Documentary Review: Pandora’s Promise

In the early twentieth century, a feud arose between the visionary inventors Thomas Edison and Nikolai Tesla. By discovering alternating current (AC), Tesla had found a way to drastically reduce the size of the electric cables that Edison was helping to stretch across America’s cities to light its homes. Edison, always the more cunning businessman of the two, responded with a smear campaign. Playing to people’s fears of this new technology, he held shows in which he would do things like electrocute elephants to death with AC, suggesting that it was somehow inherently more dangerous than DC. These smear campaigns worked, allowing Edison to steal many of Tesla’s economic opportunities. Edison then quietly went about implementing AC throughout his grids.

As with electricity itself in its early days, nuclear power, though decades old, is still not widely understood by the masses. Fearing the horrors of cancer and hating anything related to the force that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, environmental activists across the world have fought the advent of nuclear power since its inception. As Edison did, various private parties even intentionally fan the flames of fear for their own private gain. The documentary Pandora’s Promise addresses the major concerns raised by anti-nuclear activists and shows that, even as they accuse climate change deniers of holding flat-world ideologies and clinging to baseless conspiracy theories at the expense of science, they are guilty of that very sin when it comes to nuclear power. Indeed, they accuse the UN of conspiracy even while they ridicule climate change deniers for doing the same.

The following are some of the film’s main points:

  • “To be anti-nuclear is basically to be in favor of burning fossil fuels.”
    A significant portion of anti-nuclear activism is actually funded by fossil fuel producers. The propaganda that they publish even champions solar energy because they know that an energy grid based on solar energy will always require the burning of fossil fuels – if not in the form of natural gas from “backup” generators (that actually tend to produce most of the power), then at least in the form of fuel oil, as you simply cannot heat a house in North Dakota with solar panels. Another important point on this wise is that, despite the growth in renewable energy, the fastest-growing energy source in the world is actually coal – one of the dirtiest forms of energy we have.
  • There will be no great global treaty on climate change.
    Kyoto was a failure. It will not happen. Some have said that all we have to do is make governments raise the cost of fossil fuels, but governments will not do this – especially in developing countries, which is where all of these coal plants are being built – because, in order to do it on a level that would be effective, it would hurt too many people too much. Any environmentalists who think this is going to happen are living in a fantasy land. However, there is still hope. Governments and utilities would be happy to build clean nuclear plants because the fuel is so much cheaper than fossil fuel.
  • Statistically, nuclear power kills fewer people than solar does.
    There are two matters of note here. First, at least with current technology, the production of solar panels is actually a very toxic process, and a lot of it is happening in China, where manufacturers frequently ignore environmental laws. Second, the claims that Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima together have killed hundreds of thousands or millions of people are patently false. (As is the claim that Chernobyl has rendered 40% of the European continent dangerously radioactive.)
  • Our nuclear plants are safe – and any built in the future can be much safer.
    The claim “Any of these nuclear plants could be a Chernobyl!” is completely false. Not only was the Chernobyl plant’s staff woefully inept, but it was an inherently unsafe reactor, with almost no infrastructure in place to handle or contain a meltdown. As for future reactors, the integral fast reactor (IFR) was able to handle a situation of overheating caused by a cooling failure automatically and in a completely safe manner without any action required on the part of the operators or any external systems. Basically, a meltdown in an IFR-type reactor is impossible. Also, an IFR produces far less radioactive waste because it can recycle fuel – and even use waste produced by other reactors as fuel. Unfortunately, environmentally conscious Democrats shut down the IFR program in the 90s. There were certainly problems that the IFR needed to overcome, such as safety issues with the liquids used, but these are small matters considering the potential benefits of the design.
  • Nuclear power is actually causing nuclear disarmament, not the other way around.
    10% of electricity currently produced in the United States comes from reprocessed radioactive material taken from nuclear warheads purchased from Russia.
  • People are not going to just stop using so much energy.
    Environmentalists, consider how ridiculous you think Christians are for asking and expecting teenagers to stop having sex. That’s how ridiculous you sound on this one. There will not be any great reduction in energy use. As the quality of life improves around the world, energy consumption will continue to increase. Our only hope is to make energy drastically cleaner and more efficient.

Those who seek true progress cannot be the slaves of fear. Why, then, do self-described progressives deal in blind fear when it comes to nuclear power? It is understandable that we are afraid of nuclear power, but we must come to understand its benefits before it is too late. There are not many points on which those primarily concerned with the environment and those primarily concerned with the economy can agree, but one such point should be the matter of developing nuclear energy. And yet, they instead tend to agree that nuclear energy is evil, and it is baffling. We can certainly use solar, wind, etc. to power our future, but there will always need to be a reliable, fuel-based power source, and that is nuclear. Those who believe in a looming ecological cataclysm due to carbon emissions should be the first to recognize this fact.

This was a great documentary. I would very much like to find at least one point of oversight or error, but I cannot. I highly recommend it.


It’s None of Your Business. So You Have to Pay for It.

2015-Chevrolet-Suburban-front-viewYou have a moral obligation to buy my family a new Chevrolet Suburban. Well, not you, actually: the government is going to buy it – or make my employer buy it – so it is not going to cost you anything. Refusing to let this happen amounts to an abrogation of my family’s civil rights. If you have a problem with that statement, you are a bigot – and probably a religious nut – with flat-world conceptions about how people should live and the responsibility governments have for their people.

Government does not belong in any part of my house – not my bedroom, not my closet, not my kitchen, not my laundry room, not my bathroom, not my garage. In fact, all of these spaces constitute fundamental aspects of human life. Yes, I do live in an apartment and therefore have no garage, but the rule still applies to my reserved parking space under the aluminum canopy. My vehicular preference may be different from yours, but it is no less legitimate.

It makes sense for government to place certain limitations on vehicular transit such as by saying that the number of passengers cannot exceed the number of seats, that small children must be placed in special seats, etc., but whether my wife and I choose to have a family of three or five or seven kids is not your business, just as it would not have been your business if we had chosen to use birth control and never have any kids. And if you would suggest that birth control and transportation have nothing to do with each other, you are not living in the real world. We can pretty easily transport two or even three kids in an Aveo, but no more than that. And we plan on having more. (No, we don’t care what you think about that.) When we have more, how will we drive them to school? To ballet lessons? To the movies? To…anywhere? There is no decent public transportation where we live. Even if there were, you could not expect us to actually use it. Would you relegate us to the level of second-class citizens just because we have more kids than you? So yes, to provide for our basic needs and maintain our dignity, we need a Suburban.

You may think that you have a moral responsibility to deter me from getting my Suburban. Or, at least, you may feel the need to abstain from directly paying to provide this basic necessity of modern life that is safe and convenient transportation. Maybe you are morally opposed to what you see as runaway consumerism. (As if simply wanting to get my family from Point A to Point B without getting mugged or sunburned were “runaway consumerism”.) Maybe, like Al Gore, you feel that climate change is a moral issue, and that vehicles such as these are a big part of that moral issue because they pump so much carbon into the atmosphere. Well, as a myriad of contemporary champions for LGBTQPBPNS rights have stated, moral concerns have no place in politics. I do not care if your morals come from the Roman Catholic Church or from PETA or Greenpeace: you can think what you want, but you cannot use law to force me to live according to your morals. And if you prefer to say that you will allow me to have a new Suburban but will not pay for it, again, you are not living in the real world, because I cannot afford a new Suburban. Why do you think I drive an Aveo? Therefore, while you may stroke your self-absorbed libertarian delusions by “allowing” me to purchase a new Chevrolet Suburban, the reality is that, if I have to pay for it, I will never have one. By refusing to help me pay for it, you might as well make it against the law. In the real world, it is the same.

Some may say that there are more reasonable alternatives. For instance: “You should be able to afford it by cutting some unnecessary things from your monthly budget.” Excuse me, but I have to pay off a pretty sizable student loan debt. As for things in my budget that are “unnecessary”, who are you to decide whether or not I am spending money on “unnecessary” things? And why should I have to cut “unnecessary” things from my budget when you don’t have to? Does that seem fair to you? Could you be any more judgmental? When you have to resort to the negativity of shame tactics, that just shows how weak your position is.

Someone else might say: “Can’t you just buy another cheap car and drive two?” There are so many problems with this. First, we only have one parking space. We would have to pay for another, which would defeat the purpose. Second, our Aveo has seen better days. The air conditioner is gone, and I live in Houston. Have you ever driven around in Houston in the summer without an air conditioner? Didn’t think so. Again with the ignorant judgment. We really need a better vehicle, and it just makes more sense to get a new one instead of fixing something on this one only to have something else go bad a few weeks later. Third, even if the Aveo were new, it has been proven that little cars like these are not as safe as SUVs. Do you want to kill my family? You must want to kill my family if you want us to keep hauling a bunch of kids around Houston in an Aveo. (Granted, minivans are pretty safe too, but again, the exact type of vehicle my family needs is for me and my wife to decide, not you.) Fourth, do you realize how much of an annoyance it is to drive two cars to go anywhere as a family? Have you ever considered that? I want to be with my wife. I want to be together with my family in one vehicle like everyone else. Is that too much to ask?

And here is the most judgmental thing I have been told: “But you live in the city. You can walk most of the places you need to go.” This is the United States of America. People don’t walk here. Yes, we should be thankful for the sidewalks we have when so many other countries don’t even have them, but when the vast majority of Americans drive everywhere, you are expecting us to become second-class citizens by being pedestrians. Besides, we can’t walk everywhere.

Transportation is not a commodity, but a necessity – a social need. Without transportation, I cannot work, my kids cannot go to school, we cannot go to the store, etc. Even if transportation were not a social need, a lack of transportation would make it impossible for me and my family to receive health care, which is a social need, and not a mere commodity. This is because, without transportation, I cannot take my children to the clinic or the hospital. Yes, there are ambulances, but that would end up being even more expensive than owning a Suburban.

I am not lazy. I have a job. I contribute. The fact that I still do not make enough to provide for my family’s basic needs when it comes to transportation is evidence of our society’s failings, and not of my own. Therefore, it is the responsibility of our government to provide my family with a new Chevrolet Suburban. Whether or not you agree with the specific type of transportation we need is irrelevant, because I am talking about our transportation, not yours. Just like people without ovaries have no right to debate abortion, people with fewer than five children have no right to debate my family’s need for a Suburban. You have nothing to do with it. And that is why you have to pay for it.