Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Disaster in Japan.....What will be the fallout?

On March 11, 2011 a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit Japan. This is a tragic catastrophe and our prayers need to be with the thousands of victims who lost their lives in this disaster along with their families. The human toll is of first and foremost importance. The death toll is expected to climb above 10,000, according to estimate from Japanese officials, as emergency workers reach the hardest hit areas. On the coastline of Miyagi prefecture, which took the full force of the tsunami there are a few thousand bodies that have washed up within a few days of the tsunami alone. This disaster is ongoing and if the nuclear facilities in Japan experience a meltdown and radiation leaks, the fallout from this catastrophe will last for many years.

Adding to the actual crisis of the quake and tsunami itself, a nuclear crisis looms. All the nuclear reactors at the earthquake stricken Fukushima nuclear plant are under threat of melting down and exploding in a chain reaction that could signify the world’s worst ever nuclear disaster. There are different reports of how severe this situation really is. Could the Japanese government be covering up how serious this is to protect their image and prevent people from panicking more? One case scenario would see radiation from these facilities show up as far as the west coast of North America. A recent Greenpeace report revealed that the full consequences of the Chernobyl disaster that occurred in the Soviet Union in 1986, could top a quarter of a million cancer cases and nearly 100,000 fatal cancers, putting this into perspective. There are some predictions as I write this, that this could be worse than the Chernobyl disaster. The death toll could be enormous. If the situation becomes as bad as some believe, cancer deaths could escalate in the coming years. Radioactive material has a half-life of thousands of years. The radiation may dissolve but it won’t entirely disappear, it just accumulates. The entire planet is covered with radiation pollution including weapons, nuclear power plants, power reactors, nuclear powered ships, research emissions, and illegal radioactive waste dumping. There are hundreds of nuclear reactors on the planet which present the potential of wiping out life on this planet.

Just a few days after the earthquake officials have estimated that Japan faces a recovery and reconstruction bill of at least $180-billion. Insurance companies will face enormous losses and will pass this cost on to consumers, especially those that live in earthquake zones, including those in North America. The players at the stock exchanges across the world are speculating on commodities that might be affected by the situation in Japan. Even oil decreased in price upon initial reports of the quake. The pending nuclear crisis in Japan puts a further dent in their economy. Could the seriousness of the nuclear meltdown situation at the damaged sites be toned down for the sake of business interests? That is a real possibility. The greed and fear that run rampant on world markets hasn’t taken a break for the tragic events. That is a tragedy in itself in my opinion. Thousands of lives are at stake.

Is it a coincidence that birds and fish have mysteriously died at an astonishing rate around the world during the last few months? Could this be related in some way with the earthquakes and natural disasters that are occurring with greater frequency? Could this have been an omen of things to come? Could this disaster be related to solar flares? Could the supermoon that is supposed to occur on March 19 be partially related? Some believe that the earth’s axis will rotate in 2012. Could this be a precursor to the 2012 events that some think will bring an end to this present age? There are even a few people that think HAARP (High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program conducted by US government agencies) may have been associated with the Japanese quake, in addition to other abnormal weather events over the past few years. I am personally not an expert in either of these areas, but I personally do not subscribe to the HAARP theory at all. Maybe we are living in the end times according to Christian beliefs. Whatever the cause and whatever you may believe, I can honestly say every time I see events like these unfold I become more thankful for the things I have in my life and learn to enjoy the simple things in life. Disasters can strike at anytime and anyplace around the world and change lives in split seconds.

We have to ask ourselves about the future of nuclear energy. Is it safe? Are nuclear power facilities, built on earthquake or tsunami zones, meeting optimum safety standards? Unfortunately, in many cases, along with other energy projects (such as the BP oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico) cost is always factored in. The companies that fund, build, and run such facilities sometimes gamble with safety measures to make the bottom line more attractive. This may be the case with the damaged nuclear facilities in Japan where they gambled against an earthquake and a tsunami as strong happening, even though the possibility always existed for it. Do the benefits of nuclear energy outweigh the risks? This is happening on the heels of massive oil price hikes across the world? We also need to lesson our dependence on oil as well. Ethanol produced from agricultural feed is not an option. It is not right to take food from someone’s mouth to fill a gas tank. We have tough decisions to make regarding the future of the world’s energy needs. Solar, wind, tidal and other renewable clean safe energy sources need to be utilized. The time is now! We need to put greed and ignorance aside for the sake of the future of this planet.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Rising Fuel and Food Prices….The Real Cost

In the past few months we have been hit with rising fuel and food prices in North America. We have watched the riots and revolutions break out in North Africa and the Middle East which has escalated the price of oil even more than the rate it was rising prior to that. Our generation, in North America and much of the Western World we have had probably had the highest standard of living in human history. North Americans have been blessed with relatively cheap fuel and cheap food. Are we seeing the end of that? I believe there is a storm ahead. I am not sure how bad things will be in Canada and the US, but our standard of living will be affected in a negative way in the coming years ahead.

The Middle East crisis shows the extreme fragility of the global energy system. Riots and revolutions across the Middle East and Africa are like a double edged sword. These riots are partly to blame on the rising cost of food in these nations. When people have a hard time feeding themselves or their families tensions mount. However, these riots are partly to blame for rising oil prices and commodity prices throughout the world, which of course leads to higher food prices. There are many factors that contribute to the price of oil. Speculation on world financial markets is certainly one of them. There is no doubt that the oil industry has a lot of power. They can raise prices as they see fit and also can suppress any alternative energy sources that threaten their monopoly. It is interesting how some oil companies have invested in cleaner energy sources so they can control that sector too. The most powerful people in the world have a hand in the oil companies, and therefore they will never allow free energy to cut into their profits, so they do everything they can in order to keep this type of energy suppressed. We as citizens must break the chains of the rich and powerful oil companies or else we will always be held hostage by price fluctuations of oil and having no real energy alternatives.

All humans need food to survive. That is a common necessity for every human on this planet which is approaching 7 billion. According to World Hunger statistics, every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger. 75% of them are children. 24,000 people die every day from starvation or malnutrition. That is tragic. The higher food prices rise, the higher the number of people that go hungry. Rising food prices are harder on the world’s poor than it is on the wealthier nations. A recent study showed that citizens of Canada and the US spend less than 15 percent of their income on food on average. In contrast, many citizens of third world countries spend over half their income on average on food. There are many reasons for the increase in food prices. The expanding population growth, especially in Asia, adds to the demand of food. Weather patterns affect food commodity prices, when droughts, floods and other abnormal weather patterns occur. Speculation on global stock markets can also drive prices higher. Oil is the backbone of economies, especially in the western world. When the price of oil goes up it costs us more to put gas in our cars. It also costs more to supply food to citizens. Farmers up to delivery services that supply our food have to pay more for fuel and that eventually gets passed on to consumers.

The planet is heading for difficult times if the proper decisions are not made. In 1950 the population of the planet was less than three billion. Sixty years later the population is approaching seven billion. That is a phenomenal growth and although technology has advanced in many areas including food production, of the over six billion people, about half live in poverty and at least one fifth are severely undernourished. We in the wealthy nations will be affected with food shortages if action is not taken soon! Will we allow greed and ignorance to stand in the way of securing the future of this planet?