Opinion | Beyond Plastics: How Much Do We Love Life?

Opinion | Beyond Plastics: How Much Do We Love Life?

Back in 1967 people were electrified by “The Graduate,” especially the scene of 40+ Anne Bancroft seducing 21-year-old Dustin Hoffman. But there was another iconic moment when one of his parents’ friends definitively pronounces one word to Hoffman that would assure his future business success: “plastics.”

A half-century later the world is being choked by plastic waste from huge items to the smallest micro bits, each causing a slow death to our beautiful living system. As I revisited this non-regenerative life cycle of many pieces of plastic lodged in my brain and yours, it suddenly reminded me of something I learned about in the 1970s, the nuclear fuel cycle.

When Prop 13 was on the California ballot encouraging us to vote for nuclear energy, guaranteed to be cheap, clean, and efficient, my husband and I joined with others to explore this too-good-to-be-true source of energy. We soon learned that what we were not told was that the waste from the power plants would be toxic for 250,000 years and could not be safely stored and protected against earthquakes or terrorist attacks for starters. 

Dealing with radioactive materials was and still is a very serious threat to one's health if not life itself. In response, for one year we gave talks and educated others about the deadly life cycle of nuclear fuel--mining the uranium, transporting the raw material to a nuclear plant where the fuel would produce energy through the fission process, storing the spent fuel rods in cooling ponds, and deconstructing the nuclear plant at the end of its approximate 20-year life of producing that "cheap, clean, and efficient" energy.