Photo of the Month – Simple Is Best


March 31, 2011

Simpler is better.

A Greenpeace vigil in Hong Kong for the people of Japan

This photo taken in Hong Kong by Clement Tang for Greenpeace shows a candlelight vigil for the people of Japan suffering the impacts of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster.

The focus is on the candle and the hand. The candle holder mimics wings, evoking a phoenix rising from the ashes, but also bears some semblance of the dark nuclear warning symbol lurking out of focus beyond. The eye is drawn to the light but the fear is real and present – the mute, yellow and black warning, almost like a Halloween Jack O’ Lantern.

As in photographs, so in energy production. Simple is best.

Why rely on risky, expensive, complicated processes like nuclear fission when the sun shining on photo voltaic panels or the wind blowing turbines can achieve the same results for less money.

It really is that simple when you add in the externalized costs of other forms of energy production. They’re blowing up irreplacable mountains in the most biodiverse areas of the planet to get at coal and polluting the air and water with mercury, arsenic and carcingogenic compounds by burning it. Nuclear plants rely on billions in government backed loan guarrantees and the unfathomable cost of protecting people from nuclear waste for thousands of years, not to mention the horror of the kind of meltdown unfolding in Japan right now.  

March is quite a month. The earthquake and tsunami are powerful reminders that the earth is a living, moving, volatile environment that can instantly change what generations of people depend on and expect.  This amazing multi-media piece in the New York Times vividly illustrates the destruction in before and after satellite photos.

While tremors continue to shake Japan, and basic infrastructure is still to be restored, a more insidious disaster continues to threaten the health and well being of Japan and its people. The nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi are spewing radiation into the environment including the most deadly compound ever created by man, plutonium, whose chemical symbol, Pu, does not convey the deadly nature of minute quantities of this unnatural substance.

A year from now, we will mark the anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami. Reporters will revisit destroyed areas that will have been rebuilt and photos will contrast the destruction with the recovery that will rebuild homes, businesses, roads and schools. It’s  impossible to say how much radioactive contamination of land and ocean will remain, but it will be there. Each March, we mark the anniversary of the nuclear disasters of Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, and now we will remember Fukushima Daiichi. Ancient cultures left us pyramids. We are building giant tombs to incase catastrophic nuclear contamination.

How many more anniversaries will nuclear power give us before we learn that nuclear power is not safe, not cheap and not reliable.


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