Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: climate change

Nuclear Power & Vacations

This morning I got to the chapter of Apocalypse Never by Michael Shellenberger on nuclear power and have been chasing those ideas around in my head for over an hour. That’s a long time to stay in one place for my brain.

nuclear power

Growing up, the only ideas I have about nuclear are “cold war,” The Simpson’s, and seeing San Onofre on our frequent drives to San Diego. Speaking of that, I looked up San Onofre to see if it was still operational. My sons surf there often and recently sent me a picture of a pathway sign that read “Beach Access” and “Nuclear Power Plant.” They laughed, “We could use this for the opening scene to a nuclear holocaust movie!”

San Onofre isn’t operational now. They shut it down in 2013. All I know is what is written in a Wikipedia article, which is usually a good start.

“The plant was shut down in 2013 after replacement steam generators failed; it is currently in the process of decommissioning. The 2.2 GW of electricity supply lost when the plant shut down was replaced with 1.8 GW of new natural-gas fired power plants and 250 MW of energy storage projects.”

Skeptical and grumpy as I am about humans at the moment, I grumbled to myself, “Probably a great idea, but we can’t seem to get people to consistently flip burgers, put stickers on books, or reliably deliver mail to my house right now. I don’t trust us to do anything right.”

Yeah, I know, that’s a terrible attitude. I’m not saying nuclear engineers are stupid. I’m saying with the way things are, inflation, politics, and all…it’s making it very hard for anyone to do a good job at anything. And I know a few engineers that would agree with me.

I didn’t come here to grumble though. I’ve heard some great things about nuclear power over the years and I’ve been curious as to why we aren’t pursuing it as an answer to the world’s energy and environmental problems. Fear and superstition seem to be the biggest problem, along with power and money, after my extensive research. That’s sarcasm.

Maybe I should say those are the problems I’m seeing right now, knee-jerk and emotional reactions to the information I am currently being presented with. I wouldn’t make any major decisions based on it and I certainly wouldn’t join any campaign to make a law or regulation, but it has piqued my curiosity and I’m inspired to investigate it more.

I trust Michael Shellenberger’s viewpoint because he doesn’t seem so alarmist and reactionary. He seems willing to see other people’s points of view and change his stance when given new information. He doesn’t seem like a revolutionary fanatic. But all I know is this book and two interviews.

Nuclear energy was a theme of a vacation we took with the kids a few years ago. It didn’t start out that way, but most of our vacations end up with some sort of over-arching theme after a few weeks. We head out in one direction, find an RV park, and then look for places to explore and experience. The time we headed toward Tucson, Arizona to visit family and then on New Mexico, with the hope of getting to San Antonio, Texas (which we never did), was the vacation we named the “Nuclear Tour.”

We visited the Titan Missile Museum, The White Sands Missile Range Museum, along with the White Sands National Park. We saw the Carlsbad Caverns and Roswell, New Mexico. And then ended the tour with a visit to The Nuclear Museum in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Oh, wait! AND we visited the Ice Caves on the way back to California. That has nothing to do with nuclear power, but I loved it and more people should see it.

Years later, my youngest son read about The National Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas, which we loaded up and headed out to see immediately, along with touring the Hoover Dam. He’s always been fascinated with energy and engineering.

Along with those places, this book, and the Environmental Progress website, that is the extent of my research. It seems to me that if we really want to help the environment on a grand scale, nuclear is the way to go. It’s not 100% safe, nothing is, but it also doesn’t look to be as crazy dangerous as we are led to believe.

Buddhism, Economics, Racism and More: Podcast Roundup #4

So…many…podcasts…like an avalanche of talk radio falling into my brain. From Buddhism to economics, the environment to racism and more, this playlist covered a large swath of topics, mostly because I was on the road so long. One of the things that most makes me want to take on a long drive is the chance to hear a long, uninterrupted chain of my favorite podcasts. The drive to my mom’s house is 8 ½ hours long, perfect with a bonus: time with my mom!

I can hear you now, “Michelle! Dude! Take a plane!”

No. End of line.

Here’s the strange thing: when I’m listening to music, I fall asleep, but when I’m listening to talk, I’m fine. The only downside is that when driving alone I have no one to pause the show and discuss my outrage or agreement with. I mean, I will yell out, “Are you kidding?!” to myself in the car. And you may often see me laugh hysterically or jot down something that I want to bring up here later, but it’s just not the same alone. I do have SOME in person social needs.

The drive there and back totaled about 16 hours of listening. I don’t stop much but for gas and bathroom breaks. I nibble snacks all the way there because it helps me focus. And it is too hot this time of year to stop and stretch my legs.

There were so many good ones this time, that I think I’ll do the one idea from each thing like I did last time. But I’ll add books and other podcasts I gleaned from each episode as well.

On with the list! Enjoy!

Secular Buddhism Episode 10: True Selflessness

Love can be multiplied. Resources, not so much.

EconTalk – Claudia Hauer on War, Education, and Strategic Humanism

In a democracy or a republic, the government is doing things in my name. That’s why I must make my dissent known.

Book: Strategic Humanism: Lessons on Leadership from the Ancient Greeks by Claudia Hauer

Also added Homer’s Illiad and The Odyssey (Fagles translation) to my re-read list

Freakanomics Radio – 470: The Pros and Cons of America’s (Extreme) Individualism

My Thought: Will the slowdown of individuals caused by the shutdown persist and change our economy in the long run? We all spent a year not going on vacations, not buying new things, and not going out to dinner. We experienced working and schooling from home and some of us enjoyed it. Will be keep these new habits or go back to our old ways as soon as possible.

Akimbo – Seth Godin – Fueling the Engines of Division

There are natural constraints in this world. We can’t have it all.

Rationally Speaking – What’s Wrong With Tech Companies Banning People? (Julian Sanchez)

Free speech is a lot like heroin. It should be legal, yes, but we don’t have to promote its use with commercials and incentives. Learn how to use it wisely and safely.

Podcast: Cato Institute

People I (Mostly) Admire – Sendhil Mullainathan Thinks Messing Around is the Best Use of Your Time

Life is long and it’s not a race. Never stop playing with ideas to learn. And my favorite: life doesn’t give you score, you don’t know how well you’re doing by a rubric, or why you’re doing badly.

Book: Evolutionary Game Theory, Natural Selection, and Darwinian Dynamics by Thomas L. Vincent. This book looks a tad pricey for just exploring the concepts. I’ll be looking for some video about it or maybe a couple good articles.

The Jordan B Peterson Podcast – S4E27 – The Education of a Journalist – Rex Murphy

Admittedly, I skipped this one after about twenty minutes. I was getting sleepy and needed something more upbeat. But I did get this gem before I left: reading the greats raises your standards. I agree.

Conversations with Coleman – S2 Ep. 18 – The Myth of Climate Apocalypse with Michael Shellenberger

Tech fixes are less popular than moral fixes. Why is it that we are far more excited about pointing fingers and making other people live “right,” than just using technology so that we can all live the way we want to?

Book: Apocalypse Never – Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All by Michael Shellenberger

Philosophy Bites – Steven Nadler on Spinoza on Free Speech

A person is freer in a society than alone. Sounds crazy but it’s true. The story of a Desert Island Economy explains. And “homo” in Latin never meant “male.” These are the things I find interesting.

Other notes from the drive up: I saw a hay bale tractor picking up bales from a field and stack them. I wish I could have stopped and watched it go. The trees change dramatically along 395 north of Mammoth.

A thought about social media: I keep showing up for a formal dinner party and finding a drunken costume party. I’m not interested in that kind of party, so I leave. And everyone’s response is, “But it’s so fun! You should be here!”

On to the second half…the road home!

Secular Buddhism – 11 Parable of the Raft

I won’t paraphrase the parable. Go read it. You’ll love it. But something else I loved from this episode, “It may not be wrong, but it may be unwise.”

EconTalk – Michael Easter on the Comfort Crisis

Socializing is a little dangerous and that’s a good thing. Always have a notebook.

Book: The Comfort Crisis: Embrace Discomfort To Reclaim Your Wild, Happy, Healthy Self by Michael Easter

Conversations with Coleman – S2 Ep. 10 – Rethinking Identity with Desi-Rae

I don’t “identify” as anything. I may be female, but that’s descriptive, not an identity. Where you’re from is not an accomplishment. There are no absolute claims about the nature of reality.

Podcast: Just Thinking Outloud

The Minimalists Podcast – 297 Minimalism Rules

The words we use make us cling to ideas associated with those words. Be conscious of word use. I want a community of open minded people, not like minded people.

Conversations with Coleman – S2 Ep. 17 – Straight Talk on Racism with Wilfred Reilly

Negative noise in the media vs the reality of the world around us. The reality is complicated, not a 30-second spot or catchy headline.

Book: Taboo – Ten Facts You Can’t Talk About by Wilfred Reilly

Rationally Speaking – Deaths of Despair / Effective Altruism with Angus Deaton

Deaths of Despair = suicides and accidental overdose. I didn’t get much from this conversation. I swear they were using the same words but with different meanings. They never came to an understanding of each other.

Secular Buddhism – 13 The Path of Liberation

A thought is harmless unless you believe it.

Wow. That’s a lot of listening. I was messing around with my Castbox app and found my “stats” page. It says that on the road home, I listened for 412 minutes. It won’t let me go back in time though, only shows the current week. That’s annoying. But it does say something crazy at the top. Since I’ve had the app, I’ve listened to 311 hours and 24 minutes. That’s a lot of drive time, my friends.

Why do I do these podcast posts? In the hopes that maybe you’ll find one you want to listen to. I might gain a fellow listener! And (have to be real, right?) to remind myself what I heard.

Check out Travel Anxiety Ended: Podcast Roundup #3 for more links.

Optimism is What Will Save Us: A Book Review

Optimism in The Rational Optimist

“The Rational Optimist – How Prosperity Evolves” by Matt Ridley is a book that will change you and then you’ll start to change your world, and as a result change the whole world. Positivity and optimism will become a movement! I’ll start with a quote from the last chapter of this book.

“In this book I have tried to build on both Adam Smith and Charles Darwin: to interpret society as the product of a long history of what the philosopher Dan Dennett calls ‘bubble-up’ evolution through natural selection among cultural rather than genetic variations, and as an emergent order generated by an invisible hand of individual transactions, not the product of top-down determinism.”

“Futurology always ends up telling you more about your own time than about the future.”

The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley

This book is so full of legitimate reasons to be optimistic about the future that it’s hard to quote from, hard to pull out one piece and attempt to get you excited about reading it. But I want you to read it. It’s still (10 years after publication) what we need to hear as we continue to pull each other down across the internet.

Politicians, activists, scientists, and media producers have always been telling us that the world is getting worse. If they told you that everything was great, we are right on track, and not to worry, it would seem that we need fewer laws, lower taxes, and fewer politicians. And they aren’t doing it intentionally or because they are evil. They do it because optimism doesn’t sell, pessimism is what keeps them employed. It’s the same reason the new soap company tells you that your old soap is causing you problems and theirs is going to solve all those problems you didn’t know you had.

The book does not deny that things can be improved. It’s rational optimism, not putting on rose colored glasses. It doesn’t deny climate change or science. It doesn’t claim that the world is so damn rosy that we can just sit back and enjoy the ride. His claim is that things are getting better and will continue to do so IF we can keep communicating ideas between each other and have the freedom to work together in amazing ways.

This morning I read in the August issue of Reason magazine, “When things are worse, or perceived as worse, people grow less tolerant, less empathetic, less open to compromise, and they offer each other less leeway. A sense of scarcity or impending scarcity fosters a zero-sum mindset.”

The more we believe what they say instead of evaluating our own experience (through their lens not our own), the angrier and more distrustful we are of the people around us, which creates the negative experiences we read about and then gets amplified on social media because we just have to warn the others. It’s a spiral downward.

I loved this book because he doesn’t claim to have the answers. He doesn’t even claim that everything will work out for the best in the end. What he does say is that we should be aware that this world is changing so rapidly, no one can clearly predict what will happen and what we should do about it now. In the past, freedom and less control are what seem to get us where we want to be with the fewest casualties, maybe we should try staying on that track.

And there are rational reasons for optimism, despite what the news and the politicians are saying. I can see that in my own life, without ever opening my computer or watching the news. My life is much easier and richer than my parents’ was, and my children are already better off than I was at their age. Watching them find jobs and housing this past year was FAR easier than when I was doing it. Your field of search is unlimited. You can search, interview, and apply for an apartment, all online from a thousand miles away.

Don’t know how to do something? Google it and you’ll find a step-by-step video from a hundred different people or a free online class. Want to visit a place? Whip out your phone, read reviews, make reservation, all while you’re driving following directions that tell you where the traffic is lighter. Want to skip the crowds? Order online, have things delivered, or look at an app that tells you how crowded a restaurant or park is in real time.

And there’s not just optimism in our personal lives. The whole world is getting better, and he shares all the statistics to prove it. We feed more people, live in cleaner environments, and live healthier, longer lives. And richer we get, the more we have to share and help others get where we are.

It all starts with the freedom to trade, the building of technology, and trust. The more we see the positives, the happier we all are, and the more we start to trust and help each other.

So…yeah, this was a great book. I’m glad I read it again. Have you read The Rational Optimist? You should! If each of us started to have a slightly better outlook about the future of humanity, just think how much good we could do!

Want to read my original thoughts about this book? Go back to my first post, The Rational Optimist: New Read.

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