April 26, 2010

Damned Dam. Brazilian Rainforests, Indigenous Peoples at risk. Go Nuclear?

Indigenous people in Brazil are threatened. There are threats of bloodshed in response. Many say that Brazil’s proposed Belo Monte dam “damns Amazonian Rain forests & Peoples.”  An international Ecological Alert is being called.

Brazil is at a crossroads.

They can either pursue development in conventional ways, and risk both bloodshed and continued environmental destruction, or they can do…

…well, what?

Elephant’s readers are environmentally concerned, and bright. So here’s the question: clearly, Brazil has the need and right to invest in infrastructures that ensure economic progress for their citizens. However, policies which destroy eco-systems, dramatically reduce rain forests (the “world’s lungs”), and displace people to the point of ethnic genocide don’t seem reasonable or sustainable.

Dams do provide a fairly green way of providing energy, but the costs seem to outweigh the benefits—especially in this case.  Clearly, wind, solar power and geo-thermal are better sources but they aren’t yet capable of providing energy needs on a large scale.

I happen to favor keeping the nuclear energy option on the table, as it can provide significant energy without contributing to gases which aggravate global warming. The issue, of course, is where to put the spent fuel rods. Since there are many of these fuel rods currently being temporarily stored across the globe, we clearly need to do something with them in a more permanent way.

We can’t pretend they don’t exist.  It seems to me a major failing of the Green community is to fail to participate in discussions about what, where, and how to deal with them (except perhaps to say, “No! Don’t put them there!”).  Instead, we tend to stick our heads in the sand and wish they would just go away.

So: what should Brazil do instead of building that new dam?  And, what should the Green community be doing about addressing the need for permanent storage for spent nuclear fuel rods?

Here’s a link which compares the advantages and disadvantages of various energy sources.  Take a look and let’s talk.

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