Twenty-five years ago, I co-wrote a booklet about the risks of nuclear power and the prospects of clean energy. Published by Plutonium Free Future, The Safe Energy Handbook (1997) was translated into nine languages (Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish, French, Russian, Ukrainian, Slovenian, and Turkish) and distributed to global citizen activists resisting nuclear power. Now, in these times of growing climate chaos—with alarming signals that we will face ecological tipping points in our near-term future—this excerpt still resonates.
FROM THE SAFE ENERGY HANDBOOK, by Jan Thomas, Claire Greensfelder & Wendy Oser (1997)
PHASE OUT FOSSIL FUELS
Burning fossil fuels releases huge quantities of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. It is now widely recognized that our atmosphere simply will not be able to continue absorbing six billion tons of carbon every year (70% of it from burning fossil fuels) without disastrous consequences that will last for generations.
Scientists have been warning for decades about global warming, the process in which CO2 and other pollutants trap the sun’s heat and cause the temperature at the earth’s surface to rise. Over time, climate and seasonal cycles may be significantly disrupted. According to climate studies, average world temperatures have steadily risen since records began to be kept in 1880. As of 1997, five of the warmest years on record have occurred since 1987.
Global climate change could be a decisive factor affecting survival prospects for those who will follow us.
POWER FOR THE FUTURE
Coal gave us the Industrial Revolution with its soot-covered cities, lung diseases, factories and coal mines. Oil brought us the Age of Combustion with automobiles, big highways, jet planes and the glorification of consumerism. Nuclear power has given us the Atomic Age and an enduring legacy of radioactive contamination and health problems. But renewable energies — the sun, wind and water — will bring us into the Solar Age and change our society in more favorable ways than we can yet imagine.
CREATING A SAFE ENERGY FUTURE
We all bear the great responsibility of passing on a livable world to the diverse peoples, plants, animals and ecosystems of the future. What we ultimately aim for is a complete reassessment of modern society and the interests it serves, leading to a fundamental reordering of society’s priorities toward sustainability and social justice.
It took billions of years for humans to emerge on earth, and we have lived in communities, villages and cities for only the last 10,000 years. We want all peoples and all species to enjoy life on earth for countless generations to come. This is a basic criterion for a sustainable society. Appropriate, safe and renewable energy technologies are key to achieving this goal. Working together, we can create societies that endure into the future, living in harmony with the earth.