Thursday, March 31, 2011

Nuclear Mayhem

In Japan, things will never be the same again. Just like after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  It is sad that we – as a human race – have not learned our lesson after those two terrible atrocities. Between them these two atom-bombings exterminated over 300,000 innocent civilians! It seems ironic that the nation subjected to those nuclear attacks some sixty five years ago went on to embrace the same technology and now pays a potentially awful price in lethal, long-lasting radio-activity in the atmosphere, land, oceans, and bodies of living things.

Those staggering images of the time the combination earthquake/monster tsunami hit the east coast of Honshu will haunt the Japanese for a very long time; in minutes, lives, livelihoods, houses, cars, whole towns were turned upside down and large ships were deposited on land far from their ocean moorings. In a few moments of time, we were all reminded of the tremendous unstoppable force of Nature; almost without warning, a catastrophic chain of events was unleashed that we ignore or brush off at our peril. The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant was a sitting duck for the wave of destruction.

It is human ingenuity through reductionist science that released the genie from the bottle, but Albert Einstein warned in 1946: The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.

In a stunning new video, renowned physicist Dr. Michio Kaku lays it all out on a news interview without mincing words. He said, to the great shock of many:

"If it goes to a full-scale evacuation of all personnel, it means that firefighters are no longer putting water onto the cores. That's the only thing preventing a full-scale meltdown at three reactor sites. Once they evacuate, then we past the point of no return. Meltdowns are inevitable at three reactor sites, leading to a tragedy far beyond that of Chernobyl, creating permanent dead zones in Japan."

This truly shocking interview is at:

The Three Mile Island nuclear accident was brushed off as being due to “human error”; the far more serious Chernobyl nuclear accident (which has killed almost a million people over time) was brushed off as due to “faulty design” and “careless maintenance”. What will we put the Fukushima nuclear accident down to? It will be blamed on an unprecedented natural calamity and antiquated design. I put it down to hubris and the human error in building it in the first place at a location prone to wild and unpredictable seismic activity. The nuclear industry is blinded by the almighty dollar at the best of times, and now is in denial about the perils of the power they espouse. They don’t know what they’re doing!

Even without a meltdown, Fukushima is going to take decades to shut down, and then, spent plutonium and uranium will not be gone, just covered over, transported away, out of sight, out of mind.

For the sake of all of humanity, shut all these plants down, worldwide! Make the necessary leap on over to ever-improving technologies that are truly clean, safe, and renewable, with Nature as their source. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Island of Naxos

The road to Lionas, Naxos

After spending an acclimatizing week on a verdant Paros, nothing prepared us for the bold drama of neighbouring island of Naxos. From the moment the ship rounds the northern tip of Paros at Naoussa and the jagged peaks around Naxos town loom on the horizon, we were held in her thrall. The island throws up a mixed bag of weather in this pre-Spring off-season. The Aegean sun casts luminosity onto the brilliant whitewashed, electric-blue painted houses, verdant landscape, and omnipresent white marble. Cool northerly gusts whip up the dark blue sea, then grey scudding clouds swoop down over the high peaks, and torrential showers pass over and by. It is a delight to slip into the slow pace as we ramble and toodle along narrow winding streets, rustic roads, country paths and lonely beaches bereft of summer hordes. 

In a rented Fiat Panda, we set out to visit Koronos in the mountains and Lionas, a pretty cove 800 metres and 9 kilometres below. The drive that passes through the high-perched towns of Chalki, Filoti, and Apiranthos takes us along asphalted, seriously twisting roads with breathtaking vistas, often down around two thousand feet to the glistening blue ocean way below. The mountain sides are strewn with rocks and boulders, criss-crossed by stone walls demarcating property, even high on precipices.

In Koronos, hostess Matine cooked delectable dishes from her own greens, potatoes, cheese, and village lamb and pork. Her taverna is abuzz with loud conversation and oratory, thick with smoke. She put us up in the simple suite of a renovated house in the village. Down on the beach in Lionas, Gundi was entranced by the most interesting beach for rock-picking she has ever combed. The earthy and white tones of the weathered pebbles are varied and marbled; they gleam in their wet coat of seawater. I wander off to just perch and ponder in the marble amphitheatre above the vibrant green sea. What a joy to be here, at the wild remote edge of a Greek island, where a sturdy historied land meets a swirling fabled sea. At night, the glow of the village illuminates the massive rock-face of the south of the cove as darkness envelopes the sea, and the whooshing of the waters, the whistling of the wind above continue unabated.     

One lively evening in Lionas, at the Delfinaki taverna of Manolis and Vasso Koufopoulos, English-speaking Lionas resident Apostoulos taught us of the concepts of filoxenia and aftarkis. He says these are both especially well-honed on Naxos. Manolis’ fine fresh rosé wine was free-flowing and Apostoulos acted as interpreter not only of language, but also of cultural refinements. He explained that filoxenia is what Naxians, and Greeks, welcome visitors with. Once they warm to you, their hearts and souls open up to wrap you in a blanket of stoic insight. Filoxenia, that literally means "love of strangers", is a generosity of spirit, a joyful kind of the-best-of-what's-mine-is-yours attitude in which Greeks take great pride as a defining attribute. Manolis spent over thirty years mining emery from within the local mountains; now he is a proud farmer and food producer. He beams as he brings us olives from the family trees, rosé wine made from the family grapes, honey produced by the family bees, eggs from the family chickens, meat and cheese from his brother’s goats and sheep. And filoxenia is a main reason that he loves to provide this bounty and Vasso loves to cook it.

Aftarkis is an ancient word that literally means ‘sufficient in oneself.’ It is used to describe a person who, through discipline, has become independent of all external circumstances, and who has discovered within him- or her-self resources that meet the demands of any situation that may arise. Naxians display aftarkis probably because of the challenges of surviving and sustaining livelihood, community and culture on a mountainous island.

Naxos is blessed as the most fertile island of the Cyclades. It has a good supply of water in a region where water is usually inadequate. Mount Zas at 999 metres is the highest peak in the Cyclades, and tends to trap the clouds, generating greater rainfall. This has made agriculture an important economic sector with various vegetable and fruit crops as well as cattle breeding, sheep- and goat-rearing, making Naxos the most self sufficient of the island group. Grapes, oranges, lemons, limes, figs, olives find ideal conditions, generating not only fruit, but precious wine and olive oil. Tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, cucumbers all grow robustly here. Growing wild on the hillsides island-wide are sage, rosemary, thyme, oregano, giant fennel. Yellow-flowering clover carpets the soil between the olive and citrus trees. Beekeepers make a delectable thyme honey, especially renowned in Gundi’s favourite little mountain village of Keramoti, so picturesquely located in its high verdant valley. Farmers make milk, cheese, butter, yogurt, and succulent chicken, pork, lamb, beef. Fishermen bring in an array of fish large and small, squid, octopus, and shrimp, (though catches are much smaller than they used to be). This all makes for a local food culture which is vibrant, hearty, and sustained by each succeeding generation of wonderful cooks. Portions are generally large and overly-generous. Naxians love their food and wine, and they love to share it. Filoxenia is alive and well on Naxos.

Back home, I miss the intoxication of it all already…