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

Via Roger Wolsey
on Apr 26, 2010
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Damned dam.

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.


About Roger Wolsey

Roger Wolsey is a free-spirited GenX-er who thinks and feels a lot about God and Jesus. He’s a progressive Christian who identifies with people who consider themselves as being “spiritual but not religious.” He came of age during the “Minneapolis sound” era and enjoyed seeing The Replacements, The Jayhawks, Husker Du, The Wallets, Trip Shakespeare, Prince, and Soul Asylum in concert—leading to strong musical influences to his theology. He earned his Masters of Divinity degree at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver, CO. Roger is an ordained pastor in the United Methodist Church and he currently serves as the director of the Wesley Foundation campus ministry at C.U. in Boulder, CO. He was married for ten years, divorced in 2005 and now co-parents a delightful 10-year old son. Roger loves live music, hosting house concerts, rock-climbing, yoga, centering prayer, trail-running with his dog Kingdom, dancing, camping, riding his motorcycle, blogging, and playing his trumpet in ska bands and music projects. He's recently written a book Kissing Fish: christianity for people who don't like christianity


4 Responses to “Damned Dam. Brazilian Rainforests, Indigenous Peoples at risk. Go Nuclear?”

  1. Roger Wolsey says:

    I suppose I can get the conversation going by cutting and pasting some words from the wikipedia site I referenced in the article:
    WWF-Brazil released a report in 2007 stating that Brazil could cut its expected demand for electricity by 40% by 2020 by investing in energy efficiency. The power saved would be equivalent to 14 Belo Monte hydroelectric plants and would result in national electricity savings of up to R$33 billion (US$19 billion).[12]

    However, the source for that info is Greenpeace and "investing in energy efficiency" is their answer to everything. That sounds fine on paper, but it would take years to attain the levels they're seeking and in between now and then, new energy sources are needed.

  2. Okay, just posted this tohttp://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal , hopefully that will start a spark. I personally don't think nuclear, however "clean" (which it's not) and "safe" (which it's not: leaks and great terrorism target) is an option until we figure out how to deal with the waste. Burying beyond-toxic crap that never gets less toxic doesn't seem like a great option.

  3. Roger Wolsey says:

    Fair enough. But I say it's high time for the Eco-Green community to help figure out how to deal with the waste. The status quo is not acceptable. That said, today's new generation nuclear plants are far safer than any coal or natural gas plant. Which are also great targets for terrorists.

  4. Greg says:

    Roger, I tend to agree with your analysis. Of course, I grew up playing around a research reactor and so tend not to be as freaked out about nuclear power as others might be.

    My sense is that there are people who could lend their technical expertise to the problem. This is true in many areas of energy sustainability. We could put together working panels made up of experts in the various disciplines and we could arrive at viable solutions.

    However, the problem that stands in the way now is recent political history. The issue of energy ties into big bucks and for this reason there has been way too much chicanery that has led to an overall lack of trust — particularly with respect to green movement folks.

    It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that Al Gore is one corrupt dude who has compromised serious green efforts. Likewise, Obama. And GE sitting in Obama's lap.

    The story of Obama and Gore's role in the cap 'n trade scam which is hurtling at us like a nuclear warhead is enough to destroy trust for the next century.

    In fact, Elephant Journal could catapult to the top of the journalistic field by investigating the role Obama played in brokering Joyce Foundation money to start the Chicago Climate Exchange, which stands to profit in the trillions of dollars from cap n trade, while producing not a single worthwhile product. And EJ could investigate the ownership by Gore and Goldman Sachs in the CCX. The corruption is staggering.

    Unfortunately, such self-dealing has dealt the green movement serious setbacks. The question is how one can set up truly independent groups to complete sound research that does not cater to special interests. How does one finance that activity? The University system would seem like a natural solution but they became so involved in fudging the books and misrepresenting science in the global warming nonsense that they, too, need a public relations make over.

    Not sure. Maybe we need to work on hearts and minds, then on a culture of ethics, then on sound legal institutions, sound journalism, and then, with the stage reset, we can move forward…