Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Quiet Revolution

‘The Quiet Revolution’ was the title of a book written by former Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Jim Cairns under the Whitlam Government (1972-1975). He was a prominent leader of the Australian anti-Vietnam war movement and a deep skeptic of conventional politics and economics.

The revolution Jim Cairn’s advocated in this book so many decades ago would be a timely, essential and peaceful one. Either we engage in one like this, he urged, or face unavoidable annihilation. On page 7 Cairns describes what he terms “four cataclysmic equations” of our time. These, he says, are:

1. Limited or finite material resources and unlimited human demands upon them;
2. Nuclear power – not just bombs – can destroy the human race;
3. Technological industrialism creates huge industrial structures which become more and more centrally controlled and democracy disintegrates; and
4. Technological industrialism creates human problems and needs faster than it solves them or can provide for them.

“There can be no solution at all to any of these problems until the mass of the people who have no, or little power, decide to get power in some way and exercise it. There can be no solution even if they get power and exercise it unless they do it with responsibility and humane values.” Cairns says.

It may not be clear to many people but Jim Cairn’s revolution did not cease when undemocratic right-wing forces ousted Cairns and his government from power. (See my previous post on Econospeak ‘A Coup in Australia and the CIA). He warned that the changes to the economic structure would occur regardless of who was in power and probably only when people were forced to change their values and way of life by the very circumstances we create.

I note that Wikipedia has an article also called“The Quiet Revolution” that refers to “the 1960s period of intense change in Quebec, Canada, characterized by the rapid and effective secularization of society, the creation of a welfare state (État-providence) and a re-alignment of Quebec's politics into federalist and separatist factions…”

Wikipedia also has a somewhat inaccurate article on Cairns. (The Khemlani loan affair paragraph does not mention the forged documents employed by the CIA and fed to the hostile mainstream press as a scheme to get rid of Cairns).

'The Quiet Revolution' by Jim Cairns. First published 1972. Revised edition 1975. Widescope International Publishers Pty Ltd. PO Box 339 Camberwell, Victoria, Australia, 3124. National Library of Australia card number and ISBN 086932 007 6

4 comments: said...

I think that if we are going to be serious about dealing with global warming, nuclear power will have to be part of the solution, problematic as it is. Heck, there is no perfectly clean energy source, TANSTAAFL and all that is true, cliche that it is.


Myrtle Blackwood said...

Current levels of nuclear energy generation may be part of a short term solution. Any expansion of it will be part of a long term problem and/or catastrophe.

Passive solar design in buildings provides a way to access a clean source of energy. So does increased use of manpower. But I suspect, Barkley, that you are referring to the requirement for more intensive forms of energy, notably for transportation.

I see that personalised transport options for the future pose a whole range of problems, energy source being only one. Where will the infinite source of rubber, minerals, and metals and other materials come from to make the ever-increasing number of vehicles?

I'm suspicious of governments that are now opting to initiate or increase nuclear fuel generation. After all, our industrial processes and way of life are still at the stage of inbuilt obsolescence, incredible waste, and luxurious use of energy (eg for electric clothes-dryers, excessive household and commercial lighting, etc ).

Myrtle Blackwood said...

And long-suppressed technologies.

Myrtle Blackwood said...

"Mr Henry (Australian Conservation Foundation) “said if half of all households in Queensland installed a solar hot water system, the equivalent of one nuclear power station worth of energy would be saved…”

Nuclear power inevitable, says Ziggy By Catherine Best November 16, 2007 02:16am,23599,22768031-2,00.html

Another problem in the nuclear debate is the sheer proliferation of lies and innaccuracies that are published. This occurs with other dangerous technologies as well (eg pesticides). See, in this same article the statement:

"Dr Switkowski said in the history of nuclear power only two accidents had occurred - at Three Mile Island in the US in 1979 and in 1986 at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union..."

See: 'Let the Facts Speak'

Then look at the economic costs of a single large accident:
"The 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear plant cost the former Soviet Union more than three times the economical benefits accrued from the operation of every other Soviet nuclear power plant operated between 1954 and 1990.2"

2 Richard L. Hudson, "Cost of Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster Soars in New Study," Wall Street Journal, March 29, 1990.

And then observe the implications of a small nuclear accident:
"In an entry dated March 1987 in Goiana, Brazil, a flask of cesium from a cancer therapy machine was sold to a scrap merchant. People saw leaking luminescent powder and thought it was a healing ointment, and rubbed it on their bodies.
When it started causing radiation burns, they tried to wash it off thereby contaminating their homes, sewers and affecting others. News spread and the town panicked. Pregnant women and other non-involved casualties became contaminated by ambulances that had previously carried contaminated people; in the panic, no one thought to decontaminate the vehicles. While many fled, 112,000 were rounded up in the local stadium and many were screened. 249 people were located with high exposure to radiation. Five died from radiation poisoning and were buried in lead lined coffins in six foot concrete graves, to keep them isolated from the environment. The contaminated town stadium, sewerage and other facilities will remain dangerous for many lifetimes. Considering human costs, the significance of this incident is that it involved an amount of radioactive Caesium 137 powder that would fit into a matchbox.

A report published in 2000 by the Union of Concerned Scientists entitled 'Nuclear Plant Risk Studies Failing the Grade' found the following:

"The risk assessments assume nuclear plants always conform with safety requirements, yet each year more than a thousand violations
are reported.

• Plants are assumed to have no design problems even though hundreds are reported every year.

• Aging is assumed to result in no damage, despite evidence that aging materials killed four workers.

• Reactor pressure vessels are assumed to be fail-proof, even though embrittlement forced
the Yankee Rowe nuclear plant to shut down.

• The risk assessments assume that plant workers are far less likely to make mistakes than actual operating experience demonstrates.

• The risk assessments consider only the threat from damage to the reactor core despite the fact that irradiated fuel in the spent fuel
pools represents a serious health hazard.

and on and on...