Saturday, June 28, 2008

Yucca Mountain Discussion: Background Information

Yucca Mountain is the planned site of a massive nuclear waste dump. It is located in Nevada, approximately 100 miles Northwest of Las Vegas. Though you may not often hear about it in the news (especially if you live outside of Nevada), Yucca Mountain has been a hot topic in Congress for twenty-six years. The Las Vegas Review Journal provides excellent updated coverage of the Yucca Mountain Project. It is a very involved situation, but basically, the U.S. Department of Energy plans to use the site to bury at least seventy-seven thousand tons of radioactive waste. According to the LVRJ, the road to Yucca began in 1982 with the passage of the Nuclear Waste Policy Act, which called for the construction of a national nuclear waste storage facility. In 1987, it was decided that Yucca Mountain would be the site of this facility. (You can see a timeline of milestones here.)
In 2002, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham recommended Yucca as the disposal site for "the nation's most lethal nuclear waste." President Bush promptly approved the recommendation. Originally the repository was due to be complete by 1998, but forseeing an inability to meet that dealine, the government moved the completion date to 2010. Recently, even the 2010 deadline has been deemed unlikely to happen, as the license to build the facility has not been approved yet. At this point, the Energy Department has just submitted their application for a license to physically build the Yucca facility.
Prior to 2001, the Dept. of Energy had to prove that Yucca Mountain itself could safely contain radioactive waste; in 2001, they were given permission to use storage containers to contain the waste. There has been additional controversy over the issue of the containers themselves, such as their durability and how likely they are to corrode, what might happen in the event of an earthquake, etc. Needless to say, severe doubt has been cast upon the adequacy of these containers to prevent radioactive leakage. (The very idea that at any point, the government was going to consider storing the waste directly in the mountain without the use of sealed containers seems absurd to me.)
If the waste is not stored properly, there could be serious environmental implications and negative impacts on the people who live in the surrounding area. There are additional implications with regard to the transport of this waste to the site, and the risks posed to anyone within a certain distance of the transportation routes, which would run throughout the entire U.S. (I will be following up on the potential environmental and health effects as well as the transport issue in a later post.)

What is your position on Yucca; is this an issue of which you were previously aware?

Friday, June 20, 2008

"Uncontacted" Amazon Tribe: Will they remain uncontacted, or will the world (and media) worm its way into these people's lives?

I have been reading a little bit about these uncontacted tribes in the Amazon, and yesterday another article about them on National Geographic's website caught my eye. I have been wondering: will these tribes be left alone, or will people from the outside penetrate the tribes, and irrevocably change the way of life for these people? As a sociologist (observer) and a lover of anthropology, I am more inclined to observe and study than to intervene and change.
In the June 3rd article, it states that the group Survival International "takes the position that uncontacted tribes should be allowed to live in their own way on their own land, as recognized by international law. " One of National Geographic's explorers/authors, Wade Davis, later states that contact with the tribes should only be made if necessary, i.e. they are in danger, and not solely out of curiosity.
What do you think will happen? Have the wheels already been set in motion for this tribe's way of living to change because this story has been much publicized? Or was the tribe's culture and lifestyle already doomed to change due to the possibility of deforestation and infringement by oil companies in the Amazon? Will the publicity actually serve to protect them from habitat destruction?

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Art of Discussion: Conversation versus Domination

I sometimes try to avoid discussing social issues for fear of running the risk of offending someone. However, when discussing any issue that may be considered controversial or sensitive, one runs the risk of offending someone.
Discussion is a key element in learning and sharing. However, all too often, discussion, be it online, in person amongst two people, or in a group setting such as a classroom, turns into heated and sometimes angry debate when one party tries to dominate the other by speaking loudly (i.e. talking over the other person), using domineering body language, being nasty or insulting, or putting the other party down and being disrepectful.
I do not feel that such behavior is necessary. It is possible to express one's opinion without trying to dominate those who oppose it. I am wondering if gender plays a role in the outcome of such discussions. Do you feel, or have you experienced situations where, either men or women specifically try to dominate the discussion? Do you feel that gender does play a role in the turn these discussions take? How do you get your point across; are you guilty of these negative behaviors? Or do you avoid talking with co-workers and friends about sensitive issues, for fear the conversation may take an ugly turn?

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Follow up to Question for Readers: What is the best way to combat ignorance?

Here is the immediate reason for my post. While living in the South, I have encountered a lot of ignorance, or what I deem anti-progressive thought. (See earlier post: Is the Southern U.S. in Need of a Cultural Revolution?) When I posted those questions, actually moments before I posted the questions, I had a heated argument with a work associate. During this argument, I was told to "go live in Iran, express my opinions, and see what happened to me as a woman." I can only assume that he was suggesting that I would be raped, killed, jailed, or otherwise assaulted (as opposed to being verbally assaulted, which is what happened to me during this conversation). I took what he said to mean that basically I was lucky to be able to be a woman and live in a country where I was allowed to speak my mind. Yes, it is called the first amendment. But I guess, as a man, he did not question his right to speak his mind. He went on to regurgitate propaganda which could have come directly from one of President Bush's pro-war speeches right around the time he began to send the military into Iraq.
In any case, needless to say, I was quite angry after this "conversation." But anger does not solve problems, resolve differences, or bridge knowledge gaps. In fact, it usually causes problems (when not channelled properly). So, I am trying to be the "bigger person" in this situation, and rise above my momentary anger to ask what it is I can do to combat such attitudes and ignorance. This attitude is one I have been subjected to many times during my two year stint in Florida (which I hope will be coming to an end soon). I have encountered a great deal of sexism and culturally-backward attitudes on many occasions. This situation has made me feel oppressed, sad, angry and powerless at times. But I am wondering if there is a way that I can turn all of these things into something positive. Here is my feeble attempt to do just that.
Previously, I was ignorant that so much sexism, racism and cultural bias still existed in the United States. I had thought this was a thing of the past. My eyes have now been opened to this ugliness. Now that I am aware of it, I have the opportunity to do something about it. You cannot attempt to make a change where you do not know that one is needed.
I have learned, or perhaps am learning, that the best way to combat ignorance is through knowledge, education and sympathy (certainly not with aggression or anger). At least, this is what I think.
What do you think?

Question For All Readers

What is the best way to combat ignorance?

(I have my opinions, which I will share later, but I would like to know yours.)