In 2011, in the wake of the devastating nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi reactor, thousands of Japanese people relocated, the world held its breath, and the Japanese government began to re-evaluate the country’s reliance on nuclear power. This week’s guest on Sea Change Radio, Kaz Makabe, was out on the streets of Tokyo on the fateful day of March 11th when the Tohoku earthquake struck. The incident inspired Makabe to investigate what makes Japan’s electric grid tick. We discuss his new book, “Buying Time: Environmental Collapse and the Future of Energy,” explore the dismantling of Japan’s nuclear power facilities, and talk about the energy future in the land of the rising sun.
Did you know that a metric ton of electronic waste can contain 8 to 16 ounces of gold? Whether we like it or not, precious metals show up in more than just that gold necklace or platinum ring we might have purchased – from the titanium used in our high-end mountain bikes, to platinum in our cellphones, to silver in our solar panels, precious metals are all around us. And the mining of these materials often comes with a steep social and environmental cost. This week on Sea Change Radio, we talk with an engineer who has chosen to remain anonymous for fear of reprisal from his former employer, a large gold-mining enterprise. We learn about the use of water in the extraction of precious metals, how common mining practices create hazardous slurry ponds, and the enormous amount of energy required to carry out these operations in remote locations. Then, we dig deep into the Sea Change archives to hear from Jem Bendell about the unlikely intersection between luxury and sustainability.
With drought-stricken California enjoying its wettest winter in decades, it can be easy to forget that water scarcity is among the globe’s most deadly threats. This week on Sea Change Radio, we discuss groundwater with Bill and Rosemarie Alley, the authors of High and Dry: Meeting the Challenges of the World’s Growing Dependence on Groundwater. They take us on a journey around the world and back in time to examine how humans scheme for and squander earth’s most precious resource. We talk about wildcatting for water in the 19th century, India’s water management quandary, and some of Saudi Arabia’s more imprudent water policies.
On his first day on the job, newly appointed Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, rode to work on a horse. This was obviously a rugged, outdoor enthusiast – someone who must care about the environment, right? Well, that same day, one of Secretary Zinke’s first acts in office was to repeal the ban on lead ammunition in national parks, tribal lands and national wildlife refuge areas — an order that the Obama Administration had signed near the end of 2016. This week on Sea Change Radio, we revisit our 2015 discussion with Kelly Sorenson, executive director of the Ventana Wildlife Society, one of the organizations that was at the forefront of the struggle to ban lead in order to bring the California Condor back from the brink of extinction. He explains the dangers of using lead ammunition, the tactics employed by the gun lobby to fight regulation, and how his group helped to advance protective legislation in California. Zinke’s rash decision seems like a good opportunity for us all to review what we know about this damaging neurotoxin and how it moves through the food chain and ecosystem.