Feb 27: Sustainability Salon on Fukushima and the Future

Sunset for nuclear power?     (photo:  Pexels/Pixabay, under Creative Commons)

At the 109th Sustainability Salon we'll reflect upon the 10th anniversary of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, and what it means for the future of nuclear power.  
On March 11, 2011, a megathrust earthquake occurred off the coast of Tōhoku in eastern Japan.  At magnitude 9 on the Richter scale, this was the strongest quake ever recorded in Japan (and fourth in the world).  The resultant tsunami sent monstrous waves crashing onto the coast, killing more than 15,000 people and damaging or destroying a million buildings.  Power outages, fires at oil refineries, and meltdowns at nuclear power plants ensued.  The Fukushima Daiichi station was the hardest hit, as flooding disabled diesel generators needed for cooling.  Earthquakes (and resulting tsunamis) are not all that rare on the Pacific Rim, as evidenced by the recent magnitude 7.3 temblor off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture -- a stark reminder of the dangers.  
Starting with a recap of the Fukushima accident, an update on where it stands now, and a look at what it will really take to decommission the plant (we'll screen a short documentary), we'll explore other risks and consequences of nuclear power, from aging facilities to the hazards of nuclear waste.  And we'll talk about how to forge a renewable energy future to address climate change.  Speakers will include local scholar, author, activist, policymaker, and energy policy expert Patricia DeMarco Diane D'Arrigo, Radioactive Waste Project Director of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service;  Barbara Litt, formerly of the New Jersey DEP (dealing with radon in indoor air) and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (studying energy efficiency in Japanese buildings), and now teaching about Japanese culture and energy policy at Carnegie Mellon;  and physicist and science writer Fred Bortz, author of Meltdown!  The Nuclear Disaster in Japan and Our Energy Future We'll also hear from Shoshone leader Ian Zabarte in a short video about the disproportional impacts of nuclear testing and waste storage on indigenous people.  Ann Rosenthal of Remembering Hiroshima, Imagining Peace will help moderate our discussion. 
Logistical details and RSVP link are in italics, below.
International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors at Fukushima Daiichi in 2013 (photo: IAEA)
Most years, wintertime Sustainability Salons feature film screenings (and often talks by filmmakers, or activists working on the issues in the films);  in large part due to our space being darker and more cinematic when sunset is earlier.  However, during the pandemic there are so many other virtual film screenings and panel discussions that folks don't need even more screen time -- so I'm keeping films to a minimum, in favor of more live conversation.  In lieu of our own Winter Film Series, then, here are a few other opportunities to get your popcorn popping:  FracTracker Alliance has an Environmental Justice Film Series this month (with recordings of past discussions).  Apropos of last month's Salon topic, PASUP's next community meeting will be about greening election campaigns, on February 28th.   The next two Sustainability Salons (March and April) bring our annual focus on food (March probably on the 27th).  And a mask update:  I have received my second bulk order (read:  substantial discount!) of the Breathe99 masks that we featured at November's salon on Pandemics and Air (one of TIME's 100 Best Inventions of last year), as well as a supply of the new foam liners that address the condensation issue.  Please email me with mask in the Subject line if you're interested!  

Films, talks, and discussion will run from 4 p.m. to 7:30 or so on Zoom (sadly, no potluck supper these days).  You're welcome to join the call for informal conversation after 3 p.m., and we aim to start the main program right around 4.  If you're new to Zoom, you may find my Zoom Reference Guide helpful.  Please RSVP via Eventbrite and you'll receive the Zoom registration link right away.  If you're not already on my Eventbrite list, please email me (maren dot cooke at gmail dot com) with salon in the Subject line to be added -- and let me know how you heard about salons!

For the uninitiated, a Sustainability Salon is an educational forum;  it's a mini-conference;  it's a venue for discussion and debate about important environmental issues;  it's a house party with an environmental theme.  Each month we have featured speakers on various aspects of a particular topic, interspersed with stimulating conversation, lively debate, delectable potluck food and drink, and music-making through the evening (though the potluck and the music are on hiatus during the pandemic).  
Past topics have included the judiciary and fair electionsconsumptionpandemics and air,  election law and activismair quality and environmental justicesocial investment,  local economies, the economics of energymutual aid networksocean healththe rise of the radical rightthe back end of consumptionapproaches to activism on fracking & climateair quality, technology, and citizen sciencesingle-use plasticselection activismelection law, whether to preserve existing nuclear power plantsadvanced nuclear technologiespassenger and freight trainsconsumption, plastics, and pollutionair qualitysolar poweryouth activismgreening businessgreenwashing, the petrochemical buildout in our region, climate/nature/peoplefracking, health, & actionglobalizationecological ethicscommunity inclusionair quality monitoringinformal gatherings that turn out to have lots of speakersgetting STEM into Congresskeeping Pittsburgh's water publicShell's planned petrochemical plantvisualizing air quality, the City of Pittsburgh's sustainability initiativesfossil energy infrastructure, getting money out of politicscommunity solar power and the Solarize Allegheny program, the Paris climate negotiations (beforeduring, and after), air quality (again, with news on the autism connection), reuse (of things and substances), neighborhood-scale food systems, other forms of green community revitalizationsolar powerclimate changeenvironmental art, environmental education (Part I & Part II), community mapping projectsenvironmental journalismgrassroots actionMarcellus shale development and community rightsgreen buildingair qualityhealth care, more solar powertrees and park stewardshipalternative energy and climate policyregional watershed issues, fantastic film screenings and discussions (often led by filmmakers) over the winter with films on Food SystemsClimate Adaptation and MitigationPlastic Paradise, Rachel Carson and the Power Of One VoiceTriple Divide on fracking, You've Been Trumped and A Dangerous GameA Fierce Green FireSustainability Pioneersfilms on consumptionLiving DownstreamBidder 70YERTGas Rush Stories, and food, foodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodfoodand more food (a recurrent theme;  with California running out of water, we'd better gear up to produce a lot more of our own!).

Coronavirus update:   As you know, people in Pittsburgh and around the world are sequestered at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Social distancing is still the rule for most Americans.  That's a bit of a misnomer, though -- we need physical distancing to flatten the curve, but technology now allows for rich interactions even so!  I believe that community is one of our greatest strengths, so in March as events began to be cancelled, I hosted the first virtual Sustainability Salon via Zoom teleconference -- rather than gathering our usual 50-80 people in a contained space.   It went quite well (even engaging participants from hundreds of miles away), and we're looking forward to June's salon!  Please be sure to RSVP (via email with "salon" in the Subject: line, or via Eventbrite) so you'll receive the sign-on information.  

If you haven't been here before, you may enjoy checking out our roof garden and solar installation (and now apiary!) as well as the many other green and interesting things around our place.  If interested folks are online and everything is working smoothly by around 3:30, perhaps I can conduct a virtual tour.

And if you like to make music or listen to homemade music, think back to our evening sings -- we typically ran the gamut from Irish fiddle tunes to protest songs to the Beatles, and a fun time was had by all.  Folks would bring instruments, and/or pick up one of ours.  Conversations would continue through the evening, as well.  With a virtual event this is less likely to happen, but we can share music by turns, reminisce, chat online, and look forward to the post-COVID era!

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