Thursday, May 26, 2011

Flood Fire Wind - Climate Shift

Welcome to Radio Ecoshock, and a special welcome to Earthbeat listeners. This is Alex Smith.

We've been broadcasting to college and community radio stations for over 5 years. Now I'm filling in for Earthbeat host Daphne Wysham while that great American green radio "Earthbeat" reorganizes, and seeks new funding. Find out how you can help bring Daphne back by going to

Meanwhile, the weird news about this Earth of ours keeps pouring in. We have a lot to cover, and some great guests to be our guides.

Now that Japan admits the Fukushima reactors are just a triple-melt down, leaking out radioactivity for years or maybe decades, we can look back to the United States and Canada, where wild weather has turned deadly.

We'll start with one of the Net's premier meteorologists, Dr. Jeff Masters from the Weather Underground. Are tornadoes another sign of climate change? How can we have record floods in the Mississippi, while just next door Texas burns through a record drought. It's all going to raise food prices even higher.

Then Dr. Joseph Romm steps in from Joe was Acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of Energy during the Clinton Administration, with a specialty in clean energy. His blog is consistently named in the top 25 best climate sources on the Net.

In 2006, after a family member was hit by the Hurricane Katrina tragedy in New Orleans, Joe Romm wrote the book "Hell and High Water" in 2006. Now we are living it. Plus we talk new science on "salt surges" and climate solutions waiting in the wings.


The Salt Surge hit the Mackenzie River Delta in 1999. In that remote Arctic outlet, from Canada's longest river, nobody knew about it, except the Inuit, the original people of that land. When scientists heard about the wave of salty sea water that washed over a maze of lowlands and small lakes, they investigated. It was a perfect chance to study what we can expect all over the world, as sea levels rise.

They found that about two thirds of the shrubs (there are no trees there) along the Delta died over the succeeding years. In the Delta lakes, salt water species started to take over from weakened fresh water types. It was a big and permanent change to the ecosphere.

As climate change progresses, we can expect similar surges of sea water all over the world. Where will a salt surge hit next? In Nova Scotia? Chesapeake Bay? San Francisco bay?

We all pictured rising seas as a gentle increase, perhaps a few millimeters over a decade. Now we know it will be storm surges that announce the rising levels, due to excess greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

Joe Romm describes the new science well.


Our third guest is Dr. Mike Flannigan, one of Canada's top wild fire experts. You'll hear why wildfires are doubling in the boreal forests in Canada, Alaska, and Russia. And a surprising new threat to the fragile balance of our climate.

We knew that the Boreal forests which cover the top of Canada, Alaska, and Russia were becoming a source of new carbon, rather than a greenhouse sink. Check out my 2007 Radio Ecoshock interview with scientist Tom Gower for more on that. And we knew big fires burn out of control ever year in the North.

The community of Slave Lake in Alberta was just evacuated, with one third of the town, including the municipal buildings, the radio station and library, burned to the ground. It was a sudden nightmare for the inhabitants.

Again various pundits have suggested humans will just move North as climate change develops. We also thought that the increase in rains predicted for the Arctic might stop forest fires. We learn from our guest Mike Flannigan that even a wetter forest can burn with just a few dry days, the northern soil is so thin. That's a nasty


Even more serious, Mike tells us about the Tundra - the area so far North it's too cold for tree seeds to germinate. So no trees. But there are hundreds of thousands of years of carbon stored in the Tundra, mostly as peat. If that burns, the whole climate of the world will change.

For example, there was a big burst of carbon into the atmosphere in 1997-98, when peat fires in Indonesia were burning out of control. Scientists estimate those peat fires along may have contributed from 20 to 40% of all the greenhouse gases produced globally - from the whole world, all sources - from just that one source. It may be no coincidence that 1998 was also one of the hottest years on record.

Now imagine that type of peat fires multiplied by a thousand, in the world Arctic. Peat fires can continue burning underground, even in winter, under the snow. There is no practical way to put them out. Some Arctic peat fires have already occured.

I presume the only solution is to bring our greenhouse gases back under 350 parts per million, as scientist James Hansen says. That is a level where ice forms, returning us to a world where the Arctic is carefully buried in ice. If we let if all melt, then no one knows how high the carbon may go - not from human sources, but from positive feedback loops, like Arctic peat fires.

You can learn a lot from just the short interview with Mike Flannigan, and I encourage you to find out more about this issue.


Last weekend I went to our mountain retreat. The local river was raging, thundering down the canyon, carrying 80 foot trees like match-sticks. We had near-record snowfall, more moisture in the atmosphere, this winter.

I felt the power of the river, and I felt small.

Food and energy prices are cutting into all of our lives. Governments at all levels look bankrupt and powerless. And we are well off compared to the 2 billion of the planet's poorest. The seasons are getting out of sync, the weather is breaking down. Somewhere across the planet three nuclear reactors have melted down out of control.

We are small, you and I. But we can be a lot bigger together. Check out our shows on building local community, the transition movement, and living happier with less.

Please support your local radio station, we're going to need the alternative to big corporate press. If you can, send a letter, an email or a phone call to your local station, asking them to carry Radio Ecoshock. While the Earthbeat show reorganizes, we need to keep green radio going, to carry the real environmental news. Let folks know you want more environmental coverage, with Radio Ecoshock.

Find our web site, with all our past programs as free mp3 downloads, at Radio Ecoshock is made for the love of the planet - no advertising, nothing to sell, just keep that news and hope alive radio.

I'm your host, Alex Smith. Write me any time at this address: radio @

Our music this week was Joel Zifkin, "High Water Rising" (courtesy of and Shane Philip (Canadian) "Mother Earth"

Thank you for listening, and I hope to find you here again next week.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Fracking Myths of Natural Gas - Heinberg & Hughes

Worried about high oil prices and exploding nuclear plants? Carry on shoppers, because we've found gold right under our feet - a bonanza of natural gas. Yes, fracking will fill your tank, heat your house, and light up the streets for another 100 years. At least that's what we've been told.

A new report out from the Post Carbon Institute pokes a sharp pin in the natural gas bubble. We'll hear from energy analyst David Hughes.


But first a return guest to Radio Ecoshock, Richard Heinberg. He woke me up to Peak Oil with his 2003 book "The Party's Over" and helped found a community of alternative thought in 2005 with the book "Powerdown: Options and Actions for a Post-Carbon World". We interviewed Richard on the future of coal in the book "Blackout."

Now Richard Heinberg writes a hot introduction to the alleged great age of gas, available online from the Post Carbon Institute.

We catch up with Richard Heinberg in New York, after one of his many public talks.

In fact, Richard was invited by students of Worcester Polytechnic in Massachusetts. They objected to the the grad speaker invited by WP, namely Rex Tillerson the CEO of ExxonMobil - the company funding so much climate change denial. The big oil company working to wreck their climate future.

A group of students asked Richard Heinberg to speak, and Worcester Polytechnic, which I hear receives some ExxonMobil funding, reluctantly agreed to give their stamp of approval to the alternative graduation event as well. I ask Richard what he told the students.

But the main purpose of our chat was to look at the myths and realities of natural gas fracking. It has been touted as the miracle cure for almost everything, including powering the car fleet, and replacing coal as a more climate friendly fuel.

Heinberg points to a new study showing the total life cycle emissions of natural gas is as great as coal. The is partly because of all the energy used in ever-moving drilling platforms, but mainly due to "fugitive" methane emissions coming out of the drilling operations and pipe systems. Methane is many times more potent than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas.

That report came from Robert Howarth at Cornell University, and published in published in the May issue of Climatic Change Letters (105:5). An April 11, 2011 article at the site, titled "Natural Gas fracking could be 'dirtier'
than coal, Cornell professors find" appears to have been removed from the site. However I downloaded the Google cache version.

Here it is:

April 11, 2011


By Stacey Shackford

Extracting natural gas from the Marcellus Shale could do more to aggravate global warming than mining coal, according to a Cornell study published in the May issue of Climatic Change Letters (105:5).

While natural gas has been touted as a clean-burning fuel that produces less carbon dioxide than coal, ecologist Robert Howarth warns that we should be more concerned about methane leaking into the atmosphere during hydraulic fracturing.

Natural gas is mostly methane, which is a much more potent greenhouse gas, especially in the short term, with 105 times more warming impact, pound for pound, than carbon dioxide (CO2), Howarth said, adding that even small leaks make a big difference. He estimated that as much as 8 percent of the methane in shale gas leaks into the air
during the lifetime of a hydraulic shale gas well -- up to twice what escapes from conventional gas production.

"The take-home message of our study is that if you do an integration of 20 years following the development of the gas, shale gas is worse than conventional gas and is, in fact, worse than coal and worse than oil," Howarth said. "We are not advocating for more coal or oil, but rather to move to a truly green, renewable future as quickly as possible.

We need to look at the true environmental consequences of shale gas."

Howarth, the David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology, Tony Ingraffea, the Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering, and Renee Santoro, a research technician in ecology and evolutionary biology, analyzed data from published sources, industry reports and even Powerpoint presentations from the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA).

They compared estimated emissions for shale gas, conventional gas, coal (surface-mined and deep-mined) and diesel oil, taking into account direct emissions of CO2 during combustion, indirect emissions of CO2 necessary to develop and use the energy source and methane emissions, which were converted to equivalent value of CO2 for
global warming potential.

The study is the first peer-reviewed paper on methane emissions from shale gas, and one of the few exploring the greenhouse gas footprints of conventional gas drilling. Most studies have used EPA emission estimates from 1996, which were updated in November 2010 when it was determined that greenhouse gas emissions of various fuels are higher than previously believed.

"We are highlighting unconventional gas because it is a contemporary problem for us in upstate New York, and because there is a big difference between developing gas from an unconventional well and a conventional well, for the mere reason that unconventional wells are bigger," Ingraffea said.

He noted that the hydraulic fracturing process lends itself to more leakage because it takes more time to drill the well, requires more venting and produces more flowback waste, he said.

"A lot of the data we used are really low quality, but I'm confident they are the best available," Howarth said. "We want to go out into the Marcellus Shale and do micrometeorological fluxes of methane at the time of venting and get a real number on this, which has never been done. We're optimistic we can get funding and do that over the next year."

"We've tried to be conservative all along; we're not trying to be hyperbolic in our statements," Ingraffea said.

"We do not intend for you to accept what we've reported on today as the definitive scientific study in regards to this question. It's clearly not," he added. "What we're hoping to do with this study is to stimulate the science that should have been done before. In my opinion, corporate business plans superseded national energy strategy."

Stacey Shackford is a staff writer in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.


The Post Carbon Institute updated the original study using more recent reports.

Listen to our interview with Richard Heinberg, a leader in not just the Peak Oil movement, but in ways society must move forward in an age of ever-more expensive energy, and scarce resources of all kinds.


Following Richard Heinberg, a speech given by geoscientist David Hughes, the author of the new report "Will Natural Gas Fuel America in the 21st Century?".

Dave studied natural resources for the Geological Survey of Canada for 32 years. Now he's a fellow of the Post Carbon Institute, just finishing a speaking tour of cities in Eastern Canada. His overview is packed with information that Presidents, Prime Ministers need to hear. You too.

The original speech went was 1 hour 9 minutes of dense information. In this week's program, we hear selections telling us the realities of natural gas supplies. Why the industry must drill more and more wells, always moving on, to find wells that produce less than earlier wells.

It's a gas decline in slow motion, leaving environmental destruction behind at many sites. The "fracking" method, of packing a secret mix of toxic chemicals deep underground, and then blowing them up into the rock, could poison entire aquifers or even reach back up into the drinking water supplies. Just like nuclear or deep water drilling, all that fracking risk is unseen, until something goes wrong.

It takes 4 newer gas fields to equal one of the older ones. Dave also talks about why Liquid Natural Gas or LNG is so climate unfriendly. Fracking realities. All that. Why estimates of gas supply were overblown by the industry, and then promoted by an uncritical government. The actual production is much different. Now we are coasting on an earlier wave of drilling, says Hughes, but the results cannot replace dwindling oil supplies.

David Hughes spoke to Transition Toronto on Feburary 3rd, 2011. We'll run his assessment of oil and coal supplies (peak is sooner than you think!) in upcoming Radio Ecoshock shows. Then we'll post the whole speech.

Find the new report on natural gas from the Post Carbon Institute here.

Between Richard Heinberg and David Hughes, we play this smart song from Studio 20 NSU with ProPublica:

"My Water's On Fire Tonight (The Fracking Song)"

See the You tube video here.



This week I'm covering a whole different look at the climate change puzzle. We've had the anarchists saying we are doomed (and I'm not saying they are wrong). We've had socialists calling for massive change in our whole hierarchy and social order.

But for now, the reality is: capitalism, - business determines most of our working lives and perhaps our climate future.

Yet led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and funded by Big Oil, a lot of business has spurned any attempts to control carbon emissions in North America.

What if the environmental approach can't save us? What could?

In this week's speech, recorded by Alex Smith for Radio Ecoshock, we'll here a pitch from green entrepreneurs.

Forget about emissions and climate they say. Just focus on energy efficiency and making money from cutting carbon. That may work. It's a kind of radical business approach, and as you will hear, some major corporations are adopting clean energy solutions.

We may have to work with what is.

As co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, Hunter Lovins envisioned green business. She called it "Natural Capitalism." In the year 2000, she was named a "Hero of the Planet" by Time magazine. Hunter Lovins has split from her also famous green tech developer, Amory Lovins. She is a force of her own, and it shows in this new book.

Now Hunter Lovins has teamed up with Professor Boyd Cohen to present a new concept called "Climate Capitalism". Is it possible for mega-corporations, and small business, to become carbon friendly?

In this speech recorded May 16th in Vancouver, Canada, Boyd Cohen says profits from energy savings, not concern for the climate, is what we should be talking about. Hold on to your sacred cows. Boyd Cohen says business can do it.

Cohen was introduced by the green Mayor of Vancouver, Gregor Robertson.

Part way through the speech, Boyd argues against some radical environmentalists - that we must start adapting to a new climate, because it is already here. He gives examples from countries hit hard just in the last year, from Russia to Pakistan to the United States.

Even in adaptation, there are business opportunities. These might include everything from software for measurements, through new types of portable dikes to contain floods (like the Mississippi and the rivers of Manitoba). Like it or not, business is the means of accomplishing some of our adaptation to climate change, and Boyd and Hunter say we must get busy on adapting, before the next climate hit. And we have to do it WHILE continuing our fight to reduce emissions. Both. At once.

You probably won't like Boyd's opinion of Boliva and Evo Morales. While the country sounds heroic in its recognition of climate change, its policy is going nowhere, says Body Cohen. And he knows something. Cohen has spent a lot of time in South America, working to green a wide range of industries, including those in Bolivia. He is fluent in Spanish as well as technology.

Even the coal mines of Columbia can be made a little safer, and more climate friendly, by upgrading the capture of methane escaping from the mines.

You'll like the story of refitting a Brazilian brick-making plant, so it burns less of the Amazon rainforest wood to keep going. And the operation can get a little extra, by selling it's new carbon credits.

Do carbon markets suck? North Americans may think so, but the rest of the world are using these markets, they are growing, and some countries are at least trying to control emissions. In British Columbia, the government is obligated to buy carbon credits - from companies in that Canadian Province. The results are local and visible. I like that.

The Boyd Cohen presentation of "Climate Capitalism" was sponsored by Discovery Parks, Vancouver Greentech Exchange and CO2 IMPACT.

It was the launch of a new book "Climate Capitalism" from New Society publishers. Cohen, an American now teaching at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, co-authored the book with Hunter Lovins, the famous founder of The Rocky Mountain Institute.

Now in the real world of business large and small, these teaching entrepreneurs promote "Climate Capitalism" to cut emissions. It's a different approach to climate change. Find out more at

Will it catch on? According to this new book, it already has. Including ... are you ready? Walmart. Details inside the book, and our Radio Ecoshock broadcast.

This recording is by Alex Smith of Radio Ecoshock.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Welcome to Radio Ecoshock - to the program I didn't want to make.

I'm Alex Smith - and I have an important show ready for you about rapidly depleting oil supplies. Post peak oil will change all of our lives in the next few years, much sooner than we thought. The speech I recorded explains the forces behind high prices at the gas pump, a hugely popular topic in North America. Lots of folks want to know why prices are going so high.

Instead, I have more news nobody wants to hear about. Yes, it's the continuing nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in Japan.

According to the mainstream media, that is all over. The only stories I see explain how Japan regained control over the damaged reactors, how radiation is going down, plus a flourish of announcements of new plans to attain the holy grail of "cold shutdown".

Just the opposite is happening.

I tried to ignore the steady stream of jaw-dropping news. Historic high levels of radioactivity. Mega radiation released again, and again. Unconfirmed rumors of another reactor fire.

But three stories finally tipped me over the edge, forcing me to make this Fukushima update for you.

First, I've seen undeniable video footage, reported on Russian TV, that Reactor 4 is leaning badly, with a possibility the building could fall over. I'll tell you why that is a risk to the whole world.

Then, Japan suddenly released an aerial map of radioactive contamination, developed with the U.S. Energy Agency. It shows horrible radiation far outside the 20 kilometer exclusion zone - up to 80 kilometers away from the damaged nuclear plant. Why aren't these people being evacuated!

The final straw: children inside that real radiation zone, like those in the Japanese City of Fukushima, about 63 kilometers, 39 miles from the nuclear plant. The kids are being kept inside, because their playgrounds are too radioactive to allow them outside. Why are these children being kept inside radioactive hot zones! At least save the children, those most at risk for radiation poisoning, and long-term cancer.

But no, they are still there, even after locals brought contaminated playground soil to authorities, in a protest unusual in Japan.

That's just the tip of a melt-down. Three reactors admittedly melted down. At least two nuclear spent fuel ponds are partly blown-up or leaking. Radiation levels higher than Chernobyl. Two reactors are heating up dangerously, one even beyond normal operating temperature in a reactor. This amid a culture of hidden nuclear worker poisoning, and a history of withholding nasty nuclear facts.

You need to know, and I need to tell you. Let us suffer through this awful mess together, for two reasons. This radioactivity, still pouring out daily, has reached my home and it has reached your home. It is blanketing planet Earth right now, and no-one has been able to stop it.

And - as the head of the United Nations admits - this is not the last nuclear accident. The aging reactors of the world are being patched up and relicensed even after Fukushima. The nuclear danger is multiplying, with no obvious signs of resistance. Not even a living anti-nuclear movement. Yet.

[Radio clip: 2006 anti-nuclear protest in Berlin, as reported by Deutche Welle radio]


There is some good news. On May 10th, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan appears to have cancelled plans to build 14 new nuclear reactors. Such a step was unimaginable before Fukushima.

Prime Minister Kan also requested, and got, the closure of what has long been considered Japan's most dangerous reactor - the Hamaoka nuclear power station. Some reports suggest the Americans pressured this decision, fearing radiation risk to nearby bases at Yokota, Yokosuka, Atsugi and Zama.

Like the American nuclear power plants at San Onfre and Diablo Canyon in California, this Hamaoka nuclear plant is right on an Earth quake fault zone, on the ocean with not enough tsunami defenses, and way too close to heavily populated areas. As far as I know, this is the first time in human history an operating nuclear power plant was closed down, because it was insanely dangerous to keep it open.

One down, over 400 left to go.

Even more amazing, and hopeful for our future, if it's not too late, Naoto Kan also announced Japan will build sustainable energy instead of more nuclear. The new Japan may be powered by the sun, the wind, and geothermal energy.

All this is really important news, a possible break-through turning point for all of us, if we can get our own governments to listen. To act, BEFORE another Fukushima. Perhaps Japan can help lead us all out of the twin addictions - to fossil fuels and nuclear power. An example to the world. Let it be.


Despite brave announcements from governments heavily invested in big nuclear promises, Fukushima is chilling new plants around the world. In just one example among dozens, the environment ministry committee set up to evaluate a proposal for four 1000 megawatt plants on the Bay of Bengal - have refused to grant the license. The Kudankulam Nuclear Power project in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu is one hold.

Two reactors are almost finished there. Looking at high chances of a quake or tsunami, this plant right on the coast looked too much like Fukushima. The committee is asking for more safety details, specifically citing Fukushima. This may be a temporary stall, or a call for higher tsunami protection walls, but India is likely to approve the complex in the end - even though another highly populated part of India could be threatened with ultimate destruction by a nuclear melt-down.

Source: Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi, April 28, 2011

"Fukushima effect:Kudankulam N-plant fails to get clearance"

There have been violent protests, and one death in India against the big government nuclear power expansion plants. The proposed world's largest reactor complex, the Jaitapur project, in western Maharashtra state, have the French company Areva as a partner. Nuclear dealing has been very secret in India, almost as part of its nuclear weapons complex. The public has little to no say on what is built. Millions of people would be in danger around each reactor.

We can only hope the developing nuclear catastrophe in Japan creates a greater awareness. In a stunning announcement, Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan has apologized, because the government misled the country into a dangerous nuclear path. Does each country have to suffer similar disasters, before the world changes course? The sun, the wind, and many other sustainable energy sources are waiting for humans to accept them.

In Japan, the price paid is terrible. The news coming out of Fukushima is sad and frightening. Our own media has failed competely. In the West, government minders are going backward, removing crucial radiation monitoring.

Fringe bloggers, a few brave independent Japanese journalists, a few independent physicists and doctors, one small radio program. That's what we have. And you. Forwarding links, tweeting, facebooking, getting the word out.

So here we go. All the news that should have been told, packed under pressure, into one more radio show.

This is Radio Ecoshock.


Let's start with those 3 news stories that made me mad.

Reactor Four at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant was severely damaged by a hydrogen explosion on March 15th.

Theoretically, that should never have happened. The reactor had been shut down for several months, for maintenance. Following a Japanese practice, not allowed in the United States, all of the unused fuel rods, 204 of them, were moved into the spent fuel pool, right above the reactor. That pool was already the most heavily loaded at the site, with 1331 spent fuel rods in the pond. There is far more radioactive material in this pond than ever existed at Chernobyl.

Even though the reactor was not running, the concrete and steel outer building at Reactor 4 blew up violently.

Following the earth quake March 11th, water ran dry in the pool. A reaction took place creating hydrogen, which collected in the outer shell, and then blew up. There were fires in the building for two days, recorded on video from a great distance. We can presume a giant plume of radiation escaped, blowing mostly into the sea due to
wind direction, but also on to the land of Japan. In that pool fire, explosion and continuing daily radioactive steam are the worst and most long-lasting elements, including plutonium, uranium, strontium, and others we seldom hear about.

There is a lot of speculation about what caused this original damage to the fuel pool. Former nuclear executive Arnie Gundersen thinks the earthquake caused a crack in the fuel pool. Listen to his Radio Ecoshock interview in our April 15th program.

Many of you have asked about the difference between things like Chest X-rays and the radiation floating over from the Fukushima accident. Here is the best answer I've found, from a video conference call made by Maggie Gunersen of Fairwindes Associates and Marco Kaltofen, from Wooster Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts USA.

Find more great info at

The plant operator, Tokyo Electric, known as Tepco, suggests radioactive debris fell into the Reactor 4 pool, due to the much larger explosion at Reactor 3 next door, the day before.

What we do know from recent video, and from footage shot by drone fly-overs: the Reactor 4 building was very severely damaged. It looks like a wreck, not a reactor building. We can see right through parts of it, like looking through a skeleton. Now, as reported by Russia Today TV, analysis of video shows the whole Reactor 4 building is tilting badly.

Dr Robert Jacobs is a Research Associate Professor of Nuclear History and Culture, at the Hiroshima Peace Institute. Here he is on Russia Today TV May 10th, North American time.

[Russia Today TV clip]


"RT Host: And of course the situation is far from over isn't it. There is speculation now that the fourth reactor is leaning and is in danger of falling. How great a concern is that?

Dr. Robert Jacobs: It's a very, very serious concern. This began as speculation among those of us watching the incident, and on the webcam on which you can look at the four reactors, it began to be obvious that building number 4 was leaning to the right a little bit, from the visual field of the webcam. And not just tonight actually, in a release of information from the Japanese government, they have confirmed that there has been work started yesterday to shore up the structure of the building, and specifically the upper floor.

Now in this reactor you have the spent fuel pool that is a much larger spent fuel pool. It has fuel rods from three to four reactors in there. And this part of the building is beginning to lean, and because of the explosion of reactor three, there is some questions about the structural integrity of reactor four.

And if that were to collapse, you would have all of the fuel in that spent fuel pool just scattered about on the ground. And outside of increasing very, very high levels of contamination, you would also have radiation rise to levels that would make it very problematic for workers to continue to work on this site at all."

Two weeks ago, in my Radio Ecoshock program titled "Fukushima Drama" I reported weakness in the structure of the Reactor Four spent fuel pool, and Japanese proposals to build several concrete pillars under it. Now it appears that work has started. Among a cascade of catastrophic possibilities at this nuclear plant, beginning this work at Reactor 4 underlines how severe and serious this threat is.

Remember too, there was a lot of very hot radioactive debris around both reactors 3 and 4. Some of it, possibly including parts of fuel rods blown out by explosions, was dragged into a dirt pit, by remote-controlled bull-dozers

Workers will be risking their lives to work on the Reactor 4 building. But as you'll hear later in this program, the Japanese nuclear industry is no stranger to using up expendable workers to clean up a mess.


Meanwhile, an unmanned modified cement pouring arm is dropping up to 200 tons of water a day into that spent fuel pool at Reactor 4. Where is it all going? Some isgoing back up into the air, as radioactive steam.

We can see that on live video cams. Reactor 4 has been steaming or smoking ever since the accident two months ago. Depending on the wind, the radiation goes either out to sea, or over Japan, for many miles inland.

More tons of this water from Reactor 4 are collecting at the Fukushima Dai-ichi site. The turbine halls and trenches continue to filll up. The unheard of levels of radioactive pollution has reached the ground water. Some of that goes into the sea. Some of it goes back inland, we know not where.


We do know the sewage systems of Fukushima Prefecture are filled with nuclear poisons. Just another horror story barely mentioned in Western media. Oh, by the way, sewage systems are loaded with radioactivity.

It started May 1st, with a report from Jiji Press in Japan. Being a small country with few resources, the Japanese attempt to recycle almost everything. So they burn their sewage sludge, producing a kind of slag that is sold off to japanese cement companies, who turn them into blocks, and other cement products.

The treatement plant in Koriyama Japan measured 26,400 becquerels of cesium in every kilogram of sludge.

The reduced sludge measured a staggering 334,000 becquerels per kilo. Local officials admitted ten tons a day were sent out to a cement company, totaling 500 tons since the earthquake in early March.

Of course, just burning the sludge also spews radioactive materials into the local air.

Not in the New York Times? This story came to me through the excellent blog at

That blogger not only translates from Japanese newspapers and TV, but often runs the Japanese original text along with the English version. Authoritative and helpful.

In fact, this blogger is a bull-dog following stories down. On May 5th the blog reports, via the newspaper Yomiuri Shinbun May 3rd, Japan's third largest cement maker, Sumitomo Osaka Cement, bought the hot sludge from Koriyama City. Unknowingly radioactive cement products had already been shipped to Tochigi , Bunma, and Ibaraki Prefectures, among others.

Just like the groundwater, this is how the nuclear mess flows outward into the country, and into the world.

Nobody expected it.

The cement company reported double the amount of sludge purchase - now 928 tons, not 500 as originally said.

According to our blogger at ex-skf, there are 62 sewage treatment plants in Fukushima Prefecture. The Japanese press reports the government tested sludge at 19 more sewage facilities, and found high concentrations of radioactive cesium in 18 of them. That includes the big plant "Horikawa-machi in Fukushima City, [where] 446,000 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium were found."

Likely all the other untested plants in Fukushima Prefecture, and others further away, are also radioactive. Our blogger calls this "one big 'dirty bomb'" from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.

How did all the sewage plants in this big region of Japan become radioactive? Did it fall as contaminated rain?

That must be everywhere. Or is it running in through radioactive groundwater? Or both? So far, the government of Japan has not said.

You see what I mean? Just this one story alone would be a bombshell anywhere else in the world! We don't even know how big and how far this nuclear accident will spread. It hasn't happened - it is just getting started.

This is Radio Ecoshock.

I began my series Japan Atomic Emergency Bulletins on the day of the quake, March 11th.

I knew this nuclear accident, actually a series of nuclear accidents in Japan, was huge, historic, dangerous.

Early on, I predicted a big chunk of central Japan would become unsafe for human habitation.

[Here is a list of the Japan Atomic Emergency Bulletins]





[Find all our regular programs on Fukushima at]


In my opinion, the Japanese government has denied and delayed proper evacuation of it's citizens far too long.

People were allowed to stay in the highly toxic 20 kililometer zone for up to a month. Then anyone was allowed to drive in. Now it has been sealed off. But just this week residents were allowed to go back, to haul out some more radioactive belongings.

The government just went out recently, finally, to test those piles of debris, - the refrigerators, electronics, clothing, cars, trees and metal bits and all washed around by the tsunami. It was radioactive for many kilometers around the plant. Everything is.

Two months after the accident, and this is one of those stories that make my blood boil, the government has released an aerial map of the true radiation zone. Even this may not be the full story. Let's call the new map one step closer to the truth. The Japanese agencies appear to be prodded by, and were certainly helped by, the Americans.

Here is NHK World TV from May 10th:

"Aerial fallout map confirms soil radiation levels

Japan's Nuclear Safety Commission says a new aerial map of radioactive fallout contamination has confirmed the radiation levels in the area near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

The commission's chairman, Haruki Madarame, told reporters on Monday that the map will reinforce the agency's system to monitor contamination and will help find ways to lower radiation levels.

The Japanese Science Ministry and the US Energy Department conducted a joint aerial survey from April 6th to the 29th of the area within an 80-kilometer radius of the plant.

The map shows the density of radioactive cesium in red or yellow, depending on the concentration in the soil.

The high density area lies northwest of the plant, coinciding with data collected on the ground.

Madarame also said the situation at the power plant is stabilizing and that it is about time to review ways to carry out daily surveys on the ground. He said the soils could be tested fewer times but more meticulously with the aid of aerial mapping."

The broadcast version did not contain the line attributed to Madarme, "the situation at the power plant is stabilizing" - at least in English, but the print version posted on the NHK web site does.

Shortly, we'll see just how much "the situation at the power plant is stabilizing". In fact, just the opposite, as reactors heat up, melt down, and spew radioactivity. While TEPCO flounders with make-it-up-as-you-go attempts to hold on.

What you can't hear in this story, or in the mainstream news is simple: the map shows horrifying amounts of radiation extending far beyond the little 20 kilometer exclusion zone. A huge arm of radiation goes up to 80 kilometers out.

The much-publicized daily radiation reports by the Nuclear Safety Commission of the Ministry of Education, based on the SPEEDI collection system, has never reported, to this day, the radiation levels in two prefectures: Fukushima, and Miyagi just North of the plant.. Now we know why. They are largely poisoned.

The Education site did report on Ibaraki Prefecture directly south of Fukushima, and it was the highest on their chart, sitting above 1,000 Grays per hour for several weeks. Now that Prefecture is allegedly down to 210 Gy/h - still the highest shown in Japan, other than the two censored prefectures.

I suggest that large parts of Miyagi and Ibaraki Prefectures, and all of Fukushima Prefecture, should have been evacuated when the explosions happened in the middle of March. Their rainwater, sewage, and soil is radioactive.

At least save the children, whose developing organs will soak up the radioactivity, with less defense than adults.

The children will live the 15 to 25 years it will take to develop cancers. The politicians and utility operators may be dead by then.

Or they may, as old men, be sued, as the government of France is now being sued, by victims of thyroid cancer from Chernobyl.

Here is that Wiki entry:

Since March 2001, 400 lawsuits have been filed in France against "X" (the French equivalent of John Doe, an unknown person or company) by the French Association of Thyroid-affected People, including 200 in April 2006.

These persons are affected by thyroid cancer or goitres, and have filed lawsuits alleging that the French government, at the time led by Prime Minister Jacques Chirac, had not adequately informed the population of the risks linked to the Chernobyl radioactive fallout.

The complaint contrasts the health protection measures put in place in nearby countries (warning against consumption of green vegetables or milk by children and pregnant women) with the relatively high contamination suffered by the east of France and Corsica.

Although the 2006 study by the French Institute of Radioprotection and Nuclear Safety said that no clear link could be found between Chernobyl and the increase of thyroid cancers in France, it also stated that papillary thyroid cancer had tripled in the following years.[62]"

If there is mass cancer in Japan within 25 years, I suspect the remaining decision-makers, the men who did not evacuate population living in radioactive zones, may be hunted down like the Nazi war criminals were.

Harsh words, I know. But what can we say about officials who encouraged children to return to school even in the 20 to 30 kilometer zone around Fukushima? Who let them live where even the sewage is radioactive?

Where each night's wind threatens to bring unseen radiation into their lungs and their lives?

Here is NHK World News:

"Fukushima city to remove topsoil from schoolyards

The mayor of Fukushima city has agreed to a demand from parents and teachers to have radiation-contaminated topsoil removed from schoolyards.

Outdoor radiation levels temporarily exceeded safety limits last month at 10 kindergartens, nurseries, and elementary and junior high schools in the city.

The municipal board of education says most elementary schools continue to have students play and study indoors.

On Tuesday, members of a federation of local parent-teacher associations met with Mayor Takanori Seto.

They presented him with a request in writing seeking the removal of surface soil from schoolyards to prevent children from being exposed to radiation.

They also demanded a briefing for parents by municipal officials and radiation experts. PTA federation chairman Tomoki Akiyama said conflicting information about how much radiation is safe has made parents increasingly concerned about the health of their children.

Mayor Seto said the city will start removing soil from schoolyards as soon as it decides on the most effective method.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 16:04 +0900 (JST)"


This is Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith with more news from the developing nuclear disaster at Fukushima Japan.

We just heard Japanese TV reporting this about an official pronouncement:

"Madarame also said the situation at the power plant is stabilizing"

Here is what the Japanese American nuclear physicist Michio Kaku said about stabilizing this nuclear plant, on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman:

"So when the utility says that things are stable, it's only stable in the sense that you are dangling from a cliff, hanging by your fingernails, and as the time goes by, each fingernail starts to crack. That's the situation now."

Now let's get an update on how things are going, how the utility TEPCO and the government are bringing these reactors under control.


Let's tune into Reactor Number One at Fukushima Dai-ichi Japan.

On the 27th of April, Bloomberg news reported radiation levels at Reactor 1 rose to the highest levels measured since the March 11th quake. A pair of robots masure an astounding 1,120 millisierverts per hour of radiation. If I calculate correctly, thats about 112,000 millirems per hour, in American measurement.

Then it got worse. The temperature inside this first reactor kept rising, and there is only one reason why.

Supposedly the atomic reaction was stopped when control rods were automatically dropped into the reactor at the time of the quake. But when the electricity powering the cooling pumps failed, at least half the fuel rods melted down, as Tepco admits.

There was a big hydrogen explosion which severely damaged the outer concrete building. In a rush to replace cooling water, TEPCO pumped in thousands of tons of sea water for a couple of weeks, until urged to use fresh water barged in by the Americans. Tons of salt built up in the reactor itself, we think. Stainless steel piping in the plant would start rapid corrosion.

About three weeks ago, David Lockbaum of the Union of Concerned Scientists suggested water was not reaching the fuel rods, a theory accepted weeks later by TEPCO. This past week the utility sent the first humans to any of the reactors, into Reactor 1. They set up long tubes and pumps, trying to remove radioactive air from the inner building.

The highly radioactive air in the building was blown through the upper vents, into the atmosphere. This was done at night, hopefully with the wind blowing the radiation out into the Pacific, but nothing in air moves just one way.

According to Xinhua China news and other sources, just by opening the doors to Reactor Number One, the workers blew another 500 million becquerels of radioactive materials into the atmosphere.

It was an extravaganza of radioactive pollution that hardly anyone has heard about. And it didn't work.

Since then, Japanese NHK World reports May 10th:

[News Article accompanying the video]

"High radiation may slow down TEPCO's repairs

The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says it may need to slow down some repairs at the Number one reactor due to elevated radiation levels.

Tokyo Electric Power Company measured the levels at several spots in the reactor building on Monday as part of its preparation to fill the containment vessel with water and restore a circulating cooling system.

The company is concerned that the reactor's pipes are leaking radioactive water, contaminating the area.

The tests yielded a maximum of 700 millisieverts per hour, thus workers can only stay in the vicinity for around 20 minutes.

However, employees spent half an hour doing the tests and were exposed to as much as 10.56 millisieverts of radiation.

TEPCO says the figures are higher than acceptable for worker safety.

On Tuesday the firm will attempt measures to reduce radiation levels, including laying down sheets containing lead to insulate the radioactive substances.

It will continue checking the levels but is worried that it may need to change plans depending on the results.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 07:43 +0900 (JST)"

Since the company can't seem to get water directly into the reactor, TEPCO's plan remains flooding the containment building of Reactor One, a risky experiment never tried in nuclear operation history. There is a danger the extra weight of all that water in a damaged building, or a further earthquake, could wreck the inner reactor, exposing it to the air. Nobody knows.

Last week the company temporarily gave up this effort, as the pressure inside Reactor 1 dropped toward zero, which could draw in outside oxygen, fuelling another dangerous hydrogen explosion. Water pumping was lowered from 20 tons to just 6 tons a day.


Just two weeks ago Tepco said that fuel rod damage in Reactor 1 was lower than U.S. Nuclear Regulatory estimates of 70 percent damaged. It was only 55 percent said Tepco.

Except that wasn't true either. On May 11th, Bloomberg News reported Tepco admitted THE ENTIRE FUEL ROD ASSEMBLY IS TOTALLY EXPOSED TO THE AIR in Reactor 1. In fact, the water level was 3 feet, 1 meter below the fuel rod assembly. This likely means the entire fuel bundle has melted down.

Honestly, I don't know what comes next. Tepco has taken far too long to find this out, to do anything about it.

What does a complete melt-down mean? When does it go through the reactor containment into the basement, all the way to groundwater - where it explosed violently? Is it already melting out? This can only go from very bad, to extremely bad. Chilling news indeed.

Workers have gone back in to install some guages, even though lead shielding mats only reduced high radiation inside by a meagre 10 percent. We'll talk about the workers soon. Are they expendable?

This is Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith, dragged back into the on-going nuclear accident in Japan.


Reactor Two is probably the most seriously damaged. It has a hole in it, lava-like nuclear fuel is pooled in the bottom, possibly leaking out into the lower aparatus or building basement. Certainly highly radioactive water, tons and tons more of it every day, is passing directly through the melted fuel into various catchments, the
basements and trenches, and the sub-soil. TEPCO is trying to catch some of it, for storage or treatment later.

Reactor Two is also smoking, releasing radioactive steam each and every day. It is a nuclear accident out of control.


And yet that almost seems better than the monster next door, Reactor Three.

NHK World understates the situation this way:

"The firm also says the temperature of the plant's Number 3 reactor has been rising this month, and that work to pump water to cool the reactor may be insufficient."

[Tuesday, May 10, 2011 19:13 +0900 (JST]

It may be "insufficient" because the temperature inside Reactor 3 keeps rising and rising. At one point it was measured above 300 degrees C, at least 572 degrees Fahrenheit - higher than the operating temperature of a live reactor. The Philippines Radiation blog found one source quoting 314 degrees C.

There are a lot of different reports out there. The media tends to chime in if temperatures drop, but not when they go high. One report from Mainichi news Japan puts Reactor 3 at 217 degrees C on May 8th. NHK World TV tells us the cooler temperature measured at the bottom of the reactor, at 150.6 degrees C on May 10th in Japan.

Let's listen to this report from NHK World on the 10th of May:

[News article with video]

"TEPCO to begin pipe work for No.3 reactor

The operator of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is to begin construction work on pipes for the No.3 reactor to make sure that all cooling water being pumped in is actually reaching the reactor.

Tokyo Electric Power Company has been pumping 9 tons of water per hour into the reactor since last Wednesday after its temperature began rising earlier this month.

That was an increase from 7 tons per hour. But the temperature at the bottom of the reactor stood at 150.6 degrees Celsius as of 5 AM Tuesday, marking a rise of 34.1 degrees over the past 10 days.

The power company suspects that not all the water was reaching the reactor because some of it may have been entering a pipe that branched off.

So it decided to pump water through another pipe that had been used to inject water into the reactor before.

The construction work to change pipes for water injection is to begin on Tuesday afternoon. If all goes smoothly, the water will be pumped through the pipe starting on Thursday.

The water level inside a tunnel connected to the reactor was 76 centimeters from the tunnel opening on the ground surface as of 7 AM Tuesday--a 16 centimeter rise over the past 10 days. The level continues to exceed the 1 meter mark, which the utility firm has set as the benchmark to begin transferring contaminated water.

The firm plans to quickly prepare to transfer contaminated water from the No.3 reactor turbine building and the tunnel.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 12:44 +0900 (JST)"

Notice more highly radioactive water is flooding out of control, along with the reactor itself. That is reported in this accompanying news article, but not in the TV English language broadcast. The flooding problem was left out for TV consumers.

The fourth floor of the four story Reactor 3 building is missing entirely, blown away by the hydrogen explosion in mid-March.

In high resolution photos, the spent fuel pond, loaded with highly radioactive fuel rods appears partly blown away. Somewhere. Until May 10th, TEPCO appeard to say nothing about the condition of this spent fuel pond.

Apparently, docile Japanese reporters did not ask. Even though this is the most likely source of the fuel rods found outside in the grounds of the plant, and even a mile beyond the plant boundaries.

Finally, again on May 10th when the TEPCO seems to have divulged a flurry of overdue news, the company reported something about the Reactor 3 pool. They showed a video of water covering an area where fuel rods used to be, amid extreme damage amounting to piles of rubble over and in the fuel pond. Only a small part of the fuel pool was shown, presumably the part that is still there. But it is containing water, it seems. So we just don't know the true state of this facility.

Let's listen to this carefully manicured projection by NHK World:

[News article]

"Radiation high at No.3 reactor pool

The operator of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has detected high levels of radioactive materials in the spent fuel pool of the No.3 reactor at the plant.

Tokyo Electric Power Company examined a water sample from the pool on Sunday. The sample contained 140,000 becquerels of radioactive cesium-134 per cubic centimeter, 150,000 becquerels of cesium-137, and 11,000 becquerels of iodine-131.

None of these substances were detected during an inspection on March 2nd, before the accident triggered by the March 11th disaster.

TEPCO says these substances may have come from damaged fuel rods in the reactor rather than the damaged spent fuel rods in the pool, because it has detected radioactive iodine, which has a short half-life.

Radioactive substances such as iodine are generated during nuclear fission inside a reactor.

The company says the radioactive substances may have become attached to debris and entered the pool together.

Footage from the pool at the No.3 reactor on Sunday showed debris, believed to have been caused by a hydrogen explosion, scattered all over the interior of the reactor building.

The levels of radiation detected are almost the same as those detected in April in water samples in the fuel pool of the No.2 reactor.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011 20:22 +0900 (JST)"

Again, TEPCO denies anything bad happened to the fuel rods themselves, despite the horrendous explosion and missing parts of the building.. The extra radiation is supposed to come from radioactive debris falling in, or ominously, from "damaged fuel rods in the reactor". How does radiation from the reactor get into the spent fuel pool? Is the reactor containment so damaged?

Stop asking obvious questions. Those are the ones never answered in the mysterious press releases from TEPCO, the government, or any of the Japanese agencies.

Maybe they don't know. Certainly they don't say.


We've already talked about the risk of Reactor 4 falling over. You can watch the polluted steam or smoke always coming from that building. Authorities admit continuous flooding of the basements, trenches and we presume the groundwater, from that reactor.

Seldom mentioned, Reators 5 and 6 are also flooding with water, also becoming unstable in the soaked radioactive ground and foundations.


This is a collection of disasters. They don't happen fast enough to catch our attention, except for the occasional spectacular leak, fire or explosion. Now we don't bother reporting even that. Half a billion bequerels of radiation escapes when we open the doors? Ha! That was nothing, some authority says, nothing, just one three hundredth of all the radioactive poison we dumped into the sea one day last month.



This is Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith, and I'm angry my world has been polluted just to light up neon signs somewhere. I'm angry my own government is doing the very same thing, running the same risk of closing off big parts of the countryside, and even major cities, to fill any wasteful demand at all.

I'm sad for all the displaced people in Japan, from the tsunami that has almost disappeared from the news.

Now all that is left is entire towns full of rubble, and some bodies still not found.

I understand that the leaders of Japan, and Tokyo Electric Power are just humans. They could give up, but the will not.

As I said at the start of the program, I applaud the announcements by Prime Minister Kan to close down the dangerous Hamaoka nuclear plant, to stop the construction of 14 planned new reactors, and to search for truly safe clean sustainable energy for Japan.

But this bold search for the new Japan calls on the people to admit one more shame: the dirty secret of how that country's nuclear industry has used the most defenceless people to clean up their mess. Those workers are expected to go way and die as unreported casualties of radiation sickness, and deadly cancer.

Japan has a history of using outcasts for the most menial work. Over long feudal time, they created a lower caste for such jobs. This continued into modern times, and some untrained casual workers have been employed to clean up nuclear accidents, reportedly just with buckets and towels, with no protective equipment.

You can find evidence in the film "Nuclear Ginza" produced in 1995 for the UK television Channel 4. The film starts in Japanese, with English sub-titles, then weaves in English language narration. You hear the stories, and see the images, of low-class or homeless workers used by the nuclear industry, for very little pay. In some cases, nobody explained the risk, and nobody kept track of their dose, and ignored obvious signs of radiation poisoning. If a law suit arose, the victim was paid off, the film says.

Blogger Sarah Noorbakhsh writes on April 1st, 2011:

"Back in 1995, the UK’s Channel 4 produced a 30-minute documentary on Japan’s nuclear industry and how they use disadvantaged people, including burakumin and other day laborers, to do manual labor inside their power plants. And by inside, I mean inside. Some were forced to work right next to the room where the core was kept, in the dark and drenched in sweat; one man tells how he was forced to mop up radioactive water with towels."

[Film clip]

See that complete half hour documentary at

In the very popular financial blog called Automatic Earth, one writer is called "Stoneleigh", and in her career as Nicole Foss. Nicole was a guest on Radio Ecoshock.

She has a degree and experience in evaluating nuclear accidents.

In Stoneleigh's recent moving and poignant post at The Automatic Earth, she explores the reported horrible conditions for workers at Fukushima during this accident, in the context of long-term abuse of nuclear workers in dangerous situations in Japan.

You must read her May 10th post "Welcome to the Atomic Village" at

Stoneleigh explains the history of lower castes in Japan, from the Burakumin to the yoseba. There are many links in the article, including to another blog titled "Dying for Tepco? Fukushima's Nuclear Contract Workers" by Paul Jobin at

How these use-them and lose-them workers are attracted by false advertisements, (or hustled up by Yakuza according to the program "Nuclear Ginza"). They face incredible risks, and afterwards are shunned. As today's Fukushima nuclear workers will be in Japan.

Have you wondered how more than a thousand TEPCO workers walked through radioactive water, wandered near record-high radiation outside the plants, ran through tunnels of irradiated water - while the utility claims there is not a single serious radiation injury? That nobody has suffered radiation poisoning, or even gone over the recently raised acceptable levels?

Here is Stoneleigh's conclusion:

"It may be very difficult to undertake any future epidemiological study of the health effects of Fukushima liquidators, as it was at Chernobyl, where little data was ever collected. "

Years later, as they sicken and die, we will hear the truth about the workers now at Fukushima. Or maybe they will die in back alleys with no record to show.

I say all this in full consciousness that here in North America, we have our own outcastes, who we use and abuse. In Canada, the First Nations aboriginal people are beaten, poisoned on their own reserves, used as women, jailed, and killed. In America, the jails are full of African Americans, run through the so-called justice
system by the millions.

Just like Japan, our so-called nuclear regulators are often bribed or paid by the nuclear industry, and use the revolving door to get big-paying jobs when they leave, as 68 Japanese nuclear regulators did. The same thing happens with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is paid by the industry, and never turns down a license application. We have the same failed system. Japan has showed us the extreme consequences when nuclear things go wrong.

Nobody is without sin. But in the atomic world, there is no margin for errors like these. The atom is unforgiving, spreading the cancer to everyone in the world, from any accident or terrorist act. We are not any of us perfect enough to use this technology. We see that now.

In this time of extreme challenge, we need to help the Japanese people, and even that government which we criticize. Acknowledging our own abuse of atomic knowledge, our own history of violence and secrecy, we plead with Japan to take a step above.

Save your own children by evacuating them from anywhere near that big radiation zone. Spare the future of the nation.

Protect the "heros" who risk their lives trying to stop the next worst stage of this nuclear disaster at Fukushima.

Treat them like heros.

And try even harder to tell your people, and the people of the world, the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

My thanks to all the listeners who sent in tips and links, and to the bloggers at the edge, trying to keep the players honest.

Please tune in in next week. If nothing blows up in Japan, we'll look at problems right in our own streets: the developing energy prices that will change everything you take for granted.

"Starvation By Oil" - next week on Radio Ecoshock. Our web site is Find the blog for this program at

The music at the beginning of the program was "Raining Radiation" by Vastman.

We ended the show with the song "My Country" by Rachelle Van Zanten, who was protesting a Shell development in Canada's far north. Excellent tune. Check out this video.

I'm Alex Smith, and this has been Radio Ecoshock.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Climate, Media and Learning

In the age of Fukushima. Past the time of dead terrorists and Royal Weddings. Underlying deadly storms and higher food prices, we continue our relentless carbon war against the atmosphere and the sea.

In this Radio Ecoshock program 5 guests take us through the process.

Almost the father of public health warnings on climate change, Harvard's Dr. Paul Epstein is our guest. Before the deadly tornados in the American South, he specifically warned of more violent weather. An advisor to governments, Dr. Epstein talks about climate impacts on the air we breath, smog, and the one out of every ten Americans suffering from asthma.

Just for the horror, I'll toss in a few minutes from another climate and health talk, this time Dr. Tim Takaro in Vancouver. Did you know even moderate projections of global warming will move malaria-bearing mosquitoes as far North as Scandinavia, or the Province of Quebec in Canada?

Dr. Takaro, and his co-speaker, Dr. Michael Brauer agree we are already committed to signicant climate disruption. We need new models of public heatlh, trying to adapt, trying to save lives.

Then we'll talk with one of the premier environment journalists of our day. As global warming reved up in the public mind, Andy Revkin was THE environment reporter for The New York Times. His blog "Dot Earth" continues to connect the big stories, with a science edge.

We'll wrap up with two interviews asking: why aren't schools preparing kids for a morphing ecosphere? Captain Paul Saylan has a new book about fixing green teaching. Charlie heads up the Ocean Conservation Society in Southern California.

And from New England, active primary school teacher Katy Farber tell us a way to connect students to the community, to the real world - perfect for the Transition Movement - and great for disconnected kids. Don't miss her bright green activism, or her blog "Non-toxic Kids".

I'm Alex Smith. Four new interviews, one speech clip, one hour, here we go.


Our first guest advises governments all over the world on the health impacts of climate change. As you will hear, this is no small matter. Literally millions of lives are at stake. It is possible climate disruption will become the single largest cause of premature human death.

New diseases can arrive where you live. You could die of heat, even in a modern city, as tens of thousands did in the heat waves in Paris and Moscow.

Likely, someone you know is already suffering from allergies, with plant pollens pumped up by extra carbon dioxide in the air.

Dr. Paul R. Epstein is a world recognized expert in the growing relationship between climate change and health. An instructor at the Harvard Medical School, Dr. Epstein is Associate Director for Harvard's Center for Health and the Global Environment.

Now Paul Epstein has teamed up with a very good science writer, Dan Ferber, to tell us what we need to know, about this under-reported side of climate disruption.

The book is "Changing Planet, Changing Health, How the Climate Crisis Threatens Our Health, and What We Can Do About It".

[Epstein interview]

One of the things I like about this book: the authors don't say climate change is the cause of everything. Storms and droughts are complex events, with pre-existing drivers, like El Nino or ocean currents. They explain this well. Dr. Epstein, does say climate change aggravates a lot of natural weather events - and two weeks before the tornadoes in the U.S., Dr. Epstein talked about more violent storms coming, in part due to climate distruption.

On the dismal side, it looks like pumped up weather, such as extreme precipitation events, hurts the people least able to protect themselves, or recover. From the medical perspective, I ask Dr.l Epstein to compare the impacts of Hurricane Mitch on Central Americans, versus Hurricane Katrina in the U.S.

This Radio Ecoshock interview is pumped full of facts, gathered from a long career of studying and advising on the public health impacts of climate change. Give it a listen.


As we close our segment on the public health impact of climate change, I add just one chilling example of the new risks to your health. The speaker is Dr. Tim Takaro of Simon Fraser University. He explained the impacts of more wildfires, and more floods. That led to this short piece on the growing domain of disease-bearing mosquitoes, as the climate warms.

[audio clip]

Dr. Takaro explained malaria mosquitoes invade the old colonial capitals of Africa, which were previously built above them. A hotter climate brings this awful disease to the capitals. And by 2025, malaria mosquitoes could be found as far north as Scandinavia, or the Provinces of Quebec and British Columbia in Canada. Malaria can be treated in developed countries, but it is a life-long disease with serious health consequences.

Will it drain our civilization further?

Find a link to a video, complete with slides, with the full speeches by Dr. Michael Brauer, from the University of British Columbia, and Dr. Tim Takaro of Simon Fraser University, here.

The two talks on "Public Health and Climate Change" were part of a lecture series presented by the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, in Victoria B.C. on March 31st, 2011. The video asks you to download a player from Microsoft called Silverlight - go ahead, it's free, harmless, and a tool you'll see used more often.

A good collection of climate-related speeches from the Pacific Institute can be found here.


Now we move on to a working example of climate journalism. That's Andy Revkin, of the New York Times.

[Andy Revkin interview]

Andy and I talk about the difficulty of writing for a large newspaper like The Times. Any environmental article is going to be criticized by industry as too radical, and by Greens as not enough. Andy kept a tricky balance pretty well.

Revkin has the kind of enquiring mind, and a remaining sense of wonder, that drives him to dig into the science as well as the politics. His reporting from the melting Arctic is just one good example.

All through his coverage of climate change, Revkin also stressed the importance of controlling the ever-expanding human population. This didn't earn him any friends in the Republican camp. Right-wing radio host Rush Limbaugh told his national audience that Andy Revkin should kill himself, to lighten the load on the planet. That's just Limbo's knee-jerk response to anyone who suggests birth control and education for women.

We also talk about big reductions in reporters for most major newspapers, what that means for journalism - and what you get to hear as "news". Can blogging really replace paid reporters?

Now that Andy has moved back to academia, he still blogs for the New York Times.

Find his blog, Dot Earth, here.


Do you wonder if kids are learning about the new climate in school? Are they connecting with their community, or displaced in it?

During a speech to the Technology and Design conference in California March 1st, Microsoft founder Bill Gates warned eduction funding will be cut to pay off pension money that was siphoned off and wasted by governments. He called it a battle of the generations, young versus old. But that's another story.

Let's talk with a do-er, Vermont teacher Katy Farber. Katy is an active primary school teacher with a new book "Change the World with Service Learning." I suppose you could think of this like a kind of classroom Peace Corps helping the local community. It seems to fit in so well with the Transition Movement, and really helps the kids as well.

Katy gives examples of what can be done from the classroom, to help the local environment, disadvantaged members of the community, and more. Sadly, Congress is trying to slash budget money from this program as well. But it seems with the help of Katy's "how to" book, teachers could use this method of learning, without adding a lot to their already busy work-load. I wish my school had it.

The full title is: "Change The World With Service Learning, How to organize, lead, and assess service-learning projects." I think this is something that goes beyond teachers. Parents need to know this real community building education is out there, and demand it in their schools. Take Katy's book to your local school.

[Katy Farber interview]

Here is a quick look at another book for parents, educators, and anyone who cares what the next generation learns about climate change, and other threats to our ecosphere.

Some kids, and even some adults, think meat is produced in factories or supermarkets. They don't know how the weather works, or why the climate changed. They don't know sea life is facing a great extinction event.

Why don't they learn about the real world in school?

Some of the answers are in a new book "The Failure of Environmental Education (And How We Can Fix It)" by Charles Saylan and Danniel T. Blumstein. Dr. Blumstein is an academic, a science researcher, Chair in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at UCLA, the University of California.

Charles Saylan, I think, is an example of what Jerome Ravetz talked about in a recent Radio Ecoshock show: the enlargement of science to include those with a passion for the subject.

He is know as "Charlie" at the Ocean Conservation Society, which Saylan co-founded, and now acts as Executive Director. To the research scientists at sea in the Society ship "Annie Jo", he is Captain Charlie, a licensed sea captain. But Saylan's passion for marine mammals, especially the dolphins near Los Angeles, added his name as co-author on several scientific papers as well.

In our brief interview, we talk about model legislation for eco-education in California - and how that state's budget woes could stall real learning about the environment until 2025!

[Charles Saylan interview]

Here is another resource, for connecting kids to Nature, the No Child Left Inside Coalition.

Teachers have been told to communicate the facts, help develop judgement skills, and leave the rest to the students, as future citizens. Now we need schools to make activists, or the planet will go haywire. How can we change the well established boundaries of public education?

Don't forget there is a massive institution behind education - everything from school boards, through administrative staff, textbook publishers and so on. Saylan and Blumstein write about overcoming "institutional mentality."

I think reaction to better environmental education, in fact ANY environmental teaching, is going to come not from the kids, but from the parents. How can we overcome parents in denial, reinforced daily by incompetent or polluter-paid mass media?

What about religious objections to teaching things like evolution, or a history of climate extending beyond the 6,000 years allowed by some strict Bible believers?

This isn't going to be easy. Somehow - we have to tell kids the truth about the huge environmental challenges that could derail the civilization they are being taught. Why not prepare them for climate change, peak oil, and the real economy, with real skills?

Even if you are not a parent or a student, you will depend on the action, or lack of action, this next generation takes.

I'm Alex. Thanks for tuning in to your planet.