Friday, April 1, 2011

Theme Day: Edges

This isn't a photo about edges any more than any other photo is about edges.

I had planned to post something else. But yesterday I posted about the Japanese Garden at the Huntington Library and that got me thinking about Japan, its crises, and the edges we live on.

The edges we live on in southern California:
The San Andreas Fault, which may or may not dole out
the big one during our lifetime (seismologists say it's a matter of time--we just don't know how much), and if/when it happens, it may or may not be big enough to damage
the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant, which may or may not already be in violation of safety codes.

Even without the dangers there's no dirtier energy than nuclear, with its toxic, terrible waste. I'd sure like to see American nuclear plants shut down. I'm thinking of the workers trying to tame the raging nuclear power plant in Japan. They may be sacrificing their lives and they know it. That's the edge they're living on now. They've become stoic heroes, because their country needs them.

All of us live on edges--maybe we drive too fast or eat the wrong foods or just don't look when we cross the street. We have the power to smooth those edges.

There's not much we can do when the planet gets cranky, but we can shut down Diablo Canyon and San Onofre before the San Andreas Fault does it for us.

The City Daily Photo community continues to grow. As of this posting we're 1368 blogs worldwide! Find one in your favorite town and see how they interpreted today's theme.


Nathalie said...

I fully agree with you on all counts Petrea. A great post, and a very thoughtful one.

dive said...

When I was a kid in the early sixties we used to have beach parties by our local nuclear reactor (Sizewell) because the water was warm enough to swim in all year round.
Sheesh! Little wonder I turned out like I did.

Kim said...

Your thoughtful post reminded me of the lyrics of a song:
"Everyone's an island edged with sand,
A temporary refuge where somebody else can stand,
'Til the sea that binds us --like the forced tide of a blood oath--
Wears it down, dissolves it, recombines it"
When I was in grade school, before San Onofre was operating, my class took a field trip to tour the reactor. I remember them playing the GE song from the Disneyland Carousel of Progress. . ."There's a great big beautiful tomorrow, shining at the end of every day. . ." Hmmmmmm. Not so much.

Lucka said...

Great serene shot. Have a beautiful weekend!

Homer Simpson said...

We can have nuclear plants or we can burn coal. They are the only current choices. What about wind power? From now till the end of time wind power will generate 10% max of the power we demand. Thanks to nuclear power plants your electric bill is $50 a month instead of $500.

Petrea said...

Thank you, Nathalie.

Dive, you made me laugh. Kinda ruefully.

Kim, that story is so eerie! Like something out of Ray Bradbury.

Thanks, Lucka!

Homer, I'd believe you if you used your own name. And if I were ignorant of the possibilities of wind and solar. But I'm not.

Bellis said...

Petrea, I have a very readable book to lend you - "Sustainable Energy - without the hot air." Written by a very down-to-earth physics professor from Cambridge, David McKay. I was totally against nuclear but when I interviewed him, he convinced me we have no alternative if we want to keep our present standards of living. You see, he added up all the energy they use in the UK, and all the energy renewables could produce. And unless the entire west coast of Britain is covered in windmills, and all roofs with solar panels, there's a huge shortfall. Nuclear is clean, and there are far fewer deaths than from coal mining, believe it or not. It's just that people are irrationally afraid of radiation.

These were definitely not my views until I found out more about the energy situation by reading David's book. He has also done the calculations for the US.

Ironically, he suggests that Europeans beg borrow or steal the Libyan desert so they can put up solar arrays which could provide enough clean energy for all of Europe.

Similarly, Arizona's desert could provide all the energy for North America if covered in solar panels.

Lovely photo, by the way. I feel very sad for all the people killed in Japan and the heroes going into those reactors.

Petrea said...

I'd be happy to read it, Bellis. But I'm a tough audience. I already see his point but--yes and no.

There's a short-sightedness to the "present standards of living" line of thinking, that's got us (or I should say, Japan) into the current mess. Nuclear is "clean" except for the waste it creates--waste that doesn't go away, waste that must be put somewhere, waste that contaminates for thousands of years to come. I'm not talking about a fear of radiation. That's minor.

That short-sightedness has also got us pumping for oil in the Alaskan wilderness and building condos on the hillsides of the San Gabriels at a time when nobody can afford housing. If we continue to think of only the present, our "present standards of living" are doomed.

Jilly said...

A great post, Petrea. As one would expect from you. Really thoughtful and so true, unfortunately. Some people have no choice but to live more on the edge than others.

... daisy... said...

I don't know much about California... I read something and heard something. It's quite scary, I think, after what happened in Japan, because it reminds everyone of us that mother earth is magnificent and when she gets angry it means destruction.
I hope your government will do something to keep you safe. And I hope "mankind" will do something to keep the earth a safe place to live on.
A hug...
Still can't wait to wear my gift!!! :-)

tom said...

a little bigger and I would have stone shelter

Petrea said...

Thank you, Jilly. So true, and overwhelming, that some have less choice than others.

Daisy, it's your prize! Let us know when you get it.

A good choice, Tom. I believe this one's made it through a few quakes.

sjan said...

When talking about maintaining the "present standards of living", one must remember that Americans waste tremendous amounts of energy and resources. I am both an entrepreneur and an environmentalist, and I understand that gluttony and a lifestyle of comfort need not be synonymous. America's energy policy is determined by the system of bribes and kickbacks utilized by politicians and lobbyists, not by those Americans who are industrious, enterprising, and prudent in their actions.

Petrea said...

Well said, sjan. Thanks.

Bellis, I feel bad about disagreeing with you when you've interviewed a scientist and I haven't. You are certainly one of the prudent people sjan describes. What does your scientist say about nuclear waste?

... daisy... said...

Of course I WILL!!! :-)

Bellis said...

Oh, Mackay says they need to work out what to do with the spent fuel -though storage in deep mines is a solution, and that's where the US military nuclear fuel is already kept. I was going to get a tour of the depository a few years ago from the man whose job it is to detect leaks. There have been none at all. But Yucca Mountain would be a very bad choice as it's not on stable land.

I've just talked to a neurologist from Japan who is very sanguine about the ill effects of radiation. The two atom bombs killed hundreds of thousands from the explosion but not that many died from the radiation, she said. I'm learning that radiation isn't as dangerous as we have been brought up to think.

I hate the idea of expanding nuclear power, and anyway, uranium's a finite fossil fuel as well. But if we don't use it, and coal and oil run out in the next 30 years, we'll have to cover a huge amount of open land with dams, wind farms and solar panels, to the detriment of trees and wildlife. The current thinking is just to go nuclear for a while until mankind comes up with a better way to make energy. And we really need to start cutting energy usage drastically - smaller cars, trains, fewer planes. It's so hard to do it in the US where lobbyists seem to hold a lot of power over the politicians.

The book is easy and fun to read - he even discusses how much energy cat and dog food uses!

Bellis said...

The book is free online:

Read p. 234 on for a summary of the US situation:
"North America’s non-solar renewables aren’t enough for North America to live on. But when we include a massive expansion of solar power, there’s enough. So North America needs solar in its own deserts, or nuclear power, or both."

So maybe we can manage without nuclear if we use up a lot of desert land for solar. Endanger the desert tortoise or endanger ourselves with radiation? I think environmentalists may have to compromise. Sad, really, isn't it?

Steven said...

Alternative methods for power generation should be the next "Manhatten Project." Currently nuclear plant produce about 20% of total usage. Coal accounts for about 50% and natural gas is about 20%. I like the idea of using ocean waves to generate power.

Petrea said...

It's certainly not an easy solution, though I tend to forget that ("do what I say and everything will be fine!). I'm an environmentalist, and as such I have to think of the big picture or the little picture and make some tough choices. I hate being realistic.

I like the ocean waves idea, too, and I've seen some research on it. It's important that we focus our resources into discovering alternatives to the wasteful and destructive types of energy we've been using. Letting the oil companies run things is the height of that short-sightedness we were talking about.

Bellis said...

And we need to leave what oil is left in the ground for things we really need hydrocarbons for: making pharmaceuticals and fueling airplanes. I get so upset when I hear people clamoring to drill in Alaska and the Santa Barbara channel.

Virginia said...

You are right on P. Your text is absolutely perfect for this theme.... as always.

Petrea said...

Merci, all.

Susan Campisi said...

I'm late but I must say I'm so glad you posted about this, Petrea. I am entirely in your camp, not at all convinced that nuclear energy is the solution, especially with the way the industry is run in this country. The Union of Concerned Scientists have some great info about nuclear energy:

Also, check out CALPIRG's campaign for safe energy solutions in California:

Bellis, I really respect your opinion and you raise some great points but I'm still skeptical. I'll take a look at that book and try to approach it with an open mind.

Susan Campisi said...

Here's some very interesting info on nuclear subsidies, titled "Nuclear Power Subsidies: The Gift that Keeps on Taking":

Petrea said...

Thanks, Susan. My reading is stacking up--I haven't even gotten to Bellis's suggestion yet. Thanks, everyone, for a good discussion.

PLANT CHIC said...

Beautiful Flower Pic's. ......