Wednesday, January 29, 2014


SUMMARY: From The Farm in Tennessee, alternative guru Albert Bates rates responses to predictions of doom. Film-maker Anne Macksoud on new movie "The Wisdom to Survive" Plus musical activist Rachelle Van Zanten.

List your alternative speakers and writers - Albert Bates probably knows them all. As a travelling speaker and permaculture teacher at The Farm in Tennessee, Bates brought out a new chart showing responses from "we will find a way with local community" to "why prolong the agony, we are all doomed". We talk about the players in the end game.

Anne Macksoud and film-maker partner John Ankele interviewed many of the same people - plus a lot of young women activists, aboriginal and third world people about the developing climate crisis.

The result is their new film "The Wisdom to Survive, Climate Change, Capitalism & Community". We talk through our options.

From Canada's West Coast, Rachelle Van Zanten went from a world tour (with "Painted Daisies") to her 400 square foot off-grid cabin. Her songs have become anthems for those opposing pipelines, tankers, fracking, and tar sands. It's also damn fine music. We chat, and then spin two tunes.

Listen to/Download this Radio Ecoshock Show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB) (CD Quality recommended for the music!)


The economy seems to teeter on the edge of break-down, week to week. Fukushima rolls on. Climate scientists are pretty sure we're on our way to catastrophe. That, and a whole lot more, is always lurking in the back our our minds. the great scheme of things, what kind of doomer are you?

Albert Bates has a chart to sort out some of the leading alternative thinkers. Albert is the former lawyer, long-time resident of The Farm in Tennessee, and a well-known speaker and writer about everything from alternative energy to permaculture.

We begin with a ground-breaking article by Permaculture founder David Holmgren in Australia. It's called "Crash on Demand". (I'll be talking with David next week). Homlgren describes four possible futures, or perhaps responses to the future. One is "Brown Tech" - the path we are on now, substituting high energy sources like Tar Sands and fracking to keep our growth-oriented economy going.

If the Brown Tech succeeds in supplanting the another possibility, namely "'Green Tech" - then our world is doomed to climate disaster. We can't let that happen says Holmgren. Perhaps if enough people withdraw from the system, taking out their money and their efforts, we could stimulate an economic crash that was bound to happen. The only example we have of any society drastically cutting greenhouse gas emissions was the Soviet Union in the 1990's. Their crash of industry reduced their emissions greatly. That's the kind of cut we need to survive, Holmgren reasons.

If none of that works, then we have the "Lifeboat" society, where each of us tries to survive even in an unstable system, perhaps with permaculture, localized food and local currencies. Or in a worst case, the survivor-prepper idea of isolated fortresses ("beans and bullets").

Albert Bates evaluates these scenarios, and the best known alternative thinkers, into four camps on a chart. Here is the article you need to look at.

Albert doesn't claim he is photographing reality. It's a map pointing to something happening in our culture, with some of our spokespeople.

Dmitri Orlov tried to calculate how many people like him, bloggers with hi influence, would it take to bring about the required change to crash the system. He found it would be about 100,000 activists with the same reach, even if a sky-high figure of half his readers actually took action.

Rob Hopkins doesn't want the Crash on Demand. he wants to work with existing structures, including local governments.

In Albert's blog, at, he reproduces a super chart by David Pollard. I love some of the slogans that typify each position. We have everything from "preparation in community might save us" to "smash or undermine civilization now to diminish it's damage". Pollard divides his groups into "Collapseniks" and "Salvationists". Find that chart in David Pollard's blog ""

I have the feeling "Collapsniks" get the most hits on the Internet, but the idea of saving ourselves is more popular in the hearts of most people.

Listen to/download this interview with Albert Bates in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Here are more links from this interview with Albert Bates:

The original article "Crash on Demand" by David Holmgren.

Transition towns founder Rob Hopkins reply.

Nicole Foss from the Automatic Earth reply. We'll talk about that with Nicole on next week's show.

Albert also has a fellow names Robert Costanza on the chart. Who is he? Delve in here.

Albert recommends this article by Rafter Sass Ferguson.

And finally, Albert Bates is off to teach a permaculture course in Belize, along with Nicole Foss, Marisha Auerbach, and Christopher Nesbitt. It's at the Maya Mountain Research Farm from February 10th to 22nd, 2014. For Details, or to register, please see this site, or contact Christopher at

The blub for this permaculture course in Belize says:

"Travel far south; to the back of beyond; to a remote valley accessible only by dugout canoe. Study permaculture surrounded by a lush, productive forest of edibles, medicinals and tropical hardwoods. Eat organic food, sleep in dorms powered by renewable energy, bathe in a sparkling pure river...."

Albert tells us he is changing things up this year, writing:

"This year I have decided to travel less and teach more at home. I suspect we all feel that collapse has been picking up speed, although it comes in fits and spurts, as John Michael Greer points out, not smooth Hubbert curves, and as Richard Heinberg says, it is not evenly distributed. So, since the future in any event is local, I am focusing more on that this year and staying home. From April through October I am offering immersion apprenticeships in ecovillage living and transition towns here in Tennessee, with personal mentorship by me. For those staying a minimum of two months there will be a chance to earn a permaculture design certificate, and for those who may already have that we will be mentoring in diploma and degree tracks. The information on our apprentice program can be found here.


When everything is at stake, what is more valuable: answers or questions? We find both in a new film from two self- proclaimed "old dogs" - New England film makers John Ankele and Anne Macksoud. Their new film is "The Wisdom to Survive, Climate Change, Capitalism & Community".

Anne joins us on Radio Ecoshock.

This movie starts with "us" - and tries to lead us outside, into the eyes of people in the developing world. I don't like that term "developing world" - maybe we should say the remnants of the real world.

The film has feature interviews with more than a dozen folks, including ones you know like Richard Heinbert, James Gustav Speth, Johanna Macy, and Bill McKibben. Just as moving are the interviews with those you don't know yet: the Navajo aboriginal views, and interviews with women struggling in the developing world.

There is a discussion guide that we made for the film which might possibly be of help to you. Here's the link.

Listen to/download this Radio Ecoshock interview with Anne Macksoud in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

The web site for this film is here. And you'll find a Vimeo trailer for the movie on that page as well. Individuals can buy DVD copies of the film (great for your climate group, church group, or just watching at home) for $29.95. There is a separate link for institutions who want to buy for a public showing (via the distributor Bullfrog Films). The movie is 56 minutes long.


Rachelle Van Zanten is an up and coming song-writer and performer from Canada's West Coast. A while back we played her anthem "My Country" (You tube video here) which talks down the office-bound folks far away that make terrible decisions about her land. She's fed up with people ramming through pipelines and tar sands into pristine First Nations country.

This week we play the entire song "I Fight for Life". It's another of the fine pieces adapted as anthems for people opposed to pipelines, mines, and tankers in Northern waters and aboriginal lands. The recording is super, done at Baker studios in Victoria B.C. Rachelle's latest album is "Oh Mother" released in May 2013.

We also squeeze in part of her newer piece, "Canoe Song".

Check out Rachelle's web site.


This program is now in it's 7th year of broadcast. In the Spring of 2014 we have 76 syndicated stations playing the show weekly. Radio Ecoshock is entirely supported by it's listeners (get details here).

All incidental music in this program was written and produced by Alex Smith, including "What Kind of Doomer Are You?"

The web site is - where you can download all our past programs as free .mp3 files.

I'm Alex Smith, and right now I'm grateful. Thanks to you, and your support for this program, I talk with scientists, authors, activists and artists around the world. It's the opportunity of a lifetime, while humanity and our kindred species face the greatest challenges imaginable. Please join me again on our journey next week.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Over the Climate Cliff


Do you want to know what the future looks like? Try Australia, where bats falls dead out of the sky, and tennis players drop like flies in the heat. Coming right up: a report from the hot front with Cam Walker, Friends of Earth Australia.

Cam Walker is Friends of the Earth (FoE) Australia’s campaigns coordinator and has been active on environment and climate justice issues for more than 20 years.

How hot is it? When pavement melts and eggs fry on shovels, it must be Australia at the start of 2014. Its affecting the economy down-under. A lot of outdoor work has been cancelled as it's just too dangerous when temperatures are above 35 degrees C, hotter than 110 Fahrenheit. Some downtown streets look like a ghost-town, as people stay home, "hunkered down" against the heat.

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock Show 140122 in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

The wildlife is taking it hard. No doubt you've heard about the tens of thousands, some say hundreds of thousands of bats who fell dead out of the sky. Animals from lemurs to Kangaroos are in trouble - as are cattle on farms. Water is so hard to come by in some places, the local governments advise people to put buckets of water out in the back yard for wildlife.

Wildfires have multiplied rapidly in the past week. Thankfully they haven't killed a lot of people yet, as in years past. But it's hot dangerous work fighting them, and the next tragedy may be waiting as all vegetation becomes tinder under the burning sun. Cam Walker relays reports of "heat storms" - lightning (that starts fires) and wind without any rain. Like a dry thunderstorm.

This all comes after Australia had it's hottest year ever in 2013

. The research on causes of this incredible string of heat waves in Australia isn't complete. There are so many factors, ranging from the record hot ocean temperatures, through changes in the Monsoon and Indian Ocean, to the same distortions of the jet stream seen in the Northern Hemisphere. All in all, as James Hansen says, the dice are loaded. This extreme weather would not be happening without climate change.

Amazing to me: Australians just voted in a government of climate change deniers. Tony Abbott is dismantling all the good climate work done by previous governments. Things like the carbon tax and environmental regulations are dumped overboard, as Abbott goes for a suicidal expansion of coal mining and exports! Let's see how hot we can make the world, and Australia, and how fast! There's lots of money in that, mate. Until the bill comes due.

Download/listen to just the Cam Walker interview on Australia in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Then we're back to sky science. Atmospheric rivers move below the Jet Stream, carrying more water than the Amazon, and dumping it suddenly causing floods below. Expert David Lavers explains.

Why have there been so many strange floods lately in many parts of the world? Will this get worse as Earth's climate warms?

Dr. David A. Lavers is a Postdoctoral Research Scholar, formerly at the University of Redding in the United Kingdom, and now in the Hydroscience and Engineering department at the University of Iowa. His paper "Future Changes in atmospheric rivers and their implications for winter flooding in Britain" says we can expect more damaging floods to come.

We talk about why atmospheric rivers love to land in Britain. But really they hit the whole of Europe, from Spain through France and even Scandinavia.

Americans usually get more than their fair share of atmospheric river action. Just one of these giant wet streams in the air, as much as 1,000 miles long, and often only one to two hundred miles wide, can carry more water than the whole Amazon River. If the weather pattern sticks, delivering an AR to California for example, it can dump a foot or more of rain in one or two days. California could sure use one now, as they go into the biggest drought in recorded history!

There is scientific speculation that an atmospheric river caused the flooding in Boulder Colorado last year. They can even reach the East Coast.

In another show, I'll have to cover the mother of all rainstorms, the ARkStorm. The U.S. Geological Survey, a government agency, organized municipal disaster people in California a few years back. They found evidence of giant storms and floods that hit ever few hundred years. It's called "ARkStorm" as in Atmospheric River k (for one thousand year storm) storm. The last one hit California in 1862 and flooded much of the state. If that were to happen today, the food supply for much of North America would be wiped out, not to mention the human hardship and economic damage. It could even cause a world-wide Depression, give our current fragile state of the economy. I'll get to it in another show.

Meanwhile find out what atmospheric rivers are, and how they affect our lives (including in the Southern Hemisphere).

Download this Radio Ecoshock interview on atmospheric rivers in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Then it's journalist and author Alan Weisman. His previous book looked at the world without us. Now it's "Countdown, Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth". Are we headed for biological burnout?

I had my doubts about this book. After all, we've heard plenty about the threat(s) of overpopulation, and the usual answers (like women's education). Answers that hardly ever happen.

We are adding about 240 thousand more humans every day. Meanwhile the planetary impact of most people continues to expand, as we trample down more than half of all vegetation on Earth, and most of the species.

You know that. Apparently, just knowing is not "half the battle" as GI Joe says. We actually need to do something.

Alan Weisman presumes that most of us will not allow a government to dictate how many children we have, as China famously did. So he went on a several year quest, around the world, to find what latent capabilities there are in each culture to change the big family meme.

He found it, even in most religions. We talk about one Muslim example in Iran. The Supreme Ayatollah there said there was nothing in the Koran forbidding birth control. That country implemented a mandatory course in the cost of raising children, and birth control, for everyone getting marries. It worked.

I did read Alan's new book. He's a top quality writer (which is probably why Alan's work is published in the best known magazines.) The book is almost a travelogue, to places and mental spaces you and I have never been.

His stories from Pakistan are very revealing. That country is pretty well doomed by too many people for their resource base. There are already 180 million Pakistanis, in a country about the size of Texas. On their current path, it will be 400 million by the end of the century. Of course, the country will crash well before that. Are we all ready for the consequences?

Download/listen to the Radio Ecoshock interview with Alan Weisman in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Here is the Facebook page for Alan and this book.


I get some of my best tips from you, the listener. Sorry I can't cover it all, but I follow up on every one. Feel free to send along news and ideas, to radio //at//

The show web site, with all our previous programs as free .mp3 downloads, is

By the way, you are the publicity department. I have no staff to cross post the program, forward it on Facebook, or Tweet it all over. I count on you to do that, to get this vital information out as widely as possible.

This is Alex Smith, signing off - and thank you for caring about your world.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Home Planet Blues - 4 Voices

Welcome back to Radio Ecoshock. I'm Alex Smith with a variety show this week.


We talk with the scientist with the biggest climate news of 2014. Dr. Steve Sherwood in Australia made a breakthrough on the future of clouds. It's not good news: we are headed over the climate cliff to a world at least 4 degrees Centigrade hotter.

But sometimes the doom talk goes too far. Nuclear Engineer Arnie Gundersen says the West Coast is not highly radioactive from Fukushima, no matter what Net newbies tell you.

Are you concerned about all the pesticides and other chemicals getting into your body? Bruce Lourie has a new book out about toxic stuff getting into us, how to get it out, and which detox methods really work.

While big national governments are failing miserably on climate change, local city governments are trying to make themselves more sustainable. Are we headed in the right direction? Daniel Kammen has advised the White House and the World Bank. He's got some advice for all of us, here on Radio Ecoshock.

Four voices from a turbulent world. You'll find lots of links to follow up below. Let's get started.

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock show in CD Quality (54 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)


Dr. Steve Sherwood, University of New South Wales, Australia.

We may double the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere by 2100. More likely we'll triple them. Scientists have been divided about what that means. Will the temperature go up a liveable 1 or 2 degrees above pre-industrial times or will it be 4 degrees or beyond?

A key unknown has been the behavior of clouds in a hotter world. If the future is cloudier, more sun will be blocked, helping cool the earth. But fewer clouds mean more solar energy will be soaked up by land and sea. Now, thanks to cutting edge new research out of Australia, some of that undercertainty has been cleared up. The future has never looked hotter.

We reached the lead author in this new study, Professor Steve Sherwood at the University of New South Wales, in Australia.

Download/Listen to this 15 minute interview with Steve Sherwood here.

Steve's new paper "Spread in model climate sensitivity traced to atmospheric convective mixing" was just published in the journal Nature. It's caused a stir in the media and climate science, by predicting much more heating than we expected, due to changes in cloud formation.

Paper abstract here.

A video talk by Sherwood on You tube (49 minute talk June 18 2013) "Fundamentals of Modelling the Atmosphere".

For another look at the Steve Sherwood et al paper, check this entry at

Find a video featuring Sherwood talking about the science and its implications here.

Steve's bio on "The Conversation"

As participants in the comments section outline, water vapor that is not drawn high enough to develop into clouds may become atmospheric rivers of moisture instead. That is what flooded Boulder Colorado - not a cloud-driven storm, but an atmospheric river precipitating out rapidly.

I'll be talking more about "atmospheric rivers" next week with Dr. David Lavers, who published a paper showing intense rainfall events will increase in the United Kingdom (and likely the world) as the climate warms. Listen in for that (and my analysis of a super-storm that could wipe out California agriculture and cities).


Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds

It seems like every week there is a storm of new rumors about Fukushima. The Russians secretly report underground explosions beneath the reactors. Reactor three is blowing like an atomic bomb. Get out of California these obscure bloggers and fake journalists say.

I've lived in California, Radio Ecoshock plays on a half dozen stations there, and I'm sick of fear-mongers frightening people there when it simply isn't true. Yes there are worries about Fukushima radiation, especially in sea food. Yes, some very weak radiation will arrive on the California coast. But no, my surfer friends don't need to be afraid to get out on the waves!

One particular video has gone viral, showing an unidentified dude carrying a geiger counter down to a California beach. It reads higher than background levels and voila! proof of Fukushima horrors! Except, as Arnie Gundersen tells us, a local group took sand samples from that same beach, and found the radioactivity was NOT from Fukushima. There are identifiable traces for Fukushima radiation, and we now know scientifically those (low) levels of radiation on that beach are from previous nuclear testing, or even natural local sources.

All through this continuing disaster at the triple melt-down in Fukushima Japan, Radio Ecoshock has depended upon several voices of expertise. One is Arnie Gundersen, the nuclear engineer and whistleblower now at Fairewinds and Associates. Here is six minutes of sanity from Arnie's latest podcast and video, courtesy of Fairewinds Energy Education. Watch the video here.

Don't think for a minute I'm downplaying the super risks of the triple melt-down in Japan. But let's worry about real things, not Net panic.


Are you accumulating harmful chemicals and metals in your body? It's probably so bad - most of us don't want to know. And what about all those magic pills and therapies to detox? Do they work?

Following their book "Slow Death by Rubber Duck," the team of Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie are back with a new book about the toxins we take in, and ways to get them out.

Bruce Lourie

Bruce Lourie is a well-known speaker and writer about ecology. He's the President of the Ivey Foundation, with degrees in environmental studies and geology. He is co-author of "Toxin, Toxout, Getting Harmful Chemicals Out of Our Bodies and Our World".

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Bruce Lourie in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Before we all get too depressed, the second theme of this book is "Toxout" - the ways people try to clean up what has already arrived. On page one hundred and two of the book, you have a handy chart of detox methods that have or have not been proven effective. We discuss with the methods that don't have any scientific backing so far, and may be a waste of time and money.

Then we get into what does work. For example chelation therapy does remove heavy metals from our bodies, like mercury or lead. But that's only for people who have been diagnosed with that problem by a medical doctor. Bruce says don't try that at home kids.

The team of Smith and Lourie tested out several different detox methods, experimenting on themselves. Surprisingly, a simple sauna can be shown to bring out toxic chemicals from the skin pores. Saunas work! That leads to a discussion about our social drive to stop people from sweating. It turns out sweat is nature's way of removing harmful things from our bodies. Using antiperspirants with aluminum is doubly dangerous: we intake the aluminum, and stop the export of toxic chemicals.

And watch out for toxic chemicals and metals leaching out of cosmetics into your body! It's all in the book.

The book is ""Toxin, Toxout, Getting Harmful Chemicals Out of Our Bodies and Our World" I put off reading if for a week, being nervous about what I might find out. Instead, I found some really useful and sane solutions to protect the body. It's a good readable guide from authors Rick Smith and Bruce Lourie.

Find out more on this book here.


Dr. Daniel A. Kammen

No doubt you've heard people living in dense cities use less energy, and create fewer emissions. Since National Governments are doing practically nothing to confront climate change, cities are trying to lower their carbon footprint. But is the whole concept of densification working?

The answer to that question leads to deeper matters: How can we live with less, doing less damage, and still be who we are?

We're fortunate to get some insight from our next guest. Daniel M. Kammen is a heavyweight in energy research. He's advised everyone from the World Bank to the American government. Daniel is a member of the National Academy of Science and played a leading role in two reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Right now he's a Professor of Energy at the University of California, Berkeley, and Director of the Renewable and Appropriate Energy Laboratory. He's written 12 books, hundreds of scientific papers, and advised governments on Energy Policy.

Download/listen to this interview with Daniel Kammen in CD Quality or Lo-Fi

Daniel has a brand new paper out in the journal Environmental Science & Technology. The title is: "Spatial Distribution of U.S. Household Carbon Footprints Reveals Suburbanization Undermines Greenhouse Gas Benefits of Urban Population Density."

One of the key concepts in this paper is the Household Carbon Footprint, or HCF.

Find some cool maps that show greenhouse emissions for most of America right here.

On Radio Ecoshock, I've played you several speeches on new urban design. The latest big push is to create super cities to reduce emissions from commuting and other energy use. It's called densification, but is it working? You may be surprised to learn that 20 percent of all emissions world-wide come from just one place - the American suburbs, the place where many listeners live.

One of the prime messages in this new paper on U.S. Household Carbon Footprints - is that the movement to simply pack more people into cities, to reduce carbon emissions, isn't working in the real world.

Reading Daniel's energyblog in National Geographic, he attends many of the power conferences around the world, from Abu Dhabi to London. I ask Daniel if he thinks leaders in large institutions and corporations realize we are on the brink of a climate catastrophe. Are people at the top getting the message?

Here is a link to Daniel's blog on the National Geographic web site.


I really appreciate you spending valuable time listening to these voices the mainstream media leaves out, or reduces to sound bites.

My special thanks to the many people who supported Radio Ecoshock through our Paypal donation button last week. That helps me keep going on, finding the people you need to hear.

Download all our past programs as free mp3 at the web site,

This is Alex Smith. Please join me again next week, for more news and views about our home planet.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Awful Truth About Fracking

True stories from Walter Brasch, author of"Fracking Pennsylvania". An update from Friends of Earth UK campaigner Helen Rimmer as government makes new "dash for (fracked) gas". With clips from American biologist/activist Sandra Steingraber. Don't buy into fracking! Radio Ecoshock 140108


Just before we get to the main theme of this program, I want to alert all listeners to a kind of alternative media fraud circulating the net about the Fukushima nuclear meltdown in Japan.

I received several worried emails and alleged headlines saying Reactor 3 was melting down. One supposed news report advised people on the West Coast to seal up all windows and doors with plastic and duct tape against the coming massive wave of radiation.

Look at the sources people. This rumor looks very official, coming from NBC International. But wait, that web site is not MSNBC - but NSNBC. It's very misleading, trying to look like real journalism. The article is by Susanne Posel, from something called Occupy Corporatism. That sounds official, but Posel, who has a documented history of plagierising other writers was not an Occupy leader. She just knows how to grab buzz words.

Posel cites the source for this melt-down of Fukushima reactor 3 as the "Turner Radio Network" TRN. Is that Ted Turner's Turner Broadcasting? Nope. It's the infamous Hal Turner, in and out of federal prison for threatening Federal judges, while pushing white supremacy and holocaust denial. Hal Turner was banned from internet broadcasting by the courts. So we don't know who wrote this fear-mongering. The "Radio Network" doesn't exist, other than a podcast or Netcast.

This whole story is literally based on a puff of steam. A tiny amount of steam comes out of Reactor 3 from time to time. It could even be rainwater evaporating. See a video of this "terrifying" steam here, in a real reporting blog. It's been seen off and on since the accident in 2011. But "Turner Radio Network", Susanne Posel, and You tube freaks like Jessie Waltman on BPEarthWatch show you huge billows of black smoke heading into the stratosphere. The trouble is: those photos are of a refinery on fire just after the March 2011 tsunami. Nothing to do with Fukushima. A total lie.

And by the way, despite the frenzy by Netter Hatrick Penry, and alternative broadcasters who should know better, the four spent fuel pools above the Fukushima reactors were NOT wiped out in 2011. They are still there, as seen by international satellites and plenty of video footage. Do I have to tell you humans really did land on the moon?

Sadly, one way to get lots of eyeballs, and maybe donations, is to promise the end of the world every week. As each prediction fails, these charlatans just move on to a new fatal comet arriving next month, a new sunspot, or they feed off public worry about Fukushima.

Don't get out the duct tape, plastic wrap, or tin foil hats just yet.

There are plenty of real threats to worry about, as you'll find out from credible sources in this week's show.

Download/listen to this week's Radio Ecoshock Show in CD Quality (56 MB) or Lo-Fi (14 MB)

We've had some server problems this past week. If that download link doesn't work for you, try this one for this week's show.


The whole financial system is in deep trouble. Governments are carrying unsupportable debt, and so are most citizens. Even that is carried on a Ponzi scheme of making withdrawals from natural systems that are already overdrawn. What to do?

Back to the tried and true: open up a whole new scheme to blast fossil fuels out of the deep underground. Fracking is the salvation plan for countries like the United States, Britain, Canada, and many more. Politicians take huge campaign donations, slash regulations, squash down local protests, and forge a new wave of climate-killing emissions.

This week we'll examine the real costs of fracking for gas. Author, professor, and journalist Walter Brasch reports from Pennsylvania. Then UK energy activist Helen Rimmer explains the rabid government push for fracking, and the coming wave of misery for Great Britain.


We open and close with fracking wisdom from American biologist and activist Sandra Steingraber. Here is a short clip from Sandra, as recorded for Radio Ecoshock at the Chicago Bioneers conference in November 2012 by Kelly Pierce of the Chicago Independent Media Center.


Fracking is a hot topic in the United States. I thought I knew the ins and outs, but not really, until I read the book "Fracking Pennsylvania, Flirting with Disaster". The author is a university professor, long-time journalist, with many books to his credit. Now he's doing a weekly radio show as well. It's called "The Frack Report".

I'm pleased to welcome Dr. Walter Brasch to Radio Ecoshock.

I do listen to the gas fracking lobby. They make reasonable arguments about why we need local energy, and safe ways to do it. Let me offer you a theory: fracking is a lot like nuclear energy. In a sensible sane society maybe we could do it without wrecking the environment. But this is us, this is humans. We like to make money, cut corners, and buy influence. Walter tells us about the gas lobby and Pennsylvania politicians.

This is a real problem everywhere. The supposed regulators are in love with the industry. The politicans hope to make themselves a name, or big money out of it. Governments all over are boosting fracking like it's the Second Coming.

Josh Fox made Pennsylvania fracking kind of famous with his movie "Gasland" and then "Gasland II". But the poisoned wells and flaming taps are not all over.

Walter tell us about a scandalous Pennsylvania law that prohibited doctors from finding out what chemicals were poisoning their patients, or even telling other people about the risks. Basically, the State government tried to tell doctors to shut up about the health risks.

And there are health risks. Walter roles out the long list of harms coming from fracking - documented in peer- reviewed scientific papers, and too well known to people who live in the areas near wells.

Some local people make money selling mineral rights to the companies. Others are left with nothing but the extra tanker trucks on the road, the noise, worries, and bad smells. Fracking tends to divide communities.

One really great thing about Walter's book "Fracking Pennsylvania, Flirting With Disaster" is his painstaking research into the many social impacts of fracking. In just one example, Walter, who has worked to help the homeless, describes how the short-term boom of incoming workers tends to displace the seniors and other poor people, some of whom become homeless. Then the gas boom moves on, leaving a damaged community behind.

Scientists are now pretty sure we will experience 4 degrees Centigrade, that's about 7.2 degrees Fahrenheit, of global warming by the year 2100 on our current fossil fuel energy path. That's a catastrophe. Doesn't anybody in Pennsylvania care about that? How can we be seeking out still more fossil fuels, and wrecking the underground to do it?

We are in this mess where money talks, and the future walks.

Walter tells us about his weekly radio program on WFTE Scranton (which also broadcasts Radio Ecoshock). It's called "The Frack Report" You can listen in online, wherever you are in the world. Learn about fracking, in ways the mainstream media never reports - from an expert journalist and professor!

Listen to "The Frack Report" at 7:30 pm every Monday (Eastern Standard Time) right here.

Walter's book is "Fracking Pennsylvania, Flirting with Disaster". I thought it was going to be too local - but found this is one of the best books I've encountered, to really drill down into what fracking is all about, wherever you live. I recommend it for anyone facing fracking, and everyone concerned about this wrong-turn industry. And keep up with Walter at his web site, and his blog.

Download/listen to this interview with Walter Brasch in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


This is a Radio Ecoshock special on fracking. Will the people in Britain learn from the American experience of being fracked by a so-called miracle industry?

Damn the climate. Let's go all out for fossil fuels. That's the word from Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron. He wants to open up vast parts of the United Kingdom for fracking gas. That's not going over well with the public. Let's check in with Helen Rimmer, Energy Campaigner for Friends of Earth in the UK.

Download/listen to this Radio Ecoshock interview with Helen Rimmer, FOE UK in CD Quality or Lo-Fi.

It's hard to picture the lovely English countryside, and some of it's towns, turned over to industrial gas wells, trucks, and fracking. Why is this happening in England, when so many other European countries have banned fracking or at least put a moratorium in place?

Helen tells us about a recent protest outside Manchester in Northern England. With local group, Frack-Free Greater Manchester, Friends of Earth delivered a gigantic wind turbine blade, blocking the entrance to the would-be test drill by the Igas corporation. Perfect message: we want wind power, not fracking. Find the Guardian report on this action here.

Here is a You-tube video of Helen Rimmer telling the BBC about this protest. She's been on CNN too.

In the United States, private land-owners often own the mineral rights. Gas companies write them a big check and get in, drilling right in cities, even beside schools and playgrounds. Who gives permission for drilling in the UK? It's a complicated process, where local governments have a say (supposedly) and then the national government gives environmental approval.

The Cameron government in the UK is trying to buy the support of cash-strapped municipalities by offering them 100,000 pounds, currently 163 thousand dollars - for every test well drilled. That's a fantastic bribe. Helen tells us while the government claims to have the best fracking regulation in the world - in reality they are slashing environmental rules. It can take as little as two weeks to get approval from the British government. That's hardly time to assess the risks.

I wonder if the average person in the UK realizes what comes next. There can be up to 120 heavy tanker trucks for every well, bearing down on local roads. The noise, the pollution, the stink. Do people know what fracking really means?

As we know from cases in Europe and the United States, when the toxic wastewater after fracking is thrust underground for storage, the geology can become unstable, leading to earthquakes. That already happened in Britain, near Blackpool, in one of the first test wells drilled. Never mind. Drill on!

Find the Manchester chapter of Friends of Earth here.


We just have time to squeeze in one more bit from American author and activist Sandra Steingraber, at the Chicago/Great Lakes Bioneers conference in November 2013, as recorded by Kelly Pierce. Sandra manages to capture what fracking is really all about.

Please take this program as a jumping off point to find out more about fracking, and stop this fossil madness. At the brink of catastrophic climate change and a poisoned world, fracking is the complete wrong direction for human civilization.

Tune in at the Radio Ecoshock web site, Grab tons of free audio downloads, and help support the program if you can.

I'm Alex Smith, thank you for listening, and caring about your world.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Scandals of Nuclear Waste

As we found out from Fukushima, when a nuclear reactor blows up or leaks, it's everybody's problem. Many of my listeners were sprinkled with radiation from that accident in Japan.

The same applies to nuclear waste. It will be dangerous for hundreds of thousands of years, threatening cancers and genetic mutations for all conceivable human time - just so we can waste more power in our homes and business now.

This week we hear about scandals in the American and British nuclear industry. Even the temporary stop-gap solutions for storing waste turn out to be untested, ludicrous, or known-to-be dangerous. They, or is it we, do it anyway. Our descendants have to figure out an answer. They will pay and pay, like a kind of debt slavery from the past, for tending the nuclear waste of today.

Following a successful lawsuit brought by four environmental groups, the American nuclear industry must provide an environmental risk assessment for nuclear waste. Some say the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is evading the ruling, and the requirement of local democracy, but ramming through a one-size-fits all generic risk assessment for all the nation's power plants. You'll hear two points of view from the NRC hearing in Perrysberg Ohio, and I'll talk with long-time anti-nuclear activist Kevin Kamps about the fallacy of safe storage for highly radioactive waste.

Is Britain doing any better? Another veteran, nuclear engineer John Large tells us about the growing mountain of plutonium in the UK, and the big risks of nuclear terrorism.

This isn't going to end well. I'm Alex Smith, and this is Radio Ecoshock.

Download or listen to this Radio Ecoshock show (140101) in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Before we go to the nuclear waste fiasco in Great Britain with John Large, let's hear just two of the witnesses at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission hearing on December 2nd, 2013 in Perrysburg, Ohio. This was one of 13 public hearings held around the country. Free Speech Radio News reporter Evan Davis sent me the recordings and his interviews, which inspired this program. Evan is also with WCRS community radio in Columbus, Ohio

The majority of the public attending were strongly opposed to nuclear power, in numbers of speakers and volume of applause. First we will hear a pro-nuclear argument, followed by a passionate voice against. Each speaker was given three minutes.

In the show I play two clips. The first is a pro-nuclear power speaker from the electrical industry, who says the threat of global warming demands nuclear power. The second is a young mother who is very passionately against.


One of our main guests this week is Kevin Kamps from Beyond Nuclear. I really respect Kevin's long history of studying the nuclear industry, and appearing wherever he can. A while back Kevin toured Australia and New Zealand on the waste issue and uranium mining. These days he's appearing at the various NRC hearings on nuclear waste disposal - and fighting to get sane policy going.

Most of our guests, including Arnie Gundersen of, call for a crash program to get spent nuclear fuel out of dangerous and overcroweded fuel pools and into cement casks. It's true that only the fuel in cement casks was safe during the Fukushima tsunami and subsequent power outage. The casks require no power for cooling, so they could survive a solar storm blackout as well. Dry casks are also known as ISFSI's Independent Spent Fuel Storage Installation.

A map showing all the locations of ISFSI's in the United States is here. It's not hard to imagine circumstances leading to long power outages. We could have a major solar flare, like the Carrington Event of 1859, knocking out all power transformers in the country, probably for months if not years. Or, in the coming decades, we might see a nuclear war, or just civil unrest during a terrible economic breakdown. Can nuclear plants survive those challenges?

But alas, like everything with nuclear power, there is no really good answer. It turns out the industry has been using an old design of cask to hold a new type of nuclear waste that is twice as potent. They were never designed for that. The industry and government regulators know that, but allow this practice to continue.

The cement casks are an interim measure, and will have to be opened to transfer the fuel, or just to replace them in a hundred years or less. The trouble is, despite industry assurances, this has never been done! Kevin describes a case where an operator and the NRC promised to open a faulty cask but then found this was too dangerous. We don't know how to get that fuel out! Unbelievable but true.

A test in 1998 on a better-made German cask showed that a missle could destroy the container and spray nuclear materials all around. We have little confidence these casks can be protected from determine terrorists. Read about all the problems with dry cask storage in this article by Kevin Kamps.

There really is no good answer for nuclear waste - other than to stop making more of it!

Listen to this interview with Kevin Kamps in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


Nuclear expert John Large

What happens when you collect a lifetime of atomic waste on a small island in the North Atlantic? Nothing good.

Our guest is an accomplished nuclear engineer. He's advised teams raising damaged nuclear submarines, written reports for Greenpeace and Friends of Earth, testified as an expert witness. He's appeared on international media countless times.

Radio Ecoshock is pleased to welcome back Britian's John Large.

We begin with John's testimony on safety at the San Onofre nuclear plant in California. The owners spent half a billion dollars on an upgrade, but then found the Mitsubishi components were shaking dangerously. After a public outcry, partly based on the experience of a tsunami at Fukushima (San Onofre is right on the coast), and partly due to the known earth quake risk in the area - the plant was closed.

John Large notes this is one of the first plants shut down due to action by an environmental group, Friends of Earth.

We go on to discuss Great Britains huge nuclear waste problem. In order to gather plutonium for their nuclear weapons program, the UK made contracts to take in nuclear waste from varous countries around the world. So ships laden with highly radioactive waste arrive in Britain to unload their cargo.

Some of that waste is returned in smaller packets after processing, but most of it stays in Britain, including a growing mountain of plutonium. The country has no sensible plan to dispose of it, and that is a risk of terrorism.

Unlike the United States, nuclear waste from local power plants is not stored on site in huge cooling pools virtually forever. Instead it is transferred to a central depot which can be more secure. That is Windscale, formerly known as Sellafield (the location of one of the world's first nuclear disasters). Britain no longer dumps barrels of nuclear waste into the ocean - something Greenpeace protested vehemently. But there is no plan to deal with the waste, other than to see what future generations will do with it.

Check out this revealing interview with an acknowledged world expert. Listen to the John Large interview in CD Quality or Lo-Fi


I suppose my opinion is no big surprise for listeners. My questions about nuclear power began in the 1970's. I then lived near a uranium mining town, followed by 8 years of research for the Greenpeace anti-nuclear campaign. More recently, Radio Ecoshock has done dozens of programs on dangerous nuclear reactors, especially following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan.

The very day of that accident I issued an emergency warning podcast which still stands the test of time. Radio Ecoshock was among the first to call a triple-melt down at the site, while the Japanese and American authorities were still misleading us.

Even so, I was still shocked to find that the dry cask option for nuclear waste is so shoddy, so crazy.

So it's just a hundred-year stall, if that. We'll pass our dangerous waste on to our grandchildren. I cannot accept that. I cannot accept an "industry" that carries on with no solutions for the future, and world-threatening risks for the present. That isn't an industry. It's a sign of extinction-level insanity.

That's my opinion. What's yours? How will you act now that you know?

Thank you Evan Davis for inspiring this program. You too can learn how to record public events to share around the world. We need more people doing that.

I'm Alex Smith. Download past programs at our web site Help us keep going if you can.

While you are still free, please join me next week for more Radio Ecoshock.