Guest Post by Geoff Russell. Geoff recently released the popular book “Greenjacked! The derailing of environmental action on climate change“.
She looks a little like Noomi Rapace playing the legendary Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Not quite so tough, but not someone to mess with. Still, it takes more than a punk hair cut to make a real toughie. In one of her latest YouTube clips, she’s in a state of panic in the back of a minivan whimpering in fear and busily checking the doors and winding up windows. “Oh sh.t, it’s coming, I don’t want to die, it’s coming … f..k!” the voice quivers and the fear is palpable. “this sh.t is dangerous, he’s going to kill you.”
She’s in one of the scariest places on the planet. A place most people wouldn’t send their worst enemy to. But moments before she’s been wandering around like a kid in a candy store with an infectious sense of wonder, happiness and excitement.
The young woman is @bionerd23, a German geek YouTube flicking science student, and she’s at Chernobyl wandering around in the debris from the 1986 steam explosion which blew the top off one of the nuclear reactors and changed the course of history. Without it, more countries would have followed France and rolled out nuclear power and been generating electricity for 70 grams of CO2 per kilowatt hour instead of the 850g that is typical in a non-nuclear country like Australia.
@bionerd23 has made a series of youtube clips in Chernobyl. Not your usual “me in front of the fountain” shots, but “Here’s me eating apples off abandoned trees 4km from the Chernobyl reactor” and “Here’s me finding a piece of the graphite core moderator spat out when the reactor exploded in 1986 … wow … look at my Geiger counter maxing out!“.
So what’s frightening this radiation warrior?
A fox. This isn’t a red-riding-hood wolf, this is a fox. If you aren’t small and feathery or furry, then a fox is a cute creature with a big bushy tale and come hither eyes. “Wouldn’t you just love to pat me!”.
The facts are that @bionerd23 is behaving pretty bloody rationally because she’s far more brain than brawn … despite the haircut. Foxes carry rabies, Ukraine is a rabies hot spot and healthy foxes don’t normally approach in the middle of the day. If you aren’t vaccinated against rabies and you are bitten and infected, then you will die unless you can quickly get proper treatment … a post-bite vaccination plus some high tech supplemental treatment. Rabies kills about 50,000 people a year globally, which is more every year than the Chernobyl accident has killed in close to 3 decades. At a rough estimate, rabies has killed about 1.4 million more people over the period, but hasn’t changed the course of history.
So @bionerd23 is behaving quite rationally by hiding in a minivan and closing all the windows at the approach of a fox.
By comparison, what are we to make of the on-going evacuation around the Fukushima reactors in Japan? Radiation expert Malcolm Grimston, from Imperial College London recently described this evacuation as “stark raving mad”. All that it takes for anti-science lunacy to have horrible effects is for people with knowledge to speak so quietly that their noises aren’t heard over the nutter dummy din. Malcolm Grimston isn’t the first to criticise the evacuation, he’s just done it a little more bluntly.
But, you may ask, surely the Japanese Government had expert guidance from it’s own experts and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)? Well I asked IAEA what they told the Japanese Government and they replied in typical bureaucratic double speak:
… IAEA is not an international nuclear regulator; that is, it does not make or enforce safety rules. Therefore, the Agency is not in a position to instruct or order or comment upon the actions any Member State chooses to take. (email: Greg Webb, Press and Public Informatin Officer, IAEA, November 2013)
Eventually, after more requests for information, they pointed me to their Criteria for Use in Preparadness and Response for a Nuclear or Radiological Emergency. These guidelines are pretty clear and if they had been followed, it’s obvious that the forced evacuation of 120,000 wouldn’t have happened and wouldn’t be continuing. It’s doubtful that even a temporary evacuation of anybody would have happened. This evacuation killed people, caused suicides and continues to disrupt and devastate lives. It’s architect, ex-Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan was in Australia recently and lauded by more than a few Green Parliamentarians. Of course he wears a suit and doesn’t have @bionerd23’s punk hair-do … or her brains.
What this German student lacks in media polish is more than compensated for in brains and commonsense. In another clip she buries herself in radioactive sand at Guarapari beach in Brazil. This is a popular tourist destination and in some places its about 10 times more radioactive than the peaks reported on a recent ABC Catalyst program about Fukushima radiation. That program reported hot spots of 5 to 7 micro Sieverts per hour. How did Catalyst‘s Mark Horstman put these numbers in context for his viewers? He could have told them that 5 micro Sieverts was 10 times lower than the level at the popular Brazilian tourist destination of Guarapari beach, instead he told them that it was “50 times the maximum dose rate considered safe for the general public”. Guarapari isn’t a cancer hot spot, and nor is Ukraine. Bionerd23 isn’t suicidal, just numerate and knowledgable. In fact the Ukraine cancer rates is 192 new cases per 100,000 people per annum, much lower than the 323 per 100,000 in Australia. We have far more obesity, BBQs and red and processed meat. An unhealthy lifestyle if far more dangerous than something like the Chernobyl exclusion zone or even rabid foxes.
We can contrast this young German woman with smooth ABC journalists like Mark Horstman or Mark Willacy. Her logic and science is consistent with the IAEA experts and the outspoken Malcolm Grimston of Imperial College in London; their logic is not.