The peculiar nature of H. sapiens

Just a few recent items to underline what a strange species we are!

This is being written on the 8th, not too many hours after the successful launch of the very last Shuttle space flight.  Forget the [valid] question of cost, this launch sufficiently inspired nearly a million people to travel to the Kennedy Space Center to watch this historic flight.  That adventuring drive is a wonderful aspect of mankind.

Now to another view of mankind.

Washington’s Blog of the 3rd July, 2011 has an in-depth review of how “the Japanese government, other governments and nuclear companies have covered up the extent of the Fukushima crisis.”  In that excellent piece, there is a reference to material in the British Guardian newspaper (I’m taking the liberty of re-publishing quite a long extract from Washington’s Blog).

British Shenanigans

It’s not just the Japanese. As the Guardian notes:

British government officials approached nuclear companies to draw up a co-ordinated public relations strategy to play down the Fukushima nuclear accident just two days after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan and before the extent of the radiation leak was known.

Internal emails seen by the Guardian show how the business and energy departments worked closely behind the scenes with the multinational companies EDF Energy, Areva and Westinghouse…

Officials stressed the importance of preventing the incident from undermining public support for nuclear power.


The Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith, who sits on the Commons environmental audit committee, condemned the extent of co-ordination between the government and nuclear companies that the emails appear to reveal.


The official suggested that if companies sent in their comments, they could be incorporated into briefs to ministers and government statements. “We need to all be working from the same material to get the message through to the media and the public.


The office for nuclear development invited companies to attend a meeting at the NIA’s headquarters in London. The aim was “to discuss a joint communications and engagement strategy aimed at ensuring we maintain confidence among the British public on the safety of nuclear power stations and nuclear new-build policy in light of recent events at the Fukushima nuclear power plant”.

Other documents released by the government’s safety watchdog, the office for nuclear regulation, reveal that the text of an announcement on 5 April about the impact of Fukushima on the new nuclear programme was privately cleared with nuclear industry representatives at a meeting the previous week. According to one former regulator, who preferred not to be named, the degree of collusion was “truly shocking”.

The Guardian reports in a second article:

The release of 80 emails showing that in the days after the Fukushima accident not one but two government departments were working with nuclear companies to spin one of the biggest industrial catastrophes of the last 50 years, even as people were dying and a vast area was being made uninhabitable, is shocking.


What the emails shows is a weak government, captured by a powerful industry colluding to at least misinform and very probably lie to the public and the media.


To argue that the radiation was being released deliberately and was “all part of the safety systems to control and manage a situation” is Orwellian.

And – as the Guardian notes in a third article – the collusion between the British government and nuclear companies is leading to political fallout:

“This deliberate and (sadly) very effective attempt to ‘calm’ the reporting of the true story of Fukushima is a terrible betrayal of liberal values. In my view it is not acceptable that a Liberal Democrat cabinet minister presides over a department deeply involved in a blatant conspiracy designed to manipulate the truth in order to protect corporate interests”. -Andy Myles, Liberal Democrat party’s former chief executive in Scotland

“These emails corroborate my own impression that there has been a strange silence in the UK following the Fukushima disaster … in the UK, new nuclear sites have been announced before the results of the Europe-wide review of nuclear safety has been completed. Today’s news strengthens the case for the government to halt new nuclear plans until an independent and transparent review has been conducted.” -Fiona Hall, leader of the Liberal Democrats in the European parliament

It’s us, all of us, that create the systems, the political and government systems that are at the heart of this approach to life.

But it’s also us, all of us, that ‘write’ such beautiful stories as this one from NPR Music.

Paul Simon has brought joy to so many for so long, but on this night he made Rayna Ford’s dream come true. During a show in Toronto on May 7, Rayna Ford, a fan from Newfoundland, called out for Simon to play “Duncan,” and said something to the effect that she learned to play guitar on the song. In a moment of astonishment and disbelief, Paul Simon invited her on stage, handed her a guitar and asked her to play it for the crowd. When she strapped on the guitar, the audience went crazy. In a few strums, the band played along, tears ran down Rayna Ford’s cheeks and Simon stood by her side in smiles.

It was an absolute moment of sobbing joy for Ford and for the crowd. It was a moment so beautiful, so human, it could almost be a story in a Paul Simon song. Excuse me while I wipe my own tears. Go Rayna and all the Raynas out there with dreams. As the song says:

Oh, oh, what a night
Oh, what a garden of delight
Even now that sweet memory lingers
I was playing my guitar
Lying underneath the stars
Just thanking the Lord
For my fingers,
For my fingers

What a strange lot we are!

One thought on “The peculiar nature of H. sapiens

  1. Paul: with all due respect, I do not think it’s us, all of us, who creates, or have created, the structures of present society. In so called “representative democracy”, some individuals control the show. For example, Obama did not tax billionaires’ loopholes, when he could have. Now that he cannot, he claims he wants to.

    The average Obama voter or volunteer, has nothing to do with this sort of betrayal. By the same token, had they known what decisions Hitler would end up taking, very few Germans would have voted for him, or approved of him in various referenda. Hitler was a major traitor, that has become very clear retrospectively (because of his disingenuous pseudo patriotism, 10% of Germans got killed, to start with).

    Conclusion? The present deciding structures, the “philosophy of representative democracy” are too friendly to the concept of giving too much power of the few. The representatives of democracy can be bought by plutocrats, and that spells the end of civilization.


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