Tag: natural disasters

Podcast 41: Energy utopia or dystopia? – A historical perspective on nuclear energy

Fukushima plant

Satellite image showing damage after an Earthquake and Tsunami at the Fukushima I nuclear power plant, Japan, 16 March 2011. Source: Wikimedia Commons

For the past decade nuclear energy has been increasingly promoted as a carbon neutral source of energy. By 2010 governments around the globe were seriously considering the construction of new power plants. The Japanese Tsunami of March 2011 threw a spanner in the works when the Fukushima One nuclear power plant was flooded destroying its cooling system. This resulted in a partial core meltdown, hydrogen explosions and venting of nuclear contaminated steam. The accident highlighted the potential hidden risks of nuclear technologies and fuelled fear of radiation and contamination of the environment with nuclear materials among the general public. It is also likely to stall the enthusiasm of a nuclear revival for the foreseeable future.

Considering past nuclear incidents it is doubtful if the Fukushima emergency will prevent the construction nuclear plants in the long run. On this episode of the podcast Horace Herring of the Open University in Britain will explore the utopian origins of nuclear energy and how it became a dystopian illusion. He argues that economics and distrust in science and big government undermined nuclear energy more than environmental or health concerns.

Literature cited
Horace Herring, From Energy Dreams to Nuclear Nightmares: Lessons for the 21st century from a previous nuclear era (Charlbury, Oxon: Jon Carpenter, 2005).

“Lessons from the past”, Nature, 471 (2011), p. 547.

Mark Peplow, “Chernobyl’s legacy”, Nature 471 (2011), pp. 562-565.

Music credit
LOVELESS” by Caster Seven
Available from ccMixter

Podcast 21: Disasters, history and cultures of coping

The inter-relationship of human beings and the natural world, and the influence of the physical environment on a community’s social and cultural development, is very well demonstrated in societies that face the persistent threat and reality of disasters. A prime example is the Philippines. Consisting of over seven thousand islands and located in an extremely hazard-prone area, the Philippines as a whole experiences more earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis than any other country on earth.  Although western social sciences typically depict “disasters” as abnormal occurrences, communities and individuals in the Philippines have come to accept hazard and disaster as a frequent life experience.  Indeed, in a number of respects, Filipino cultures can be regarded as the product of community adaptation to these phenomena. This has consequences for the historical, social and cultural development of societies.

In this episode of the podcast Greg Bankoff, professor of modern non-western history at the University of Hull explores how the persistent threat and reality of disasters shapes the history, social and cultural development of societies.

Website mentioned in this podcast: University profile page of Professor Bankoff.


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