You are currently browsing the monthly archive for April 2011.

I mentioned this video in class.  It follows Donald Weber, a Canadian photographer who works in the Chernobyl exclusion zone.  In this video, he talks about his work, and the cameras follow him to the abandoned area around Fukushima.

http://www.vbs.tv/watch/picture-perfect–2/donald_weber

After talking about acceptable doses of radiation in class today I remembered a chart I had seen a couple months ago. It shows how much radiation we’re exposed to when engaging in certain tasks like eating a banana or getting an x-ray. It starts off with relatively low risk activities like using a CRT monitor and progresses to higher risk activities like spending an hour at Chernobyl.  The unit this chart uses to measure for absorbed doses of radiation is a ‘sievert’ and it measures the effect a dose of radiation will have on the cells of a body. I’m not really too sure how reliable this information is, but I thought it was pretty interesting anyway.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Shadow of Chernobyl

Scavenger-Trespasser-Adventurer-Loner-Killer-Explorer-Robber

A first person shooter à la Call of Duty filled with mutants, anomalies (zones where physics break down), radiation, and plenty of violence set in present day Chernobyl following a second explosion. Watch the following video for short glimpses of mushroom clouds, gas masks, mutated boars, and much more…

In Adams’ “Radiated Identities” I see a realization of the flaw of analyzing scientific events (at least events that were handled directly by a scientific community) through a humanities lens. This paper seems to say that science gets in the way of true analysis, like science simplifies everything so much that every issue becomes black and white and there is no longer any room for interpretation. Adams believes (correctly) that radiation is “beyond the reach of the senses, radiation perforates the boundaries of person, species and earth and thus places humans and other life-forms in a new relation to each other” (pg 199-200). However this connectivity, since it is beyond the senses could not be realized by the effected people and ecosystems without science to tell us it is so. This perception of science fuels the same argument that cancer is a result of our modern way of life, ignoring the fact that many forms of cancer existed long before any western medicine or life style, the term simply wasn’t used until the 19th century.

There is a lot we would not be aware of without science, and maybe as Adams says, we would be happier for it, living unaware of the radiation we are receiving because we cannot sense it. But there are so many good things we understand now, so much wonder and so many new questions because science probes and analyzes and argues until one issue becomes black and white, only to discover 10 new related issues previously unconsidered. I’m sure a lot of this rant stems from Adams saying that classical science, and essentially those who (like myself) use it to understand the world, removes chaos, complexity, connectivity, and creativity from analysis. But I think we, as a modern society, and Adams rely on knowing. It’s fear of the unknown that causes so much risk perception after all. So wouldn’t it be better to keep exploring issues scientifically until we no longer need to be scared of the things that scare us now?

A good example of this may be Earthquakes and Plate Tectonics. These are new scientific fields, and we don’t know a lot yet, but I’m a little more comfortable knowing that Professor Hopkins could tell me Japan was due for a big earth quake, four weeks before the first quake. Then again, built into my personal risk perception, she also said the Northwest was due for one of the same magnitude too.

Here’s a clip from West Wing Season 2 which I suppose argues my point and Adams’ point. Science can tell us a lot of things, and it can also make us believe things that are simply wrong. In this case where are we?

In the midst of Earth Day a few days ago I stumbled upon this news cast from the night of the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970!

Also check out this one!

http://www.hulu.com/watch/67649/earth-day-first-earth-day-april-22-1970

In comparing what actions American people took on Earth Day 1970 and again on Earth day 2011, I found that the actions took by people in 1970 were radically different than the actions taken by citizens today. From the news segment shot in 1790, we gather that the entire United States was in a state of protest. Downtown New York City was closed to traffic and students across the states wore gas masks to school in demonstration against the rise of the chemical corporations. The actions taken by America’s youth in 1970 mainly consisted of protest and direct action.

However, in contrast, much of the nightly news that aired on April 22, 2011 detailed how people were celebrating the day this year. Much of this news focused on how to better ‘green’ ones life, as well as how to be more of an environmentally friendly consumer.

I think these two contrasts can really illustrate how our priorities have shifted over the past 30 years or so. Likewise, the role we play in being good stewards of our environment has drastically changed as well. We have slowly moved from playing more assertive roles to playing a passive-aggressive type. Evidence for this can easily be seen by the actions Americans took just a few days ago during the last Earth Day. The popular things to do on this very special day were to ‘Buy more eco’ or ‘plant a tree’ or ‘pick up trash’. The messages here all relate to mitigation instead of addressing the root of the problem.

I agree that it is hard these days to discern how to act. Upon bombardment of global atrocities, what does one do first? The problem of the prioritization of our actions, I feel, directly relates on our risk assessments and, of course, to our materialistic consumptive patterns.

Captain Planet to the Rescue!

                For anyone who doesn’t really know about the popular kid’s show Captain Planet I’ll give you the low down on it: It’s a cartoon from the 90’s that featured five teens (the planeteers) that have been granted with the powers of earth, fire, water, wind and heart from the Spirit of Earth and have been charged with the task of protecting the Earth from things like pollution and environmental terrorism. The teens are also able to combine their powers to form the ultra cool namesake of the show, Captain Planet. He has green hair, wears a tight form fitting outfit, and flies around protecting the planet from harm. This show was mainly geared towards a younger audience and sought to both entertain and inform the youth about the perilous state of affairs that our planet is in. The first episode of the series featured a would-be oil tycoon’s machine drilling into the oceanic crust to collect and spew oil all over the coastline while harming all of the wild life – wait a second, that sounds kind of familiar… Oh yeah, it’s almost exactly like what BP oil did last year, only they managed to do it on an even more massive scale than what happened on the Captain Planet TV show almost twenty years prior to the actual incident. Too bad Captain Planet couldn’t create a funnel to put all of the oil back into the ground, leaving the ocean pristine. The show makes it look plausible for kids to actually make an impact on environmental problems, and when things get too rough for them they can always call Captain Planet to save the day. Watching the first episode of the TV gives me a little hope though, because it showed that at least some people cared enough about the environment to try and teach young kids about what is happening to the planet.  They even went a step further and there is a Captain Planet Foundation that facilitates awareness of environmental issues that kids can get involved with at http://captainplanetfoundation.org/

Here are the two parts to the first episode of Captain Planet:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LB8CkYtP1rc&playnext=1&list=PL2066307FE0CAF31D

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVc1o2FvMUM&playnext=1&list=PL2066307FE0CAF31D

This old time classic is about a nerdy kid Melvin who winds up falling into a drum of toxic waste after being chased by some bullies. While the scenario seems tragic the disfiguring  mishap gives him super-human strength which he uses to fight bad guys like drug dealers, crime lords like Cigar Face, and corrupt politicians like Mayor Belgoody. The Toxic Avenger kicks ass and is a motivational story for anyone who has ever been picked on and wants to settle the score.  But similar to Alex Mack the great power came a at a great cost. When I was young I wish something like this happened to me, toxic spill, radioactive spider bite, etc. just so I didn’t have to adhere to modern society. Wishful thinking, like hoping for that one big car accident so you can get that huge settlement and smooth it out for the rest of your life.

At the same time I thought to myself two things: One this plot among others, promotes an idea that toxic sludge, waste, and whatever else are so omnipresent that a situation like this could happen to anybody. And two it depicts that while mishaps like this may be bad at first (Melvin burst into flames after he fell into the container filled with a viscous, life-altering, toxic waste) in the end you can use the situation to get back at all the bad guys that are treating others like shit. This includes the above stated suspects and of course scum that make the Earth unlivable by destroying the environment.

The Toxic Avenger began as a live action movie (1985) with two sequels. Cartoons ran into the early 90s for the kids and Marvel made and eleven issue run The Toxic Avenger.  This character is not to be confused with the French DJ The Toxic Aveger who is going for the same theme as Daft Punk.

While I could probably use the entire series of Futurama as an example, I chose the episode “Crimes of the Hot” from the fifth season, because it features none other than Al Gore himself and it is dedicated entirely to global warming/ pollution. It was nominated for an Environmental Media Award but lost to King of the Hill and a clip from this episode was used in The Inconvenient Truth.

The plot is that the future earth is going through  global warming that started in the past/ our present time, but Richard Nixon solved this problem each year by dropping chunks of ice from asteroids into the ocean. In this episode, the asteroid is out of ice and the earth is doomed! Al Gore offers a bag of sapphires to whomever can solve the problem and comedy ensues. Eventually, Dr. Farnsworth comes up with an idea of how to use pollution to solve global warming. He has all the robots stand in the same area and spew out fumes as hard as they can in one direction so that earth is moved farther from the sun. The plan works and the extra week is declared robot party week.

Of course, this is meant to be a lighthearted jab at the environmental movement and perhaps could be interpreted to have a deeper, more cynical meaning. In any case, this episode shows how the issue of global warming is very mainstream and is depicted in silly ways, as well as serious. While I could see some people being offended by the show since it could make the environmental movement seem cheapened, especially with Al Gore’s involvement. Yet, there are still some positive messages, like don’t use band-aid solutions, don’t sacrifice fuel efficiency for bigger robots, Richard Nixon is a bad president, and charismatic megafauna can make normally angry robots care.

I couldn’t find a clip, so I’ll list some quotes and a link to the Wiki:

Civil Defense Van: Thank you all for coming. It is my pleasure to present the host of the Kyoto global warming conference. The inventor of the environment, and first emperor of the moon, Al Gore!
Al Gore: I have ridden the mighty moon worm!
[Crowd cheers]
Fry: Good for him.

Leela: Bender, a turtle isn’t yourself. Why do you care about it?
Bender: Because I also care deeply about things that remind me of myself.
Hermes Conrad: What could you possibly have in common with that walking soup mix?
Bender: For one thing, we both have a tough outer shell but live a rich inner life. And also… well, you know.
Leela: You’re both alcoholic, whore-mongering, chain-smoking gamblers?
Bender: No, it’s just… neither of us can get up when we get knocked on our back.

Wikipedia: Crimes of the Hot

Here’s a clip from another episode to give you a sense of the show if you’re not familiar with it and could also be used as an example of how global warming/mutations are sold to us:

Futurama: Oxygen-Producing Pine Trees

These used to be really popular when I was a kid. There are several different kinds of toxic waste candies that the company puts out, but the most popular seems to be the Sour Candy Drums which are containers shaped like overflowing barrels of toxic waste packed with sour candy. These are definitely an example of how toxicity has become commoditized in today’s society, and in today’s somewhat environmentally aware society, a candy that glorifies toxic waste and makes it seem appealing to kids may not be the best idea for business. The Candy Dynamics Company seems to have realized this in the past few years, and have taken steps in order to portray themselves as an environmentally aware and responsible corporation.

The Toxic Waste Candy website, which is clearly designed to appeal to children, has an ‘environment’ section which “provides words of environmental wisdom in a way kids will relate to.” This section includes actions kids can take in order to help the environment and links to where they can go to learn more. One of these actions includes taking part in the company’s annual Toxic Takedown Challenge which promotes kids of all ages to be as environmentally conscious as they can. The environment section also includes a game called ‘The Landfill of Doom’ in which players try to reverse the ecological harm done to the candy mascot’s home by picking up garbage and cleaning up the environment to gain more points. Though the company claims they’re striving to use the candy and the characters associated with it to entertain children while prompting environmental responsibility, I wonder if all the environmental tips and games can counteract the fact that kids will be playing with and eating  “toxic waste.” Will this have any sort of effect on how they view actual toxic waste and the effect it has on the environment or is this just a harmless candy?


The embodiment of pollution and toxicity for me at a young age was Hexus, the oil monster character in the Disney film Fern Gully. While arguably the coolest character in the film, Hexus was a different kind of Disney villain; born from man and symbolic of his destructive nature toward the environment. The lyrics to his marque song, Toxic Sludge, sung by Tim Curry are very telling of the how Disney used this oozing, psuedo-sexual villain to portray anthropogenic effects on the environment from a pollutants stand point.

Mmm… sludge…
Mmm… filth!
Aah!.. fumes…
Oooh.. cack!

Oil and grime… poison sludge
Diesel clouds and noxious muck
Slime beneath me… slime up above
Ooh you’ll love my (ah-ah-ah) toxic love

Toxic love

I see the world and all the creatures in it
I suck ’em dry and spit ’em out like spinach
I feel the power – it’s growing by the minute
And pretty soon you’re gonna see me wallow in it

I feel good – a special kind of horny
Flowers and trees depress and frankly bore me
I think I’ll spew them all with cyanide salive
Pour me a puke cocktail and take me to the driver!

Filthy brown acid rain
Pouring down like egg chow mein
All that’s foul – all that’s stained
Breeding in my toxic brain

And after dinner I could go for something sweet
REVENGE! for all those years locked in a tree!
I’ll crush and grind all creatures great and small
And put up parking lots and shiny shopping malls

‘Cause greedy human beings will always lend a hand
With the destruction of this worthless jungle land
And what a beautiful machine they have provided
To slice a path of doom with my foul breath to guide it

Hit me one time!
Hit me twice!
Aaah – that’s rather nice!

Oil and grime…poison sludge
Diesel clouds and noxious muck
Slime beneath me…slime up above
Ooh you’ll love my (ah-ah-ah) toxic love.