If You Love This Planet, Dr. Helen Caldicott

Archive for February, 2010

Dr. Caldicott’s lecture on banning nuclear weapons; Dai Williams on the health effects of depleted uranium weapons

Monday, February 22nd, 2010


Protest sign, Washington, D.C. (flickr.com/photos/kalavinka)

Protest sign, Washington, D.C. (flickr.com/photos/kalavinka)

First up on this week’s program is a lecture
Dr. Caldicott gave in Berkeley, California in June 2009, primarily focused on the need to ban nuclear weapons. She raises the central role played by the University of California in the production of U.S. nuclear warheads, the enormous theft of U.S. tax money to fund weapons and killing, the psychology associated with military might and abuse of power, and the urgent need for America’s scientific minds to be redirected from death toward saving the earth
and meeting human needs. She touches on the U.S. military’s first-strike policy, nuclear winter, and the psychic numbing that people use to block out the continuing danger of a global nuclear holocaust. She also describes in detail the medical effects of nuclear war, including the little-known effects of fire damage, and emphasizes how such a catastrophic event could happen by accident or design at any time.

Helen Caldicott, M.D.

Helen Caldicott, M.D.

Later in the speech, Dr. Caldicott addresses global warming and deforestation, which is intricately linked with climate change. She explains the ramifications of the use of depleted uranium (DU) munitions by the U.S military, including the enormous increase in cancer incidence and birth defects in Iraq from the use of DU. The interview with Dai Williams later in the program gives more insight into the horrific health effects of DU weapons. Near the conclusion of her talk, Dr. Caldicott offers solutions to the nuclear and environmental problems she described, including implementation of the green-energy strategies in the report Carbon-Free and Nuclear-Free: A Roadmap for U.S. Energy Policy. Listen to Dr. Caldicott’s interview with Carbon-Free author, engineer Dr. Arjun Makhijani. She also recommends the audience read her book If You Love This Planet (WW Norton 2009), which covers all major environmental problems in great depth and provides ample solutions plus an appendix full of resources.

For more information on some of the topics in Dr. Caldicott’s lecture, listen to Dr. Caldicott’s interviews with nuclear-war fire-damage expert Lynn Eden, and with nuclear-winter researcher Prof. Alan Robock. Read the articles How Did an Idealistic President Become a Champion of Nuclear Power and By Default, Weapons Proliferation?, ‘Peace Prize’ President Submits Largest War Budget Ever, and Obama and the Works of Death. Hear Dr. Caldicott’s conversation with nuclear-war expert and former missile launch officer Bruce Blair, Ph.D. Listen to Dr. Caldicott’s interview with military spending experts Ellen Augustine and Barry Hermanson. Also hear Dr. Caldicott’s dialogues with Prof. Hugh Gusterson about the psychology of mindset of nuclear weapons designers and with global warming specialist Dr. James Hansen. Visit the Web pages of Tri Valley CARES and the Western States Legal Foundation which monitor U.S. nuclear weapons labs and campaign to ban nuclear weapons. Also check out the work of Beyond Nuclear, Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND), Physicians for Social Responsibility, Global Zero and Abolition 2000, all of which are committed to nuclear disarmament.

Depleted uranium ammunition aboard the USS Missouri.  Photo: Phan Brad Dillon, U.S. Navy

Depleted uranium ammunition aboard the USS Missouri. Photo: Phan Brad Dillon, U.S. Navy

The last third of this episode (starting at 42:59) is an interview Dr. Caldicott conducted with Dai Williams, a British psychologist, occupational health expert and peace activist who has done extensive research on the cumulative effects of radioactive toxins, and the use of depleted uranium weapons by the U.S. military. This interview was part of Pacifica Radio’s The New Nuclear Danger series (2005) hosted by
Dr. Caldicott. Williams explains how he first heard about the toxicity of depleted uranium weapons from environmental epidemiologist Rosalie Bertell, PhD, GNSH. Dr. Caldicott provides some background on the U.S. military’s use of depleted uranium (DU) by reading from her book The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush’s Military-Industrial Complex (2004). Williams talks about the military’s willingness to win battles using radioactive materials while they simultaneously cover up the health effects of DU. Dr. Caldicott analogizes how the Pentagon won’t talk about nuclear winter, though they concur this phenomenon would occur after a global nuclear war. Williams mentions a book by psychologist Irving Janus (Victims of Groupthink: A psychological study of foreign-policy decisions and fiascoes, 1972). He then describes in detail how DU weapons hit their targets, and provides some shocking information about how NATO covered up its use of DU in the Balkans region. He describes the various radioactive weapons the U.S. has used since 1991. William says he is concerned that there will be an increasing number of U.S. veterans from the 2003 Iraq War and their families who will suffer devastating health effects from soldiers’ exposure to DU (his concerns have been amply validated in the four+ years since this interview first aired). Dr. Caldicott says she is eager for more verification about the extent of depleted uranium use.

Dai Williams

Dai Williams

For more information on DU, visit the websites of WISE Uranium Project and the Depleted Uranium Project. See the report Depleted Uranium: Scientific Basis for Assessing Risk. Watch the documentaries Gulf War Syndrome: Killing Our Own and Poison Dust on-line. Read the 2009 article Legacy of War: Iraq Littered With High Levels of Nuclear and Dioxin Contamination, Study Finds: Greater rates of cancer and birth defects - Depleted uranium among poisons implicated as well as earlier articles Gulf War II Syndrome? Military Equipment and “Pneumonia”, Gulf War Syndrome, Depleted Uranium and the Dangers of Low-Level Radiation, Iraqi cancers, birth defects blamed on U.S. depleted uranium, and Army shells pose cancer risk in Iraq: Depleted uranium causing high radioactivity levels. Read Gulf War I veteran Charles Sheehan-Miles’s novel Prayer at Rumayla: A Novel of the Gulf War. To see innumerable photos of the terrible birth defects caused by DU exposure, search on Google.com for “depleted uranium” and click Images. See the March 4, 2010 news articles Docs Blame U.S. Weapons for Fallujah Birth Defects and Disturbing story of Fallujah’s birth defects.

Best of 2008/2009: Rhett Butler on the state of the world’s rainforests and their connection to global warming

Monday, February 15th, 2010


Clearing of Amazon forest for pasture or soy (Rhett Butler, Mongabay.com)

Clearing of Amazon forest for pasture or soy (Rhett Butler, Mongabay.com)

If You Love This Planet continues to replay some of our most popular programs through February 2010, as well as offering some new episodes. In March 2010, If You Love This Planet will start a whole new season of programs. Here is Dr. Caldicott’s August 31, 2009 interview with Rhett Butler, founder of Mongabay.com, an environmental science news web with a focus on tropical forests, now celebrating 10 years on-line. Butler is also co-founder of Tropical Conservation Science, an academic journal that aims to provide opportunities for scientists in developing countries to publish their research in their native languages. He has written for BBC News, Washington Monthly, Trends in Conservation Ecology and other publications. In this program, he describes to Dr. Caldicott the threats currently facing the world’s rainforests, which play a key role in reducing global warming. See the February 21, 2010 Los Angeles Times articles Saving the Amazon may be the most cost-effective way to cut greenhouse gas emissions and Companies fund projects to preserve Amazon rain forest. To read several rainforest news items from the six months since this episode first aired, see the Rainforest News page of Mongabay.com. These news archives cover developments in rainforest conservation and destruction, and in saving native peoples and rainforest wildlife.

At the start of the interview, Butler speaks about how his childhood exposure to nature and world travel inspired his passion to preserve rainforests. As he and Dr. Caldicott begin to look at rainforests, they first look at the current situation for forests and animals in Madagascar, where 80% of the country’s native plants and animals, such as lemurs, are found nowhere else. Lemurs are now threatened by the new trade in lemur bush meat. Read Bushmeat trade threatens Madagascar’s rare lemurs.

Rhett Butler (Mongabay.com)

Rhett Butler (Mongabay.com)

The show then examines logging in Australia, Indonesia and elsewhere. Butler mentions the new initiative, REDD (Reducing Emissions for Deforestation and Degradation), a plan for governments to be paid for keeping forests standing which has already had some successes. See the new Seed magazine article Forests for the Trees: Five experts discuss paying countries to keep forests intact, what role carbon markets should play, and how to protect the people whose lives depend on trees. For more on REDD, read Are we on the brink of saving rainforests? and Investing in conservation could save global economy trillions of dollars annually. They then discuss the notion of carbon offsetting to reduce greenhouse gases, a solution Dr. Caldicott considers worthless.

Dr. Caldicott reads from one of Butler’s articles, Brazil’s Plan to Save the Amazon Rainforest, in which he elucidates how global deforestation is a greater source of greenhouse emissions than cars, trucks, and airplanes. The Amazon rainforest, located in several South American countries, regulates global and regional climate, and as Butler notes, cutting down rainforest in Brazil negatively affects ranching in Texas. Read UN URGENT: End Deforestation, Conserve World’s Forests. They next explore the fate of native peoples in rainforests around the world, some of whom are manipulated by logging companies in terrible ways. Dr. Caldicott relates her experience visiting the Brazilian rainforest, where she encounteried indigenous tribes. This journey is described more fully in her book If You Love This Planet, a new edition of which is published this month. For more on forests and native peoples, read REDD may harm forest people, alleges report and Carbon conservation schemes will fail without forest people. Also see Adaptation Of Forests And People To Climate Change – A Global Assessment Report.

Butler enumerates which industries have been chopping down the Amazon rainforest, including cattle ranching, soy farming and gold mining. He says the 2009 Greenpeace report, Slaughtering the Amazon, which fingered major corporations which destroy the rainforest, has had a major positive impact. Many companies have drastically altered their behavior in the wake of the report. Read Shoe Brands Get Tough on Leather Suppliers to Save Amazon Rainforest. Butler speaks about the Peruvian rainforest, where over 30,000 indigenous Peruvians stood up earlier this year against energy companies that want to exploit the rainforest. Butler says that 70% of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest has been allocated for oil and gas exploration. Chevron has been sued for its practices in the Ecuadoran rainforest. For more background, visit the website of the Amazon Defense Coalition and read Mongabay articles Oil Extraction: The Impact of Oil Production in the Rainforest, Chevron expects to lose $27B suit but will refuse to pay damages and Oil development may destroy richest part of the Amazon rainforest. Also read Butler’s September 3, article Amazon tribes have long fought bloody battles against big oil in Ecuador. See the September 6 news article Chevron Awaits Verdict in Environmental Damage Case.

Tambopata Rainforest canopy, Peru (Rhett Butler, Mongabay.com)

Tambopata rainforest canopy, Peru (Rhett Butler, Mongabay)

Brazil, Butler says, is making some good progress toward preserving its rainforest, with Brazilian leaders committing to raise significant money to save the forest. There has been concern that the government would continue to side with loggers and cattle ranchers, as stated in a June article at the time Slaughtering the Amazon was released, The Amazon is Dying: The Brazilian government is legalizing deforestation and western superbrands are benefiting from it. This needs to stop now.

Butler and Dr. Caldicott look further at the escalation of global warming that would occur if the Amazon rainforest is destroyed. She describes the relationship between burning trees and rising global temperatures. Butler is asked about soy companies’ role in rainforest destruction, and he points to another significant Greenpeace report, Eating up the Amazon, which came out in 2006 and helped force soy companies to change their practices. Dr. Caldicott brings up the topic of palm oil, and they look at the enormous growth in palm oil production from palms grown in areas cleared of rainforest. They examine which companies and which products are using palm oil, and how palm oil is used to produce biodiesel fuel for China. Butler notes that over 10 million hectares of palm oil farms have been planted in the rainforest. Read Is oil palm the next emerging threat to the Amazon? See the September 11 Friends of the Earth press release Environmentalists Welcome World Bank President’s Halt to Palm Oil Investments. Also read the September 2009 Mongabay article Palm oil paradox: a leading threat to orangutans and a key source of jobs in Sumatra, in which Butler interviews three experts on palm oil and saving orangutans.

Near the close of the program, Butler emphasizes the importance of compensating countries to save forests, which are often devalued when they remain living entities. He says that “smart people” are also working on building awareness that intact forests will retain more of the world’s water supply in the future, when water scarcity is expected to increase substantially. Dr. Caldicott in her closing remarks underlines the importance of rainforests, and all trees, in abating global warming, and says the rainforest issue is really about “the fate of the Earth.” Listen to this program and keep abreast of rainforest news on Mongabay.com and the Rainforest Action Network Web site to get the full picture. Also visit the Web page of The Prince’s Rainforest Project.

Best of 2008/2009: Lily Tomlin on the “distressing” state of America and the sport of war

Monday, February 8th, 2010


If You Love This Planet continues to replay some of our most popular programs through February 2010, as well as offering some new episodes. In March 2010, If You Love This Planet will start a whole new season of programs. Here is Dr. Caldicott’s August 25, 2008 interview with Lily Tomlin, one of America’s most loved writers, comediennes and actresses. Tomlin talks with her long-time friend Dr. Caldicott about the political climate in the U.S. and her sense of desperation about the direction the U.S. administration was taking under then-President George W. Bush. Most of the conversation is still relevant as President Obama continues many of his predecessor’s foreign and domestic policies. Tomlin reminisces about her experiences in the peace movement after meeting Dr. Caldicott, and describes her childhood and early creative influences in Detroit, Michigan. Tomlin is one of the featured commentators / bloggers on The Women on the Web, “A New Way for Women to Talk Culture, Politics & Gossip.”

Relevant to this discussion with Ms. Tomlin are Chris Hedges’s 2009 article Liberals Are Useless and his 2010 article The Pictures of War You Aren’t Supposed to See. Also check out Amy Goodman’s February 5 interview with authors Robert McChesney and John Nichols on their book “The Death and Life of American Journalism.” Read the articles ‘Peace Prize’ President Submits Largest War Budget Ever; Wars Sending US into Ruin; Don’t Call It a ‘Defense’ Budget; Legacy of War: Iraq Littered With High Levels of Nuclear and Dioxin Contamination, Study Finds; Remember the Illegal Destruction of Iraq?; Pentagon to Increase Stock of High-Altitude Drones; Violence Against Women Is a Global Struggle; Fox Most Trusted News Channel in US, Poll Shows; Apocalypse Fatigue: Losing the Public on Climate Change; Seniors Wait on Care, Grow Sicker as Copays Rise; and US Households Struggle to Afford Food: Survey. And see Dr. Caldicott’s February 2, 2010 article How Did an Idealistic President Become a Champion of Nuclear Power and By Default, Weapons Proliferation?

Best of 2008/2009: Prof. Hugh Gusterson on the psychology of nuclear weapons designers, and U.S. nuclear hypocrisy

Monday, February 1st, 2010


Photo Credit: Department of Energy (courtesy Natural Resources Defense Council)

If You Love This Planet continues to replay some of our most popular programs through February 2010, as well as offering some new episodes. In March 2010, If You Love This Planet will start a whole new season of programs. Here is Dr. Caldicott’s September 29, 2008 interview with respected anthropologist, author and lecturer Professor Hugh Gusterson from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in which they delve into the psychology of nuclear weapons scientists and designers. Drawing on his extensive field research at U.S. weapons laboratories Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos, Prof. Gusterson discusses with Dr. Caldicott the moral and emotional approach of the weapons designers; the terminology used among the scientists which is not only thick with metaphors of birth and fertility, but also denies death (weapons victims would be “carbonized,” not incinerated); and the present recruitment by the Department of Energy of anthropologists to be involved in counterinsurgency. His books include Nuclear Rites: A Weapons Laboratory at the End of the Cold War, People of the Bomb: Portraits of America’s Nuclear Complex and Why America’s Top Pundits are Wrong.

Hugh Gusterson

Hugh Gusterson

Prof. Gusterson and Dr. Caldicott also cover the hypocrisy and veiled racism of the U.S. government and attendant media in demonizing other countries which want to build atomic bombs, while the U.S. retains an enormous arsenal of bombs and continues to make more. They also consider why traditionally right-wing voices such as Henry Kissinger and George Schultz, and four former British foreign or defense secretaries, now want to abolish nuclear weapons. Prof. Gusterson cites many encouraging successes on the road toward global nuclear disarmament, to discredit the idea that “the nuclear genie can never be put back in the bottle”. Read Prof. Gusterson’s columns on the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists page. For updated information on what the U.S. nuclear weapons labs are up to, visit the Web sites of Tri-Valley CAREs and Western States Legal Foundation. See the February 1, 2010 Tri-Valley CAREs press release, Administration Budget Plan Contradicts Obama Pledge. Read Dr. Caldicott’s February 2, 2010 article in The Huffington Post about President Obama’s increased spending for nuclear weapons, despite his earlier disarmament pledges, and his enthusiastic support for nuclear power.