A Renewable Energy Teaching Moment


Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, whether most people are applying it to renewable energy or a suggestion that they misremembered directions to a party, is something that folks often get wrong. They've heard about it and it's like a game of 'telephone.' It's actually not that hard to understand, but the context is the sort of equipment--a particle accelerator--and the result is the sort of occurrence--the central components of atoms flying to pieces--that most folks, yours truly included of course, have never actually seen or touched.

The idea is basically this: an observer cannot simultaneously state the location of a particle and its velocity or acceleration. This makes perfect sense if given a bit of thought. To know 'where' requires a stoppage; to know 'how quickly' requires a continuity of motion. Implicit in this insight is also the inevitable impact of the observation itself.

As a metaphor, it cautions us to realize that even things that look obvious may be more complicated than we think; it also encourages a certain looseness in contemplation, an open-mindedness. It decidedly does not mean that we can never make up our minds. On the contrary, it requires that we take responsibility for acting on the basis of the best information available, at the same time acknowledging the potential for error.

Scientists all too often reject popular opinion on the basis of imputations of ignorance when such accusations are, to say the least, unscientific. Evidence exists everywhere around us. Its applicability to almost all of the issues that are important to us--from health care to energy to matters economic and electoral--is more than adequate for intelligent decision making. Ignorance does not necessitate indecision, even if it does make uncertainty inevitable.

This applies with particular force in so many areas of modern life. Wars are supposedly only decipherable by experts, who conduct their policy confabulations in secret. Energy choices are allegedly beyond the ken of common folk, who must accept that certain data is not accessible to, or understandable by, to their pitiful pea-brains. Economic decisions follow the same pattern; and those related to healthy bodies and healthy minds; and to the education of children; and so on.

This dismissal of the common folk is so ubiquitous now as to be nearly epidemic. The noxious results of such attitudes have shown up repeatedly in the articles that I've been posting. Though courage is a part of standing up, giving voice, taking part, it also can be merely a choice. "I'm going to ask a question." Or, "I'm going to find out an answer about this situation that satisfies me."Or, "I'm going to figure out to whom I should pay attention when I want answers."

Now I'll be honest. I'd like folks to pay attention to me. I consider myself an honest, fair-minded, diligent, and well-informed reporter of the news in the areas in which I've taken an interest. Whether I am the source that my readers turn to or not, however, in a world as complex and full of hidden agendas and interconnections as the one that we are so lucky to inhabit, some sort of mediated data is essential.

All of these issues: dealing with uncertainty, overcoming the rejection of popular viewpoints; choosing to learn and participate; finding a mediated source of information--are particularly critical to today's report, which is the second in a series of three about Depleted Uranium(DU).

In all honesty, the future of this nest of cousins that we've created on the planet looks pretty fragile just now, in no small part because the 'genie' of radioactivity is out of the bottle, and so many leading lights find the bright promise of profit in fissioning atoms hither and yon. Then, as is the case with DU, these ruling parties sell the rest of us a bill of goods, in which the up-front costs are next to nothing, compared to the deadly and devastating long-term consequences of buying into their system.


That said, I'm a sucker for movies, as long as they aren't trying to advance some hidden ideation that nauseates me, and as long as they are for the most part real. Most people have higher standards in terms of production values and such, so my reviews should come with a disclaimer: I'm more interested in content and honesty than I am in slickness of any sort, whether of the story-telling or technical variety.

In this regard, the two products under consideration today definitely pass muster. They both state very explicitly the biases that they bring to the combination of narrative and discussion that any film represents; they both at least nod to the contentions of opponents to their respective positions, which are in many ways a broader consideration of the domestic issues that DU brings up, on the one hand, and a wider conception of environmental injustice, to both soldiers and civilians, centering on but not limited to, DU on the other hand.

I hope that readers will recall that a third installment in this series, maybe a month or so down the pike, is still in the pipeline, so to speak. That will examine in much greater detail first the radiation-and-health issues involved in this particular manifestation of humanity's use of energy, second the specific historical record that underlies contemporary usage of DU, and third, the specific political-economic environs of DU, both as an industry and as an aspect of an industrial 'complex,' of death as it were.

Moreover, I highly recommend that readers review my recent output on this issue, which is broad-ranging and provides background arguably critical to a full appreciation of what appears today. In sum, folks should keep a few elements from that earlier work clearly in mind, copiously documented and clearly demonstrable as they are in the earlier work.

*Overwhelming evidence exists of a causal connection between DU and severe, often lethal effects on human health, not only in general or in theory, but in relation to soldiers and civilians who have encountered this demonic substance, especially on the killing fields of Iraq.
*A general orientation to cost-savings and efficiency, as well as tactical considerations about penetrating power and so on, played a large part in the choice to use these weapons.
*An opposition ill-tempered and viciously dishonest, at one extreme, and diversionary and dismissive, at the other extreme, confronts scientists who argue that the 'damaged goods' of discarded soldiers and brutalized non-combatants must receive remuneration and help in healing for the harms that DU has caused them.
*This conflict revolves around issues of proof, which are disingenuously advanced by the government and its scientistic supporters to mean that only dispositive demonstration is adequate to mandate ameliorative action by the U.S. government.
*An understanding of these issues must take place in regard to an analysis, and rich interweaving, of the roots and purposes of empire into the discussion of this very specific sort of damage, and carnage, that has occurred and continues to occur at the hands of our military.

For the most part, these points stand as demonstrated in the previous work, though always the potential exists for refutation, modification, amplification, etc. Some of these points will receive significant amplification in the future. The final point will appear as part of the ending of this essay, the theme that empire will ever undermine 'business better' an oft-repeated concept in this work that I do.

Before proceeding to the material at hand itself, I ask readers to ponder a couple of factual points. The first is that somewhere in the neighborhood of one and a half billion pounds of DU exists in one state or another of storage in the United States alone, with a minimum estimate of another billion pounds scattered elsewhere around the globe. The second is that an ongoing utilization of DU weapons remains the stated policy and regular practice of the United States of American, in direct contravention to United Nations convention, in complete abrogation of any notion of social justice, and in utter disregard for public health and common sense.

For those who believe in sustainable business, in a renewable relationship with mother earth, in the possibility of healing, these facts--one about a number that implies grave responsibility, the other about a behavior that demonstrates acute irresponsibility--are a call not unlike the theme of yesterday's posting, about going 'beyond the call' of duty, to a place of human kindness and decency that must form a part of this sustainable improvement that we seek. Perhaps this number and this practice will suggest an alternative by the end of this article.


This documentary effort, by a husband-wife team just up the road in Chattanooga, shoots as straight as one might imagine. That works very well in regard to complicated and controversial topics, however. Everyone alive, and especially anyone with a soldier about whom he cares, or about whom she worries, should watch this film. Since the film itself was not commercially released - no duplex worth its consumeristic salt would dare show such a film - the movie's purveyors invite viewers to host screenings, providing contact info for just such an eventuality, which is something I encourage every JustMeans reader to undertake.

The website also contains a 5-minute segment of introductory scenes, a link to draft scenes from "Contaminated Forever", and options to purchase the DVD. Wes Rehberg and Eileen Rehberg, an artist/journalist and social policy analyst respectively, have definitively exposed the cataclysmic consequences that the use of depleted uranium weapons (DU) has wrought at every level of U.S. society and our nation's military.

DU has spared no one; the frightening consequences to the residents of the contaminated areas mirror the serious health consequences Gulf War vets have experienced. The environmental devastation DU has caused will continue wreaking havoc for a long time yet. The continual use of these weapons is akin to an eventual death sentence of humanity. As the title of the film pronounces, eternal contamination damaging generations upon generations remains the inherent result of noxious toxins that will persist for the next several billion years: half of the poison will dissipate every 1.5 billion years, more or less.

This movie shows, through interviews, first-hand accounts of the effects of depleted uranium on veterans exposed to the materials from the first Gulf War onwards. We meet Melissa Sterry, sick and at one point homeless, ravaged by the stuff after her experience in Desert Storm. We meet an Sergeant Herbert Reed, corroborating that these testimonials are truthful, and that truth is not considered bad-mouthing.

We come in contact with Major Doug Rokke repeatedly, whom we last week learned led the U.S. effort to clean up the contamination for years. He is one of the many technical experts who speaks out about this issue. These folks and many others come on camera to state their personal histories and relationships to DU: when and how they were exposed, what have been the physical and psychological impacts of said exposure.

Inevitably, all go on to tell their miserable experiences finding resources to help them. To a man, and woman, all veterans and civilians damaged by depleted uranium have met with stonewalling, denial, and outright ridicule, when they have sought to gain redress or at least acknowledgment of the devastation DU has caused in their lives.

Melissa speaks honestly and unaffectedly. "I don;t look like it, but I spent almost 3 months being homeless. And I wasn't speaking out about this stuff. I was too sick. I couldn't work; my disability hadn't come in. I was out of options. If my friends hadn't stepped in and picked me up, I don't now where I would have ended up. I don't consider what I'm doing bad-mouthing the military. I consider it just telling the truth, what they should have been doing a long time ago, when they knew about depleted uranium."

The second section of the film is what started the producers down this path. It involves community action at Aerojet Ordnance, a manufacturer near to Chattanooga where many horrific health effects were surfacing. This section of the movie is simply a must-see.

The next portion of the narrative takes us to Puerto Rico, where, if folks are not paying attention, they may be unaware that a decades-long resistance to naval use of the island as a target range and dump has been going on, most recently in regard to the rapacious scattering of DU seeds that have blossomed epidemics of cancer and neurological disease and birth defects, not to mention the immolation of an important sector of the hemisphere's environment, a 'gateway' to the Caribbean and the North Atlantic both.

One activist, who also has done documentary work, explains how a friend, near death from a brain tumor and multiple explosions of cancer, tested so high for levels of DU and other lethal poisons that the doctors performed a second set of exams, which only confirmed the hideous exposure that the young man had experienced.

The next component of the movie follows the work and thoughtful insights of Doug Rokke, the maligned military whistleblower. All that anyone with what my friend Duna Norton used to call "a lick of sense" need do is pay attention to the man's demeanor, the clarity of his message, the comprehensiveness of his documentation, and that observer will have no doubt. All protests are either insane or a purposeful dodge.

The next section documents a vibrant protest. Here's a note for JustMeans readers, who ought now to become JustMeans viewers. Sometimes, "taking it to the street" is an essential part of a process of change.

The sixth part of this movie outlines the struggles of those exposed to contamination from an enriched uranium plant, even 25 years after the plant ceased to operate. "Nearby residents and workers at NL Industries in the Albany, NY, area were found to be contaminated by depleted and enriched uranium - U238 and U235 - 25 years after the plant was ordered shut down. This video, a chapter in our documentary 'Contaminated Forever,' details a press conference on their contamination and a visit to the former NL site."

The final section of the body of the film again bears witness to action, this time at another Tennessee 'merchant of death' and purveyor of depredation, in Jonesboro. The final section is an affecting talk with Iraq veteran Herb Reed, who made me weep with frustrated anger and burning compassion.

But more than tears are necessary. Anyone who wants to live through a ripe old age had better get his a** in gear and see this movie, making sure that everyone he introduces to the film also shows it widely. We can't let this pass.


We meet many of the same characters in this longer piece that takes a more historical approach in its documentary efforts, and also shows the grotesque murder that our nation's policies have worked on the Iraqi people. This is another command performance for anyone who considers herself a proponent of sustainable business, for anyone who holds himself out as a supporter of doing 'business better.'

The narration and photography of this film deserve academy awards rather than the pallor of silence that has greeted this powerful statement. Anyone who is willing, as I have done, to fact-check the points in the movie, will know that this represents criminal evidence against the leaders of the armed forces and the government. Half a dozen characters add to this message, though they only show up briefly. The attorneys for some of the legal actions against the government explain the principle under which the U.S. intends to continue to escape liability for its obvious "willful destruction and gross negligence."

In addition to Doug Rokke, who plays perhaps the part of principal investigator, along with the narrator herself--whom I believe is none other than Nurse Riley, we meet four key witnesses who nail this indictment of the nuclear weapons and nuclear power industries, which are venal enough to sell even satanic death as a beneficial pablum if the process adds a few dam*** to the bottom line.

*Robert Jones, the former Special Forces fighter, nearly breaks down at several junctures when he speaks of the harm that his exposure has yielded for his wife and kids, "who never signed up or swore any oaths." What has severed his connection from the government for good and all is the way that the State utterly abandoned them when he 'retired' from the Army.

*Leuren Moret, whom we have also met before, is so powerful as a presenter that she alone justifies buying the film as the sole Christmas present that one proffers this year. If anyone has even a smidgeon of a doubt, they must watch her testimony, evaluate her arguments, and then weigh in with what conclusions are inescapable.

*Joyce Riley brings honor to the nurse's profession with her witness here: I think she was the narrator. My deadline is nigh, so I can't check, but her voice, clear and full of passion, sure sounds like the woman doing the voiceovers in such incisive and potent fashion. She stands for a continuing presence. She stands for clean-up. She stands for making good on broken promises and healing the world that our leaders have plundered, inasmuch as that is possible in any event.

*Dennis Kyne, suffering for almost twenty years from the brutal calumny of a government he loved and trusted, has become perhaps the most effective veteran's advocate in the U.S. His statements are like razors, with which he strips the skin off the government's pretension and dissimulation in this matter.

Finally, by developing narrative links to pharmaceutical experiments, to the self-serving and cowardly decisions to destroy Iraqi supplies "in place"--so as to avoid culpability in having provisioned Saddam in the first place, to the vicious decades long subjection of hundreds of thousands of U.S. soldiers to atomic weapons tests, to the cavalier attacks on the entire Iraqi people, and more, the filmmakers provide a multitiered examination of chapters of American history that call for an upsurge of fury, if not for outright rebellion.


Unfortunately, because the plutocrats who are murdering soldiers and children with DU are the same top-hats who mainly control the court system, the "standards of evidence" now extant for science-and-law issues like these is impossible to meet for all matters but those so obvious that they don't require study. This flows from the most important legal decision about which you've never heard, Daubert v. Dow Chemical.

Folks might nod that Dow, the world's third largest chemical company and a world class emitter of toxins, was a party here. They also ought to note that Dow was the defendant. This material provides a glimpse as to why a traditional avenue for social redress no longer beckons with the potential that it once did. It establishes, perhaps once and for all, the absolute necessity of a deeper seated and more thorough going approach to reform.

Our lives depend on it. This intersection of policy, democracy, and social action will be a primary theme of the next few months, so JustMeans readers who have an interest in such matters may stay tuned. For today, I merely proffer a quotation from a legal scholar and scientist who deplores the effects of the above-styled case, which has eviscerated science in the courtroom while simultaneously keeping more money in corporate coffers. Go figure.

"Ten years ago, on June 28, 1993, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion relating to how federal judges should decide whether to allow expert testimony into the courtroom. ...directing judges to act as “gatekeepers” ... to examine the scientific method underlying expert evidence and to admit only that evidence that was both 'relevant and reliable.' ...But what started as a well-intentioned attempt to ensure reliable and relevant evidentiary science has had troubling consequences. ,,, (S)ome judges, in our opinion, have routinely misinterpreted and broadened the reach of Daubert, which has become the latest and most effective tool used by tort defendants to protect themselves from product liability and personal injury cases. Polluters and manufacturers of dangerous products are successfully using Daubert to keep juries from hearing scientific or any other evidence against them. In the aftermath of Daubert, not only are many legitimate scientists and their work being barred from the courtroom, but plaintiffs are being denied their day in court, unfairly in our view. Much of the evidence that forms the basis of a plaintiff’s case, from the safety of drugs and consumer products to whether pollution has caused harm, is based on science. In many cases, pre-trial “Daubert hearings” exclude so much of the evidence upon which plaintiffs intend to rely that a given case cannot proceed."

Unfortunately, of course, this is precisely the point.


In order to get a grip on the complexities that predominate in our multi-tasking, multi-level experience of the present moment, we have no choice but to mediate. 'Whether' to accept any filter is rarely an option; the only issue is one of 'which' filter to choose. In actuality, of course, all too many people do not make any sort of conscious decision. The cable company makes the choices; Google provides the filter; the monopoly that owns the local press will just have to do.

Thus, this material drives home with resounding force the lesson that folks must seek out data that fits the reality of our lives, instead of accepting a superficial or deflective construction of that reality from sources that we passively partake of. The consistent call here for Peoples Information Networks is one aspect of such focused choosing. Yet another is the necessity of building a social process around films such as those on view today.

Really, the P.I.N. concept and the potential for 'access-and-activation' parties, an iteration perhaps of the 'correspondence committees' of our forebears, is probably one and the same. Or the idea of having twenty people come to see "Contaminated Forever," each of whom repeats the process, is one aspect of what a Peoples Information Network can do. We need to investigate many such avenues that lead to transformative travels.

In addition to this necessity to become responsible for a more proactive mediation, all citizens confront a crisis of confidence about the capacity of policy-makers and other facilitators of dispute resolution to manage these issues. To a significant extent, which will show up in a much richer and more fully articulated form in policy posts that are forthcoming, the standards that we, as the citizen arbiters of legal matters, allow to predominate in academic, legal,and policy forums are ludicrous.

That is, unless the purpose of those standards is to protect the status quo and deflect even the tiniest hint of a risk to maximize profits for plutocrats, they are absurd. We need to be asking if the point of law and democracy is to enrich the already engorged or ought to engage a more socially democratic paradigm of some sort. If the latter, then we have no alternative but to see that we are trekking as if our lives depended on it down a highway to hell.

Scientist and stalwart advocate for human rights, and for a human future, Leuren Moret, explains clearly some of what is at stake in these matters. She recently pointed out, in an interview for the Iconoclast, that

"the atmosphere is contaminated with (DU and similar and related pollutants)... . I’m an expert on atmospheric dust. I’m a geoscientist, a geologist, and that’s what I studied and did my research on. ... huge dust storms that are a million square miles and transport millions of tons of dust and sand (from) the Gobi Desert in China, which is where the Chinese did atmospheric testing, so that’s all contaminated with radiation, and it gets transported right over Japan, and it comes straight across the Pacific and dumps all its sand and dust on the U.S., North America. It’s loaded with radioactive isotopes, soot, pesticides, chemicals, pollution (from) (t)he Sahara Desert (and from a)third region (in) the Western United States, which is where the Nevada test site is located. We did 1,200 nuclear weapons tests there, so all this radiation that is already there, which is bad enough, has caused a global cancer epidemic since 1945. All of that radiation was the equivalent of 40,000 Nagasaki bombs. ...In April of 2003, the World Health Organization said they expect global cancer rates to increase 50 percent by the year 2020. Infant mortality is going up again all over the world. This is an indicator of the level of radioactive pollution. When the U.S. and Russia signed the partial test ban treaty in 1963, the infant mortality rate started dropping again, which is normal. Now they are going up again. It’s the global pollution with this radiation."

Sustainable this is not. Better business this is not. Those who profit from the trade, one way and another, have the least incentive to change. We have the greatest incentive. Once again, the 'clue phone' is calling, and we don't want to continue to reside on Planet Oblivia.

Talk is not enough. Study is not enough. Learning is not enough. The times call us to organize and act. 'Business better' depends on it. So do the lives of our kids and whatever generations might have a chance at a future so long as we act.


Certainty is for fools, and uncertainty needs to be the bailiwick of many more citizens than merely the scientistic priests and dissimulating policy thugs who ought to look upon old Werner Heisenberg's idea as sacred but instead adopt a self-serving and false patina of know-it-all arrogance, thereby demonstrating their clownish idiocy to anyone who pays attention. The only certainty that we should bring to this work is concern for honesty, and compassion.

That said, we should obviously embrace an action orientation in relations to DU. We may never know with complete certainty that any of the several million to many tens of millions of the environmentally raped received their wounds in such-and-such a specific faction. But this lack of an exact etiology can only forestall a decision to provide compensation and support if we ignore the plentiful evidence of our senses, as widely available as a pair of movies.

This contention, of course, depends on an effectuation of popular democracy of course. And a majority's exercising its will cannot transpire if we do not embrace the notion that popular knowledge, popular education, and popular opinion, especially when developed in conjunction with broad and deep scientific backing, has not only similar authority to, but also much more profound authority than a narrowly defended and brutally asserted set of remonstrations that serve almost exclusively to advance the interests of imperial rule.

However, such a leap in participation can only come to pass if two things happen first. The initial step is one of capacitation. Readers first must look the grotesque monstrosities that our societies have caused squarely in the face and promise, "We will come to terms with this; we will find out what's behind this; we will ascertain what is possible to do to address this."

The second step is much more daunting. In the past, with only a few exceptions, the tendency has been to take some sense of realization--"Aha! We are cozying up to evil and promulgating death"--and then to hand off responsibility for transformation to Obama-the-Magnificent, or Woodrow ("he kept us out of war" in order to send us into the jaws of death) Wilson, or to some other 'leader,' possibly well-meaning but ultimately impotent to stand up against the institutional and dynamic forces favoring a reversion to business as usual.

Today, business as usual is, in the best possible view, a sentence to a painful and lingering doom. Truly, we must find a way to engage 'business better,' and that means laboring in a collective and participatory way that leads from below and insists that we will not revert to the old cure-alls and diversions this time, but will stand as stewards of future generations in these times that must 'try men's souls' before they deliver us from evil.

And none of these attributes of responsibility about our personal and collective survival is even vaguely plausible outside of a deep context of constant communication with each other. Nor is the discussion idle. On the contrary, it must ever have action as the daily outcome--not just 'writing a letter' or lobbying some other leaders, but being willing, "once more, dear friends into the breach," to put our own lives and fortunes and sacred honor on the line.

A few sites on the web so marvelously speak for humanity that a lack of attention to them is a form of crime against humanity. One such outlet, the End-of-the-American-Dream, proffers a stark and accurate warning to consider.

"Most Americans have no idea that depleted uranium munitions used by the U.S. military are causing one of the greatest environmental nightmares in the history of the world. In fact, most Americans have no idea what depleted uranium even is. But even as many Americans gobble down their burgers and french fries and pizza and enjoy the 'good life' watching their big screen televisions, an entirely different story is being written on the other side of the world. In Iraq and Afghanistan today, there are some areas that have been so polluted by depleted uranium that they have literally become uninhabitable hellholes. Americans like to think of themselves as so 'environmentally conscious,' but the truth is that one of the greatest environmental tragedies of all time is being caused by the U.S. military and yet nobody seems to care."

I care. The writer goes on to note.

"But now some of the victims are starting to fight back - at least in court. According to one Iraqi minister, Iraq's Ministry for Human Rights will file a lawsuit against the United States and the United Kingdom over their use of depleted uranium munitions in Iraq."

We should support these legal actions against our government. As we will delve further in the next installment, and as "Beyond Treason" documents, George W. Bush stands indicted as a war criminal, with thirty-plus counts against him. We need to step up our organization, and our level of attention and engagement, in regard to these crucial issues, or we can listen to the lines that Jackson Browne sings in "After the Deluge."

"Some of them were dreamers, some of them were fools." We might recall the biblical injunction about the wages of sin. Foolishness now is mortal sin.

Photo Credits:
Jonesboro rally: Wild Clearing Blog
Movie stills: Contaminated Forever: Wes Rehlberg channelhere, and here.
Movie stills: Beyond Treason: Beyond Treason