Bulletin 119: Las Conchas Fire; Business as usual is over for our society; Public discussion tomorrow
June 27, 2011 (Subscribe to our bulletins. Unsubscribe here.)
Dear friends and colleagues --
Many of you are interested in the progress of the latest New Mexico fire, which began 12 miles SW of Los Alamos at 1:00 pm yesterday and blew up to 43,600 acres by 8:00 am this morning. At last ken the fire was about 1 mile from Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).
There was a news conference and update from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and LANL at noon today, which may or may not have been informative for those of you who are interested.
Information can be gleaned from the U.S. Forest Service's Active Fire Mapping web site, http://activefiremaps.fs.fed.us/, which is integrated with Google Earth (http://activefiremaps.fs.fed.us/googleearth.php), and from the New Mexico Fire Information web site, http://nmfireinfo.wordpress.com/category./active-wildfire/.
There is a very good update & video on Santa Fe Reporter blog: http://www.sfreporter.com/santafe/blog-2859-photos-video-las-conchas-fire-1-mile-from-lanl.html.
There will also be a news conference from LANL/NNSA today at noon; see http://www.lanl.gov/news/index.html. It will not be live-streamed but some of the local newscasters (e.g. from KOB) will be there.
During the Cerro Grande Fire in 2000 almost no useful information was available even to DOE, which was getting its information during crucial periods from TV broadcasts (which were being partially censored). We hired a commercial flying service (three times) to inform ourselves and various officials of the fire's progress and dangers. Today's situation is obviously much improved.
In our circles it would be easy to fall into thinking about this latest fire primarily from the perspective of concern about legacy or current-inventory radionuclides from LANL. We aren't too worried about that at this time. It would be a mistake to fall into single-issue myopia at this or any time.
As far as this fire goes we are very concerned about two things.
The first is climate-change-induced drought, which we are already seeing in the American Southwest as well as in sub-Saharan Africa, Australia, the Mediterranean, and elsewhere -- precisely as has been predicted for many years by essentially all available climate models. We have sowed the wind and are now reaping the whirlwind. Sorry to say, but even if we were to succeed in changing our society and its greenhouse gas emissions almost overnight, much more warming is already in the pipeline, so much worse is yet to come. (It is essential to make those changes before they are forced upon us for a variety of reasons, not just climate-related ones.)
The second is that the unexpected events -- natural and unnatural hazards -- do happen. Murphy's Law applies, and "accidents" are normal and to be expected. Today it's a fire; tomorrow it could well be a careless or berserk plutonium worker. Stuff happens. Rules are not followed. Best-case scenarios do not work out. Our whole society is now facing consequences that are "unthinkable," as nuclear war theorist Hermann Khan put it.
At tomorrow evening's public meeting in Santa Fe we will discuss the implications of the above perspectives for the proposed Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF). We will draw on an interesting essay by Dan Allen, a high school science teacher in New Jersey, which we recently circulated within the Study Group's core discussants. Allen's essay summarizes some of what we have been discussing in our discussion groups on energy and climate over the past few years. His suite of references conspicuously doesn't include the numerous military studies of peak oil, Tariel Morrigan's overview, or David Korowicz at Feasta, but it gets to the same place.
We will meet Tuesday (tomorrow, June 28) from 7 - 9 pm at St. John's United Methodist Church, 1200 Old Pecos Trail in Santa Fe, in Room 116. The discussion is sure to be lively.
Best wishes, Greg, Trish, and gang
P.S. Some of you have gotten alerts from organizations asking you to comment on the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the CMRR-NF. We regard that SEIS as an illegitimate form of "public involvement," and the public comment process as worthless. There are many more important things to do with your time.