Nuke Me Once, Shame on You. Nuke Me Twice, Shame on Me.

First I want to say that the suffering in Japan is weighing heavy in my heart. Second I want to say we should all of us be taking extra care of ourselves right now. No matter what they say about immediate health threats or lack thereof, radiation anywhere threatens us everywhere, especially in East Asia, the Pacific, and western North America. The Japanese experience of 1945 revealed the value of kelp and other seaweeds in combating radiation, especially in combination with miso and brown rice and a minimum of immune system suppressants (those bad-for-you foods and drugs).

Having said all that: it's bitterly ironic that the Japanese people would have to endure a second earth-shattering nuclear disaster before we woke up and put an end to the insanity and hubris that is the human manipulation of the nuclear fuel cycle. Of all the nations on this planet, Japan ought to have been the one to reject the folly of nuclearism. As the target of the world's first, and so far only, act of nuclear warfare, they have experienced the dangers of radiation poisoning more than anyone else. The Japanese government and the Japanese people have forthrightly and consistently condemned nuclear weaponry, with unquestioned moral authority, and contributed mightily to the international movement for abolition of nuclear arsenals.

And yet, there are 55 nuclear power plants in Japan today, and more than a dozen expected to go online before the end of the decade. Nuclear accounts for a third of the Japanese energy supply. It's understandable to a certain extent. The island nation is poorly endowed with domestic resources. At one point in the 20th century it tried to appropriate the resources of neighboring countries in an imperialist manner, and we know how well that worked out. In the year 2000 it was importing 80 percent of its energy resources. The capital-intensive, high-technology profile of nuclear power was too tempting to refuse. The highly-touted notion of nuclear power as environmentally friendly was the clincher.

And yet... it should not, must not come as a surprise that accidents happen.

Here in the USA, a major faction of the powers that be has been desperate to sell us on the idea that nuclear power is climate-friendly. Too many politicians and mainstream environmentalists have bought this line.

Look at this map of nuclear power plants in the mainland United States. Look how many of them are hugging coastlines.

Now remember what we know about the changing climate and rising sea levels. All the North American coastlines are threatened. Consider the dispiriting status of global negotiations on controlling emissions. Consider that the Kyoto Protocol, finalized in 1997 just a five-hour drive southwest of Sendai, expires next year.

Now tell me Fukushima can't happen here, sooner or later. If it's not a tsunami, the water will find other disruptive ways of announcing itself and staking its claim.

Granted, it's a tough choice for any society to make: occasional catastrophes or a steady slide into planetary peril. Can we please check none of the above?

Starting with the earliest campaign to sell nuclear power, Dwight Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" scheme, a few dissidents have opposed this horrendous machinery, puncturing the industry's lies and revealing the glaring destructiveness of its operation. The poet, philosopher and anarchist activist Paul Goodman was one of those early, committed anti-nukers. Goodman was an ardent champion of science, but fretted that the scientific virtues had been perverted by the structures of power—in academia as well as industry, government and the military. In his writings and dozens of speeches during the 1960s—of which you'll hear excerpts in PAUL GOODMAN CHANGED MY LIFE—Goodman challenged scientists to take moral responsibility for how their work would be applied, and to oppose dangerous uses of their brain power.

Goodman wrote cogently and eloquently about establishing sensible, practical criteria for guiding the development of technologies. The machines we create and proliferate should be useful and efficient, of course, but also comprehensible to ordinary citizens and repairable by their users. Above all, he said, technologies should be prudent and modest, human in scale and humanistic in the mark they make on the world. Nuclear power flagrantly flunks all these tests, especially the modesty test. A technology that creates waste products so harmful and potent they must be sequestered for, literally, thousands of years—and that's when it's working properly!—and whose malfunction threatens to annihilate populations and render large areas permanently uninhabitable, is the very epitome of an arrogant technology.

It's too simple to say that nuclear is the wrong choice for our century. What has to be said is that the whole development of nuclear power technology over the past 60 years has been a colossal, shameful mistake and a crime against humanity. It represents decades of time, mints of money, and generations of scientific effort misdirected, wasted. Imagine where we'd be if all those resources had been—or could be now—devoted to truly sustainable energy solutions.

May peace prevail on Earth.