My dulcet tones are not what they should be. My vocal cords are extremely sore because of a week long bout with the flu and trying to run a workshop session for 60 teachers who were worse behaved than their students. Another major factor is the haze from the fires of land clearances, presumably in Sumatra. I don't find it strange anymore that it's little reported here even though neighbouring countries are affected
I really wanted to describe the stupendous views from Puncak Pass, but this weekend they were non-existent. The resort/conference centre we stayed at nestles on a valley slope covered with patches of greenery and splodges of villas. We could barely make out the bare sides of neighbouring hills, but it was still a darn sight better than being back in the haze and added traffic pollution of Jakarta. Or Kuala Lumpur
I'd forgotten how built up this rural area is. The roads are gaily decorated with banners advertising wooden vilas (sic
) at knockdown prices. No doubt they're a fire risk as well. What I couldn't understand is why they're named after Argentina, Valencia, Frankfurt and Newcastle. Football teams? An allusion to the lack of colour?
No expense was spared to make us comfortable, but I'm sure it would have been nicer on the maiden voyage of Queen Mary 2
, though probably even on board several colleagues would have felt all at sea without their instant messaging. We take for granted the appeal of velocity, that there is money to be made and pleasure to be had from the gratification of the instantaneous: the three-gulp Happy Meal, the lightning download, the vital cellphone message that I am here and are you there; the soundbite homily, the febrile jump-cut, the whole damned zip-drive, wham-bam, slam-dunk, short-shelf-life, Ritalin-friendly world we have engineered.
Back in the real world, I've caught up with the news. Obviously I'm pleased that the Jakarta Post is following my lead
in highlighting various issues. They too feel that pedestrians get a raw deal
However, I'm not pleased that the pressure for more nuclear power plants has been stepped up for 'environmental reasons
James Lovelock, who has repeated his lifelong support for nuclear energy and recently argued that civilisation is in 'imminent danger' from global warming and must use nuclear power - 'the one safe, available, energy source' - to avoid catastrophe.
Safe? Apparently nuclear power, which provides 16% of the world's electricity, saves roughly 600m tonnes of carbon emissions per year
(which) is almost twice the total amount the so far unratified global warming Kyoto Protocol treaty is designed to save. The nuclear power chain, from uranium mining to waste disposal and including reactor and construction emits roughly 2-6 grams of carbon per kilowatt-hour. This, it says, is about the same as wind and solar power, and two orders of magnitude below coal, oil and even natural gas.
Great, but there aren't any storage-for-a-couple-of-millennia problems with wind, sun, wave or methane gas power!
Of course, it's all to do with the demand for electricity, which is over-used in the so-called developed, or 'civilised
' as James Lovelock calls them, countries and by the 'haves' in the 'developing' world. There is no rush to build nuclear power plants in the West. Of 27 stations now under construction worldwide, 16 are in China, India, Japan and South Korea. Apart possibly from Japan, where there has recently been an accident at a nuclear plant
, which was by no means the first
, it is rare to hear about public campaigns against nuclear power. The citizens are either too poor to get involved or too indoctrinated by the powers-that-be to stick their heads above the parapets.
Politicians are mainly concerned with their immediate careers and bank balances. For example, with 28% of the world's reserves, Australia is keen to sell its uranium to other countries and to build its own first power plant
. Given Prime Minister Howard's ties with the American establishment, it's not so surprising that Indonesia's nearest neighbour is keen to push the big business envelope although he does have to contend with a very well organised anti-nuclear campaign
Whilst the politicians and businessmen are prepared for any eventuality having ensured themselves a good night's kip
for a mere $160,000, the rest of us must remain vigilant and speak up.
Which I shall continue to do once I get my voice back.