Thursday, February 11, 2016

E. F. Schumacher and the Retreat from Modernity

Update: This post is a reposting of a December 2008 post.  In that post I points to an outright coal advocate who has greatly influenced environmentalists thinking about energy, and arguably has influenced it for the worse.  We will begin to see how E. F. Schumacher  began to reconstruct economics to fit 19th century Roman catholic Dogma, but cleverly disguised what he did.  We will also see how Schumacher influanced Amory Lovins, and how that influance may have led Lovins to serve the interest of coal over that of nuclear.  I intend that all of this will unfold during the next few posts.

The Buddha was roughly a contemporary of the Judean thinker Jeremiah. Both were deeply concerned with the existential problems posed by human insecurity. The Iron age created the possibility of human wealth, but left human life highly insecure. The philosopher Karl Jaspers noted emergance of important thinkers and schools of thought in many human societies during the Iron Age.
... If there is an axis in history, we must find it empirically in profane history, as a set of circumstances significant for all men, including Christians. It must carry conviction for Westerner, Asiatics, and all men, without the support of any particular content of faith, and thus provide all men with a common historical frame of reference. The spiritual process which took place between 800 and 200 B.C.E. seems to constitute such an axis. It was then that the man with whom we live today came into being. Let us designate this period as the "axial age." Extraordinary events are crowded into this period. In China lived Confucius and Lao Tse, all the trends in Chinese philosophy arose... In India it was the age of the Upanishads and of Buddha; as in China, all philosophical trends, including skepticism and materialism, sophistry and nihilism, were developed. In Iran Zarathustra put forward his challenging conception of the cosmic process as a struggle between good and evil; in Palestine prophets arose: Elijah, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Deutero-Isaiah; Greece produced Homer, the philosophers Parmenides, Heraclitus, Plato, the tragic poets, Thucydides and Archimedes. All the vast development of which these names are a mere intimation took place in those few centuries, independently and almost simultaneously in China, India and the West…
If we are to understand the significant of the Buddha and his controbutions to human thought, we ought to begin by understanding the insecurities of the Iron age and the limitations of Iron Age solutions to those insecurities. In a way it was those insecurities that lead to an intellectual revolution in Europe that began with Francis Bacon. Bacon was the first thinker to observe that science could contribute of human security and material well being. Francis Bacon was undoubtedly the spiritual father of all true progressives. Bacon wrote
I would address one general admonition to all; that they consider what are the true ends of knowledge, and that they seek it not either for pleasure of the mind, or for contention, or for superiority to others, or for profit, or fame, or power, or any of these inferior things; but for the benefit and use of life;
Bacon signaled the beginning of a second axiel age in human history, one which has begun the problems of human insecurity in ways that thinkers of the first Axiel age did not. †he great accomplishment of the second Axiel Age has been the expantion of the power of ordinary people, and indeed both Bacor and DesCartes for saw this acomplishment. By expanding human power the second Axiel also lead inexorably to a more complex society. consider the the relationship between the American and Chinese currencies:
if the Chinese economy continues to deteriorate – a likely scenario as the deterioration just started – the Chinese government will stop buying US Treasuries and even worse, it will start digging into its US reserves. Since there are no other natural buyers (in size) of the US debt, our interest rates may actually skyrocket, the US dollar drops against Chinese currency, while our inflation may still remain low. This is bad for China twice:
  1. High interest rates mean even lower economic growth from the US and thus even lower consumption of Chinese-made goods.
  2. China cannot afford a weak US dollar – its US dollar reserves are worth less, and more importantly, its product becomes more expensive for US consumers.
In a complex economic environment war becomes more difficult. War becomes increasingly impossible in an international economy in which the wealth and prosperity of one nation is tied up with that of other nations. But complexity has its enemies. There are always those who long to return to simpler times. The Economist E. F. Schumacher was one. Schumacher wrote
What I’m struggling to do is to help recapture something our ancestors had. If we can just regain the consciousness the West had before the Cartesian Revolution, which I call the Second Fall of Man, then we’ll be getting somewhere.
One must understand that in energy matters Schumacher was a long time advocate of Coal. He consulted for many years with the British Coal Board, and no doubt his acknowledge opposition to both oil and nuclear power was in no small measure to his vested interest in the fortunes of coal. But Charles Fager pointed out something else about Schumacher thinking about economics.
Small Is Beautiful -- a message so skillfully delivered that it has been absorbed by his audiences apparently without being noticed. What is the message? Nothing less than a passionate plea for the rediscovery of old-time Western religion -- Roman Catholic religion, to be precise.

That’s right: E. F. Schumacher is really an apologetical preacher, one of the rare breed whose experience has made it possible for him to employ effectively the language and concepts of economics as a medium for communicating what is essentially a sermon, a call for readers to repent, believe the gospel and reorder their lives accordingly.
Fager continues:
He readily owned up to being a Catholic, a certified convert as of five years ago. This item is not mentioned in his book; in fact, one of the most frequently cited chapters, “Buddhist Economics,” almost made it appear as if he were deeply involved in Eastern religions. But wasn’t this chapter, I inquired, really more informed by the Catholic writings and thinkers he mentioned so frequently elsewhere in the book -- the papal encyclicals, Newman, Gilson and, above all, Thomas Aquinas?

Schumacher grinned. “Of course. But if I had called the chapter ‘Christian Economics,’ nobody would have paid any attention!”

This is not to say that the reference to Buddhism was a sham; he is firmly convinced that the basic elements of a common religious outlook are to be found in all the world’s major religions. But it was done artfully, to help get his message across. “You see, most people in the West are suffering from what I call an anti-Christian trauma,” he explained, “and I don’t blame them. I went through that for 20 years myself.”

Paradoxically, it was Buddhism that opened the door to Schumacher’s return to Western religion, so his use of Buddhist concepts, besides being shrewd, is authentically based in his experience. “I was raised in Germany in the atmosphere of scientific materialism,” he explained, “though with a veneer of Christianity -- Lutheranism. But after I went to the university, I reacted very strongly, like many young people, against veneers of religion and culture, and that was the beginning of my own version of the anti-Christian trauma. There’s much truth to that reaction too, of course, because the churches have become associated with so much that’s wrong about our culture.”

But this scientific materialism was hardly a satisfactory alternative world view for a sensitive soul. “These attitudes,” said Schumacher, “all left the taste of ashes in my mouth,” and it wasn’t long before he was searching for some better view of life.

Fager, relying on Catholic theologian John Coleman, pointed out the sources of the core concepts of Small is Beautigul, the neo-Thomistic philosophy of French Philosopher Jacques Maritain, who thought that small institutions were more humaine than large institutions, and English Catholic writers G. K. Chesterton, Hillaire Belloc and Eric Gill, who talked of decentralizing industry also appeared to have influenced Schumacher. Thus Schumacher can be claassified as a "conservative revolutionaries’ or ‘reactionary radicals’ but not a progressive.

It ought to be noted that Schumacher had a profound impact on the thinking of Amory Lovins who is a member of the board of the E. F. Schumacher Society. Thus Schumacher plsys a major and to my mind very wrong headed role in the development of "Progressive" thinking on the human relationship to the environment. Unfortunately for his "progressive" admirers, Schumacher is a reactionary, who utterly repudiates the ideas upon which matrial progress is built. Let me say first that I admire the intellectual accomplishments of Buddhism which I view as a sort of Asian mental health movement. I do not regard Buddhism as an anti-materialist philosophy. Far from it, Buddhism teaches people how to live in a world where their human and material expectations are likerly to be disappointed.

The Buddha would tell us that it is natural for people to desire things, and to to strive to have them, but that if we fail to expect material things to be more than temporary we are mistaken, ands likely to be disappointed. Disappointment is painful. Thus far from being anti-materialist, Buddhism accepts the existence of a material world, and teaches us how to come to terms with the fact that material things do not last forever. Do Buddhist enjoy, appreciate and desire material things? Yes indeed they do.

The Buddha createde his philosophy in the time of great material privation, and his followers followed a path that offered comfort to the deprives. Does Buddhism have a real coherant economic philosophy that is relivent to mordern society? F. L. Pryor notes:
the vagueness of the Buddhist canon on economic matters combined with its complexity and length allows room for quite different interpretations of an ideal economic system in modern times, especially since conditions are very much different than they were more than 2000 years ago when the Buddha lived. Of course, this situathon is little different from that of Christianity. The really difficult problem is to determine what part of the canon will be taken seriously under what circumstances, but this would require a much different kind of approach than the textual exegesis offered here.
Schumacher conceived of the ideas of Buddhists economics while serving as a consultant for the government of Burma in the mid 1950's. The Buddhist economic program of U Nu, who Schumacher advised failed, and the country has been rulled for many years by a corrupt and tyrantical military 7Junta.

by E. F. Schumacher
"Right Livelihood" is one of the requirements of the Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path. It is clear, therefore, that there must be such a thing as Buddhist economics.

Buddhist countries have often stated that they wish to remain faithful to their heritage. So Burma: “The New Burma sees no conflict between religious values and economic progress. Spiritual health and material well-being are not enemies: they are natural allies.” 1 Or: “We can blend successfully the religious and spiritual values of our heritage with the benefits of modern technology.” 2 Or: “We Burmans have a sacred duty to conform both our dreams and our acts to our faith. This we shall ever do.” 3

All the same, such countries invariably assume that they can model their economic development plans in accordance with modern economics, and they call upon modern economists from so-called advanced countries to advise them, to formulate the policies to be pursued, and to construct the grand design for development, the Five-Year Plan or whatever it may be called. No one seems to think that a Buddhist way of life would call for Buddhist economics, just as the modern materialist way of life has brought forth modern economics.

Economists themselves, like most specialists, normally suffer from a kind of metaphysical blindness, assuming that theirs is a science of absolute and invariable truths, without any presuppositions. Some go as far as to claim that economic laws are as free from "metaphysics" or "values" as the law of gravitation. We need not, however, get involved in arguments of methodology. Instead, let us take some fundamentals and see what they look like when viewed by a modern economist and a Buddhist economist.

There is universal agreement that a fundamental source of wealth is human labour. Now, the modern economist has been brought up to consider "labour" or work as little more than a necessary evil. From the point of view of the employer, it is in any case simply an item of cost, to be reduced to a minimum if it can not be eliminated altogether, say, by automation. From the point of view of the workman, it is a "disutility"; to work is to make a sacrifice of one’s leisure and comfort, and wages are a kind of compensation for the sacrifice. Hence the ideal from the point of view of the employer is to have output without employees, and the ideal from the point of view of the employee is to have income without employment.

The consequences of these attitudes both in theory and in practice are, of course, extremely far-reaching. If the ideal with regard to work is to get rid of it, every method that "reduces the work load" is a good thing. The most potent method, short of automation, is the so-called "division of labour" and the classical example is the pin factory eulogised in Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. 4 Here it is not a matter of ordinary specialisation, which mankind has practiced from time immemorial, but of dividing up every complete process of production into minute parts, so that the final product can be produced at great speed without anyone having had to contribute more than a totally insignificant and, in most cases, unskilled movement of his limbs.

The Buddhist point of view takes the function of work to be at least threefold: to give man a chance to utilise and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his ego-centredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence. Again, the consequences that flow from this view are endless. To organise work in such a manner that it becomes meaningless, boring, stultifying, or nerve-racking for the worker would be little short of criminal; it would indicate a greater concern with goods than with people, an evil lack of compassion and a soul-destroying degree of attachment to the most primitive side of this worldly existence. Equally, to strive for leisure as an alternative to work would be considered a complete misunderstanding of one of the basic truths of human existence, namely that work and leisure are complementary parts of the same living process and cannot be separated without destroying the joy of work and the bliss of leisure.

From the Buddhist point of view, there are therefore two types of mechanisation which must be clearly distinguished: one that enhances a man’s skill and power and one that turns the work of man over to a mechanical slave, leaving man in a position of having to serve the slave. How to tell the one from the other? “The craftsman himself,” says Ananda Coomaraswamy, a man equally competent to talk about the modern West as the ancient East, “can always, if allowed to, draw the delicate distinction between the machine and the tool. The carpet loom is a tool, a contrivance for holding warp threads at a stretch for the pile to be woven round them by the craftsmen’s fingers; but the power loom is a machine, and its significance as a destroyer of culture lies in the fact that it does the essentially human part of the work.” 5 It is clear, therefore, that Buddhist economics must be very different from the economics of modern materialism, since the Buddhist sees the essence of civilisation not in a multiplication of wants but in the purification of human character. Character, at the same time, is formed primarily by a man’s work. And work, properly conducted in conditions of human dignity and freedom, blesses those who do it and equally their products. The Indian philosopher and economist J. C. Kumarappa sums the matter up as follows:

If the nature of the work is properly appreciated and applied, it will stand in the same relation to the higher faculties as food is to the physical body. It nourishes and enlivens the higher man and urges him to produce the best he is capable of. It directs his free will along the proper course and disciplines the animal in him into progressive channels. It furnishes an excellent background for man to display his scale of values and develop his personality. 6

If a man has no chance of obtaining work he is in a desperate position, not simply because he lacks an income but because he lacks this nourishing and enlivening factor of disciplined work which nothing can replace. A modern economist may engage in highly sophisticated calculations on whether full employment "pays" or whether it might be more "economic" to run an economy at less than full employment so as to insure a greater mobility of labour, a better stability of wages, and so forth. His fundamental criterion of success is simply the total quantity of goods produced during a given period of time. “If the marginal urgency of goods is low,” says Professor Galbraith in The Affluent Society, “then so is the urgency of employing the last man or the last million men in the labour force.” 7And again: “If . . . we can afford some unemployment in the interest of stability—a proposition, incidentally, of impeccably conservative antecedents—then we can afford to give those who are unemployed the goods that enable them to sustain their accustomed standard of living.”

From a Buddhist point of view, this is standing the truth on its head by considering goods as more important than people and consumption as more important than creative activity. It means shifting the emphasis from the worker to the product of work, that is, from the human to the subhuman, a surrender to the forces of evil. The very start of Buddhist economic planning would be a planning for full employment, and the primary purpose of this would in fact be employment for everyone who needs an "outside" job: it would not be the maximisation of employment nor the maximisation of production. Women, on the whole, do not need an "outside" job, and the large-scale employment of women in offices or factories would be considered a sign of serious economic failure. In particular, to let mothers of young children work in factories while the children run wild would be as uneconomic in the eyes of a Buddhist economist as the employment of a skilled worker as a soldier in the eyes of a modern economist.

While the materialist is mainly interested in goods, the Buddhist is mainly interested in liberation. But Buddhism is "The Middle Way" and therefore in no way antagonistic to physical well-being. It is not wealth that stands in the way of liberation but the attachment to wealth; not the enjoyment of pleasurable things but the craving for them. The keynote of Buddhist economics, therefore, is simplicity and non-violence. From an economist’s point of view, the marvel of the Buddhist way of life is the utter rationality of its pattern—amazingly small means leading to extraordinarily satisfactory results.

For the modern economist this is very difficult to understand. He is used to measuring the "standard of living" by the amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is "better off" than a man who consumes less. A Buddhist economist would consider this approach excessively irrational: since consumption is merely a means to human well-being, the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption. Thus, if the purpose of clothing is a certain amount of temperature comfort and an attractive appearance, the task is to attain this purpose with the smallest possible effort, that is, with the smallest annual destruction of cloth and with the help of designs that involve the smallest possible input of toil. The less toil there is, the more time and strength is left for artistic creativity. It would be highly uneconomic, for instance, to go in for complicated tailoring, like the modern West, when a much more beautiful effect can be achieved by the skillful draping of uncut material. It would be the height of folly to make material so that it should wear out quickly and the height of barbarity to make anything ugly, shabby, or mean. What has just been said about clothing applies equally to all other human requirements. The ownership and the consumption of goods is a means to an end, and Buddhist economics is the systematic study of how to attain given ends with the minimum means.

Modern economics, on the other hand, considers consumption to be the sole end and purpose of all economic activity, taking the factors of production—and, labour, and capital—as the means. The former, in short, tries to maximise human satisfactions by the optimal pattern of consumption, while the latter tries to maximise consumption by the optimal pattern of productive effort. It is easy to see that the effort needed to sustain a way of life which seeks to attain the optimal pattern of consumption is likely to be much smaller than the effort needed to sustain a drive for maximum consumption. We need not be surprised, therefore, that the pressure and strain of living is very much less in say, Burma, than it is in the United States, in spite of the fact that the amount of labour-saving machinery used in the former country is only a minute fraction of the amount used in the latter.

Simplicity and non-violence are obviously closely related. The optimal pattern of consumption, producing a high degree of human satisfaction by means of a relatively low rate of consumption, allows people to live without great pressure and strain and to fulfill the primary injunction of Buddhist teaching: “Cease to do evil; try to do good.” As physical resources are everywhere limited, people satisfying their needs by means of a modest use of resources are obviously less likely to be at each other’s throats than people depending upon a high rate of use. Equally, people who live in highly self-sufficient local communities are less likely to get involved in large-scale violence than people whose existence depends on world-wide systems of trade.

From the point of view of Buddhist economics, therefore, production from local resources for local needs is the most rational way of economic life, while dependence on imports from afar and the consequent need to produce for export to unknown and distant peoples is highly uneconomic and justifiable only in exceptional cases and on a small scale. Just as the modern economist would admit that a high rate of consumption of transport services between a man’s home and his place of work signifies a misfortune and not a high standard of life, so the Buddhist would hold that to satisfy human wants from faraway sources rather than from sources nearby signifies failure rather than success. The former tends to take statistics showing an increase in the number of ton/miles per head of the population carried by a country’s transport system as proof of economic progress, while to the latter—the Buddhist economist—the same statistics would indicate a highly undesirable deterioration in the pattern of consumption.

Another striking difference between modern economics and Buddhist economics arises over the use of natural resources. Bertrand de Jouvenel, the eminent French political philosopher, has characterised "Western man" in words which may be taken as a fair description of the modern economist:

He tends to count nothing as an expenditure, other than human effort; he does not seem to mind how much mineral matter he wastes and, far worse, how much living matter he destroys. He does not seem to realize at all that human life is a dependent part of an ecosystem of many different forms of life. As the world is ruled from towns where men are cut off from any form of life other than human, the feeling of belonging to an ecosystem is not revived. This results in a harsh and improvident treatment of things upon which we ultimately depend, such as water and trees. 8

The teaching of the Buddha, on the other hand, enjoins a reverent and non-violent attitude not only to all sentient beings but also, with great emphasis, to trees. Every follower of the Buddha ought to plant a tree every few years and look after it until it is safely established, and the Buddhist economist can demonstrate without difficulty that the universal observation of this rule would result in a high rate of genuine economic development independent of any foreign aid. Much of the economic decay of southeast Asia (as of many other parts of the world) is undoubtedly due to a heedless and shameful neglect of trees.

Modern economics does not distinguish between renewable and non-renewable materials, as its very method is to equalise and quantify everything by means of a money price. Thus, taking various alternative fuels, like coal, oil, wood, or water-power: the only difference between them recognised by modern economics is relative cost per equivalent unit. The cheapest is automatically the one to be preferred, as to do otherwise would be irrational and "uneconomic." From a Buddhist point of view, of course, this will not do; the essential difference between non-renewable fuels like coal and oil on the one hand and renewable fuels like wood and water-power on the other cannot be simply overlooked. Non-renewable goods must be used only if they are indispensable, and then only with the greatest care and the most meticulous concern for conservation. To use them heedlessly or extravagantly is an act of violence, and while complete non-violence may not be attainable on this earth, there is nonetheless an ineluctable duty on man to aim at the ideal of non-violence in all he does.

Just as a modern European economist would not consider it a great achievement if all European art treasures were sold to America at attractive prices, so the Buddhist economist would insist that a population basing its economic life on non-renewable fuels is living parasitically, on capital instead of income. Such a way of life could have no permanence and could therefore be justified only as a purely temporary expedient. As the world’s resources of non-renewable fuels—coal, oil, and natural gas—are exceedingly unevenly distributed over the globe and undoubtedly limited in quantity, it is clear that their exploitation at an ever-increasing rate is an act of violence against nature which must almost inevitably lead to violence between men.

This fact alone might give food for thought even to those people in Buddhist countries who care nothing for the religious and spiritual values of their heritage and ardently desire to embrace the materialism of modern economics at the fastest possible speed. Before they dismiss Buddhist economics as nothing better than a nostalgic dream, they might wish to consider whether the path of economic development outlined by modern economics is likely to lead them to places where they really want to be. Towards the end of his courageous book The Challenge of Man’s Future, Professor Harrison Brown of the California Institute of Technology gives the following appraisal:

Thus we see that, just as industrial society is fundamentally unstable and subject to reversion to agrarian existence, so within it the conditions which offer individual freedom are unstable in their ability to avoid the conditions which impose rigid organisation and totalitarian control. Indeed, when we examine all the foreseeable difficulties which threaten the survival of industrial civilisation, it is difficult to see how the achievement of stability and the maintenance of individual liberty can be made compatible. 9

Even if this were dismissed as a long-term view there is the immediate question of whether "modernisation," as currently practised without regard to religious and spiritual values, is actually producing agreeable results. As far as the masses are concerned, the results appear to be disastrous—a collapse of the rural economy, a rising tide of unemployment in town and country, and the growth of a city proletariat without nourishment for either body or soul.

It is in the light of both immediate experience and long term prospects that the study of Buddhist economics could be recommended even to those who believe that economic growth is more important than any spiritual or religious values. For it is not a question of choosing between "modern growth" and "traditional stagnation." It is a question of finding the right path of development, the Middle Way between materialist heedlessness and traditionalist immobility, in short, of finding "Right Livelihood."

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Sakib Hasan Comments on The Torch of 2011

I posted the original "Torch of 2011" on July 19th of that year.  Within a few weeks, I received 12 comments in responce.  The last responce came over two years later.  I had not responded to it before, and beg to be excused from failing to perform that obligation at the time The comment was received.  Today I will attempt, belatedly, to perform what I regard as an obligation to respond.  I am thankful that I have reached te point where response is possible.

Sakib Hasan said...

The very heart of your writing shilst sounding agreeable at first, did not settle very well with me personally after some time. Someplace within the paragrap.  I did not pay attention.hs you were able to make me a believer but just for a while. I nevertheless have a problem with your leaps in assumptions and one would do well to fill in those breaks. In the event you actually can accomplish that, I will definitely end up being fascinated.
Its such as you learn my thoughts! You seem to grasp so much approximately this, such as you wrote the ebook in it or something. I think that you simply can do with some% to force the massage house a bit, however other than that this is magnificent blog. An excellent read. I will certainly be back.

First let be say that I am greatful for this comment.  I have always acknowledged to myself, if not my readers that I am not the best qualified person to do the work I do in my Nuclear Green, but at the time I did it, no one rlse was doing what I thought needed to be done, and so I stepted forward to do this.    My only stipulation to my self was to base what I said on the work of scientists, and to craft a vision that rested on facts or science based speculation.  For example my claims that MSRs could be built more cheaply than Light Water Reactors is based on Research by Per Peterson and David Leblanc as well as arguments derived from Robert Hargraves.  If you are going to steal ideas, steal from the best thinkers.    But since I acknowledge my flibility, I am always willing to acknowledge errors both factual and in my reasoning.

What I need from my critics is a detailed acount of what she or he sees as my mkstakes.   It is not enough to say leaps in reasoning and missing accounts of assumptions.  I may have covered the gaps in other posts.  but it is certainly possible that I have not exploredall of my assumptions.  Nuclear Green might be considered to be fragments of s vision of a future post carbon and world in which access to energy can be justly distributed to all human beings.

The Torch of 2011 Revisited

This post was inspired by my personal existential concern. I asked a very personal question of myself as I began to explore energy issues in 2007. That question was,"Can I survive climate change energy solutions?" I realized during That time that low cost, dispatchabel electricity played a vital role role in sustaining my life. During the often hot Dallas' summers, I was dependent on air condition. I had little doubt that I would not survive the strings of 100+ degree days that regularly regularly turn the Dallas ummers into visitations to hell. My Concerns were validated by the death tole cause by dallas like summer conditions in Europe during the Summer of 2004. The suffering and deaths fell disproportionally on the elderly and informed. . Post carbon energy systems thus become a public health issue.

I spent most of the last 37 years in Dallas, Texas. There is an old saying in Texas that Houston was built on oil, San Antonio was built on gold, and Dallas was built on paper. The truth is, however, that Dallas was built on chilled air. Dallas residents will endur day after day of heat from May to September, often long continuous runs of 90 degree plus days, and sometimes with long continuous runs of one hundred degrees plus days. The record numer of 100 degree or more days in one Dallas summer is 69. I lived through that summer, the summer of 1980.

Ellis Air Conditioning & Heating tells us
With the heat indexes reaching into the hundreds from May to September, central air Dallas provides comfort to its residents, as well as safety to their elder residents, and small children who have less of a tolerance for high heat levels. . . .

Providing comfort via central air is a luxury most Dallas natives take for granted. That is, until the central air is not working. Living without central air in near 100 degree weather can be unbearable for some, and unsafe for others. It is important, as the hotter months approach in Dallas, to protect oneself from a situation where their central air unit may become disabled.
Ellis is not engaged in advertising hype. It is simply stating what everyone who has ever spent a summer in Dallas already knows. The Dallas heat can be unendurable for the healthy, and downright deadly for the old and unhealthy. Dallas is not the only place where summer heat kills people. That is happening in Japan right now.
From June 1 to July 10, the latest period available, 26 people died from heatstroke, compared with six in the same period last year, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency. The number of people taken by ambulance to hospitals for heatstroke more than tripled to 12,973, with 48 percent in the most-at-risk group aged 65 years or older.
Now if those 26 people had died from causes that were related to radiation from nuclear accidents, headlines would have told the story all over the world. But those deaths were due to radiation from the sun, and to an absence of electricity due to the shutdown of nuclear power plants.

Of course global warming is also playing a role in the Japanese deaths,
Temperatures in eastern Japan, including Tokyo, were 3.8 degrees higher than the 30-year average in the last 10 days of June or the highest since at least 1961, . . .

Japan has shut 35 of its 54 atomic reactors for safety checks after the March 11 earthquake triggered the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl, reducing total power capacity by 11 percent. Conservation efforts amid hotter temperatures are raising concern of a repeat of last year, when a record 1,718 people died of heatstroke as the summer heat broke records.
Even last years Japanese heatstroke related death total pales to almost insignificance when compared to the 70,000 plus heat related deaths in Western Europe during the summer of 2003. Global warming skeptics call global warming realists, alarmists. Climate researchers suggests that within a few decades there will regularly be more summer heat related deaths in Europe, than cold related deaths. How many heat related deaths is it going to take before the skeptics acknowledge what is going on?

Well I am not going to further bash the climate skeptics after the thrashing I gave them on Friday. Today my targets are the anti-nukes.

In Texas it is realized that air conditioning is a matter of public health. Heat waves bring with them deaths as I have already noted. In particular the deaths of older people, the sick and of babies.. The way to control that is to being some means of staying cool into their lives. That means fans and often air conditioning. That, of course, also means electricity, since fans and AC require electricity to operate.

I must confess that I expected Greenpeace to stoically do without air conditioning, but this turns out to not be the case. The Greenpeace ship, the Rainbow Warrior III, includes a diesel engine, an electricity generator, and air conditioning. Greenpeace is recommending hydrocarbon technology that increases air conditioning efficiency by 10% to 20%. Tht is hardly the sort of efficiency gain that Amory Lovins gets excited about. We are clearly going to see more demand for air conditioning, as matters of public health, not just in the United States, but in Western Europe, China, and indeed all over the world.

In Oklahoma the When a water main that supported state government office buildings bke,
13 state government buildings at the capitol were closed after a break in a water main that shut off air-conditioning systems.

Computer systems in Oklahoma's state agencies were turned off and 1,000 employees sent home, said spokeswoman Sara Cowden of the Department of Central Services.
Computers generate heat, human bodies generate heat.

This summer will not break most of the heat wave records established in 1980, but there is a hint this summer that it will not be many more summers before the 1980 records start to fall. Greenpeace knows this, yet in its energy plan, , Energy [R]evolution: A Sustainable U.S.A. Energy Outlook.Greenpeace anticipates far more electrical reduction through efficiency than the 10% to 20% improvement in air conditioning efficiency that the hydrocarbon technology it advocates would lead too. None of the electricity will be generated by low carbon nuclear power plants. Instead Greenpeace plans to rely on carbon emitting natural gas power plants to bridge the gap.

Climate scientist expect more extreme heat waves, and for them to get worse. Texas like heat waves are emerging in places that have never recorded such heat before. A year ago the city of Moscow, Russia, is reported to have reached an all time record of 102 degrees during an extreme heat wave. The extreme heat was accompanied by massive crop loss - 40% of Russia's grain harvest - and hugh wild fires - 1.600,000 acres burned.

Climate scientist Roger A. Pielke Jr. says
The IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] defines “climate change” as a change in the statistics of weather occurring over 30 years or longer and persisting for decades. Thus, the detection of a change in climate requires long-term records.
Pielke says,
It is true that overall damage from tornadoes, floods, and hurricanes has been increasing in recent decades. A recent literature review of extreme event impacts around the world found that everywhere that researchers have looked, this increase can be entirely explained by increasing value of property at risk and increasing exposures to these hazards.
The Insurance Industry disagrees with Pielke. Peter Höppe, head of Munich Re's Geo Risks Research/Corporate Climate Center states,
Our figures indicate a trend towards an increase in extreme weather events that can only be fully explained by climate change.
If Roger Puekle proves too conservative about climate change, he will still have tenure ands won't loose his job. Munich Re could go out of business if their climate change projections are wrong.

Like insurance companies, we cannot afford to take the risk that climate skeptics are wrong. The Torch of 2011 should offer us enough light to see that we should be trying to avoid climate change rather than waiting to see if it happens. As Oliver Cromwell once wrote to the Parlement of Scotland, I would say to the climate change skeptics,
Think it possible that you might be mistaken,
and if you are mistaken, what the cost of that mistake will be. You are gambling with peoples' lives. I would say the same thing to Greenpeace, but does Greenpeace really care about human life?

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Jumping the Track Revisited

Update: I think this text still holds up and can be applied to issues that we face in the 2016 election. My conclusions point to thinking errors that Bernie Sanders has inherited from a sorta pseudo liberal ideology that he calls Socialism, but is not in fact derived from classical Socialism. Indeed, Bernie's ideology owes much to the Distributionist ideology that in turn is based on Roman Catholic dogma. Distributionism was popular among American hippies during the 1970's and served as a basis of Amory Lovins' energy thinking and through Amory Lovins, it influences the work of Mark C. Jacobson. Thus, Sanders ideology might be described as "Hippie Socialism" and "Hippie Environmentalism".

I favor a two party or multiparty political system. The flaws of human beings are such that no single party is going to long persevere in power without flaws emerging.  The greater the power, the more troubling the flaws. As Lord Acton reminds us:
"Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."
The only protection we have against the corruption that power brings is a competitive political system, but an adversarial system brings with it the possibility of using hate as a motivating force in politics. It is easier to demonize an opponent by denigrating him to the electorate rather than to defeat his argument through the use of reasoned arguments. Thus laziness is a major source of fallacious reasoning in politics. Ideology is a system of reasoning that relies on a closed system of related or semi-related propositions to yield answers to all political questions. Again the expediency of ideology is the effort it saves in thinking though issues. In addition, a shared ideology allows for consistency and cooperation among people who share the ideology. Thus ideologies may be very useful to political parties. However, once an ideology is applied to a problem, the ideologue typically stops thinking. If the ideologically correct solution fails to correct the problem, the ideologue who focuses on ideology rather than fact, may fail to notice that the problem is not solved by the ideologically correct solution. Even worse, the ideology may make assumptions that are just plain wrong and lead systematically to political errors.

I take these problems to be both universal and human. The only way a political system can counteract these human tendencies to laziness, viciousness, and thoughtlessness is through a competitive system of leadership. I want to point to two political issues which illustrate the corruptibility of the politically minded and the inability of party and ideology to protect against that corruption. The issues are Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW) and the use of civilian nuclear generated electrical power. In the former case the ideological sin is committed on the ideological right and is associated with the Republican Party. In the latter, the sin is committed by the political left and is associated with the Democratic party.

There is little doubt that Global Warming skepticism is a conservative/Republican political cause. Global Warming skeptics have control of numerous media organs associated with the Republican Party and global warming skeptics are common among Republicans. A Pew Research Center Survey found that Republicans were twice as likely as Democrats or Independents to be convinced that Global Warming is not caused by human action. The disparity is even more striking among college graduates. 75% of Democrats and 57% of independents with college degrees say that the earth is warming and that this is caused by human activity. In contrast, only 19% of Republican college graduates agree that AGW is a real problem. Both Democrats and Independents who lack a college education are less likely to be convinced by AGW than their college educated peers, while the opposite is the case among Republicans who are not college graduates.

Most of these college educated Republicans believe that there is a real scientific debate on the causes of Global Warming. Yet numerous scientific bodies have adopted statements endorsing the AGW construct. These include the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Meteorological Society, the American Geophysical Union, the American Astronomical Society, the American Physical Society, the American Chemical Society, the American Medical Association, and the American Statistical Association. In contrast, Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma has prepared a list of 650 scientists who are alleged to be AGW skeptics. But Inhofe's list is conspicuously unimpressive. Some named on the list are not known to hold advanced degrees in science and have no peer reviewed publications. The list also appears to be padded with the names of TV weather forecasters who are at best Meteorologists rather than climate scientists. Inhofe also has included a number of right wind economists on his list, even though their professional training would not qualify them to make judgements about climate science.

Republican Global Warming Skeptics take their cues from supposed experts like Steve McIntyre of Climate Audit. McIntyre's critics charge that his favorite tactic is to mis-represent his target and then, having set up a straw man, proceeds to demolish it. It is not my intention to debate the quality of Mcintyre's work, but to point out that it has been the subject of controversy and that, outside of Republican circles, Mcintyre is not regarded as a serious voice in mainstream science.

Republican AGW skeptics seem to explain the lack of credibility of their AGW skeptical position by there being a vast conspiracy through which "liberals" control the views of mainstream science, and that the idea of AGW is part of the "liberal" conspiracy. I regard this as most unfortunate because I disagree with mainstream Liberal thinking about Global Warming Mitigation. My view, which I would characterize as radical, is that the main line "liberal" thinking about AGW is highly distorted by the same sort of ideological cant that has taken hold of Republican discourse on climate.

Democratic discourse on AGW mitigation is full of talk about "efficiency", "sacrifice", "renewable energy", and "clean energy". Readers of my blog might appreciate that I have attempted to analyze mainstream Democratic notions on AGW mitigation and to demonstrate that they are overly expensive, as well as unlikely to be effective. In addition, Democrats appear to assume far to much reliance on government regulation and subsidies and far too little on normal economic mechanisms. Let me hasten to note that as a Liberal Democrat, I by no means reject regulation out of hand, nor am I an uncritical admirer of free markets. I just happen to think that overly intrusive regulations are less likely to work as mitigation approaches than lower cost market based mitigation approaches that are also likely to win broad public acceptance.

Since Republicans are more amenable to the mitigation strategy that I favor, I would like to see them at the table when mitigation is discussed. Instead, like a group of defeated Japanese Samurai, Republicans seem to be lining up to commit political Harakiri via Global Warming denial. Indeed, the Republican Party would quickly be demolished due to Republican stupidity were it not for the fact that Democrats are equally stupid about mitigation issues.

So what is going on? Why do Republicans jump the tracks on Global warming and Democrats jump the tracks on mitigation? Are they simply crazy? Blogger Erich Vieth puts his finger on the problem, although being a Democrat, Vieth fails to apply the lesson to his own party.
Dogma wears two hats. . . . dogma facilitates bonding.

The assertion of group-approved-nonsense looks and sounds ridiculous to outsiders, but uttering it loudly in the presence of one’s group proves one’s loyalty to those insiders. The more nonsensical the dogma is, the tighter the bond it is capable of generating among those willing to utter it. . . .

Uttering officially-approved nonsense in front of one’s group identifies one as a bona fide member of that group. Uttering absurd things is a display that one desires to be a member of that group so incredibly much that one is willing to utter the sorts of things that will trigger social ridicule from learned outsiders. . . .

Therefore, uttering nonsensical dogma is not primarily about conveying the truth of the matter asserted. Rather, it’s about sending out a sonar signal in order to identify allies and enemies. It is a herding mechanism.This deep need to be accepted by a group is so deeply wired into humans that, in most people, it even overcomes the urge to follow evidence where it leads. Unfortunately, the literal meaning of the dogma doesn’t entirely dissipate. Therefore, we have lots of Republicans who still refuse to act on the threat of global warming. . . .

Raising one’s hand to swear allegiance to scientific nonsense is usually done in full view, but such it actually functions like a secret handshake.

If you want to feel the glow of acceptance by a big group of Republicans, all you’ve got to do is say the magic phrase: “Global Warming has not been proven.” Say it just often enough to piss off Democrats. Don’t say it too often or too loudly, or even the Republicans will think that you’re weird. With those magic words denying global warming, you’ll get smiles and pats on the back from total strangers who will buy you drinks and regale you with stories about how they outwitted stupid Democrats; they’ll laugh at your jokes and they’ll tell you that you’re smart. . . .

Here’s an experiment that demonstrates what I’m claiming. Take a Republican off to the side and talk to him one-on-one. Be cordial and non-threatening. He’ll eventually settle down and you’ll find him somewhat reasonable on many topics. Then allow him to wander back to his group of fellow Republicans and listen to the dogma start to fly again–the same guy who (minutes ago) was starting to make sense (when it was just the two of you) is now spouting nonsense like he’s absolutely sure of himself. . . .
When Democrats start talking about energy efficiency, clean energy, renewables, and dangerous nuclear power, they are being no more rational than Republicans are when they claim that "AGW is hype".

Edward Sapir noted 80 years ago that "the real" is to a large extent a socially constructed linguistic picture:
Human beings do not live in the objective world alone, nor alone in the world of social activity as ordinarily understood, but are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society. It is quite an illusion to imagine that one adjusts to reality essentially without the use of language, and that language is merely an incidental means of solving specific problems of communication or reflection. The fact of the matter is that the "real world" is to a large extent unconsciously built up on the language habits of the group.
One of my most telling formative experiences occurred on the first day of the school year in a high school Biology class. Several of the students in the class were to go on to win National Merit Scholarships, which makes what happened that day so remarkable. The teacher began the class by talking about the study of living things, which is the subject. He mentioned several living organisms. Then he began to point to a potted plant that sat on his desk. He asked a member of the class if the plant was a living organism. The answer was "yes." Several other students were asked the same question and each answered "yes". Then, the teacher pointed to a student in the back of the classroom and asked if the glass in the classroom window was a living organism. The student answered "yes". Then the teacher asked the student who was sitting next to the first student, if the window glass was a living organism. The answer again came back "yes". The teacher then very calmly began to work his way through the classroom, asking each student in turn if the window was a living organism. The answer was always, "yes". Eventually the teacher reached the front row, where I had taken a seat next to Vanda, a girl with a truly astonishing anatomy. The teacher finally asked me, "Mr. Barton, is the window glass a living organism?" I withdrew from my teenage revery on Vanda's most astonishing features long enough to say "No".   I probably lost my chance with Vanda at that moment, but the teacher thanked me for the right answer.  I did not make an "A" in Biology, but several of the students who had said the window was a living organism on the first day did. Once they figured out how to give the answers the teacher was looking for in class, they did fine.

Giving the true answer, instead of the answer my peers had adopted, marked me as a socially maladjusted teenager. I probably still am.  Social groups can be corrupting because they have the power to make us deny truth.

Update: I want to add a note about what I think happened to Bernie Sanders. Bernie was one of those students who hung out at the back of the Biology classroom and when he heard all of his pseudo liberal peers denouncing Vermont Yankee, Bernie came up with the same answers to the teacher's questions. When, Bernie heard Meredith Angwin deny that Vermont Yankee was bad, he scoffed. When the teacher agreed with Meredith, Bernie thought the teacher was wrong. Bernie's ideological peers agreed with him and that is all Bernie needed to keep him from thinking.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Distributionism Revisited

My recent post on Bernie Sanders took me back to Nuclear Green Posts on Distributionism that began in December 2008.  I was trying to explore the basis of the Green anti-nuclear stance.  If the line of argument is correct, it was based on the work of two Roman Catholic intellectuals who ignored things like priests who screwed alter boys, and bishops who covered up their crimes.  The same bishops conspired with local kings, to torture Jews in Catholic Church Inquisition tribunals, and burn them at the stake.  No matter, for the early prophets of Distributionism, these were far more perfect times, when no one questioned the authority of the Church.

In my last post, I briefly mentioned distributionism, and noted the influence of distributionism on the anti-nuclear movement. Distributionism was a radical interpretation of a charter document De Rerum Novarum issued by Pope Leo in 1891. De Rerum Novarum was a significant attempt by the Catholic Church to come to terms with modern society while at the same time promoting social reforms that were viewed by the church as demanded by its moral teachings. The moral teachings of the Catholic Church were filtered through the thought of the Medieval Catholic philosopher, Thomas Aquinas. Thus De Rerum Novarum did not find itself at peace with the modernity of modern society, or with the modern social order.

De Rerum Novarum depicted the plight of the poor in late 19th century Europe and demanded justice for them. It supported the right of workers to organize labor unions and demanded that owners pay their workers fair wages:
Let the working man and the employer make free agreements, and in particular let them agree freely as to the wages; nevertheless, there underlies a dictate of natural justice more imperious and ancient than any bargain between man and man, namely, that wages ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal and well-behaved wage-earner. If through necessity or fear of a worse evil the workman accept harder conditions because an employer or contractor will afford him no better, he is made the victim of force and injustice.
Distributive justice requires that
all citizens, without exception, are obliged to contribute something to the sum-total common goods, some share of which naturally goes back to each individual,
Yet, what Pope Leo XIII gave with his right hand, he took back with his left. Thus jusitice required workers to not disrupt social harmony as they sought a better life for themselves and their families.
The great mistake made in regard to the matter now under consideration is to take up with the notion that class is naturally hostile to class, and that the wealthy and the working men are intended by nature to live in mutual conflict. So irrational and so false is this view that the direct contrary is the truth. . . it (is) ordained by nature that these two classes should dwell in harmony and agreement, so as to maintain the balance of the body politic. Each needs the other: capital cannot do without labor, nor labor without capital. Mutual agreement results in the beauty of good order, while perpetual conflict necessarily produces confusion and savage barbarity.
But De Rerum Novarum went far beyond promoting what it viewed as a harmonious relationship between workers and owners in modern society. It offered an attempt to base an economic theory on the concept of distributive justice. Here we encounter a way that De Rerum Novarum comes into direct conflict with the modern because in modern thought there is a conceptual seperation between the economic order and the moral order. In modern society there is no one unifying theory of the just, and so communities do not attempt to imposes ethical obligations on their members, rather they filter their diverse interpretation of the ethical though a series of laws that imposes minimal aproximate standards of the ethical on their members. De Rerum Novarum went well beyound the modern, by laying out a theory of economic justice that drew on the very unmodern philosoply of Thomas Aquinas.

De Rerum Novarum assumes a world in which their are two classes, the rich and the poor. Both have obligations to the other. The rich are obliged to transfer some of their wealth to the poor as charity. The poor are obliged to not raise a ruckus if the rich do not prove to be as generous as they would wish.

De Rerum Novarum suggests that if a worker
saves something by restricting expenditures and invests his savings in a piece of land in order to keep the fruit of his thrift more safe, a holding of this kind is certainly nothing else than his wage under a different form; and on this account land which the worker thus buys is necessarily under his full control as much as the wage which he earned by his labor.
The right to own land and enjoy its fruits is a major concern of De Rerum Novarum.
The land, surely, that has been worked by the hand and the art of the tiller greatly changes in aspect. The wilderness is made fruitful; the barren field, fertile. But those things through which the soil has been improved so inhere in the soil and are so thoroughly intermingled with it, that they are for the most part quite inseparable from it. And, after all, would justice permit anyone to own and enjoy that upon which another has toiled? As effects follow the cause producing them, so it is just that the fruit of labor belongs precisely to those who have performed the labor.

Rightly therefore, the human race as a whole, moved in no wise by the dissenting opinions of a few, and observing nature carefully, has found in the law of nature itself the basis of the distribution of goods, and, by the practice of all ages, has consecrated private possession as something best adapted to man's nature and to peaceful and tranquil living together. Now civil laws, which, when just, derive their power from the natural law itself, confirm and, even by the use of force, protect this right of which we speak. -- And this same right has been sanctioned by the authority of the divine law, which forbids us most strictly even to desire what belongs to another. "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife, nor his house, nor his field, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor anything that is his."
What Distributionism did was to expand the connection which Leo XIII made between social justice and property ownership, by focusing the land owning rights of workers on farming. The Catholic writer Hilaire Belloc pushed De Rerum Novarum to a more radical view as Raymond Williams explained in "Culture and Society":
Belloc's argument is that capitalism as a system is breaking down, and that this is to be welcomed. A society in which a minority owns and controls the means of production, while the majority are reduced to proletarian status, is not only wrong but unstable. Belloc sees it breaking down in two ways — on the one hand into State action for welfare (which pure capitalism cannot embody); on the other hand into monopoly and the restraint of trade. There are only two alternatives to this system: socialism, which Belloc calls collectivism; and the redistribution of property on a significant scale, which Belloc calls distributivism.
Belloc worked in close intellectual collaboration with the better known writer G.K. Chesterton, but is regarded as laying the theoretical foundations for Distributionism.  In a number of respects Belloc's thinking paralleled Marxism.   He certainly held capitalism in low regard:
"The Capitalist state breeds a Collectivist theory which in action produces the Servile State".
"..a collectivist solution is the easiest for a Capitalist state to aim at, and yet, in the very act of attempting collectivism, the servitude of the many results and the confirmation of the present privilege of the few?.
Distributionism thus went far beyond Pope Leo in focusing on the localization as opposed to the centralized as optimal.  Thus individuals made better decisions for themselves than large organizations could.  Small organizations were better equipped to make decisions than large organizations.  Belloc and Chesterton also advocated the self sufficiency of families, even to the extent of growing their own food. They supported coops as opposed to corporations, and guilds as opposed to unions. They supported eliminating the role of the middle man in economic transactions. They opposed government welfare programs and social security schemes. They did not like the charging of interest on loans.

Distributionism is clearly reactionary and far less modern even than De Rerum Novarum. It views the just society as a community of artisans, small business people, and farmers. The ideal business is a family business and the ideal farm a family farm.

The notion that nothing good can come from large organizations including the state was not, however, driven by Balloc and Chesterton to its logical conclusion in the area of religion.  The equivalent of Distributionism in religion is the principle of congregational autonomy, a principle that utterly undercuts the authority of the Roman Catholic Church.  

Afterword: I have diverted from my usual course on Nuclear Green because I am trying to untangle some of the intellectual roots  of the anti-nuclear movement, and in particular of Amory Lovins' anti-nuclear belief system.  I intend to unpack the relationship between Distributionism and Lovins' energy theory.  I will also intend to look at the relationship between Distributionism and anti-Capitalism in the the Green movement, and in the "relocalization" movement.

I had three comments to this December 2008 post.  

Marcel F. Williams said...
Remember those old SciFi films from the 1950's where all types of monsters and terrible phenomena resulted from radiation and radioactive material. Most Americans had already been introduced to radiation in a horrific manner after the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The SciFi films of the 50's only perpetuated that fear as did television when these films were later shown on the TV networks during the 1960s.

There was a frequent theme in these films 'that there are some things in nature that scientist really shouldn't fool around with' or we might get Godzilla, giant ants, giant people or shrinking men, etc.

So any incidents, no matter how minor, involving nuclear energy or material, revives those media perpetuated fears even though the human species has always existed in a naturally radioactive environment and are probably headed towards an even more radioactive environment in the the new frontier of space.

Marcel F. Williams

Axil Responded:

@ Marcel F. Williams -

Please allow me to put into perspective the background and history of the life and times of mid century America to add so small degree of perspective to your thesis.

A political movement oftentimes resorts to the motivating effects of fear in their pursuit of their goals. Being the mover most potent in political thought, the use of fear has become a high art in political activity at every level of discourse.

In the 50’s and 60’s there was invented the concept of the ‘Missal Gap’ to move the country and replace the political regime that had saved the world from the Nazi menace. The Kennedy political machine revised and extended the fear tactic begun by the Truman administration to motivate the American politic to gird themselves and the country against the new menace; Soviet Communism. In fact, America had many more planes, A-bombs, and missiles than the Russians and the Kennedy administration new it.

But the fear in that this line of propaganda engendered was very effective and had many other uses which included the excuse to test with abandon Atomic and later Hydrogen weapons of mass destruction at the expense of the general health and welfare of the world at large.

Patriotic citizens in the arts took it upon themselves to use and expand the fear campaign to reap profit at the box office in the process to turn the Russians into the new boggymen.

But as it always happens, a counter reaction set in and a reactionary fear campaign took root. And as it always happens, the fear campaign opposing nuclear power grew to include commercial nuclear power production. The green movement was initially a progressive movement that sprung up in reaction to the conservative political activities of the government at that time. The entertainment business naturally embraced the propaganda line to expand and extend the themes of nuclear reaction.

Thus, the green movement came into being and was nourished in this environment and it uses to this day the fear of nuclear power that was useful to establish itself as the main means to nourish it propaganda efforts wide and diverse as they have become. And to this day they cannot or will not distinguish between the old and dead phantoms of the past bygone era of fear and the new rebirth of the revitalized and much needed renaissance of the current nuclear revival movement. Such is the legacy of all those reruns on TV and in books, on DVD and on BlueRay, in video games in the myriad and sundry other venues of our media culture that continue to poison the minds and hearts of the young to the pressing needs that are required for our world to survive.


Finally Axil added:

At the bottom of all considerations in the social organization of any group of people most purely reflected by and organized in the state is the exercise of power. Who has it, who doesn’t, and how the tools and the levers of power are exercised by the people at the top to control and direct society to the benefit of that ruling elite.

The exercise of power is never well ordered. There is always roiling tension, inner resistance, and convoluted counter flow that complicates and obscures the motivations and goals of individuals, sub-groups, classes, and organizations in society. Truly understanding the history, evolution, methods, procedures, and results of the projections of power is pervasive and universally attempted but seldom achieved; and when achieved quickly lost to the dustbin of history.

Power is and evolutionary force that directs the destiny of man and his societies and as such is constantly changing to adapt to the new situation in a eternal battle of good and evil in the world. The political condition is a quantum phenomenon that only becomes apparent as a probability summed over the path of all possible outcomes. To find the fundamental equation for all that can be is a noble but a daunting task reserved for only those who approach its study with no preconceptions and are totally open to all possibility. Even then, they will have only a brief and fleeting look at its course as it quickly recedes into the growing darkness of the uncertain future. To observe this quantum reality is to change it, to understand it in all it complexity is reserved only to the angels.


Axil was one of the deeper thinbkers of the early phase of the Thorium era.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Is Bernie Sanders like Ted Cruz an enemy of Science?

Aging, trouble plagued Presidential Candidate, Bernie Sanders, makes no bones about what he thinks of Nuclear Power.  Sanders'  stated about his home state's only Nuclear Power Plant, Vermont Yankee:
In my state there is a strong feeling that we want to go forward with energy efficiency and sustainable energy. I believe that we have that right. I believe that every other state in the country has that right, Sanders said. If we want to move to sustainable energy and not maintain an aging, trouble-plagued nuclear power plant, I think we should be allowed to do that.

Needless to say Vermont Yankee was much younger than Senator Sanders.  Now Senator Sanders appears to be in extremely good shape for his age, but the same could also have been said of Vermont Yankee.  The reliance on the decrepit old age argument to attack Vermont Yankee's continued existence, was but a pretext to hide Senator Sanders' true motive, which lay in his view of Nuclear Power.   His statement below reviews the emotional power of his views.

Unfortunately, Senator Sanders' statement is almost completely devoid of honesty, and offers a level of scientific and factual misinformation that is fully comparable to Tea Party standard bearer Ted Cruz.  On Nuclear power, Burnie Sanders simply lies.  First, the Fukushima Nuclear events, although spectacular were not the utter disasters Senator Sanders imagined.  The disaster was very violent and destructive earthquake, that triggered a 50' high Tsunami that struck much of the east coast of Japan.
Close to 20,000 people died as a result. The primary lesson from these events is that the Japanese were not prepared for an earthquake of such a magnatude, and their lack of preparation lead to all subsequent losses, including the Fukushima events.  Considering everything, the Fukushima reactors stood up very well to both  the earthquake and the Tsunami.   Reactors that were operating shutdown as they were designed to.   The reactors were not damaged by the earthquake, although a nearby dam collapsed.  Nor did the force of a 50' high Tsunami damage the reactors.  What suffered was the back up power systems that were required to keep reactor emergency cooling systems going.  The primary back up system was the grid.  The combined destruction created by the earthquake and the tsunami knocked the Japanese grid down.  Finally, the diesel emergency plant backup system succumbed to the effects of the tsunami on its fossil fuel supply.   Thus, the primary causes of the Fukushima events were the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. The secondary cause was the brake down of the conventional grid, and finally, the tertiary cause was the failure of the emergency power generation system.

Are there lessons that can be learned from Fukushima?  There most assuredly are, but by no means do they give aid and comfort to the enemies of nuclear power such as Senator Sanders.  The first lesson is that society needs to prepare for known, but infrequent natural disasters.  Japan had not prepared for the earthquake and tsunami because until recently the potential of such events was not known and their destructive potential was not well understood.  This lack of understanding extended to the design of the Fukushima nuclear facilities, which left a secondary back up system vulnerable to 50' tsunami waves.  Before we judge too harshly we must first look at what else in Japan had gone wrong because of a lack of foresight.  The answer is a whole lot and what had gone wrong cost 20,000 lives.

Senator Sanders' focuses on the supposed lessons of Fukushima, but how can you learn any lesson if you don't know what happened?  The lesson from Fukushima is not that nuclear power is unsafe.  It is that society must be prepared for the worst nature has to offer.  And nature is fully capable of offering us a Fukushima type earthquake and tsunami, especially in the Pacific North West along the Washington, Oregon, and Northern California coast. This is the lesson we need to learn from Fukushima. As long as the name "Fukushima" is used as a cudgel for Senator Sanders' inglorious attack on nuclear power which is based on a very hasty and poorly informed generalization fight  against nuclear power, nothing can be learned. Thus, by resorting to the "Fukushima" argument, Senator Sanders becomes a champion of ignorance.

Either Senator Sanders account of the nuclear safety implications of the Fukushima events is based on a very poorly informed and hasty generalization about nuclear power, or Senator Sanders is simply lying.  Nowhere does Senator Sanders tell us why he believes that Fukushima means that Vermont Yankee is unsafe.  Does Senator Sanders believe that Vermont Yankee is likely to be destroyed by a 50' tsunami?  If not, how can Senator Sanders show that Fukushima meant that Vermont Yankee is unsafe?  Did he consulted with the scientific community before he jumped to his conclusions? Or, is Senator Sanders simply lying?

Senator Sanders argues that there is a big problem with nuclear waste, however he never tells us who is the source of this information and if the argument is backed by the scientific community.  Scientists tell us that there are many potential solutions to the so called problem of nuclear waste and some scientists say that the real problem is the classification of "once through" nuclear fuel as waste.  I doubt that Senator Sanders has the slightest idea what the materials he calls "Nuclear Waste" really are.  He further does not have the slightest idea what can be done with them.  Bernie thinks that he does not need to anything more than say the magic words "nuclear waste" and immediately upset other poorly informed people.  No further knowledge or thought is required.

Bernie also talked about the billions and billions of dollars of subsidies to nuclear power, but never   did a fairly detailed study of spending by the United States government on nuclear technology.  I have defined subsidies as money spent with the intention of benefiting the civilian nuclear power industry, which actually benefited that industry.  This definition precluded spending for purposes related to national defense and spending for research that did not benefit the nuclear power industry.  Thus, only spending by the government that directly benefits the civilian nuclear power industry which was not first intended for defense purposes, is a true subsidy.

Then, I looked at the Price Anderson Act, often sited as a form of nuclear subsidy, but what I found was that the primary beneficiary of Price-Anderson is the United States Government.  Price-Anderson protects the government from the first ten billion dollars of liabilities related to a nuclear accident.  It does this by creating a very large insurance pool, backed by reactor owners.  In other words, the government does not have to pay a cent, until the entire $10 billion pool is exhausted.  Then guess what?  Congress can force the Nuclear Industry to increase the size of their pool to cover further losses.  The United States Government has yet to pay a cent under Price-Anderson.  How much do you bet the government eventually will pay out?  So much for honest Bernie's billions of dollars in subsidies.

Finally, I would like to note that the science community, as a whole, has concluded that we can not win the fight against Anthropogenic Global Warming without nuclear power.  That is what scientists are telling us.  Does Bernie know?  Does Bernie care?  Or is Bernie a closet anti-scientist like Ted Cruz?  Does Burnie only pretend to be progressive?

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Weinberg on Nuclear Safety

This post continues to be relevant, although it could be improved with some minor revisions.  Hopefully, I can do that soon. But as G. K. Chesterton once said, "If a thing is worth doinng at all, it is worth doing badly."  

By the middle of 1972 the handwriting was on the wall. Alvin Weinberg had some very powerful enemies, includingCongressman Chet Holifield, and AEC administrator Milton Shaw. At the heart of their enmity was a distaste for Weinberg's view on nuclear safety. The official line of the Atomic Energy Establishment was that Light Water Reactor technology was mature and safe. Nuclear scientists who were worried about reactor safety were not sure. 7 years later the Three Mile Island-2 accident was to demonstrate that reactors, although not highly dangerous, were not as safe as they could be. Weinberg championed the cause of nuclear scientists who knew that more nuclear safety research was needed. The establishment, including Holifield and Shaw, found that Weinberg's stance was an unforgivable affront to their power and determined to fire him.

Weinberg's firing followed another incident, the forced censorship of a K.Z. Morgan paper, with a threat that if Morgan presented a notion that certain parties in Washington, Chicago and Arco, Idaho did not like, namely that the the Molten Salt Breeder Reactor (MSBR) was a safer and more acceptable than the Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor (LMFBR), Laboratory funding, effecting the livelihood of hundreds of Laboratory employees would be cut. Alvin Weinberg came close to confirming Morgan's story that ORNL had been threatened with a funding loss had Morgan's uncensored paper been presented. This threat could have only been a serious threat if it came from Holifield and Shaw. As it was the staff of ORNL diminished from 5300 to 3600 during the late 1960's and early 1970's as the result of funding decreases including the termination of the Molten Salt Reactor development program.

As it turned out, censoring Morgan did not protect Weinberg, because Chet Holifield disliked Weinberg's stance on nuclear safety. Weinberg was later to be proven right on nuclear safety problems at a place called Three Mile Island.

From the late in the 1960's until the end of December 1972, Weinberg had worked to shift the direction of the laboratory focus away from reactor development and toward environmental issues. He succeeded in creating a major center for the study of carbon in the environment, at a time when so-called environmentalists favored burning CO2 to nuclear energy. Indeed because of Weinberg's intuitive, ORNL moved a generation ahead of Snowmass and almost everywhere else in its thinking about carbon and the environment. In November, 1972 the recently-fired Alvin Weinberg, six weeks away from a year long terminal leave from ORNL, journeyed to Boulder, Colorado to speak to Council for the Advancement of Science Writing about nuclear safety. Weinberg, whose integrity on nuclear safety was unquestionable, took environmentalists to task for their preference for fossil fuels over nuclear power. Weinberg stated,
Nuclear power plants and their subsystems have caused less damage to human health and to the environment, per kilowatt-hour, than have fossil-fueled central power stations. Thus Professor Lester B. Lave of Carnegie-Mellon University points out that from mining alone the damage imposed by coal is twelve-fold greater, per kilowatt-hour, than is that imposed by nuclear energy. (Professor Lave's argument is based on the fact that some 120,000 coal miners today receive about $300 per month compensation as the result of black lung disease.) C. Starr, M. A. Greenfield, and D. F. Hausknecht writing in Nuclear News, Oct. 1972, have compared the radioactivity hazard from nuclear plants with that from oil- or coal-fired plants. Their results show that to reach air quality standards for oxides of sulfur and nitrogen and radioactivity in Los Angeles County one could tolerate 160,000 nuclear plants of 1,000,000-kilowatt capacity, but only 10 oil-fired or 23 natural-gas plants of this size.

Granted that properly operating nuclear power plants and their sub-systems - including mining, transport and chemical reprocessing of used reactor fuel elements, and disposal of radioactive wastes - are benign and have been so demonstrated, are there concerns regarding the possibility that these systems may malfunction and cause hazard to people and to the environment? This is a perfectly legitimate question that deserves serious and thoughtful consideration; and it is this aspect of the matter that I shall address.

A properly operating nuclear power plant and its subsystems is and can remain as innocuous a thermal power plant as man has ever devised. The whole safety issue then centers around the possibility that a nuclear plant or its subsystems may malfunction so grossly as to cause damage to the environment or to people.
Weinberg has laid out the issues. The issue in November 1972 is the same which confronts us, 38 years later. The so-called "Greens" have made a secret alliance with fossil fuel interest that is to the detriment of all life forms on the planet Earth, including its human inhabitants. And no matter how much environmentalists profess to be concerned about the carbon problem, until they give up their anti-nuclear alliance with coal and natural gas interests, the safety of the planet is in jeopardy.

Environmentalists, who seemingly regard lies as a primary tool to further their anti-nuclear arguments, have long insisted that the scientific-technical community had ignored the issue of nuclear safety. Weinberg answered this slur,
At the outset, we must remember that the technical community has always recognized that a nuclear system is potentially a dangerous device.
This statement can be verified by anyone who would care to review the history of nuclear safety discussions and research, by pioneering nuclear scientists, as Weinberg pointed out,
I can assert that nuclear systems per kilowatt-hour have caused much less damage to the biosphere than have other sources of thermal energy, is a tribute to the ingenuity and foresight of the reactor engineer. From the earliest days of nuclear energy we nuclear people have been constantly reminded of this potential danger. (In 1942 one of the first jobs I did for the Manhattan Project was to estimate the hazard caused by minute amounts of radioactive carbon that would be emitted from the early air-cooled graphite reactors; and General Leslie R. Groves insisted that Enrico Fermi move his West Stands critical reactor from the center of Southside Chicago because of the potential hazard.) Being so sensitively attuned to this potential, we have developed techniques and methods for handling these materials safely. The question is, successful as we have been in the past, what can we say about the likelihood of our continuing success in the future when large nuclear energy reactors will dot the landscape everywhere?
Weinberg in 1972 addressed what continue to be nuclear safety concerns of the public:
The whole nuclear power system involves four subsystems:
(1) mining and refining uranium to fuel the reactor;
(2) the reactor itself;
(3) transport and chemical processing of radioactive materials from the reactor; and
(4) waste disposal.
After discussing research on cancer rates of uranium miners, Weinberg concluded,
the number of deaths caused by mining of uranium, per kilowatt-hour, is much less than those from mining of coal, simply because there are so many fewer miners involved per kilowatt-hour.
It should be noted that changes in mining technology during the last 40 years have improved the health and safety of all miners, but this is particularly true of American uranium miners, because uranium mining technology now does not require miners to go underground. Coal miners still die in deep underground mines, and workers at oil and gas extraction facilities still die from natural gas explosions. So if anything there is an even greater safety advantage in uranium mining today than when Weinberg spoke 38 years ago.

Weinberg noted two safety concerns in connection with reactors,
There are two quite different potential hazards from a nuclear reactor.
* First there are the routine effluents - including tritium which is a radioactive form of hydrogen, radioactive fission gases from possible leaking fuel elements, radioactive cobalt from corrosion products, etc.
* Second there is the question of a major, catastrophic accident to a nuclear reactor that might result in an appreciable fraction of the radioactive inventory being released to the environment.
Weinberg noted that the first hazard was itself controversial, but noted that even disregarding the controversy,
the current standards are now so low - 5% of the amount we receive from natural sources - at the reactor site boundary as to make the whole issue a non-issue. [By comparison, the added radiation one gets by sleeping adjacent to one's wife whose body (as does everyone's) contains radioactive potassium, is around 7% of the standard for the reactor site boundary. This is a classic case of balancing benefits versus risks!] And indeed, nuclear power plants are now designed to meet these very stringent requirements, and in fact are doing so; here a technological
fix has completely resolved a controversy.
Weinberg thus points out a reductio ad absurdum of the safety concerns of nuclear critics. It is, Weinberg argues, more dangerous from a radiation safety viewpoint to sleep next to your spouse than to sleep just outside the fence at a reactor site.

We now have reached a point where we should look for Alvin Weinberg's covert comments about his firing, which was a closely-guarded secret at the time. First it should be noted that ORNL had been between 1955 and 1965 a major international center for reactor safety research. A team of reactor chemists under the direction of George W. Parker had examined the circumstances of a potential reactor accident. My father from 1960 to 1965 had been a member of the team, and played a major role in writing a 1967 paper which described the team's work. I have noted elsewhere Milton Shaw's role in shutting down ORNL safety research. However, in their swan song, the ORNL safety researchers noted,
In conclusion, we wish to emphasize that there are many factors affecting the fission product source term and the amount of fission products which actually can escape the containment system of power reactors in reactor accidents. While the amount of fission products evolved from overheated fuel is highly useful information, it is now recognized that the hazard of reactor accidents can be fully evaluated only through sophisticated accident simulation experiments in facilities such as the Containment Research Installation (ORNL), the Containment Systems Experiment (Battelle Northwest), and the Loss-of-Fluid Test (Phillips-Idaho).
This recommendation was important in Weinberg's thinking. And it was a thorn in Milton Shaw's side. The loss of coolant test was the critical issue for Weinberg, because speculation had held that once core meltdown had occurred, nothing could stop the molten mass of core materials from eating its way through the massive steel pressure vessel, the cement floor of the underneath the reactor, and into the earth, all of the way to China. This was the infamous "China Syndrome." The loss of coolant test proposed to sacrifice a built-to-purpose reactor under construction at INL. A loss-of-coolant accident was to be simulated, and the reactor was then allowed to experience core meltdown. The goal of the experiment was to discover if the "China Syndrome" could in fact happen. Weinberg argued that the loss of coolant experiment was rational.
As long as reactors were relatively small we could prove by calculation that even if the coolant system and its back-up failed, the molten fuel could not generate enough heat to melt itself through the containment However, when reactors exceeded a certain size, then it was no longer possible to prove by calculation that an uncooled reactor fuel charge would not melt through its containment vessel. This hypothetical melt-through is referred to as the China Syndrome for obvious reasons. Since we could not prove that a molten fuel puddle wouldn't reach the basement of a power reactor, we also couldn't prove whether it would continue to bore itself deeper into the ground.
Weinberg pointed to the consequences,
Whether or not the China Syndrome is a real possibility is moot. The point is, however, that it is not possible to disprove its existence. Thus, for these very large reactors, it is no longer possible to claim that the containment shell, which for smaller reactors could be relied upon to prevent radioactivity from reaching the public, was sufficient by itself. In consequence, the secondary back-up cooling systems, which originally were designed simply to prevent property loss and awkward clean-up, must now be viewed as the ultimate emergency protection against the China Syndrome and as an integral part of the reactor safety system.
I have already pointed out that it was not Weinberg alone, but the community of Nuclear Scientists which did not accept Milton Shaw's judgment on nuclear safety. As Weinberg pointed out,
Very arduous and sometimes acrimonious [Congressional] hearings related to these criteria were held last year [1971]. During this time every aspect of the operation of the emergency core cooling systems both in pressurized-water reactors and in boiling-water reactors has been thoroughly re-examined. Although they are obviously cumbersome, the hearings have obliged all parties, intervenors, manufacturers, the AEC, safety engineers, to examine in excruciating detail the possible course of events following a loss-of-coolant accident. The criteria that have emerged represent additional conservatism in the design both of light-water reactors and of their emergency core cooling systems.
There is little reason to doubt that Weinberg saw the "China Syndrome" controversy as the backdrop to his firing.

Weinberg then took up the issue of the transportation and chemical reprocessing of nuclear fuel. Weinberg argued that these problems should be addressed together because,
if reactors and chemical plants needed for reprocessing their fuel were built very close to each other (in nuclear parks) the transport problem as a separate safety hazard would largely disappear.
Weinberg knew of one such system, the Molten Salt Breeder Reactor that was being developed at Oak Ridge. Weinberg noted,
As for the chemical fuel reprocessing plants themselves, we at Oak Ridge National Laboratory are studying measures that might be taken to reduce radioactive emissions from such plants as low as those from light-water reactors - around 5% of radiation levels from natural sources at the plant boundaries. We believe that plants with practically zero release are actually quite feasible and would probably add around 0.5 mill per kwh to the cost of nuclear power.
Weinberg also reported that he had testified
before the Senate Interior and Insular Affairs Committee in October 1971, . . .
And his views had, no doubt given pain to Milton Shaw and Chet Holifield,
our present technology and philosophy of siting separates the chemical plants from the reactors, and so we are confronted with the necessity of transporting heavily radioactive materials. To estimate the hazard, let us suppose that by the year 2000, we have 1,000,000 megawatts of nuclear power, of which two-thirds are liquid-metal fast breeders. There will then be 7000 to 12,000 annual shipments of spent fuel from reactors to chemical plants, with an average of 60 to 100 loaded casks in transit at all times. Projected shipments might contain 1.5 tons of core fuel which has decayed for as little as 30 days (in which case each shipment while in transit would generate 300 kilowatts of heat) and 75 million curies of radioactivity. Present casks from light-water reactors might contain material that produces 30 kilowatts of heat and contains seven million curies of radioactivity.
It should be noted that sometime later, reactor researchers at Argonne National Laboratory redesigned the fuel reprocessing system for the LMFBR in order to keep it in the same location as the reactor. Not only did they tastily acknowledge that Weinberg was right, but they also managed to spend a huge amount of money to reinvent the wheel, that is to develop a technology that could do for LMFBR fuel what ORNL was developing technology for with the MSBR, using analogous molten-salt technology.

Finally, Weinberg offered some observations on nuclear waste. Ironically, Weinberg did not realize that ORNL had developed a solution to the nuclear waste problem. My father had in the 1950's investigated the use of plutonium as a Molten Salt Reactor fuel. And the use of Plutonium as a molten salt reactor fuel had been demonstrated during the Molten Salt Reactor Experiment. Weinberg acknowledged the problem created by plutonium in used nuclear fuel,
Plutonium-239 has a half-life of 24,400 years, and wastes containing this nuclide will remain potentially dangerous for 200,000 years.
Ironically, if plutonium and the so-called minor actinides could be burned in a reactor, they would cease to be a part of the nuclear waste problem, the highly-radioactive fission products in nuclear waste would stop being dangerous after 300 years. Thus another solution to the nuclear waste problem was potentially available from Oak Ridge technology, but that had not been worked out yet. That solution could potentially produce a very large amount of new energy. Two decades later, Uri Gat and J.R. Engel of ORNL and H.L. Dodds of the University of Tennessee, were to write,
The MSRs, with their continuous processing and the immediate separation of the residual fuel from the waste, simplify the handling of the waste and contribute to the solution and acceptability of the waste issue.
The on-line processing can significantly reduce the transportation of radioactive shipments. There is no shipping between the reactor and the processing facility. Storage requirements are also reduced as there is no interim storage for either cooldown or preparation for shipment. The waste, having been separated from the fuel, requires no compromise to accommodate the fuel for either criticality or diversion concerns. The waste shipments can be optimized for waste concerns alone. The actinides can be recycled into the fuel for burning and thus eliminated from the waste. While further work is required to fully analyze this possibility, several proposals to burn actinides have been made. The MSRs with on-line processing lend themselves readily to recycling the actinides into the fuel. Eliminating the actinides from shipments and from the waste reduces the very long controlled storage time of the waste to more acceptable and reasonable periods of time
I must first state than nothing Weinberg had to say about alternative solutions to the nuclear waste problem was wrong. It is simply that using plutonium and other actinides from nuclear waste, as nuclear fuel, kills two birds with one stone. Not only does it turn what was considered dangerous waste into energy, but it will allow for hundreds and perhaps even thousands of thorium breeding molten salt reactors (LFTRs) to be started very quickly, since their initial fuel charge could be recovered from used nuclear fuel. Thus the supposedly terrible problem of nuclear waste, actually is part of a workable solution to the problem of post carbon energy.

Alvin Weinberg made important contributions to our understanding of the role of energy in our society, and those contributions have, as of yet not been fully appreciated. He understood both the problems and the potential of nuclear energy. In many respects Alvin Weinberg correctly saw path that society was taking, and gauged its consequences. Although not the first nuclear scientist to recognize the CO2 problem, that honor goes to Edward Telleronce Weinberg understood the carbon problem, he emerged as a leading voice in articulating it during the 1970's.

What Weinberg failed to realize was the extent to which ORNL scientists, under his leadership, had found a way out of "the Faustian bargain" which he frequently referred to as a description of the relationship between the nuclear science community and society. Undoing Weinberg's "Faustian bargain" will thus be a topic for a further post.


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