STOP CASSINI Newsletter #80, November 6th, 1998

Copyright (c) 1998

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Subject: STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER #80, November 6th, 1998
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This issue is a cut-in from an ongoing email conversation with a rocket scientist.

Sincerely, Russell D. Hoffman, Editor, STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER

***** STOP CASSINI NEWSLETTER VOLUME #80, November 6th, 1998 *****
Today's subject:

***** VOLUME #80, November 6th, 1998 *****

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

*** Environmental Extremism in America Today


This section contains my "extremist" views on environmental policy (and a few other things) as expressed in various emails to a rocket scientist/subscriber to this newsletter (a pro-Cassini person). I invite others to jump in and state their views as well.

I have taken, for the sake of debate of course -- the position that the water which flows over Niagara Falls should be harnessed for hydroelectric purposes, and the hand-over-fist fortune this would generate should go to a unique and wonderful institute known as the Niagara Falls Environmental Institute of Renewable Energy Technologies.

It would be the best-funded university in the world, and have a sustainable source of income. The wonders that would come out of such a university (and note that many such universities could be built around other sustainable-energy sources) would more than make up for the lost view, especially considering that we could turn the falls on now and then anyway -- for weekends, let it run at 20%.

Well needless to say the rocket scientist could not see the beauty of this concept and instead wrote back what is shown beneath my essay, and asked if I wanted the Grand Canyon dammed up as well. This prompted the essay, after much thought.

Certainly I would dam the Grand Canyon, if it would provide clean, renewable, needed energy to the entire southwest corner of the United States, and we could turn off every coal, oil, and nuclear powerplant in California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Colorado -- you bet I would. One Chernobyl is enough. I don't want to wait for an American meltdown to switch to energy sources that work. I personally think we can do 100 other things before we would ever "need" to dam up the Grand Canyon. Things like harnessing wind, tide and solar properly, but if it came down to closing nonrenewable energy sources forever and losing the Grand Canyon, I would close the plants. By doing so, it would preserve the Grand Canyon for future generations to enjoy once we had solved the energy problem. If we don't solve it, no one will be able to visit it anyway, because we'll run out of gas, oil, coal -- even uranium is not unlimited, but power from the sun is (and hydro is just one form of power from the sun).

Maybe there is a "true" environmentalist who will hear these words and cry out that Russell is not an environmentalist because he is "for" damming the Grand Canyon, but I hope others will read my words more carefully: There are 100 other solutions before that one would be necessary. But compared to what we are doing today, it would be infinitely, infinitely better. Surely it is time to move to one of the 100 (or perhaps 1000) other clean, renewable options that abound. This rocket scientist writer is wrong. It is NOT a technological decision to move to renewables, it is a political one, and we DON'T need to wait 50 years for a political decision. Unless we are barbarians and cannot make proper decisions.


Russell D. Hoffman



Sorry for the delay in responding. I had very mixed emotions regarding how to respond to your last letter [shown below] and felt I should think about things for a while first.

As I'm sure you are aware we have not answered any questions which would cause me to back Cassini, but it seems we have come to the point where you have decided you are not an environmentalist, because you own a powerboat, and you do not wish to slow something that will take eons anyway, to prevent/close 30 to 50 nuclear powerplants and eliminate completely their growing waste problem. You would rather create a pile of nuclear waste for your children, in order that you yourself can view Niagara Falls (but not your children, because we also burned up the fuel they will need to get there. And they'll need it why? Because we didn't bother to build reasonable public transportation systems.)

So you see, my reason for delay is that I could not and can not find reasonable ways to answer such nonsense. Sorry, but that's the way I see it. And you dare to call ME an extremist? I would say it is an extreme position to say that because you would hate to not let mother nature slowly destroy the rocks beneath Niagara Falls, you support and admire nuclear powerplants as good alternatives. I find that position highly illogical and extremist, not to mention alarming. A sustainable environment is not a goal, it is a journey. Every step we fail to take is extremely hazardous to someone's health -- but probably not our own. So we must accept that it is time to "sacrifice". But I challenge the use of that term. The building that needs to go on, the design work, the innovation -- it would make America RICHER, not POORER, to undertake what must be done to convert to renewable energy sources. And it can be done TODAY. You cite one example, of one nuke closed in one town (Sacramento), but fail to add into the equation all the other unpleasantness that nuke or any nuke creates -- the citizens who got rid of that one did not do so because of the waste problem, or the mining problem, or the potential meltdown problem, but because of the running costs. Taking everything into account, it is not an extreme position to say they should all be closed. It is a fiscally, medically, and morally responsible position.

What bothers me most about our discussions at this point (besides not being invited onto your boat) is that it seems that we have lost the "gray scale" view of things at this point. I think if you want to define an anti-environmentalist as anyone with a powerboat (or a jet-ski, I presume, or a four-stroke internal-combustion weedwacker, or a car for that matter) then let's forget about defining "environmentalist" at all!

Are you for humanity, or against it?

Why of course, you will say you are for it! And we all make sacrifices for society, and for humanity. I read recently that a new study (I think this was originally published in the British Journal NATURE, but I may be mistaken) shows that 40% (!!!) of us (humanity, worldwide) are NOW dying of environmental causes.

Now sure, smoking and overeating -- diseases of the rich, shall we say? -- are most of these deaths. Alcohol and car accidents are prominent contributors to the "unnatural" death rate, which are also, by the way and to a large extent, diseases of the rich. And of course another large contributor to the unnatural death rate is the availability of guns and the willingness of people to use them in anger instead of in simple, plain, self defense of someone's life.

So society has many problems, right? It's a given, I think, that there are two types of people in the world -- those who wish to better society, and those who don't. I surely wish to be counted in the former group, and I just as surely assume you, too, believe you should be counted in that group -- and owning a speedboat just isn't enough, in your view, to change that feeling about yourself, is it?

So where does that leave us? I think it leaves us comparing the magnitude of your environmental transgression (the one that bother's you (or doesn't -- but you mentioned it) -- the speedboat) with the magnitude of the Cassini potential environmental transgression. I think Cassini is not merely a million times worse, but more like a billion times worse -- and yes, there is a difference. A huge difference. But, perhaps Cassini is only 1000 times worse than one "puny" little powerboat (even a Cigarette boat is puny in its environmentally devastating consequences compared to Cassini, right?).

Do you ride your powerboat where you might kill manatees? Or dolphins? Does that bother you? Because everything we do has consequence, does it not? We are constantly making decisions that can kill ourselves, or others. Shall I eat this canned food that looks a little off? Does that piece of fruit that rolled on the ground need to be thrown out or can it be eaten? Did the restaurant's dishwasher wash their hands after using the toilet?

Any of these things can kill us, plain and simple. Or we could live like Howard Hughes (if we have the money) and try to avoid all germs.

But that would be absurd, wouldn't it?

Yet, we can make some adjustments. We can wear seatbelts. We can drive defensively. We can not smoke, eat properly, exercise (not in a powerboat !) and get only healthy doses of fresh air -- not too much sun, not too much smog.

And indeed, tens of millions of Americans try very hard to do all these things, for one simple reason:

They love life. Love it, embrace it, cherish it. So they fasten their seatbelts. They don't smoke, they don't overeat, they exercise, they wear sunscreen.

Yet still they die. They get lung cancer even if they don't smoke, they get leukemia, breast cancer, and a hundred other cancers, and heart disease of all sorts. 40% of us die of environmental causes, and many of those are beyond an individual's ability to control. We often don't know when we've bought a home on top of a little mini Love Canal.

The rest die of "old age" whatever that is. We should all beat the actuarial tables, you know. They should have to move them up and up and up, because the goal of society -- you say you want less people -- do you want us all to live less time as well? After all -- do the math. It's disgusting to me. The idea that anyone would suggest that less people is the solution. If each of us only lived to be about 20 or 30 years old, would that suit you too? After all you can sustain more people (over a given period of time) if they live 1/3 as long as they are biologically capable of!

But people are capable, biologically, of living for 120 years or more, most of us. There is no reason we HAVE TO exit (on average) at just over 70 years or so -- and that hasn't been going up, like technology should have provided by now.

Respect our elders. Why? Because even 100 years is not enough time to learn very much of anything. Even if you think you are smart at what you do -- even if you think you are the best -- there are (I'm certain you will admit) many things about which you know very little. Perhaps you would be so kind as to list a few in a response to this email -- things you admit to knowing very little about. You can even limit it to include things you WISH you knew a lot about, but know that you know very little about.

Spider webs.

I wish I knew a lot about spider webs. I think the intricacies of their construction are far more complex than studies I have seen imply. I think the balancing of forces which the spider does to ensure a good web uses very elegant, wonderful algorithms which I would like to write software to emulate some day. (Actually, I've sort of done the spirals and spokes for another project, but the tie-downs, and giving each piece the proper strength and stretch -- I haven't even started all that.)

And there are so many other things, but I know that we -- Americans, paid for something like 30,000 nuclear weapons and used only two, the second and third. I know that we are constantly being told that later, technology will let us replace the gas guzzling, energy-wasting technologies we use now with "clean" ones. But I do not believe the wait is because the technologies cannot stand on their own yet. I have looked too long at lie after lie after lie -- I'll be presenting, in an upcoming newsletter, a very specific history of the lies about the lack of hazards of nuclear weapons. Similarly nuclear energy has been presented as clean, cheap, and safe. It's none of those things. And diesel locomotives instead of a maglev rail system? Gas is sold as if it were too cheap to meter! In fact, 80% of the cost we pay for gas is probably the cost of getting it to us, NOT the cost to the Earth (and by a simple extension, its future inhabitants) of wasting it. That is paid only in taxes, and those taxes don't even cover the cost of building the roads these things ride upon.

You have a powerboat, and so you are not an environmentalist. Perhaps not, but then, I have a car. I have a computer. None of us is perfect.

That being said, I think we need to -- each and every one of us who accepts this concept -- petition the government to start making the grand switches to more environmentally friendly methods. They'll tell you they are trying, but solar technologies has never received billions of dollars a year in funding -- at most, tens of millions. There is a big difference. That's the gray scale I mentioned earlier. Nuclear has had its billions. Time to stop fooling ourselves that it is financially viable. Time to admit to our children that we have failed, and that failure has been costly. In lives. In money. In lost energy solutions. I am attaching for your "amusement" a document from a friend of mine, regarding a new energy source which will be available soon. He is the inventor of the concept. I did an animation of his pump/engine for my tutorial [...snip...]. [Readers curious about this engine can visit to learn more.]

It is one of half a dozen better engine technologies that will replace the crap we are putting up with. It should be a cinch for this inventor to get U.S. funding for his work. But it isn't. It's one of the most difficult things to do, getting funding for innovative projects like his. But if you want to build the 30,001st nuclear warhead -- THAT you can get funding for!!!

Why is that? I think it's because most of America doesn't mind being misrepresented. I think most of America is sick of the nuclear weapons option and would like to try something better. Something better for us and something better for them. We just don't know how to get off the merry-go-round. We can't differentiate between the level of risk from global nuclear pollution and that from piloting a speedboat. So we don't protest the one for fear it puts us in the same category as someone who protests everything that goes on in life.

Take care,

Russell Hoffman


=Karl =Russell =Karl

Also note: Both the Kobe and Northridge quakes were on previously undiscovered fault lines. And 747's (with all their D.U.) can most certainly penetrate nuclear containment buildings. And the 8 inch thick steel reactor vessel he mentions? It's full of holes, of course.

At 09:13 AM 10/23/98 -0700, Karl wrote:

Hold it! Many tons break away each year due to the incredible force of the water. Destroy it? Naw, postpone its destruction! Running it does more to destroy it anyway! Besides I bet 1% still going over would look pretty dam impressive!

Erosion is the natural process by which many of the "natural wonders" are produced. Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, etc. You are correct, that they will be gone some day. However, that doesn't mean they shouldn't be left in their natural state for all to marvel at.

Heck, why not advocate putting a few more dams in along the Grand Canyon? We could generate a lot of power that way.

I am not against people! I don't want less people, I want more, with better lives for all. I love people! I want more scientists, more teachers, more artists (or at least better ones to choose from!). What a disgusting idea, cutting population because we can't think of any other way to solve the worlds problems... People deserve to be fed, clothed, housed and educated so they can be productive members of society. They deserve a voice and a chance to hear other voices.

I am against too many people, and we've got way too many right now.

California ones -- I'm thinking Indian River was built near one but I could be mistaken. Around the world, will you vouch that Diablo is the only one?

I believe it is the only one in the US. I have no idea what has been done in other countries.

I believe the figure I read was three or four FEET of concrete, which is the thickness near the top of the containment building, and also there are numerous vital controls and pumps/valves/etc. OUTSIDE the containment building which need to be working for there not to be a meltdown. So the containment building is a real last resort, you know -- it's NOT a fortress so much as it is a casket. A leaky one, at that.

I checked, and you are correct: it is listed at "more than 4 feet" thick. However, the reactor vessel is 8 inches of steel.

I seem to recall reading that they were designed to survive the impact of a 747. Why would a terrorist attack a nuke plant when they have far more destructive tools at their disposal?

Like what? Saddam Hussien is "into" environmental terrorism on a grand scale. He even knows how to do it. The heros that put out the fires performed the environmental equivalent of Dunkirk in the months that followed.

Like chemical & biological weapons, and small "tactical" nukes. All of which he either already has, or soon will.

SO, I have accidentally unveiled you as one of those "environmentalists" who sees windmills and thinks "ugly" and sees nuclear powerplants and doesn't notice the pile of garbage they produce throughout the nuclear cycle. You say you notice it (see below) but you, like others, compare some windmills in a mountain pass to "destroying natural treasures" like what Chernobyl and Hanford and Moab have done. There is no comparison.

Not at all. I don't consider myself an environmentalist. I often vote pro-environment, I recycle, car pool, and love the "Great Outdoors". However, I also drive a lot, I own a small power boat, and do a lot of energy and resource intensive things. Therefore, I can't in good conscience call myself an environmentalist.

I really like windmills, and more of them wouldn't bother me. Altamont pass around 30 miles from here has a 30MW wind farm. It's a really good location, with 20+ mph winds much of the year.

I don't think that at all. I think in 50 to 100 years we will be using only renewable sources, since the non-renewable will be gone.

Oh, for goodness' sake!!! In 50 to 100 years things won't be much different if we don't start some of the HUGE projects that need to be done now! Public transportation systems! NASA/JPL outta be proud to make California the Mag-Lev capital of the world! When do we start? Tomorrow, tomorrow, and tomorrow? You know where that leads -- to dusty death.

I disagree. For instance, the people in Sacramento got sick of the way their power company (SMUD) was running Rancho Seco (very poorly). They voted to shut it down, despite the fact that they got 50% of their power from it. Now SMUD is putting photo-voltaic on people's homes, they've got a pilot solar plant down in the Mohave, and they're pursuing other renewable sources to stay competitive. Change is happening, and 50 years is a long time. Nuclear was a bad choice for them, and it was rushed into. That doesn't mean it can't work elsewhere, in cases where there aren't other good alternatives. We are lucky in California in that regard, since we get a lot of sun and wind.

I would like to know why you call me an "extremist". I am offended. I may be different, but I don't fit in any "extreme" position I have ever heard. It makes my life miserable, of course, not to "fit in" on the left or the right or wherever, but being called an extremist is extremely ugly and I resent it deeply. I hope you'll either reconsider or explain your charge.

According to my dictionary.

extremist (īk-strź“mīst) noun
One who advocates or resorts to measures beyond the norm, especially in politics.

In the case of nuclear, you are also on the "extreme" side of the issue. No RTG's in space, no nuke plants on earth. I'm sure there are people on the other side, who think ALL power should be nuke. I would define them as extremist as well.

I don't fit in on the "left" or "right", either. It shouldn't make you miserable, you're just independent.

I'll tell you a little thing I noticed about many pro-space people. They don't like it here on Earth. They want to build a better government. A better world. (Terraforming Mars, for instance.) But they cannot realize that if they really want a better world, THIS is the one to help?

That's certainly true for some people.

Thanks again for your intriguing correspondence. I know we have a lot of common ground and hope you feel (as I do) that it's simply a lot more interesting to concentrate on the differences. I believe we are accomplishing something important with this conversation and thank you for continuing it.

My pleasure, I enjoy these discussions. :)




Please feel free to post these newsletters anywhere you feel it's appropriate! THANKS!!!

Welcome new subscribers!

Thanks for reading,
Russell D. Hoffman
STOP CASSINI webmaster.


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