Anger is renewable energy
by Ursula Völker
Some weeks ago, I had a 9 year old patient who was suffering from enormous temper tantrums. Whenever he felt overwhelmed and helpless, when it was clear to him that no one would listen to his voice, he didn’t know of any better way to deal with his feelings than to hurt himself and everyone around. Kicking, beating, biting and scratching, he tried to gain control of the situation and forced helplessness onto the adults who had been so ignorant before.
When I read about what is going on in Japan now, I somehow feel like this little boy. I feel overwhelmed with anger, but there’s no one to address, no one listening to people’s questions and concerns. I feel helpless to the point of being paralyzed. Haven’t we warned our governments of the hazards of using nuclear power again and again? Aren’t there already thousands and thousands of innocent people suffering from the consequences of a man-made disaster, in vast areas around Chernobyl?
Prevention is a medical doctor’s most important contribution for securing their patients’ well being and survival. In this case, it means putting an end to nuclear technology once and for all. The use of nuclear power, be it civil or military, has brought an intolerable risk upon us. People’s health is constantly at stake, so to speak from the cradle to the grave of the radioactive material needed for the nuclear fuel rods.
The tragedy starts with the neglected suffering of the uranium miners in Canada, Australia, Niger, Namibia, India or the United States. Many of them indigenous people who have been tricked into sacrificing their sacred lands for nuclear weapons and the Western world’s craving for more and more energy. Those sacred lands have become wastelands, the radioactive tailings making them unsafe for centuries.
It goes on with the children living near one of the many nuclear power plants. Their leukemia risk increases 1.2 fold if their home is located within a range of 5 kilometers around a nuclear power plant. To make myself clear on that point: We speak of the risk emerging under normal operation. Still, politicians and so-called independent scientists do not seem to be concerned. Besides, the World Health Organization, having the mandate to promote and protect the health of all peoples, is subjected to the interests of the International Atomic Energy Agency by a working agreement approved in 1959. Oh, the IAEA’s objective is to promote the civil use of nuclear technology throughout the world, right?
In addition, nobody knows how to deal with the radioactive waste adding up with every second of running a nuclear power plant. Burying it in ancient salt mines or using outer space as a nuclear landfill? One solution is more insufficient than the other. Depleted uranium, a byproduct of uranium enrichment for nuclear power plants or weapons, has been used by the U.S. and other NATO forces for developing weapons with unusual armor-piercing capabilities. Dumped on the battlefields in Iraq or the Balkans, the cheap and abundant material threatens the health of everyone living in the surroundings because of its radioactivity and chemical toxicity.
Nuclear power powers the bomb. Research in the field of nuclear technology, even if for medical purposes, always bears the risk of being used for the development and proliferation of the most cruel weapon of mass destruction humanity has ever invented. We won’t escape the nuclear vicious circle if we overlook the link between the civil use of nuclear energy and its even more evil siblings, the nuclear weapons still being stored all over the world.
I don’t want to silently swallow all that anger and sadness. I want to tell the world about it even if there’s this meanly nagging suspicion that no one’s really listening. I’m afraid that the world’s leaders interest will abate within short notice, that the media will find another topic of urgent interest in no time. Sometimes it is better to be outraged than to be paralyzed. Maybe we should store some of this anger and use it as a renewable source of energy. We’ll have to apply it wisely and persistently in order to make sure that the nuclear lobby won’t have the final say.
Ursula Völker is a physician from Tübingen/Germany, specializing in child and adolescent psychiatry. She is a board member of IPPNW-Germany.