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In May of this year, the governor of Maryland, the state where I live, announced his support for a new nuclear power plant to join the two existing plants on the Chesapeake Bay. "It is a huge moral challenge and it is a moral imperative," Governor O'Malley said, "given what massive new burning of coal will do to the planet if we don't develop better and cleaner technology, including safer and cleaner nuclear, which is what is ... planned and talked about in terms of the third reactor." (1) Governor O'Malley is right that current energy policy presents a huge moral challenge: the combustion of fossil fuels is measurably harming the world's climate, threatening species and low-lying island nations, and facilitating the spread of diseases such as malaria into ecosystems formerly inhospitable to the carrier mosquito. There are vast disparities in the use of the world's finite energy resources. Those of us in the world's richest countries consume sixty times more per capita of the world's nonrenewable energy resources --oil, coal, natural gas, uranium--than do people in the poorest countries. (2) Oil production at the expense of human rights in countries such as Nigeria contributes to regional and global insecurity. Coal mining in Appalachia and in other regions of the world has devastated the landscape, polluted watersheds, and literally undermined communities whose homes and infrastructures collapse into sinkholes caused by mine subsidence. The increase in renewable energy production, particularly the shift of corn from a food crop to the raw material for a fifteen billion gallon fuel mandate in the 2007 U.S. federal energy bill, has contributed to a new global food crisis and to conversion of more and more arable land to monocrops, leading to the exhaustion of soil fertility and increasing reliance on expensive and hazardous synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.

Vetenskap och natur
1 juli
Hastings Center

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