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Vermont Guardian

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Posted February 2, 2007

Global warming impacted by population growth

It’s great to see that our new Vermont Legislature is educating itself on global warming in anticipation of hopefully passing legislation that will really have an impact.

One aspect of both global warming and reaching peak fossil fuel production that is being overlooked is the projected major growth in population. The United States already has in excess of 300 million people living here while the experts say that a long term sustainable population without cheap oil is about 200 million. Depending on what source you believe, the U.S. population is growing at the rate of at least 3.3 million people per year and the figure is probably more like 4-5 million. This means that we will double our population in roughly 40 years and probably reach one billion by the end of the century.

So even if we do reduce per capita production of greenhouse gases by say 50 percent, which seems highly unlikely, and the population grows by 100 or 200 percent, we have gained nothing.

The U.S. population is a result of both fertility rates and the net of immigration minus emigration. The decisions affecting this happen at the personal level for fertility rates and the federal government level for immigration numbers.

Hopefully, we will choose to make sound decisions at both levels so that people in coming decades will not suffer unduly from either global warming or from the challenge of going from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources. If we do not address population growth, the actions we take, no matter how well intended, are going to be of limited value.

George Plumb

George Plumb is a board member of Vermonters for a Sustainable U.S. Population at

Give a listen to Josh Brooks

I am afraid being Josh Brook’s mother-in-law makes me an unfair candidate to submit any comments that would be unbiased (Vermont Guardian, Jan. 19).

However, I want to tell anyone and everyone that doesn’t know Josh (or my husband Kent Blackmer) to give them a listen. They are worth every minute of time spent. In the years that I have known Josh, I have seen him mature and grow into a confident, talented, heartfelt, solid musician. Once you listen to them (I mean really listen), you will be caught up in not only some fine music, but great stories from the heart. Josh is a great songwriter and has blossomed with the aid of Kent’s talents. I can only hope that people see that they have two of the best artists that there are out there today right in their own state of Vermont. Take a minute to enjoy.

Bonnie Blackmer

Stop the use of Native mascots in Vermont

In August 2006, I wrote a letter to the Green Mountain Union High School (GMUHS) board requesting that they drop our school’s Chieftain mascot because, among many reasons, it represents a racial stereotype. To the board’s credit, they decided not to dismiss the matter out of hand. The matter has been under discussion ever since … as it should be in all Vermont schools using Native American mascots.

One common defense among those supporting the use of Native mascots is that, by doing so, they feel they are honoring and respecting Native Americans. Yet, many schools adopted Native mascots adorned with religious symbols before the passing of the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978. By not recognizing Native religious symbols as religious symbols in schools, is this an example of “honoring and respecting”? Dr. Cornel Pewewardy, who has written and lectured on Native mascots, describes them as examples of “dysconscious racism and a form of cultural violence.”

If we really want to honor and respect Native Americans, as others have said, then we should honor and respect the treaties we made with them — yet no one really expects this will ever happen. Still, we can do better. We can ask Native Americans how they would like to be honored and respected. And we can stop harming our students.

In 2005, the American Psychological Association released a statement — due to the preponderance of scientific evidence — regarding the damage Native mascots inflict upon all students and, as a result, composed a referendum calling for all U.S. schools to stop using Native mascots. Additionally, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, the National Education Association, and many state education departments have all called for an end to Native mascots in schools. To follow the research, recommendations and referendums would be best practices. But this is not news to the Abenaki and other Native Americans who for years have been asking New England schools to drop their Native mascots.

In Genocide of the Mind: New Native American Writing, MariJo Moore writes: “For many years, the dominant society has admired the mythological Indian but rarely the genuine person. Many today still look upon Indians as people of the past. These two beliefs have perpetuated the idea that using Indians as mascots is permissible. If one uses a term that is offensive to others without realizing it is offensive, this action can be considered stereotyping. But, if one becomes informed that the term is offensive and continues to use this term, this is pure racism. After all, American Indians are human beings, not animals, and not people of the past. Therefore we should not be used as mascots.”

Presently, many schools persist in using racial stereotypes and promoting racism even after they have been informed that those images are offensive and damaging. If Euro-Americans are sincere and authentic when they say that they want healthy academic environments, value all students, and wish to honor and respect Native Americans, they should begin by dropping all Native mascots in schools.

Brad Houk

Brad Houk is a teacher at Opportunities In Learning (an alternative program in the Windsor Southwest Supervisory Union) and a parent of two GMUHS students.

Author responds to nuclear supporters

Rod Adams challenged my information about Vermont Yankee’s radioactive emissions in the article I wrote (Vermont Guardian, Jan. 12). Hoping to clarify the issue for Rod and any others who may be unclear about the extremely dangerous side-effects that are created in the fission process of Vermont Yankee, I offer the following information.

Vermont Yankee was made by General Electric Company and is a Mark 1 boiling-water reactor (BWR). BWRs are prone to release radioactive gases under normal operating conditions more so than pressurized-water reactors, originally designed by Westinghouse for use in submarines. BWRs use a “single-loop” design; steam produced by uranium fuel goes directly to electric generator turbines. Pressurized water reactors, PWR, on the other hand, have two loops, one for hot water circulating through hot fuel elements and another for steam going to turbines. The second loop helps prevent radioactivity from reaching the turbines, where it can leak into the environment. Only pressurized-water reactors are used in submarines, and are less prone (though not completely immune) to radioactive leaks than Vermont Yankee.

Fenceline readings are taken around the perimeter of Vermont Yankee to measure these emissions. Bill Irwin, Vermont’s chief of radiological health, recently revealed that Vermont Yankee exceeded the state’s 20-millirem radioactive emissions limit in 1998, 2000, and 2004 and is expected to do so for 2006.

The United States National Academy of Science acknowledged in its 2005 BEIR (Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation) VII report that there is no safe level of exposure to radiation. Furthermore, every radioactive emission from Vermont Yankee raises the background radiation on the planet.

Once radioactive radioisotopes are released into our air and water from Vermont Yankee, they can enter our food chain. Our immune systems are compromised and conditions like leukemia, cancer, thyroid diseases, birth defects, infertility, heart disease, and spontaneous abortions occur.

Rachel Carson, Linus Pauling, and Andrei Sakharov warned us about low-level radiation decades ago. John F. Kennedy stated in 1963 when he announced the atmospheric test ban treaty, which goes to the issue of voluntary versus involuntary radiation exposure, among other things that, “the number of children and grandchildren with cancer in their bones, with leukemia in their blood, or with poison in their lungs [due to radioactive fallout from atmospheric nuclear testing] might seem statistically small to some, in comparison with natural health hazards. But this is not a natural heath hazard … and it is not a statistical issue. The loss of even one human life, or the malformation of even one baby … who may be born long after we are gone … should be of concern to us all. Our children and grandchildren are not merely statistics toward which we can be indifferent.”

We must heed Pres. Kennedy’s prophetic words and come to grips with the reality that Vermont Yankee is not emission free. The ongoing radioactive emissions coming out of Vermont Yankee compromise our health and the health of those yet unborn. There is no excuse for ignorance on this subject.

The only responsible action for state health and legislative officials is to help the public become aware of these dangers; allocate money for massive education on this issue; fund safe sustainable energy and conservation; and shut down Vermont Yankee.

Hattie Nestel
Athol, MA

We need to join forces

As a stakeholder at one of Entergy’s sister sites, Indian Point in New York, I feel compelled to make some comments here. It is imperative that we reverse the wagon, as we have been taught to think globally and act locally ... in that mentality, the nuclear industry is defeating us. We need to fight this fight as a national coalition, one for all and all for one.

Consider these issues: Conservative estimates from 1980 studies show that a major nuclear incident in the United States would cause between $43-78 billion in damages. Most host communities around nuclear reactors have seen large increases in both population and infrastructure, and real estate values have sky rocketed, so that figure is wantonly low.

The Price Waterhouse Act sets liability for the industry at $9 billion. Further, if we look at Hurricane Katrina, people are never made whole, yet Entergy was made whole with almost $300 million in community block grants that allowed them to recoup 90 cents of every dollar lost, and get new infrastructure as a part of the bargain. Meanwhile, the average citizen affected by that tragedy is anywhere from being whole. Ask yourself, would the aftermath of a major nuclear incident be any different?

As for meltdown, how many bullets have so far been dodged, and I am talking about the ones we have been allowed to know about?

In Sweden (2006), and in Japan (1999) we have seen incidents that almost became biblical in the past eight years, with the accident in Japan out right killing three workers. Most disturbing in that accident is the incident time frame, as it shows you that an evacuation could become necessary in this country, and in a similar event here to the one in Japan, the evacuation processes will not work.

It’s a fact that you cannot have this rebirth of nuclear if you close down a large percentage of these aging reactors. In fact, you need almost all of them to be relicensed.

What about the other sources of energy that are truly renewable? If you start following the money, the United States is being set up to subsidize the nuclear industry to the tune of trillions of dollars. Where would solar, wind, geothermal, and other alternative fuels be with this kind of investment on the part of our government.

I may be naive, but if there ever was a fight that requires the environmental movement to join forces in a national, singular voice, this is the one.

If we join together, and submit a petition for redress to the United States Congress as a national coalition of stakeholders, we could see a bill passed that would force a moratorium on relicensing while a safety and security assessment was done at every reactor site in this country.

Royce Penstinger
Buchanan, NY