The Hum on the Street

I walked along my street here in Manhattan after a quick bite and a long browse at Barnes & Noble, but more about that in my next post.

It’s hot – very hot. It’s 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or 30 Celsius, whatever sounds hotter, although admittedly it is cooling off a little now that it’s nighttime. That also means there’s less cars, and occasionally there are no cars. But it’s not silent, not in the way it is on a spring night.

Because at that carless moment I realize I’m surrounded by hundreds of window-unit air conditioners roaring away at full speed. They are blasting their owners’ apartments with full gusto and rage, and the street becomes a canyon filled with angry little machines churning away in the crevices above me.

It boggles my mind just how much power is being consumed at that moment. I have to wonder how many people these days are foregoing air conditioning in the face of rising energy costs.  It also makes me wonder how we’re seriously going to address the power crisis. I don’t think all the windfarms and solar collection sites can feed the need of a large city like New York, and the prognosis is continued growth in power demand by larger populations, living in mega-cities. And if Africa and other developing areas finally get it together, there will be a lot of power that’s needed.

To me, the obvious answer is nuclear power. If the airline industry can figure out how transport millions of people safely each year, certainly the smartest minds in the world can figure out how to safely generate energy by splitting atoms. The one stand-out argument against nuclear power has always been the risk to human lives. Something could go horribly wrong. But so what? How is that still a viable argument? If you look at the millions of lives lost due to carbon polution, the economies and environments affected climate change, and the lives lost or altered in wars to protect resources and “our way of life”, I can’t help but think we need to begin building reactors.

I guess we can just wait for the Chinese to do it – they have a somewhat more casual relationship to the health and physical welfare of their citizens – there’s a LOT of them, and none of them vote. They’ll probably steal the French technology, perfect it themselves, and then license it to the rest of us.

It’s still better than more oil money going to the Arabs (*ahem*, I meant “Oil Producing Nations”). Come to think of it, they should be funding the research – and no, that doesn’t give Iran a pass to continue with their program.

Oh, and should anyone think I’m flippant about the nuclear mishap thing, please believe me – I’m not. If you’re strong – really strong – then click on this link and watch Paul Fusco’s report about the Children of Chernobyl.


  1. pirco said:

    My friend, it’s not just the risk of a leaking nuclear power plant but more so the problem of safely storing nuclear waste! Now, I’m not against nuclear power at all but I think the solution is two-fold:
    a) use alternative energy sources (well, alongside nuclear power then)
    b) reduce energy consumption

    The chinese certainly are trying to play nice but so far, I hear, they are building coal-based power plants at a rate of four a month.

    There’s just too much to discuss in a blog post, let alone a comment…

  2. lettersfromberlin said:

    Two things:

    The storage problem is a good point. I must admit I don’t know much about that.

    I heard about the four coal-plants per week in China, too. But I assume their carbon fuels will run out soon as well, this is just a stop-gap measure.

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