In reading about the past inadequacies of safety planning and preparation it is clear that parts of the Earth have been allowed to turn into major environmental disaster zones. In the past those who generated our electrical power for one reason or another failed to take the necessary precautions before the fact. They neither understood nor cared very much at the time about long range fouling of the environment. They were also in a hurry because, being in the middle of a war, their long range survival and longevity was not something they could afford the luxury of thinking about at the time. They might be dead by sometime tomorrow, or perhaps even later today. If they were not successful immediately, then their long range survival would never become an issue. For those who may have thought momentarily about possible fouling of the environment, they probably simply thought they would have to think about that after the outcome of the war was no longer in doubt. Survival, and meeting immediate goals to do so, does have a way of focusing the mind.
At the very least we must now clean up significant pollution after the fact or quarantine sites which have be unfit for humans to inhabit. This month I want to write in this blog about a number of places where over time the levels of pollution have made it clear that neither humans nor animals or plants can live there without significant continuing risk. The most significant and serious levels of contamination have occurred because of significant, often unantiicipated accidents or simply by ongoing pollution that was never brought under control and always thought to be less serious than it was actually was. These problems have mainly followed the nuclear, coal and heavy metals industries.
Russia is perhaps the place with the most extensive environmental contamination initiated during World War II and afterwards in the cold war because matters were quite secretive and again the need to cut corners continued to be necessary because the survival of a way of life was still of primary importance to the leadership. Nevertheless, of the ten most polluted sites on the planet (on nearly everyone’s list) four of them are in Russia or within the former Soviet Union.
The population of Russia is in decline and remains one of the few places on Earth where that is true. While this population decline has been associated with excessive consumption of vodka by the populace, nuclear and munitions industries appear to have made major contributions to this decline as well.
In the remaining blog posts this month my intention is to examine where we have been and where we are going in the matter of the continuing use of coal and nuclear options for energy production and to make sensible recommendations — if that’s possible — on what our direction should be for the future.