientist would have you believe we are so technologically advanced that we could even stop a meteor from striking the earth. All we have to do to avoid this disaster is spend a little more money on technology. This is arrogance to the extreme.

In the aftermath of Japan’s nuclear disaster will mankind become a little more humble and a little less arrogant? I sincerely doubt it. In America the proponents of alternative energy have already began to push harder and harder for wind and solar as alternatives to nuclear and fossil fuels for producing electricity. They do not consider that these are also 20th century ideas that face some of the same dangers as nuclear power plants. Windmill and solar farms are more susceptible to total destruction from tornadoes, earthquakes, sandstorms, flash floods and other natural events than any coal or nuclear plant.

In the end we will probably learn very little from the events taking place in Japan. We will pray for the victims and try to do everything we can to help. We will also listen to our politicians and the experts as they calm our fears. We will continue to believe we are somehow superior to nature and the natural chain of events that will undoubtedly take place in the future. We will listen to our scientist and continue to believe that we are so technologically advanced that we can control nature and the natural order of things to come. In other words we will continue to be arrogant and remove the definition of humbleness from our dictionaries.

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