Happy Labour Day! Seems like a great day for some new tidbit of learning!
South African Constitution Sets A First
I recently learned that the Constitution of South Africa is the first one in history to protect the human rights and freedoms of it’s citizens in the most possible ways:
Section 9: everyone is equal before the law and has right to equal protection and the benefit of the law. Prohibited grounds of discrimination include race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.
I learned this from a man who is originally from South Africa, and is himself a member of the LGBTQ community. He was proud of his country for setting this precedent, and it is indeed a great step forward in history.
Clean But Dangerous Power?
I recently learned, much to my surprise, that nuclear power is actually safer than solar power. This is for a variety of reasons. I also learned that modern nuclear power plants are now using fuel that has a much shorter half life than before (meaning it takes much less time to decay to safe levels). Cesium 137, which is the fuel that was used in Fukushima, has a half life of just 30 years. By comparison, Plutonium 239 has a half life of 24,100 years.
But I was surprised to hear of any deaths related to solar power, as it’s just converting light into energy.
As you may know, coal is both the dirtiest, but also most dangerous type of energy produced in the world, but nuclear is actually the least. Solar actually ranks around the middle.
Nuclear radiation also fades pretty quickly as it turns out:
The levels of radioactive fallout drop by 90% for every 7-fold increase in time, so if the level at 1 hour post-blast is 1,000 rads/hour, then after 7 hours, it will be about 100 rads/hour, and after 2 days and an hour, 10 rads/hour. By 2 weeks and 7 hours, it’s down to 1 rad/hour, and by 100 days, 1 hour, it’s at 100 millirads/hour. After a little under 2 years, it’s at 10 millirads/hour.
I dug up an article that investigates the mortality rate associated with these two types:
Nuclear power is probably the power source most people associate with grave danger, but as you can see in the chart above, it’s hardly killing anybody. The most deaths come not from meltdowns, but from the uranium mining process; miners are prone not only to cave-ins and accidents, but a higher possibility of lung cancer. The CDC found 371 such deaths among uranium miners between 1950 and 2000.
Most recently, the disaster at Fukushima can likely be said to have led to a few nuclear-related deaths, but before that, fatal accidents in the industry were few and far between. The only fatal accident that can be attributed to nuclear power in the United States was the explosion at the Stationary Low-Power Reactor Number One, an experimental army facility in 1961. Three men were killed. Besides the tragedy at Chernobyl, which Russia claims killed 31 (and watchdogs say killed dozens more), there have been relatively few fatalities with nuclear power over the years.
Nuclear power is also clean-burning, generating no harmful emissions. It’s only other harmful export, radiation from meltdown fallout, has only proved to be a significant danger across the Ukraine, where Chernobyl cast its shadow—crops are contaminated for generations, and genetic mutations in the population persist today. The World Health Organization estimated that 4,000 people may eventually die from that fallout. But radiation levels at Fukushima are already registering as quite low.
There are very few deaths in the utility-scale solar industry, but there are some in the rooftop solar panel installation industry. There have been at least three deaths of rooftop solar installers in California since 2009, where the industry is booming. Most construction and roofing deaths result from falls, and the same is true of the solar installation industry. The Next Big Future estimates that there are 100-150 deaths in the solar roofing industry worldwide each year.
Deaths are also likely to be more frequent as occupational regulations remain relatively poorly defined for the young industry. Meanwhile, the silicon solar panels are made from silica, which also must be mined. Exposure to the metal can cause silicosis, a serious respiratory illness. It’s hard to attribute a number of deaths specifically to the solar industry, though, because silica is widely used in numerous other industries, too.
Once the panels are up and running, there are no emissions or harmful side-effects beyond occasional maintenance.
Personally I would still be happy to get solar panels installed on my roof (if I owned a house and could afford the installation), but this has helped make me less leery of nuclear power. Thanks to the few great disasters/tragedies the industry has seen, safety regulations and maintenance do seem to have been really ratcheted up, and now that they’re using fuel that decays within just a few decades, that’s much easier to manage into the future. It’s clear that coal and gas (vehicle emissions) are not good for the planet and need to be reduced as much as possible, so fortunately we have a few clean alternatives that are safer by comparison.
A Totally Different Way To Think About Attraction
This one might be a bit of a thing to wrap your head around. You might be familiar with the concept of a fetish. Here’s the formal defintion:
A fetish is an extremely strong devotion to something. There are sexual fetishes and nonsexual fetishes: both are obsessive interests. The most common use of the word fetish is probably the sexual meaning.
You might be used to hearing of fetishes for things like leather, ropes, or whips, pretty typical “BDSM” stuff, but as the definition above says, a fetish is simply an extremely strong devotion to something, and that something can be pretty much anything. I have heard fetishists say that a “true fetish” can bring someone to climax without any touching or intercourse.
It may surprise you to learn, as it surprised me, that your sexuality/gender preferences are technically a fetish:
Androphilia and gynephilia are terms used in behavioral science to describe sexual orientation, as an alternative to a gender binary homosexual and heterosexual conceptualization. Androphilia describes sexual attraction to men or masculinity; gynephilia describes the sexual attraction to women or femininity.
Technically, regardless of your own gender identity, if you are attracted to women, you have a fetish for “gynephilia”, and if you are attracted to men, you have a fetish for “androphilia”.
When it’s framed in that context, it really changes things doesn’t it? Instead of thinking of it as this innate, hardwired thing, you can think of it kind of like an aesthetic that you like. This also helps separate the person from their physiology/gender expression.
I had a discussion with some queer and transgender friends about this and they clerified that the “men” and “women” in the definitions above do not specifically refer to genitalia, they literally refer to the person’s identity. So attraction to men and masculinity does not specifically mean “attraction to penises and masculinity”. After all, men can be feminine, and women can be masculine, and both are completely valid and acceptable.
So there you have it, you’re a little bit wiser now!
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