STOP CASSINI Newsletter #11 -- May 10th, 1997

Various environmental issues, more on Dr. Caldicott...

By Russell D. Hoffman

Copyright (c) 1997

STOP CASSINI Newsletters Index


In this issue I discuss the environmental movement some more, and eat some crow as well.

Thanks, Russell Hoffman, Webmaster, STOP CASSINI

**** STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER Volume #11 ****

Subject: Why stop at stopping Cassini? An apology to Helen Caldicott, a letter to a student, a world-class letter to Clinton, and anything else that pops into my mind along the way...

****** VOLUME #11 May 10th, 1997 ******

By Russell D. Hoffman
Copyright (c) Russell D. Hoffman


Let me start by eating crow. Something NASA would like to see me do, but I don't think this will satisfy them.

In the last issue (#10) of this newsletter we wondered how one reaches the "higher ups" in the anti-nuclear movement to make them aware of the battle that (we feel) rages over Cassini. Specifically, a reader of this newsletter had tried to reach Dr. Helen Caldicott and had heard her on a Pacifica station. He has not received a response from her at all, and he did not hear her mention Cassini. This needless to say disappoints him. He wondered how to reach her and people like her to enlist their help in 'our little cause'. We feel we need voices and her's would be nice...

I received some well-deserved flak for suggesting that Dr. Caldicott isn't working very hard on *this* particular issue. I wish to make clear that even if she ignored it (and us) completely, she's alright in my book. She is working hard on very closely related issues, and her work is vital to our work. I wish to make it clear that we know this.

I understand that in fact she has offered to make presentations to NASA employees specifically (NASA has turned down this request, the fools!) and she has talked about Cassini specifically on many occasions. So Dr. Caldicott, wherever you are: We respect you and ask nothing of you. If you aren't doing enough for the anti-nuke movement, God help the rest of us. We only hope to help you some ourselves by waging our fight over Cassini.

On the other hand...

Some people posted Newsletter #10 various places (THANKS!!!) and we got this extremely gratifying comment back from one of those places:

"Thank you for posting the STOP CASSINI newsletter #10 on the Los Angeles Alternative Media Network. Reading this newsletter made me think that we are not doing nearly as enough to win the battle..."

So maybe poking some of the 'higher-ups' to prod the rest of us into more action isn't such a bad thing after all, but Dr. Caldicott is working very hard right now and needs all our help...

We environmentalists collectively are not doing nearly enough to win every battle. We are not doing nearly enough to win nearly enough battles. But it's NOT because those that have devoted half their lives, or all their lives, or even their livelihoods, have not done enough. I don't think so. I think it's because too many people do less than 1% of what they can and need to do. We each must play a part. 99% of the American public believes that they cannot affect change. And, because 99% of us feel that way, we are right. But it is the ONLY reason we are right!

An answer to an email from a student (90% of the original letter is interspersed within the answer.)

to: [a student]


I'm delighted to hear that your environmental ethics class is interested in the STOP CASSINI movement. So, I will try very hard to answer all of your questions.

"just in terms of the debate case I was wondering what is your official position and what degrees or anything do you have or are you a concerned citizen?"

I'm just a concerned citizen. No degrees. Owner of a one-man company that creates animated educational software. Some Who's Who listings for my computer work over the last two decades, but that's all. You can visit my web site to learn a good deal more about me:

I've dabbled in so many things over the years that I feel I know enough to state my opinions on some of the things I've paid particularly close attention to. Whether anyone believes me or wants to listen to my opinions is another matter entirely! But I think most of what I say can survive scientific scrutiny -- even invites it. As you know, I claim NASA is being unscientific. NASA has not (at least, not yet or not to my knowledge) tried to refute my allegations. I believe my portrayal of NASA's behavior is a reasonably accurate one. I believe there should be a Congressional hearing about the RTG's 'peculiar design'.

URL of an article about the RTG's "peculiar design":

Cassini, like so many other environmental issues, is extremely complicated and interwoven with other issues. However, it's not so complicated, I think, that we should simply sit back and trust the experts. I think so-called experts should be able to explain things to any reasonably well-educated "common person" like myself. NASA should be able to satisfy my inquiries with facts, if indeed the facts are on their side. As I just said, to the best of my knowledge they haven't even tried. That's perhaps even more shameful as a way our government behaves in general, than the entire issue of 72 pounds of the world's deadliest substance being shot into foolhardy orbit! (For example, the Environmental Protection Agency should be getting on NASA's case for the same reasons I am: Bad science is being presented in the Environmental Impact Statement, and this is the EPA's concern. Where is the EPA on this?)

URL of an article about NASA bad science:

"The experts" have not been very good to the environment over the past 100 or 200 years and it's time that a newer, cleaner mindset take hold. We need better science -- this is NOT a fight against science! IT'S JUST THE OPPOSITE! Science can destroy the world. We want science not to do that.

Experts can have narrow focuses, just like the rest of us. It's not that they are dumb, they just aren't viewing the whole picture. We rapidly (50 years?) went from a society where it was virtually impossible to do something that would have enormous effects on world health, to one where it is actually quite easy. Each of us probably creates enough pollution to cost someone their life -- later on. Someone else. Someone we'll never know. Maybe many people. Worse yet, we stand by and let others do things that destroy people's lives -- maybe our own.

I'm sorry, but in today's society, with today's problems, mere complaceny is mighty close to real murder. Turn and look in any direction, even up into the heavens, and you can see a man-made disaster that needs to be taken care of. Superfund toxic waste cleanup sites, docked and rotting rusting Russian nuke subs, nuclear weapons material being smuggled to rogue nations, rain forest deforestation, dioxin poisoning from burning garbage... If each problem were tackled in one day by humanity we would still be in a heep of hurt by the year 2000. If all 5.8 billion people put their collective heads together for a whole day just to solve one problem AND SOLVED IT, there would still be vital problems left for the new millenium. There is no shortage of problems but there are shortages of just about everything else.

Not only is it easiest to do nothing, but it's also easy not to see the effect we are having by doing nothing.

Blindness to low level pollution, be it from plutonium or uranium or some other radioactive substance, or from chemicals, is perhaps the greatest horror of all. That all this damage is being done and NOBODY EVEN SEES IT. Frogs are dieing all over the world -- and no one noticed until one day at a meeting a few years ago of frog researchers, someone saw the common thread. I think things are a lot worse than they look, let alone being a lot worse than the nightly news's version of what happened at Earth Day would have you believe. We get two more Earth Day's to the year 2000 -- do you think that will solve things?

The real damage that happens -- much of it is subtle. It needs to be discovered, brought out in the open, and discussed AND ACTED UPON. EPA standards are written in such a way as to excuse well-distributed spills and leaks. This is wrong. EPA needs to rethink it's positions entirely. They compromise everyone's health too often and too easily. NASA uses an EPA limit (below which they will not require cleanup) to mean "below which there is no harm". This mindset is wrong and we need to stop letting NASA and others think like that.

"if we were to stop cassini would that lead to the increase of solar energy usage and stop the nuclearization of space (i.e. if cassini's rtg's were replaced with solar panels, along with the other sats. that they are thinking of launching)"

I think the nuclearization of space is dangerous and foolhardy, and many of the arguments I've presented at my web site about Cassini should apply completely to other nuclear payload launches. It is a dangerous method of trying to rid the earth of plutonium, that's for sure, and in general it is just plain dangerous and accidents will inevitably happen -- space debris guarantees that, and human error does too. Here's the URL of an article about space debris:

Regarding weaponry in space, sure, America needs to be #1 in strength, but #1 by how much? At what cost? #1 against who? I think America needs to be #1 in environmentalism, because the only way this world will survive humanely is by realizing that we must cooperate with the planet's own natural abilities and resources. By being #1 in environmentalism I believe America will acheive internal and international pride and strength that will make the nuclear defense issue moot. That's a bully defense. We need a cooperative defense. I believe we would also get very rich by taking the environmetalist's tack.

I believe this planet can provide us with everything we need, probably enough for 10 billion people at a time or more, without significant damage to the ecosystem. However, at our present rate, we will use up one after another of our natural resources, making us even more desperate to turn to dangerous and dirty alternatives. That's why conservation is such a vital key to the environmental movement. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle at least buys us some time to figure the big picture out. Lowering refrigerator energy usage and similar policies really are good things that need to be encouraged. We need to stop letting General Motors and Ford Motor Company tell us what milage they can achieve, and start telling THEM that if they don't achieve the numbers we want, we'll revoke their corporate charter -- and see if then, they still can't acheive it!

It's important to recognize that environmentalism is not anti-anything, it's pro-Earth, pro-humanity, pro-tomorrow. We are fighting for voices that do not exist yet, against in many cases evils that have already happened. (Toxic waste site cleanup, for instance.) No wonder it's a tough battle! When one polluter can undo the work of thousands of environmentalists (extinction is forever, for example) then it's pretty obvious how thoroughly we need to reach out and convince EVERYONE to be "on our side" -- to be an environmentalist. The other side has both built-in power because doing nothing favors them, and they have built-up power because over the decades they have gained that power with the money their environmentally unfriendly actions has brought them. Charge Exxon and Shell Oil for the full cost of the oil they already took out of OUR ground, and they will be bankrupt tomorrow.

It is a global battle with only two possible outcomes: More pollution and more pain and hurt, or less pollution and less pain and hurt. We will never live in a garden of Eden (again), but hopefully we can prevent the world from becoming a complete chemical and radioactive wasteland (some time soon) with no natural resources left to use to improve our lives.

"we are also looking to do a cassini presentation for a enviromental ethics class in front of the entire student body and then pass around the petition"

That's great! Let me know if I can offer anything more for you. There are a number of petitions available online. Here is my links page which goes to quite a few of them:

Global Letter to President Bill Clinton

I was asked by a reader of this newsletter to write a short statement which might be used by people outside the US to send to President Clinton. So I turned the task over to a Dutchman I know. If you know your history books (at least, as well as I do which isn't nearly well enough) I think you'll agree that a Dutchman was a pretty reasonable choice. And I think he did a pretty reasonable job. Here is a (very slightly) modified version of his answer. Any foreign (or U.S. citizens) who wants to use it should go ahead and do so!

Dear President Clinton:

NASA is planning to launch a spaceprobe named Cassini later this year. Whilst being very exciting from a scientific point of view, Cassini poses a major threat to humanity. The probe is loaded with over 72 pounds of extremely toxic plutonium that, if released on Earth, will kill thousands or even millions of people. We believe that the risk of this actually happening is too high - so high in fact, that the project should be put on hold immediately until alternative fuel is available.

We believe NASA has released questionable risk assesments. We notice how companies that were developing alternative powering have been taken over and silenced. We see how Cassini will be launched using unreliable rockets that have failed and blown up before. We notice especially how Cassini, if launched, would break the thirty-year old UNITED NATIONS OUTER SPACE TREATY on 8 of 9 counts. And we notice how the design of Cassini's Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generators (RTGs) is such that it appears to maximize the number of casualties while minimizing NASA's and the US Government's liability in the event that something goes wrong during the 1999 Earth flyby. We find this horrifying!

Influential scientists, award-winning reporters, politicians and even (ex) NASA engineers agree with us. However, time is running out. We need to inform the press, the people and politicians worldwide, and get Cassini on the agenda of the US Senate, the United Nations, and parliaments worldwide before it's too late. Please listen to our pleas. Please consider the benefits to humanity of NOT flying the Cassini mission as it is currently designed, and of redesigning it and future space missions around far more benign, solar alternatives.

Thank you,

A concerned citizen of earth.


Thanks again for reading,

Russell D. Hoffman
STOP CASSINI webmaster.


Previous issue (#10)

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First placed online May 16th, 1997.
Last modified August 17th, 1997.
Webwiz: Russell D. Hoffman
Copyright (c) Russell D. Hoffman