Sure. Save the whales. But how about saving the humans?
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I love the whales, really I do. I even worked for Greenpeace once. I am in awe of these majestic creatures of the deep and see them as indicators of the health of the entire marine environment. Human beings should take care of their cetaceous fellow citizens of the watery planet. Folks, I am so down with the whales.
Yet as the two errant humpbacks led the news again for about the fifth night in a row and the Coast Guard cutters and the helicopters and the array of state wildlife officials and veterinarians swarmed around the Sacramento River basin, I had to stop and wonder, for about the 50th time:
Why don't they treat wayward people like this?
Every day the streets of San Francisco are full of injured human beings, members of the species Homo sapiens who have been hit by the psychic or physical equivalent of boat propellers. There are women with children who stagger homeless from one place to another, unable to find their way to a functional family.
These living, breathing mammals do not get a special multiagency task force set up, with a designated full-time Coast Guard petty officer as a media liaison and a staff of dozens of officials from the military, the state Department of Fish and Game, the Governor's Office of Emergency Services, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They don't receive what amounts to an unlimited budget to get their wounds treated and their lives turned around.
And the media doesn't pay any attention to them. Even when they die, as a couple hundred do every year. Nobody who owns a helicopter gives a shit about homeless people in San Francisco.
I'm not going to argue against the whale-rescue effort. I don't think the Coast Guard ignored any looming terrorist threats in the nearby Pacific or let any sailors die in capsized crafts while it was helping the whales. It was probably a good training exercise for all involved, and hell, if it cost a million bucks, that's less than the Pentagon wastes every five minutes or so in Iraq. Go team.
I'm just saying, that's all. I'm just saying.
Way back in 1974, a guy named Sam Lovejoy went on trial for destroying a weather tower in Montague, Mass., that a local utility had built in preparation for the construction of a nuclear power plant. One of Lovejoy's expert witnesses was John Gofman, a nuclear chemist and the author of the book Poison Power, who made the definitive argument against nuclear energy. The material created by a reactor, he said, must be guarded "99.9999 percent perfectly, in peace and war, with human error and human malice, guerrilla activities, psychotics, malfunction of equipment.... Do you believe there's anything you'd like to guarantee will be done 99.9999 percent perfectly for 100,000 years?"
You can't, was the point. Lovejoy walked.
And now, as Amanda Witherell reports in "Nuclear Greenwashing," page 15, the nuclear industry wants a new life. We all ought to know better. *