In the chapter on environment we cover many aspects of how the care and use of environment effects the lives of the people. In this section we will address how we can attain universal wholeness, the global aspects of health.
One of our friends just returned from the Foreigner’s Registration office where she had to pay Rs.1500 to remain in India. She is a British passport holder and has worked in India since long before partition. This ia a new rule (one-time payment) due to Britain’s taxing Indian citizens in like manner to stay in England. This is against our theme - one family, one globe for all. The world we live in sees people from all over the world living in peace and harmony, a world where all refugees can find a home.
There are many reasons for dispair in our world, but we write this section in hope. We can take courage in what is happening in our own time. One sign of hope is the evolving upward path of the United Nations. It is a sign of a new world order. Their efforts in Iran/Iraq, South Africa, Kampuchea, and Afghanistan are seen as world concerns on which world opinion is brought to bear. The Disarmament Committee of UN is negotiating for global guarantees and protection from nuclear attack.
For global wholeness we need to work for common use areas of Antartica: use for peaceful purposes only, oceans: the common heritage of mankind; and outer space: to be used by all, not abused.
OUTER SPACE : HOLE IN OZONE LAYER
On 16 September 1987, the first global treaty aimed at reducing pollution was agreed by 27 nations at Montral, under the auspices of UN. They pledged to reduce the release of chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons, ior CFCs, by 50% by the end of the twentieth century. This was done to protect the ozone layer of the atmosphere, a region tens of kilometres above our heads in which a sparse layer of the gas ozone, a triatomic form of oxygen, shields the Earth below from incoming solar ultraviolet radiation. If ozone above our heads is depleted, more ultraviolet radiation from the sun will reach the ground, causing an increase in the incidence of certain forms of skin cancer, and possibly damaging crops and animals. Changes in the stratosphere could alter the heat balance of the Earth, changing weather patterns and shifting both the wind and rainfall belts that we are accustomed to. The production of CFCs is used widely as the propellants in aerosol spray cans to keep hamburgers warm, in refrigeration and air-conditioning plants, in the computer chip manufacturing industry, and elsewhere.
Scientists have found that at an altitude of 18 kilometres above the ground, more than half the ozone above Antartica was destroyed in the spring of 1987. There is no doubt that there is a hole in the sky over Antartica each spring, that it is produced as a result of human activities, and that it was not there before about 1979 and that it was ‘deeper’ (in the sense that more ozone had been removed) in 1987 than ever before. Steps must be taken both by individuals and as a global community, to minimise any threats to life on Earth.
Ozone not only protects the surface of the Earth from ultravoilet radiation produced by the Sun, which might otherwise sweep life away from most of our planet, it is also a form of oxygen, which is essential for all forms of animal life on Earth. that supports life as we know it. The process is known as the greenhouse effect, see Figure 4, higher up it gets increasingly colder.
RESULT OF OZONE DEPLETION
Not only does ultraviolet radiation cause skin cancer, it also suppreses the activity of the human immune system, the body’s natural defence system. This makes it easier for tumours to grow without the body fighting back. It also would bring an increased incidence of infections by herpes virus, hepatitis, and infections of the skin caused by parasites. Sidney Lerman of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, claims that a 1% decrease in the amount of ozone overhead would increase the number of victims of cataracts of the eye in the USA by 25,000. All studies show that human health suffers if the ozone layer is depleted. Plants and animals suffer greatly from ozone depletion. Plants show a decrease in yield of 25% when UV-B is increased by 25%. In the oceans phytoplankton, the tiny floating organisms that are at the base of the food chain, also suffer from increased exposure to UV-B and the larval stages of some fish are sensitive to the radiation. This puts a strain on sources of food for the world’s growing population. This puts a strain on sources of food for the world’s growing population. Domesticated food animals suffer from eye cancer and pink eye when exposed to more UV-B. All the effects on wild animals and uncultivated vegetation are unknown, but we know it would be harmful.
SOME CAUSES OF OZONE DEPLETION
Supersonic Jet Transport are a cause of ozone depletion. They are regarded as a flying white elephant. Studies pointed to the danger that enough aircraft of this kind, flying at altitudes of 15 km and above, might do irreparable damage to the ozone layer. So production of these jeets was stopped.
Space shuttles introduced a new element into the debate, chlorine is now implicated in the opening of the hole in the sky over Antarctica, a hole bigger than the continental USA. But the problem from damage of space shuttles is significant as they fly so rarely.
Aerosol spray cans used from hair spray and deodorants to insecticides, paint, polishes and disinfectants - about half use CFCs to push the active ingredients out of the can. Action was taken to limit the release of CFC into the environment. But all countries are increasing use of spray cans, so again it is serious problem to the ozone layer.
Nuclear tests also affect the ozone layer negatively. As carbon dioxide and methane build up in the atmospheric climatologists expect the trophosphers to warm signifncantly over the next few decades, while the stratosphere cools. As weather patterns change, the greenhouse effect may well become a more significant environmental problem than the destruction of the ozone layer.
The hole in the sky was first noticed in 1982. The British Antarctic Survey team using a new instrument, reported more than 30% depletion of ozone over Halley bay. As scientists continue to study the issue, all citizens must join together and act to stop any further damage.
ECOLOGICAL AND UNEMPLOYMENT CRISES
Two crises loom over all the earth today - one is the ecological crisis, of which nuclear war is one example (see Chapter Environment for further coverage of the ecological crises), the other is unemployment. In the First World there are over 45 million unemployed adults, many of them young. In the Third World there are another 450 million unemployed. What we have is misemployment. If we diverted the money spent on arms every two weeks we could provide food, water, education, health and housing for everyone in the world. And this shift could creatively employ all the unemployed.
QUESTIONS ABOUT NUCLEAR PLANTS
This topic is covered in the environment chapter, but the general public is increasingly taking interest in it. More and more books are being written about nuclear physicists who are feeling guilty for ever inventing nuclear fission. They thought it could be used for good, and now all they see is using it to hold the world at ransom. A recent example of their despair is seen in the suicide of a Soviet atomic physicist, professor Valery Legasov, he was involved in designing and siting Societ nuclear power stations. See the box below.
QUESTIONS about N-Plants
The suicide of a Soviet academician, prof. Valery Legasov, noted atomic physicist involved in designing and siting Soviet nuclear power stations, has called into question once again the reaffirmed plans of socialist countries to accelerate development of nuclear energy.
The act of penance for the Chernobyl catastrophe and the death bed views of the academician also require a review by India of its own plans to build a string of nuclear power plants, some of them with Soviet aid, according to observers in Moscow.
Although environmentalists have forced the Soviet government to abandon at least one half-built nuclear power plant (NPP) in this country, CMEA (Comecon) countries recently decided that they will earmark NPP’s for a third of all new generating capacities by 1990 and two-thirds in the following decade.
The wisdom of all this is challenged by revelations in the current issue of the authorittive ‘Moscow News’ weekly published by an agency under the supervision of the Soviet communist party secretariat. The weekly notes in particular that the Americans have not built a single new nuclear plant since the 1979 Three Mile Island disaster and have dismantled or mothballed even those that were 70 or80 per cent complete.
West Germany, the U.K., Sweden, Spain, Switzerland, Canada, and Belgium have not filled a single NPP order since 1981, whereas the Soviet Union had built another dozen during the period, stuffing the European part of the country with potential megaton nuclear explosives.
The most forceful arguement against the Soviet and allied plans is provided by the disclosure that prof. Legasov told Russian writer Alex Adamovich that a Chernobyl - size disaster could strike again as 14 Chernobyl-type reactors are operating in this country.
Although the Chernobyl disaster has been attributed to human error during an experimental overhaul of the reactor, the tragic scientist said: "The most important contributing factors to the Chernobyl Accident have not been and cannot be removed".
They include faults from poor construction and the lack of reliable emergency systems for similar plants, and the impossibility of constructing any concrete cones to seal them at this stage."
However, India’s NPP plans do not provide for this because of the engineering problems involved, according to top Indian Atomic Energy Commission spokesmen.
Prof.Legasov, who was at the scene of the disaster from the very first day, went to the most dangerous areas and received high dose of radiation. He Talked to Adamovich in hospital while under treatment for radiation sickness.
He committed suicide at the age of 51, choosing the date, April 27, 1988. The day after the second Chernobyl anniversary, ‘Moscow news’ said. None of this was made known in the official obituary after the Academician’s death.
Nuclear engineering like the prospects of nuclear war, is everybody’s concern - not just of specialists.
Any blowing up of a nuclear plant would be a global disaster because the cumulative long-term effect of the radiation would be the same as that of a ten-megaton bomb.
Adamovich says rather than build new stations, the existing ones should be shut down, and pleads: "let’s come to our senses before it’s too late".
Nuclear fission reactions produce radioactive wastes which spontaneously emit high energy radiations that are invisible to the naked eye. At lower levels these cause cancer and induce genetic damages in living organisms which perpetuate for generations. These radioactive rays are never safe, their ionizing nature can have unpredictable effects upon living cells, especially those of the nervous system which have a delicate balance of ions within them.
In ANUMUKTI, a jounrla devoted to non-nuclear India, we see the hazards of blind faith in technology and the dismal record of nuclear plants. See the box: Problems with Nuclear Plants.
PROBLEMS WITH N-PLANTS
How Many chernobyls?
So far nuclear power has been more accident-prone than predicted by the experts. Three Mile Island occurred after 1,500 reactor years, and Chernobyl after another 1,900 Core-damaging accidents are occurring at over tiwce the rate prediceted by the Oak Ridge study, casting doubt on the accuracy of these major probabilistic assessments.
Despite post-Three Mile Island improvements, American nuclear plants are still plagued by problems. there were almost 3,000 plant mishaps and 764 emergency shutdowns in 1985, up 28 percent from 1984.
The average nuclear plant in U.S. was shut down six times in 1985, and the industry as a whole averaged two shutdowns per day. More than just a sign of trouble, emergency shutdowns are sudden, violent procedures that stress a nuclear plant’s intricate and crucial plumbing, and can impair safety....
There are other problems on the safety horizon. The world now has a growing number of aging nuclear plants, many beginning to dhow signs of deterioration. In 1990 there will be 35 plants that are at least 25 years old; by 1995 there will be 66, and in 2000 there will be 150.
The nuclear industry has little experience with aging nuclear plants, but is about to get a crash course as many plants have already developed unanticipated problems. Among the most serious are corrosion of steam generators and embrittlement of steel pressure vessels due to neutron bombardment. Both of these problems are rampant in some types of plants; they involve critical components and are difficult to remedy.
The problems of aging plants were highlighted in late 1986 when Virginia 13-year old Surry nuclear plant suffered a "guillotine break" in a hot water pipe. Four workers were killed by steam burns and the plant was closed for several months while the plumbing system was thoroughly inspected.
After the accident, inspectors found extensive corrosion of pipes in areas where decay had never been anticipated. A back-up valve that should have stopped the surge of scalding water had not been properly installed. In some places half-inch pipes had been eatern away to less than the thickness of a credit card.
This incident and others like it indicate that nuclear plants are agin in unexplained and dangerous ways. and that nuclear technology continued to prevent engineers with unwelcome surprises..
How many more Chernobyls? It is impossible to answer this crucial question. Looking at the experience of the world’s operating plants though, suggests that additional accidents are likely in the next decade.
On the positive side, Chernobyl has increased many countries’ stated commitment to nuclear safety, and led to some safety - specification, such as the long overdue shutdown of plutonium reactors in the United States, and the creation of a cabinet-level position for nuclear safety in West Germany.
Technology, training, strict regulation and vigilant oversight can lower the chance of catastrophe. But in the end, the chance remains.
Computer models can help us to understand the risk, but they cannot pass judgement-they cannot tell us how safe is safe enough. The answer to that question will always fall to human beings.
In the immediate future, tighter regulations improved management and the willingness to shut down dangerous plants are clearly in order. Over the long run, the merits of the atom must be weighed much more carefully against the alternatives. Ultimately it is the world’s people, though their national political systems, who must decide how safe is safe enough.
Many other countries are cancelling licences for nuclear plants and others are struggling with the problems of decommissioning and safe waste disposal. India has enough known resources in coal for the next 150 years. So there is enough time to reject incomplete technologies and search for safer alternatives which value people above things.
THE HEALTH OF OCEANS
The ultimate receptacle of earth’s pollution, whether of the air, land or water, is the oceans. Toxic non-biodegradable plastics and other chemicals, herbicides, pesticides, and radioactive material have been heedlessly generated by human military activities since 1945. It is slowly beginning to accumulate in the oceans. Arguements have been made to try to excuse the nuclear weapon built up and testing, with its need for uranium mining, enrichment plants, nuclear power plants, reprocessing plants and other support industries, each with their radioactive "permissible" effluence and waste. Development of defoliants for Vietnam War and other such perceived military needs have caused research and development of other highly toxic non-biodegradable chemical compounds. The oceans comprise about 71% of the surface of the earth. They have an average depth of 1500 meters (about 30,000 feet). The phytoplankton and algae which require sunlight, and which produce about 50% of the worlds oxygen, are at a depth of 50 to 100 meters (or 150-300 feet). Phytoplankton and algae feed on dead zooplankton and the minerals of the sea.
It is well known that kelp, a form of seaweed, is unusually good at concentrating nuclear fission products in its cells. It was used in Nagqasaki to help rid the bodies of atomic bomb survivors of ingested radioactive materials. Plankton also have the property of absorbing, assimilating and concentrating insecticides and toxic hydrocarbons. This phytoplankton is the base of the food web which sustains all life on earth. If we poison it, it will in turn poison the fish and drastically reduce the protein available to sustain mammalian life. If we kill it, we reduce to less than half the oxygen now available to humans and animals.
About 90% of marine life is found in the shallow coastal areas generally referred to as the Continental shelves. This area represents only 8% of the oceans, and it is the most polluted from land wash out, inland water runoffs, harbor activities, and deliberate waste dumping.
The UN estimates that 150.9 megatons of long lived nuclear fission products are in the stratosphere of the Northern hemisphere, and 17.6 megatons of nuclear fission products are in the Southern hemisphere’s stratosphere. We know of no way of preventing the gradual entry of this highly dangerous radioactive material into food, air and water, and eventually all living organisms.
In additon to the toxic waste already released or under some human control, we have more waste being produced daily and directly injected into air, water or land. Frequently these same activities cause thermal and mechanical damage to the biosphere. A few of the resulting global problems, which are not so well known, and which require greater interntional concern follows:
There is a need for international security bodies to ensure:
LEGAL JUSTICE/SOCIAL JUSTICE
We must work for a new world order which supports the new global interdependence. The average life of nuclear reactor is 30 years, but to decommission one takes 6-10,000 years. The process is extremely complex, dangerous, and expensive. To get electricity for 30 years, how can we leave behind these lethal tombs as a legacy for the generations to come? The radioactivity emitted by high half-life wastes (upto 22,400 years) outlasts the life of containers and civil engineering constructions. With the passage of time, radioactivity will be relased to mingle with underground water currents. And who will guard these tombs from terrorist attacks, enemy bombs, and natural disasters? If we take back out power and face the global problems we can come to new levels of human destiny. Cooperative ventures can ensure basic needs of survival and security to all the people of the world. To move in this direction we need social justice, not merely legal justice. Legal justice is conformity to laws passed by a legislative body. It has no reltion to social justive which is conformity to natural laws that do not depend upon human legislation, i.e. inalienable rights to food, dignity, and self-determination. In fact, in many instances, legal justice is in direct conflict with the imperatives of social justice. A major task of our times is to develop a process and system in which the criterion of legal justice is social justice.
We are witnessing the final death throes of the principle of national self sufficiency. We are coming to be an interdependent world. The new global interdepencies are the logical result of the evolution of industrial economics. We mentioned above diverting the arms buildup towards building a new world - and thus tackling the crisis of unemployment. If we reorder our priorities to the following, there will be no unemployment.
Respond to unmet human needs such as hunger, housing, health care, education, care of the aged, racial justice, women’s rights, religious freedom, penal reform, urban planning, crime prevention, democratic participation, prevention of alienation and addiction, war prevention, etc. There is plenty of work for all when the sovereignty of the human person is central.
As our world becomes one people with races, religions and cultures mixing freely and harmoniously we will create new world structures so that all share in the earth’s goods. This will evolve by creative leadership in politics, economics, education, and religion. It will be a world based on human values, with the principle of subsidiary central in developing a world legal framework and authority lines to manage problems. These world communities will safeguard:
We must pay the rent for walking the earth by fulfilling and helping the world grow to wholeness. We must speak to the inalienable right of all persons to the means of full human development. We must develop an inner and outer order in which the search for wholeness becomes a reality. Let us stand together in relationship with one air, water, land and life support system and participate in the creation of this new world order.
Each of us is called to cosmic consecration, to expand beyond ourself to a spirituality of compassion. So let us live it and commit ourselves to begin today to create the world as we want it to be. Let us shape a world of peace, no nuclear arms at all, food for all, creative work for all. Let us make life beautiful - living the values of peace, justice, ecological balance, participatory decision making, and equitable sharing of resources. Let us think globally, beyond national boundaries, so that refugees will be unknown, and the Sanctuary Movement not needed. Let us strengthen the UN so it becomes an even stronger force in making the Whole Earth and all its inhabitants free to be fully developed. We must be prophets of hope to ensure this dream, and rewrite the Comedy of Errors, the absurdity of MAD (mutually assured destruction) which is the arms race. We must be a creative leaven to bring universal wholeness.