The World Health Organization (WHO), based in Switzerland, has a project Mental Health Innovation Network that is publishing brief online blog entries to promote “dignity” of mental health system users and psychiatric survivors.
Below is the blog by me that MHIN distributed, in which I looked back on four decades in The Mad Movement:
Psychiatric Survivor Story: 40 Years Witnessing Mental Health User Dignity
To mark this year’s WMHD, the Mental Health Innovation Network is running a month long series (#WMHD2015 Blog Series) highlighting dignity in four areas of global mental health where dignity is most often compromised and/or redeemed. This week’s subtheme is “Service User Advocacy”.
Share this blog on social media using the hashtag #WMHD2015 and our Twitter handle (@mhinnovation), and join the conversation by commenting below.
David Oaks is a service user advocate with over 40 years of experience in the field of mental health human rights. He is also the former Director of MindFreedom International. Contact him through Twitter or visit his website: http://www.davidwoaks.com
Last month I turned 60-years-old. Thankfully about 16 good friends, including my loving amazing wife Debra, made this transition fun. We gathered around a big table in a Sushi bar, drank Sake and ate chocolate cake.
This little party was very different from when I was 20, forty years ago, back in college. That is the year that I began to experience difficulties in my life that led to five stays in psychiatric institutions. About a dozen psychiatrists would diagnose me as psychotic, schizophrenic, clinically depressed, and bipolar (then called manic depression). More than once I would find myself in a solitary confinement room with just a bare mattress on the floor for a few days. More than once, about five staff would hold me down and forcibly inject me with a powerful psychiatric drug.
In my senior year, a college volunteer agency placed me as an intern for a mental health service user advocacy group. I wrote about this work for school, and this internship became my career for the next four decades. I have had the unique honor of watching thousands of other psychiatric survivors go through extreme and overwhelming states of mind, supporting one another as loving and equal peers, and thriving through the power of their human spirits.
Because of what many of us call “The Mad Movement” I have met with mental health consumer/user leaders in nine countries, poor and rich, who with allies in the mental health and legal communities, have reached out over and over again to anyone who would listen. While the details and exact perspectives of these service users are very diverse, I have heard some of these themes during my 40-year story:
1. Never giving up on reaching out for dialogue with mental health professionals.
In my own country, the USA, as well as many other countries, and internationally, I have seen psychiatric survivors and mental health consumers/users pull together and ask to have reasonable discussions with organizations representing psychiatrists and psychologists. Despite extreme human rights violations, including atrocities such as forced electroshock, unfair lock-ups for years, four-point and five-point restraints for days, etc., survivors have shown incredible self-discipline and resilience by successfully reaching out for dialogue with professionals.
Unfortunately, with some heartening exceptions, I have seen this outreach by consumers/users flatly ignored by national and global mental health professional organizations. Of course, only a percentage of mental health professionals engage in human rights violations. However, every single mental health professional has personal responsibility to make sure that groups representing them address human rights issues. I have had the pleasure of making friends with dozens of psychiatrists and psychologists who are concerned about our empowerment. But groups representing mental health professionals have been almost universally silent, from regional leaders to the top leaders.
2. Questioning the language that is used about us.
After attending hundreds of meetings of people who have personally experienced mental health care, it seems that many of our gatherings begin with a discussion about language. Some people might get a little frustrated because there does not seem to be any perfect words to describe us. However, this is not about “political correctness.” Instead, imperfect though this effort to redefine ourselves may be, our people are seeking their own empowerment and a first step is to address word issues.
People might accept or reject psychiatric diagnoses about themselves. People might accept or reject words the public assigns us. But we can have influence over the words we use for ourselves.
Are we psychiatric survivors? Mental health consumers? Service users? That is up to us to decide. In the meantime, how about we stop calling each other things like “normal” or “mentally ill.” Describing each other with unscientific, vague, disparaging labels can hurt our mental wellbeing.
3. We are the 100%!
One of the most effective ways to rob a group of their dignity is to segregate them and treat them unequally. As other advocates have shown, it is wonderful to celebrate differences between people in terms of color, culture, gender, background, etc. However, when differences are exaggerated irrationally and become walls, oppression can win.
The most difficult and the most valuable insight I have gotten from my four decades in The Mad Movement is that every human being, from womb to tomb, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, always wrestles with overwhelming, life-threatening mental and emotional challenges. Yes, we are all different. However, as the climate crisis is showing us all more each day, to be human is to deal with recovery from the mysterious, unknown difficulties of our minds.
Image courtesy of Valentina Iemmi
Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.
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Beautiful! So well said.
Beautifully stated and very inspiring, but after reading this, I found myself wanting more!
When is the next blog? I can’t wait!
Thanks, as always for your leadership and optimism
Can I share this blog entry by sending my friends a different link, one that leads directly to the World Health Organization that published it? That would impress even my most cynical friends….
I’m so thrilled that the WHO recognized Mr. Oaks’ work. He really deserves the credit. Way to go, David!
I really can’t agree about dialogue with these people, and that users are ignored. I believe they listen very carefully, and use the information to ensure that their ‘treatments’ and ‘negative outcomes’ are made palatable to the public.
Imagine the air filtration systems that would have been developed if there had been complaints about the ash from Auschwitz. Though the ‘labour’ would have felt they were being ignored.
Can’t say I disagree. Why we should reach out to “dialogue” with our abusers eludes me. Not to say that there aren’t people within the system who can work with us to defeat it. Other than that I think there is too much “dialogue” with the wrong people.
Are we psychiatric survivors? Mental health consumers? Service users? That is up to us to decide. In the meantime, how about we stop calling each other things like “normal” or “mentally ill.”
Sounds like a good start. Plus, I have a great new term that would work — how about “people”?
I have to call out David again on a few things in this article, especially this:
“every human being, from womb to tomb, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, always wrestles with overwhelming, life-threatening mental and emotional challenges.”
Even if this is intended as a polemic statement, it’s pretty far-fetched. Many people function and feel pretty well a lot of the time. Yes, everyone has serious life challenges – life can be and often is hard. But a lot of research, for example Ed Diener’s books on well-being, shows that many people nevertheless feel fulfilled and ok in the face of these challenges a lot of the time.
For example: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10902-005-5683-8#page-1
This research on wellbeing came as a surprise to many people in mental health, those who only focus on and interact with people in crisis. It seems like David Oaks is suffering from a psychiatric survivors’ version of the “clinician’s illusion” – i.e. the mistaken notion that things for others are worse than they are because your own experience has been so difficult.
Regarding reaching out for dialogue with mental health professionals, I do not share David’s viewpoint about continuing to attempt this. Instead I agree with Boans and Oldhead’s comments to the effect that appeasing and negotiating with those who propogate the fake diagnoses and toxic neuroleptics is of very limited value.
I think more focus needs to be on psychiatric survivors’ voices; on how peers can support each other, on how the experience of those who suffer can be put front and center. Talking to so-called “professionals” – people who are really just fellow human beings, often ones holding quite delusional views about psychiatric diagnoses and medications – in my opinion doesn’t hold much promise for progress. Rather, taking power and authority into our own hands by making our voices heard and helping each other outside of conventional power structures is the better approach. As Robert Whitaker said recently, we need to strip psychiatric authorities of their power over this area of our lives.
I agree with David about the importance of always attempting to dialogue with mental health professionals. If one has a loved one who is unfairly locked away for years in an institution, it is CRITICAL to maintain an ongoing dialogue with professionals. It is critical to maintain a light on the situation and remind the treatment providers at every turn that the person they are treating matters and is loved and that the treatment decisions they make have a huge impact on their patients. At every opportunity, I present data that professionals are not used to seeing in order to get them to question their clinical practices. I do it for the sake of my loved one. Abolishing psychiatry is not a wise position to take publicly, if one has a loved one trapped in the system. Otherwise, I can get thrown out and barred from visiting my daughter. As parents, we have no power, no legal recourse as it concerns our civilly committed daughter, and every day, we are at risk of reprisal if we say or do the wrong thing in the presence of her treatment professionals. To suggest that dialogue with professionals is unimportant may apply to people who are safely emancipated from the mental health system who have the luxury of viewing the mental health system from an ivory tower and but for the rest of us with loved ones are at risk of ongoing psychiatric harm TODAY, dialogue is VITAL.
I remember your daughter’s story and wish her and you well, hoping that she will be able to become free from the system in time.
I agree and understand that if someone’s family member has been stolen by psychiatry, then maintaining a dialogue becomes vitally important.
However, the majority of people in contact with the mental health system today are not actively institutionalized, contrary to practices several decades ago (before the hospitals were cleared out). So my position is that for people who are in contact with psychiatrists but not actually locked up, and/or for people who are still dealing with the effects of past hospitalizations/diagnoses/drugging, then moving away from contact with psychiatry is the better, perhaps idealized, option. That is where I hope more peer to peer support and speaking out of survivors’ own experience can make a difference.
Even if you are right about the ‘small’ number of people who are institutionalized like my daughter, dialogue for non institutionalized individuals is still critical for people like my daughter. The lack of it makes it more likely that my daughter will continue to get unfairly locked up and traumatized by her ongoing ‘treatment.’
Many psychiatric survivors who enjoy full and meaningful lives and become emancipated from the mental health system, choose to stay in the closet about their psychiatric history. They rarely return to the treatment provider(s) who did more harm than good to say: “See, I am living the good life you thought I could never achieve and I achieved this despite the harmful diagnosis and ‘treatment’ you forced on me (or coerced or shamed me to accept).
As a result, the only individuals who are seen by treatment providers are people in crisis, people they treated who relapse and cycle in and out of the system. They develop a skewed perception of the possibility of recovery and the impact of their harmful treatments because they don’t have the living proof except a small number of peer workers they may be fortunate enough to have on staff as their ‘colleagues’ (assuming that the peer workers are not afraid to say what they really think to the highest ranking staff members that they work with).
Thus it less likely that the treatment providers will listen to outlying parents like me who are branded as hysterical or ‘in total denial’ about my daughter’s diagnosis and treatment. We are pathologized with the same broad brush strokes as our loved one who is trapped in the system.
Because the very people who are living proof that love, friendship, hope, good nutrition, stable housing, personal empowerment etc, (as opposed to label and lock up) is what constitutes mental and emotional wellness.
Perhaps we could have truth and reconciliation committees and convince mainstream treatment providers to participate in order to hear survivors tell their stories. It will not be easy to get mainstream treatment providers to participate. But we should follow David Oak’s example by trying and never giving up.
These human rights violations routinely occur in the shadows of institutions when there is no light exposing them to the public and no oversight. We, the public are the oversight. What I appreciate about David Oaks is that in forty years he never once gave up trying to keep this dialogue going forward and it is bearing fruit even if it the revolution in mental health isn’t happening as quickly as I would wish.
Alright, that is a good point about mental health “professionals” needing to hear from people who left the system and got better. Such contact could modify the clinicians’ illusion (the belief that most people do badly because of the overfocus on the cases with the least resources or worst outcomes). On the other hand, I don’t see any evidence of this changing mindset from psychiatrists or other so-called professionals. So that’s where my pessimism comes from, that after so many decades of trying to reform the system, it still is what it is today.
It is depressing that 40 years of attempted engagement by David Oaks and others has not changed the state of American mental health today, in which more people than ever are drugged and diagnosed. My point is that engagement with the minions of Big Pharma – psychiatrists and allied mental health workers – is not really working to effect significant change, at least not in my opinion. It’s not doing harm, but it’s also not leading to any radical change. Most people within the mental health system are simply unable to see people as individuals with unique problems relating to their life history, rather than as drones with brain diseases needing to be drugged. No amount of engagement has (yet) seemed to make any impact on this trend.
The question is what to do about it and is it worth continuing to engage with psychiatrists and the sheep mental health workers that work for them. Probably it’s worth continuing for the reasons you mentioned, although many of the efforts might be little more than feel good. But IMO still better to create organizations, resources, and voices outside of the traditional mental health system. Mindfreedom, which I think David is part of, is one of those, so give him credit for that.
I agree that creating alternatives is very valuable.
I also think that dialogue is not the only tool for challanging the mental ill health system.
Peter Beresford in the UK gave a talk in which he said that users have been invovled in user consultations with psychiatry and other services for people with disabilities for decades now and little changes. On the other hand direct action has produced quite a lot of change.
Alterntives and ward invasions Community run clinics and hammers to ECT machines.
All power to the Survivors
Destroy the capitalist running dog psychiatry
(I’m trying to make Soviet Revolutionary anti-psychiatry slogans for the internet age here, I hope I’m appreciated)
“…every human being, from womb to tomb, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, always wrestles with overwhelming, life-threatening mental and emotional challenges.”
I think your work is beyond amazing, Mr. Oaks, and I admire you greatly. But that statement above is not my world. I believe we have many passages in life where we wrestle with tough issues, but I also believe many people get multiple and long-term reprieves from this. Otherwise, we suffer chronically.
I think life teaches us to view experience from different perspectives as we go along, and this can change our relationship to the harder issues in life, to where they are more emotionally manageable when they come along. I’d like to think there is a learning curve here, so we are not doomed to a life of 24/7 “inner wrestling.” I’d like to believe that inner peace is possible, and a potential reality for anyone that desires to achieve it.
It is disappointing to see partisan politics (climate change) dragged into an otherwise great piece.
I agree. This last part is just out there:
“However, as the climate crisis is showing us all more each day, to be human is to deal with recovery from the mysterious, unknown difficulties of our minds.”
The majority of uneducated people, even in advanced nations, hardly think about climate change on a daily basis. Many in Africa and Asia have never even heard of it.
Also, the future impact of climate change is not settled. It may or may not be an absolute disaster in different places and to different degrees. A serious viewpoint asserts that the challenges of climate change may be difficult but manageable. For example, that was the position of this book (by two European scientists) that I just read:
David needs to dispense with these “all” statements and stop projecting his own experience onto everyone else. That is the only problem with these otherwise well-intended articles.
Where does David mention climate change in the above post? I don’t see it anywhere on this post in particular.
What’s more, I think you’re dead wrong on the subject. Climate change affects us all. You think you’ve seen a lot of (cough, cough) seasonal affective disorder (SAD), you just wait. You’re going to see people affected by man-made “natural” disasters like it was going out of style. Mexico just missed a major hit by a mega-hurricane. Texas was hit by flooding and tornadoes. The list goes on and on. El Nino is affected by climate change. You may be saying it’s all just some kind of government conspiracy. Keep saying that. When some of these man-made “natural” disasters strike, people call for “mental health” professionals to help victims deal with the “trauma”. Who says climate change isn’t real? I certainly don’t think we’ve got a government sponsored hoax here. Your nothing, it would seem, is causing a great deal of harm to a great number of people, not to mention property. Climate change is a great deal more disturbing than Pattie’s PTSD, or Johnny’s ADHD, or Jane’s Bipolar. Ignore it at your own, and everybody else’s, peril.
Okay, to correct my former somewhat rash comment, so he ends his piece with a mention of the “climate crisis” as if in passing. He doesn’t, in other words, deny climate change, something that is much more real than, say, any cryto-germ by the name of “mental illness”. There is a great deal of more evidence, I would imagine, for global warming than there is to support the idea of “mental illness”. I guess that gives us a yin/yang sort of situation. Which is the real fiction, and which is the real non-fiction? Is it global warming or is it mind sickness? If the mass of people on the planet are deluded, perhaps it’s really climate change they are deluded about. Either way, they’re bonkers.
Dude, of course climate change is real. Of course it’s probably going to do a lot of damage. I’m not one of the deniers. But neither do I think that climate change will necessarily destroy our civilization. Humans are very good at adapting to difficult circumstances. It’s easy to focus on the worst case scenarios, but there are other possible outcomes.
Besides, the floods and storms you mention aren’t the worst case outcomes. The big ones are major sea level rise, climate change resulting in inability to grow crops in large parts of the world, and the runaway greenhouse. But by limiting emissions and/or using geoengineering, there’s a decent chance they won’t happen, or a decent chance that they won’t be as bad as feared. It’s not all or nothing.
Anyway, this site is not about climate change!
Again, I respectfully agree to disagree. They always send the mental health professionals in after so-called natural disasters. Now you’re going to have a lot of natural disasters given global warming. 1 + 1 is 2, not 0 or 3. That’s a relationship, and that’s a lot of counseling. I think doing something about the climate is much more important than humoring whomever it is wants to fancy he or she has some kind of sickness of the mind. I would also think it facilitates good health in a way that self-indulgence seldom does. If reversing climate change be “recovery”, I say let’s see more of it. Unfortunately, we’ve got a long way to go before any efforts really register. More needs to be done, in other words, and doing more would probably help anybody forget for awhile his or her more personal problems. Spare me the psycho-babble, and let’s do something about the planet instead. All sorts of lit says nature is good for the “mental health”. Yeah, whatever. I say let’s clean up the environment, and with it a few messes of flesh and blood as well. A toxic atmosphere, just like a bottle of pills, can do that to you.
Reversing climate change is not going to happen anytime soon. Not when the overwhelming majority of the components of industrial civilization, i.e. crop production, transportation, electricity generation are based on burning fossil fuels that cannot be cheaply, easily, or quickly replaced by alternatives.
Doing something about the climate in a truly meaningful sense – i.e. consuming far less fossil fuel energy and living a much simpler lifestyle – is simply unacceptable to not only most politicians but most people in advanced nations. No one wants to reduce their living standards significantly.. Therefore we’re likely to be needing a lot of psychotherapy.
Wow! A message of such urgency! I read you loud and clear. You’re not saying that people don’t get it, you’re saying that they’re living too comfortably to do anything about it. You’re saying that present gluttony overrides needful sacrifice and the delayed gratification involved in looking toward the long haul. Perhaps, but I’d like to think there are a few good, as in ethical, moral, people left in this world we would otherwise be bequeathing to our successors.
Well, bpdtransformation, we agree about the problem and the difficulties involved in reversing the harm caused however ‘can’t’ is not in my vocabulary. So typical, isn’t it? We could do the right thing, and reverse the harm, or undergo a lot of psychotherapy trying to figure out why we didn’t do the right thing, and learning the hard lesson that we should have done so anyway. If psychotherapy is for fools, some of us already had that one figured out.
How about never giving up on getting mental health professionals to leave us alone, and getting them to stop messing with us (i.e. assaulting, imprisoning, torturing, poisoning, etc., not to mention killing, us). I seriously believe in a person’s right to refuse harmful mistreatment. As for dialoguing, okay, we go from what used to be confrontational politics to trying to create a dialogue with our oppressors, and that is supposed to be an improvement? You think? I don’t think so. The offender, it would seem, is still offending. I don’t want dialogue so much as I want an end to unwanted and forced “mental health” maltreatment.
Language has always been problematic. I want the right to refuse unwanted psychiatry however if I am imprisoned and abused by psychiatry then to add insult to injury I am supposed to pay for the injury psychiatry has caused me. In mental health speak this is paying for services, when those services are unrequested and unwanted services this is merely one more form of robbery on top of another and, believe me, there are many forms of robbery in mental health services. I don’t really believe in consuming mental health services. I believe in boycotting mental health services. If more people would boycott mental health services the numbers of people labeled “mentally ill” would go down dramatically. What do they call that? Oh, yeah. “Mental health”. More people would be more “mentally healthy” all the way round.
Language is very important. Language is one of those tools the oppressor uses to dupe the gullible. Speaking of the differences between C, S, and X, I remember when we were a mental patients’ liberation movement. Now it seems we’ve degenerated into a mental patients’ movement. I don’t need that kind of bondage, and I reject it. I’d be thoroughly happy to be liberated from bondage to the mental patient role. Hey, wait a minute! I have been liberated from the mental patient role. Well, there you go.
Yes, we are the 100%. Politicians and soldiers, being a danger to self and others, businesspeople, too, have to be some of the insanest people on earth. All sorts of people calling themselves “normal” are seriously working overtime to destroy the planet. Yes, statistics put our numbers at 20% conservatively, and more than 25% by more liberal estimation. (95% if some Freudian revisionists are to be believed.) The only thing that means is that 20-25% of the crazy population has been caught. Just because they haven’t been caught doesn’t make them somehow special, even if they’re celebrated, and we all know celebrities go wacko, too, and some celebrities even get caught. Mad people have to be some of the most innocuous people on earth. Given that fact, why are they trying to attribute violence to the mad? Of course, because nobody has checked them on their danger to self and others. (They have no problem endangering the mad.) The us and them dichotomy is mad. They are us, and we are them. The statistics are more arbitrary. If you are conducting a witch-hunt, you’re likely to find witches. Ditto, if you are conducting a mad person hunt. Despite the fact that homo sapiens is supposed to be some kind of reasoning animal, it’s not reason that I see prevailing so much.
David thanks of your piece. I think it is pivotal that we have more and more conversations between different groups, including with people with whom we very much disagree. I think of Bob Whitaker speaking at NAMI or Will Hall speaking to the APA. These are pivotal moments where we are witnessing a sea change. Whether you want to call it reform or attrition, dialogues like these are the first steps in changing the entire system as we know it. Perhaps some would like to have abolition in one fell swoop but even many abolitionists support an attrition model.
Thank you David for all the hard work you have been doing all these years.
Perhaps some would like to have abolition in one fell swoop but even many abolitionists support an attrition model.
Which is convenient for mh professionals who want to cling to their jobs as long as possible.
Re: ” extreme human rights violations, such as forced electroshock….”
Point: “unforced” electroshock (which invariably involves subtle or not so subtle threats and coercion and misinformation or lies used to induce consent added to a distraught, usually drugged and desperate individual plus increasing incapacitation to protest with each shock) is an extreme human rights violation. Both cause permanent traumatic brain injury. Same outcome. Is the poor pregnant girl or senior being pounded by closed injury head concussions decimating their intelligence and sense of self less a victim of assault than the person being “forced”?
on the subject of climate change I think that bpdtransformation, B.A. is wrong; there are serious commentators that think the overwhelming majority of the components of industrial civilization, i.e. crop production, transportation, electricity generation are based on burning fossil fuels that CAN be cheaply, easily, and quickly replaced by fossil free alternatives.
Here is a book that a freind has writtten on just that http://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Danny-Chivers/Renewable-Energy–Clean-Fair-Democratic/17417611
If this is done it is extremly likely there will be a mass extinction event and that will be the end of all but a few small pockets of humanity.
What mainly stops this transformation happening is the powere of fossil fuel companies who pump out huge ammounts of propaganda and lobby politicians to protect thier interests. This is the same dyanamic as keeps psychiatric drugs flowing through the economy and through people’s brains. PR and advertising beats science when multi-billion budgets are concerned. I find anti-capitalist climate campaigners need no pursausion to understand thsi point and that many will support the anti-psyhiatry struggle.
It seems to me we are heading towards the end of most of humanity however I keep campaigning on climate change. I was in the British Museum protesting against BP sponsorship on Friday evening with an exciting bunch of activists. http://bp-or-not-bp.org/news/campaigners-gatecrash-bp-sponsored-day-of-the-dead-at-british-museum/
It is a pity I find it hard to find a bunch of anti-psychiatry activists who are as committed as they are.
John, I didn’t say there are not approaches that will work. Here are two books I recently read that make your case:
These are quite encouraging. Consuming much less while bringing up renewable and nuclear production to meet demand vacated by fossil fuels can do a lot. One problem as you say is that energy companies resist this. But that’s not the only problem. The energy density of renewable energy at present is very poor compared to fossil fuels, and the storage problem is still significant. Renewable energy just doesn’t pack nearly as much punch as coal, oil, or gas and it doesn’t work all the time. Plus it relies on fossil fuels to be built and maintained. So there are real technical problems.
There are good blogs about this at http://www.ourfiniteworld.com and the Do the Math blog by Tim Murphy, which link for which I’d have to search for. I don’t like their pessimism but they make some good points about problems with renewable energy.
There is one more alternative. Nuclear energy is safe, low-carbon, and doesn’t suffer from all of the same problems as renewables. It has killed only a handful of people compared to coal. With reuse technologies it could power electricity generation almost indefinitely. France scaled it up to power 80% of their country within about 15 years. Yet, people are constantly complaining that it’s too expensive, too scary, too dangerous, etc. But I think that when fossil fuels start to become scarcer and more expensive, people’s eyes will open to nukes due to necessity.
Three Mile Island? Chernobyl? Fukushima?
And, no one has YET to figure out how to deal with the waste or how to decommission ‘old’ plants…
We humans are sooo smart and sooo in control.
I already answered this issue below. The poorly planned Fukushima killed two people, irradiated a tiny area, and Japan is already moving toward restarting its nuclear industry. Not a big deal when set against the potentinal consequences from climate change in the next few decades. China, India, and other nations are planning many nuclear plants. Obviously, they must know things you don’t.
As for the waste, I’m not sure what source you’ve been reading but radiation from that waste is much less dangerous than commonly believed. How many people have been killed by nuclear waste in the last few years? Zero. If you read books like William Tucker’s Terrestrial Energy or Ramez Naam’s The Infinite Resource, they discuss the potential for nuclear meltdowns and uncontained storage. These problems are difficult but manageable… and also, technology changes over time and reduces the risks. There is no perfect energy source, but the localized risks of nuclear need to be set against the global risks from continuing to use fossil fuels which accelerate global warming. If you haven’t read them, check out those books. It sounds like you’ve swallowed the Greenpeace koolaid about nuclear whole and unassimilated.
Fukushima is still washing up on our coastlines, too. This is definitely not the kind of thing, just like the Exxon Valdez incident, that you would want happening twice, let alone, maybe three times.
So by this logic, Germany must know something you don’t since they are phasing out nuclear power?
Germany is phasing out nuclear power because they’re scared of it for the same reasons you are. But, that doesn’t mean they’re making a smart move. Their renewable initiative, while admirable, is far from success at this point, being heavily reliant on fossil fuel backup generation and fossil fuels for construction/maintanance. In fact, one could argue that Germany is now a dirtier country due to having to supplement their intermittent renewables with less nuclear and more fossil fuels.
As for Chernobyl, that is one example among hundreds of nuclear plants that have supplied valuable energy without causing harm. Yes, a few dozen people died and a few thousand more got sick. That’s nothing to sniff at. But compared with the exponentially greater number of people sickened and killed by other forms of energy production, it’s not much. An argument could be made that without nuclear having supplied 15-20% of global electricity production for the last few decades, that many more people would likely die in the coming decades due to more rapidly accelerating climate change. So maybe we should be glad nuclear has taken a little of the pressure off of global warming.
Nuclear should be considered seriously as one option to help us with moving toward a lower-carbon economy. There is a reason why a number of serious scientists not paid by the nuclear industry, including James Hansen, support it as a part of emission reduction:
Frank, as for the idea that renewable alone can supply our needs in the near future, that just isn’t realistic… it’s not going to scale up fast enough. Check out these articles below. They disturb me because of their pessimism – I want to be an optimist about renewable energy – but I cannot refute many of their points about renewable energy being more expensive than advertised, insufficiently reliable, too slow to scale up, and unable to deal with the transportation liquid fuel problem:
Fukushima is still going strong and pumping radiation into the Pacific 24-7, and the radiation is increasing in some places, where an unprotected person would die within hours. And who knows how it is affecting salmon and other fish?
This is more narrowminded obsession that misses the bigger picture. Only two people died at Fukushima. More nuclear plants will continue to be built out of necessity to reduce carbon emissions, because renewables cannot scale up fast enough. There is a reason China has 27 new nuclear plants in the works. The Chinese are smart and they won’t put their nuclear plants in vulnerable physical locations like Fukushima. They’re also researching heavily into safer nuke technology and smaller failsafe reactors.
The solution to the small area of dangerous radiation at Fukushima is simple: don’t go there. It’s a tiny area and in a few decades all but the centermost area will improve. As for the fish, big deal. A few fish dying from Fukushima is a drop in the ocean compared to the change in fish populations from overfishing worldwide.
The point is nuclear plants will continue to be built because most governments aren’t obsessed with the three plants in forty years that failed, choosing instead to focus on the hundreds of nuclear plants that supply low carbon power safely for decades and to focus on how to make existing plants safer going forward.
Exactly uprising, you’ve just made the case for nuclear right there. Those three tragedies killed a few dozen people and irradiated about .00001% of the Earth’s surface. Compare that to coal, which has killed tens of thousands of people through pollution and mining accidents, as well as contributing massively to global warming which kills thousands more.
If you have a legitimate argument that nuclear is more dangerous to human life than coal, or that the risks of nuclear are more dangerous to the planet than continued use of coal… or that nuclear is very dangerous to human life period… I haven’t heard it.
Plutonium has a pretty long half-life I’ve heard, and it is known to be very carcinogenic. Radiation poisoning affects environments, too, you know. That .00001% seems to me to be a vast underestimation. Although an improvement over fossil fuels perhaps, it has a few deficits of its own that don’t commend it so much. However, utilize renewable energy sources–wind, solar, hydro-power, etc.–and now you’re talking.
You’re the one comparing nuclear and coal. I don’t want either.
Just in case that wasn’t hyperbole, here is a very conservative summary of the effects of the Chernobyl disaster: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2005/pr38/en/. Even this report, which seems to aim at minimizing the human costs of the incident, still reveals a method of energy production that is fundamentally unsafe.
Frank, see my comment above and let me know what you think about the data in the FiniteWorld and DotheMath blogs. I wish I could be as optimistic as you are.
Two words, bdtransformation, nuclear waste. Google them sometime. Common sense dictates avoiding the nuclear mistake. I suggest maybe that your “top”scientists have conflict of interest issues of their own. As for other avenues, well, the Paris UN summit is upcoming. Doing something about reversing global warming involves doing more than has been done, which is basically nothing, and especially when there is such an urgent and growing need for action.
Saying nuclear waste, look it up… what does that mean? I’m not a telepath, and that’s not an argument. Besides, newer nuclear technology, such as thorium reactors and uranium-reprocessing reactors, produce very little waste. You should look those up.
And you didn’t do any serious research about the scientists in the article I mentioned, obviously.
I’m not going to get into the nuclear power selling business. If you want to sell nuclear power do it a long long long ways away from me.
Breaking news:To disagree with bpdtransformation is to have a “narrowminded obsession.” I’m glad I stopped by to read today.
Posted in the wrong spot. I meant to reply to this: https://www.madinamerica.com/2015/10/world-health-organization-publishes-blog-about-my-40-years-in-the-mad-movement/#comment-77652
Breaking news: that’s not what I said. You’re free to disagree, but my opinion is that focusing on the one or two disasters against hundreds of successful plants is narrow and obsessive, ideological rather than based on closely examining the big picture. There’s a reason that about 450 nuclear plants worldwide continue to run. If built in safe locations and run carefully, they’re pretty safe.
I’m glad you stopped by to read too. Too bad you didn’t post any new counterarguments, uprising.
This is what you wrote:
And with regard to my lack of “new counterarguments”: Since I fundamentally disagree with you on what counts as safe, in terms of energy production, I’m not sure that there’s much point in discussing this further.
Exactly uprising, I did not categorically say that disagreeing with me in any cirumstance means that someone is narrowminded and obsessive. Don’t twist my words.
Of course you didn’t; you said that disagreeing with you in THIS circumstance does.
I didn’t say it in those words either. Nice try though.
Of course you didn’t; you said it in these words:
Ok great! I’m glad we got that straight! What an important issue… 🙂
Nuclear power is the best option but its not going to happen because people fear it.
It works so well even a submarine can use it.
For many years the Los Angeles class submarines formed the backbone of the US SSN (attack) fleet, and 62 were built. They are 6900 dwt submerged, and have a 165 MW GE S6G reactor driving two 26 MW steam turbines. Refuelling interval is 30 years. The US Virginia class SSN submarine has 30 MW pump-jet propulsion system built by BAE Systems (originally for the Royal Navy) which is powered by a PWR reactor (GE S9G) that does not need refuelling for 33 years. They are about 7900 dwt, and 12 were in operation as of mid-2015, with 16 more on order, and eventual total likely to be 48.
A typical (500 megawatt) coal plant burns 1.4 million tons of coal each year.
The Gerald Ford-class carriers have more powerful and simpler A1B reactors reported to be 25% more powerful than A4W, hence about 700 MWt, but running a ship which is entirely electrical, including an electromagnetic aircraft launch system or catapault. Accordingly, the ship has 2.5 times the electrical capacity of Nimitz class.
You know whats a ton of fun ?
Walking through the “gardening” toxic waste section of Home Depo with a friend and intentionally having a loud conversation about Round Up causing cancer and look at all this neurotoxin bug killer people people are going to put into the drinking water.
I really push it and get dirty looks.
I will say to my friend really loud “Screw the earth, screw the drinking water, I need that 50lb bag of insecticide ! My whole life is centered around my lawn”
Making my lawn greener than my neighbors really helps with my constant need for admiration that goes with my narcissistic personality disorder.
Next time in Home Depo do this the looks people give are priceless.
I think Mike Adams of http://www.NaturalNews .com has a more accurate perspective on Fukushima and the dangers of radiation . Also see the three part series Zeitgeist on Netflix that includes talks on scientific innovations and sustainable living. Maybe on Youtube also.
A close friend of mine worked as a radiation technician taking patients for radiation treatments for cancer. She said she knew of a doctor in her department that died of radiation poisoning at the age of 40. She herself died of it also while only in her 40’s. Her thumbnail turned green . Her blood seeped through the walls of her veins . There’s a lot of covering up about radiation . Of course there’s a lot of money to be made from it also . Chemo as well .
“Ok great! I’m glad we got that straight! What an important issue…”
Actually, it is: the fantasy that there is a technological fix (which leads to even more life threatening consequences) to the damage humans are doing to our one and only planet is pretty harmful.
It leads to denial and inaction.
I think you misunderstand. The “issue” I referenced was the silly argument over how or what I said re: other people’s opinions. I was being facetious.
Of course energy generation is probably the most important issue today, up there along with or even above climate change. I read blogs like http://www.ourfiniteworld.com , http://www.oftwominds.com , http://www.zerohedge.com , to try to understand as best I can… it’s disturbing and perversely fascinating how unprepared we are for the decline of cheap fossil fuel availability.
But I think technology can be thought of as one thing that can help us to adapt to a lower-energy lower-carbon world. Nuclear fission is a brilliant, although controversial low-carbon technology that has supplied 15% or so of global electricity demand for decades. It can continue to contribute or even pick up more of the load. I don’t view it as a magic fix but a part of a multi-faceted approach to how to approach the energy problem. I’d say that speculative ideas like thorium reactors or fusion would be more what you have in mind.
A really good book on this debate is Crossing the Energy Divide by Ayres, on how to combine conservation and doing more with less with renewable and nuclear technologies –
Now as I’m writing this I’m wondering what the energy debate has to do with the mission of this site. Not much. But still interesting to discuss.