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Climate change and planning for our kids' futures

Original post made by PA Concerned Mom, Crescent Park, on Feb 5, 2007

Is a habitable planet as important as, say, a good college education? There's a big disconnect in this community around attitudes about global warming, particularly for those of us who are parents. Many of us move to Palo Alto (and neighboring towns) because it's such a child-friendly town. We're here because we want the best for our kids. On the whole, we focus a great deal of energy on our youngsters to make sure they get the most out of life. But when it comes to something really major that's potentially a deal breaker for our kids' quality of life, what are we really doing as parents?

I'm talking about global warming, and I simply don't see very many parents showing much concern about how this problem is going to affect their kids -- but it will, and at our current rate of climate change, it's going to get very personal in the next couple decades.

As a mom, what's on my mind is that I want to know I'm doing everything I can so that my progeny can have the same quality of life -- e.g., predictable, safe weather patterns, reliable water supply, clean air, etc. -- that I've enjoyed so far. Are other parents thinking about this, too? I believe that, as caring, responsible parents, we need to start doing the following:

1. Educate ourselves on the situation and know the realities and agreed-upon predictions
2. Begin to discuss it with our children in an age-appropriate way so that they're aware of the issues
3. Begin to make lifestyle changes that, on a large scale, can make a real difference in greenhouse gas emissions
4. As a family, start thinking differently about overall consumption habits

I'd like to hear what other parents are thinking about these ideas.

-- PA Concerned Mom

Comments (72)

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 5, 2007 at 10:57 am

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by Another Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2007 at 12:11 pm

All good points the original poster brings up. (Shame about the spam artist who felt the need to add his unconstructive comments to the conversation.)

I think Al Gore's movie, Inconvenient Truth, needs to be seen by everyone. I've heard some parents say, "I don't need to get depressed," or "Yeah, but it doesn't have anything to do with me," and I take issue with both responses. To the first, there's a very hopeful message in Inconvenient Truth that's way better than hiding one's head in the sand. And to the second comment, well, I think what we all have to do is think about "the environment" and realize that it's not something that's somewhere out *there* -- it's here. Our environment starts in our kitchens and living rooms and bedrooms and extends out to the atmosphere, and we have to think of the whole environment as our home (and accordingly take good care of it).

The thing I'm not sure about is how children will respond to Inconvenient Truth and the information it contains. The facts are frightening, and I want to do the right thing, but I don't want our children living in fear. Are there people out there whose children have viewed the movie? How did they respond?

Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 5, 2007 at 12:58 pm

Another Mom,
Actually the right term is not spam artist, its flame-baiter, or troll.

There are a bunch of carbon footprint calculators on the net. I was surprised to see the calculator indicated that my current lifestyle requires no changes. You might want to visit one of these sites and enter your data, and see how far off you are. I know even my house still has changes I should make that would be an economic advantage to me, like more attic insulation. You may find that severe sacrifices or returning to a medieval lifestyle is not required.

Posted by KCM
a resident of Greenmeadow
on Feb 5, 2007 at 2:23 pm

I wouldn't discount the importance of a good college education, especially if you want to ensure predictable, safe weather. We'll be needing lots more scientists and engineers.

For kids, you might try to find a copy of The Toynbee Convector, a short story by Ray Bradbury (from 1988). It’s about humans creating a utopia on earth of peaceful and ecological cooperation within 100 years, once they’ve been convinced that they can, by seeing time machine recordings of the utopian future. There’s a twist to the story, but it’s still very optimistic.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 5, 2007 at 2:36 pm

"Changes (other than grammatical or minor editorial changes) made after acceptance by the Working Group or the Panel shall be those necessary to ensure consistency with the Summary for Policymakers or the Overview Chapter."
This is in the preamble of the scientific report subject of the recently released summary by the Global Warming committee. What that says is that the science will not be released until it can be edited to conform with the "findings".
Moms, I'm a pop and grand pop and great grandpop and you are being led down the lily path to serfdom by those who believe that people are a blight on the earth. The only difference between the way you live today and the lowest bush baby is available energy, the one thing they want to tax away. I am also an engineer whose lifes' work incorporates the analysis of reports, and the science of "Global Warming" wouldn't pass any objective test. Don't sell your babies down the river.
I am not running for office or selling anything, so take a care of those who are.
Shame on you for doing this to your children.

Posted by Interesting...
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 5, 2007 at 3:02 pm

Last summer, when it was REALLY hot, I was approached by a student trying to get me to sign a petition on Global Warming. The guy picked a day when it was really (i mean really) hot.
Kind of loses credibility. I hope there are more students outside the library gettting people to sign such stuff in winter.
Do you expect Chicago folks (temp. with wind chill of -12 F) are eager to hear about Global Warming at this time???
Should be change the voting dates - from Nov. to Aug. to get some
more impact.

Alas.... Human nature!!!!!!!!

Posted by Oracle at Delphi
a resident of another community
on Feb 5, 2007 at 3:59 pm

Walter_E_Wallis, please don't support the passing on to future generations of a despoiled planet and a crippling public debt!

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 6, 2007 at 7:17 am

The world doesn't care.
Your children will care that you allowed the infrastructure that differentiates between civilization and savagry to be dismantled for a failed religion.

Posted by joyce
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 6, 2007 at 8:49 am

Amazing and saddening to see some posts here. As someone said on the NYTimes blog about this, the number of shoe salesmen and hairdressers who think they know more about global warming than virtually every PhD in the field except a few in the pay of Exxon is astonishing.

RS, I suspect you do need to reduce your carbon footprint. If you are coming out "average," that is too high, since we're already at 125% of sustainable use of resources. Only a very significant very fast overall reduction in pollution will even keep things constant in terms of the climate change that is already underway. And given that some people will make no changes, the responsible rest of us have to compensate.

Posted by Leslie
a resident of Palo Verde
on Feb 6, 2007 at 9:40 am

Start now and lead by example. The City of Palo Alto allows you to particpate in using renewable sources for your home energy consumption.

Web Link

From their FAQ:

"5 How does my participation help the environment?

Every participant of PaloAltoGreen increases the amount of renewable energy The City of Palo Alto Utilities will buy on your behalf. Because PaloAltoGreen consists of entirely “new” renewable facilities, your participation leads directly to the development of new clean generation facilities. "New" renewables are generation facilities that first started operation on or after January 1, 1999, or as defined by Green-e regional certification standard. As new renewable facilities come online they replace the dirtiest power plants in the power pool, thereby reducing pollution and cleaning the entire power pool. 100% of the renewable energy supported by the program comes from sources built this year or in recent years."

My family participates and is also buying carbon credits. And, yes we learned about this after watching An Inconvienent Truth".

Even if we only assume that there is a limit to carbon fuel, then green programs like this are reasonable.

Posted by Joanna H
a resident of Community Center
on Feb 6, 2007 at 10:14 am

Leslie mentioned carbon credits in her message, and those are a great idea -- especially for people who need to drive or fly a great deal. The way they work is that you use a carbon calculator (as a couple of commentors have mentioned) to figure determine your carbon emissions and what you need to offset. The offsetting is done by paying for the production of some form of renewable energy, hence the term "carbon credits." People who start using these carbon credits are often surprised by how very little it costs to offset their emissions.

If you want to know more about how it works or how/where you can get carbon credits, there are a number of different sources. I steer people toward the web site of Acterra, our local nonprofit environmental organization -- they have the "Cool It!" carbon calculator right on their home page. (Incidentally, in the interest of full disclosure, I'm a member of Acterra's Board of Directors -- I volunteer my time, efforts, and financial resources to Acterra because I believe they're doing some tremendous work towards creating a healthy local environment.) You can check Acterra and the Cool It! program out at this link:

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 6, 2007 at 10:48 am

The money lavished on scientists by Warmies, plus the government grant money, far exceeds any industrial expenditure to respond to attacks. Ask the local NASA Warmie Guru how that quarter million buck grant helps warm his wallet. Many corporations despair of getting the message out and agree to play the game as long as they get their share. The ultimate losers are the public who tithe at the church of Ludd and Malthus.
Carbon credits are just one more way to allow the world to tax the industries of the United States. California already pays up to double the cost of energy because of these sneaky little jabs. New Zealand, eager to profit from trading, found herself in a deficit. As the real science sneaks out in spite of the censorship, and as the projected consequences lessen, and as the mitigation possible by the proposed draconian cuts diminishes, one can only hope the people finally see through the scam.

Posted by Kent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 6, 2007 at 11:40 am

Thank you for your input, Walter_E_Wallis. Alas, the fact that your messages tend to adopt the tone of a zealot, and that your posts are generally content-free and lacking any sort of substance, are taking a grave toll on your credibility.

I hope others who have contributed to or will contribute to this worthwhile conversation will not be daunted by the noise level you're introducing. Folks, keep it coming -- this is good.

Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 6, 2007 at 12:00 pm

Actually Joyce,

I came out lower than average, but thanks for your concern.
A caution though, I think this conversation will fail, if it gets too personal about what specific individuals on this thread should be doing.

Posted by Draw the Line
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 6, 2007 at 1:44 pm

For anyone who wants to learn more about anthropogenic versus naturally occuring global warming, see the thread where we have already gone through this. The bottom line is that humans contribute very little to the warming, and it is more about changing magnetic fields, natural ebbs and flows of our climate, sun spots, tilt changes of the earth etc. It isn't even completely clear we aren't already at the peak of this particular warming cycle, and may start heading back down.

Web Link

Walter is right, there is a lot of money to be made in scaring people. Evidence of that is here on this thread. And there are a lot of people who could be saved from disease and starvation if we were to apply 10% of this effort toward them.

I, for one, am going to teach my children to do the best they can through energy/waste conservation, simply because of course it is a bad idea to pollute. But, they will also know that we will live through this cycle of heat like we did 1500 years ago, and 3,000 years ago, and 4,500 years ago etc. And after that we will live through the cycle of cold, just like we lived through all the other prior cold cycles. Humans adapt. I am definitely not panicked. And neither will my kids be.

I grew up in the last "panic" of the earth going to freeze over, by the same "consensus" we see now. Learned a lot from that time

Posted by Draw the Line
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 6, 2007 at 1:50 pm

Didn't finish the sentence before

I learned a lot in that time, mainly that real science is definitely NOT by consensus. We learned that with Copernicus, Galileo and Darwin.

Heck, we learned it with DDT ( don't you remember the "scientific consensus" of DDT, and think about how many millions have died from that?0 , and we have almost learned it with genetically engineered foods ( how many die of starvation every year because "consensus" has Genetically engineered food labeled as dangerous?) and are about to learn it about anthropogenic global warming.

Stop thinking that science is a democracy, it isn't.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 6, 2007 at 1:58 pm

My content free messages have included: the preamble to the latest Warmie report where it explicitely stated the science would not be released until it was edited to conform to the summary.
My mentioning a $250,000 grant to one "Scientist" just before he came down on the democrat side in the last residential election.
My reference to the economic incentive that the "unbiased" academics have in Warmieism.
Which statement was in error? Show me up, please.
I am strident because the other side has all the microphines, and even shuts me down when they feel I am too close to the Idols.

Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 6, 2007 at 2:31 pm

Draw the Line,

I get that people can have a different opinions based on who they draw their information from. I also know that climate science is a complex subject and I would be willing to bet that anyone has it completely right yet. I also know one can't discount the motivations on either side of the conversation. That said whats the harm in someone voluntarily being conservative with resources that create CO2?

Posted by Draw the Line
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 6, 2007 at 4:14 pm

To RS: Completely agree. No harm in being clean. Just saying, I hate to see the scared kids that are starting to come out of the scare tactics. No sense in it.

Posted by Draw the Line
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 6, 2007 at 4:18 pm

To RS: By the way....really like the "voluntary" aspect of your post. I think a lot of the resistance to the "alarmist" hype is the typical hand-in-hand assumption that some government somewhere has to "make" people do something. Without the fascist element, I suspect a lot more people would be willing to listen. Frankly, that is why we are doing so well, relative to so many signers of the Kyoto, because we do so voluntarily/mixed with incentives, versus by someone forcing us.

So, thanks for being a reasonable person.

Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 6, 2007 at 4:53 pm

There are easy things to do that actually improve one's quality of life and decrease energy consumption.

Weather stripping
wall and attic insulation
replacing leaky single paned casement windows with double paned non-metal ones.
Florecent lighting in locations that make sense.
All that stuff that PG&E has been bugging us about for years.

A bunch of things that are easy, not exotic, improve a household's quality of life, and save on Utility bills.

Its not rocket science and it adds value no matter what side of the conversation one falls on. You win no mater what the future brings.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2007 at 9:14 am

Kinda like government coercion to compel car pools. In my half century plus working life I have never known co-workers who could reasonably car pool not do so on their own initiative. Those majority of the commuting community who are not in a situation to pool are unfairly and, often unconstitutionally punished for their disability.
We know that the cost of energy is rising and we welcome the opportunity to save some expense by ideas mentioned above, but the compulsion that makes no consideration of our immediate situation, like the often proposed massive gas tax increase to discourage driving just adds government to all the other problems of the day.

Posted by Another Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2007 at 11:43 am

OK, so: A couple people here (for whatever reason) don't agree that global warming/climate change is a problem. And -- very few people on this discussion seem to be advocating governmental intervention.

Am I right to assert that we all agree that pollution is a problem? That gas prices are a problem? Is anyone questioning the fact that we are at or near peak oil production and we're going to be out of crude oil in this century? Do we all agree that the growing population of people with respiratory ailments such as asthma should not have to cower indoors on the majority of summer days? Can we agree that, whether or not global warming is anthropogenic in nature, mankind's carbon-emitting and deforestation habits are exacerbating the problem in a nontrivial way?

So, I think all these points contribute to the overall discussion. It's not about finding new ways to terrify our children -- quite the opposite -- it's about how to prepare them (and ourselves) for a changing world, and at the same time, to voluntarily (!!) find personal ways to control what changes we can (e.g., pollution, biodiversity, waste reduction, and so on).


Posted by anonymous
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2007 at 12:01 pm

what about SUV drivers? Unless you've got a brood of children: no excuse for excessive consumption.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2007 at 12:43 pm

Most people don't have the luxury of a different car for every need. One car needs to work for everything. To automatically condemn a stranger just based on observing them drive by solo is at the least presumptuous.

Posted by bike_mom
a resident of Crescent Park
on Feb 7, 2007 at 12:59 pm

To choose to pollute my air in my environment is at the least presumptuous.

Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 7, 2007 at 2:26 pm

In the spirit of repetition is the key to learning...
I think this conversation will fail, if it gets too personal about what specific individuals on this thread should be doing.

ok, to attempt to return this thread to a productive civil discourse, I'll propose a direction that might work.

Does anyone have anything they have done around their house that has resulted in a energy savings and has not resulted in major lifestyle sacrifices? I know I like to save on gas and electric.

I'll start, when we remodeled, we swapped our water heater for an on demand boiler. Less energy use, water is only heated when needed. We found that it uses less natural gas.

Posted by Dave
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 7, 2007 at 7:37 pm


There is a major problem with your take on Climate Change. The plain (and, yes, inconvenient) truth is that nothing can be done about the fast approaching point of no return in the heating up of the earth WITHOUT the major lifestyle changes you apparently fear.

Changing your water heater, using compact fluorescents and buying a hybrid may feel good to you, but they will have virtually NO effect on the predicted extent of warming - under any of the major climate models. Even had they been followed, the Kyoto accord's effect on predicted climate change would have been within the margin of error - that is, they did nothing. The US didn't sign, and even among those who did, most did not come close to meeting the targets.

We need mandatory - government enforced - reductions in emissions of at least 50% - which will require a commensurate reduction in "lifestyle" by us all. This will involve being uncomfortably cold in the winter, and uncomfortably hot in the summer. It will mean tight restrictions in use and ownership of private automobiles. (Did any of you moms drive your kids to school this week?...that has to STOP!) The future of the planet - and our children - is at stake.

Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 7, 2007 at 7:45 pm

Nevermind I leave this thread to the trolls like Dave

Posted by Don't give up
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 7, 2007 at 8:12 pm

RS, hang in there. We can keep a constructive dialogue alive!

I'd like to see Palo Alto (and all cities) adopt requirements for photovoltaic arrays on the roofs of all homes that meet the requirements of having to go through the design review process. This would include all major remodels and all new home construction.

While yes, this would add up to $50,000 to the cost of building a new home or doing a giant home remodel, it would ultimately drive the cost of photovoltaic cells way down by creating a strong market for them and we would gradually get the entire residential PA off the grid at no sacrifice other than financial. This is the direction we need to be headed, and when cost drop systems will become affordable for more and more people.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 7, 2007 at 9:16 pm

My first engineering job over 50 years ago was measuring and abating pollution from a factory. Pollution and pollution control is not some new discovery, nor is the need to control it.
As for oil, we may need to find substituts for oil in a century or so, but by then there will be enough nuclear power plants to recharge all our batteries and give us all the hydrogen and clean water we need. The biggest problem facing the oil industry right now is the falling price of oil, which indicates - tada - more than enough.
To chose to ruin the economy that enables you to eat is also presumptuous.

Posted by Dave
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 8, 2007 at 11:15 am

One sees how difficult the problem is when people like RL can only call names and withdraw from the debate when the necessity of sacrificing their over-consumptive lifestyles for the common good and the good of the Earth is pointed out. None of us can hide from this issue, RL...and you can't pretend you're doing your part by changing water heaters and light bulbs. We've all got to throttle back on our hedonistic ways of living - or it will be too late for the Earth.

Mr. Wallis, you at least remain in the debate - wrong as you may be. Of course the economy will be "ruined" - in your way of thinking. Actually our capitalistic, earth-wrecking economy must be drastically changed - even destroyed for the common good.

Every day, I watch the over-weight, coddled children in our rich town be individually chauffeured to school from their over-heated monster homes. Don't any of the "moms" in this thread who are so concerned about the earth they will leave to their precious children realize the hypocrisy of their actions? There will not be a world for our children to live in if you stick to your ways.

We would be much better with state-run boarding schools where in addition to avoiding all the consumptive waste associated with today's system, children could be schooled about the proper stewardship of the earth and its fragile eco-system that we adults seem bent on destroying - without interference from well-meaning, but hopelessly addicted to consumption, parents.

Posted by RS
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 8, 2007 at 11:20 am

Don't give up,

Thanks, but the signal to noise ratio is all wrong. I really don’t see most contributers wanting to make constructive suggestions about energy conservation. Mostly the thread has attracted the sorts that disparage and attack others for having differing opinions or approaches. While I know that’s just the nature of the Internet to some degree we have attracted some very prolific sorts, google wally’s name for example. So if the dialog changes to useful suggestions, maybe I’ll be back.

Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2007 at 11:33 am

Don't put us on a guilt trip and tar us all with the same brush. I feel that although global warming is important, it is not top of my list of priorities. That does not mean that I am one of those gas guzzling parents described above. For the well being of my family, we have two modest cars, one older than the other which will need to be replaced soon, and one a little more prestigious and modern which my husband uses for work. My children use their legs, walking or bicycling to and from school and after school activities. We eat sensibly and do not eat out much. We recycle as much as we can without going to ridiculous extremes. We live sensibly, not because of the environment, but but because it is a sensible way to live. We do not burn wood in our fireplace and if we feel cold in the house are more likely to put on a sweater rather than crank up the heat. Just because we are not worried to the extreme about global warming, it doesn't mean that we are the opposite extreme. Please keep generalisations out of this discussion. There are many people like us who have different priorities, but that doesn't mean we don't care.

Posted by Dave
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 8, 2007 at 11:56 am


I believe you are sincere in what you say. I don't mean to be attacking you personally (I don't even know you), but I believe that people who say they are not "extreme" and think they are doing their part by taking small steps that don't inconvenience themselves too much are the primary problem we face. We cannot fool ourselves by thinking that little steps, even in the aggregate, will be enough to stop climate catastrophe. They won't.

Big, drastic changes in the way we all live will be required. Again, not to be attacking you personally - but you say you have TWO private, CO2 spewing cars. Two cars - the American Dream - may have been ok a few decades ago. But now - when we need to drastically reduce greenhouse gases, even one car per family is too much. We need to reduce emissions by at least 50% - and we can't do this without taking away people's cars. But you say, "That's extreme. I already do my part by putting on a sweater and recycling and living sensibly (by ridiculous American standards at least). I don't want to have to change my entire way of living just for Global Warming."

So you think you're doing enough, when in fact, the complacency and guilt-avoidance engendered by your attitude delay the day when we really start to tackle the Global Warming problem.

Posted by Another Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2007 at 12:19 pm

To Dave, who writes: "Don't any of the 'moms' in this thread who are so concerned about the earth they will leave to their precious children realize the hypocrisy of their actions? There will not be a world for our children to live in if you stick to your ways." Dave, please don't assume hypocrisy on our parts. My child walks or rides to school every day. We live in a small house, although we could afford a larger one. We have no SUV; we have a modest sedan, which we hope to replace soon with something hybrid. Other things we do (which I also throw out as ideas for others): Enjoy non-automated, non-electronic toys and games and passtimes Buy local organic food, eat a lot of vegetarian meals Don't start the car unless we need to Use cloth bags at every store (not just the grocery store); avoid excess packaging Support local business Invest in socially responsible companies (with good results) Minimize our water use We subscribed to Palo Alto Green energy, so we often use electrical space heaters in favor of gas. I want to commend Parent, in his/her message above, for this comment: "We live sensibly, not because of the environment, but but because it is a sensible way to live." I personally feel motivated to make changes in my life because of the environment, but I also feel (strongly) that these are just *good* changes to make for my family and our community, whether or not global warming is an issue. (It is.) And not to boast, but as a metric of success, I've got a really smart, healthy, non-obese, happy and well-liked child to show for it -- good thing, too, because these kids are going to face some pretty serious challenges in coming years. They need a running start.

Posted by Another Mom
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2007 at 12:21 pm

Sorry about the readability of my last comment. For some all my line breaks went away.


Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 8, 2007 at 1:45 pm

I think all the voluntary little things are good. They build a mindset to conserve, and not be wasteful. They can also build a healthier lifestyle (for isntance, bicycling vs. driving a car to the store). However, there is no way that such small steps can seriously reduce carbon emmissions. The only realistic way is to build nuclear power plants. Nuclear is very clean (zero carbon emmissions). The world could drastically reduce its carbon footprint by going nuclear.

Posted by Draw the Line
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 8, 2007 at 2:50 pm

To Another Mom:

Don't let anyone goad you into defensiveness or guilt.

I think most of us are like you, and doing the best we can.

For some people this may not seem like enough, but it is the best we can do.

by the way, for what it is worth, I agree... on top of each of us doing the best we can, it is way past time for nuclear energy. The fear of it is finally leaving our country, so let's go! Maybe in 20 years we will be like France, and have 70% of our energy come from nuclear energy. ( They weren't scared off of nuclear energy 30 years ago.


Posted by Observer
a resident of another community
on Feb 8, 2007 at 6:13 pm

It has always amazed me how these debates always seem to boil down in the end to nuclear energy (advanced by conservatives/Republicans) vs. solar (advanced by progressives/Democrats). The fact of the matter is that coal is (and will continue to be) the answer for generating the bulk of electricity in the US for at least the next 100 years if not more (it's cheap and plentiful).

And on the auto side, we will still be using fossil fuels, even if we go down the hydrogen path (gotta generate that hydrogen from somewhere). And forget ethanol, unless you want to grow all the corn in the US just for gas use - I don't think so!.

What constantly get the short shrift - from our esteemed VP on down - is energy efficiency (technology-driven) and energy conservation (people-driven). Yet that will work the best - cheapest and fastest, with the added benefit of reducing pollution just from the mere fact that you're using less.

So if you want to really contribute on a personal level, think energy efficiency and conservation: lights, appliances, heating/cooling systems, your car. Buy efficient AND conserve (turn off lights, turn down the heat or AC a couple of degrees, combine errands with the car, etc.).

And on your two major life purchases (home and car), don't super-size: You can still get an SUV, just not an Escalade - try a CR-V instead; on the home side, the high house prices here tend to keep our super-sizing in check, but if you move out-of-state, don't take your windfall and spend it on a 5 bedroom, 4 bath, 3-car garage McMansion.

Posted by Draw the Line
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 8, 2007 at 6:14 pm

In defense of Walter Wallis's posts

Yes, s/he ( I presume he since he became an engineer 50 years ago) is a prolific writer. I have read most of his posts, and I think he is worth listening to. I think he is sincere.

I assume he is at least 70 and has seen a lot. In our world we have lost the ability to gather around the campfire and listen to our elders, but I think this forum is one way we can re-capture some of this. He doesn't say things, often, in a way that is currently PC,so he comes across harsh perhaps, but I think we shouldn't dismiss him for this reason.

That is just my take, in case any of you haven't been reading him for the last few months.

Posted by Dave
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Feb 8, 2007 at 7:02 pm

Nothing wrong with the conservation measures Observer suggests in the abstract..but anyone who thinks they have anything at all to do with the looming Global Warming crisis, hasn't been paying attention at all. The idea that you can still drive your private automobiles, and heat and cool your large homes - and just be reasonable about it - is pure fantasy. And people who toss these ideas around are dangerous because they proffer the illusion that we can solve the Climate Crisis on the cheap without major alterations in our lifestyles. We'll all have to give up our cars and stop heating and cooling our houses to American standards.

And forget the McMansion. Green multifamily apartments, in which energy use can be monitored and controlled - and which can be built next to Green public transportation (obviating any fantasy about the need to retain private autos) will be the only acceptable habitation when we get serious about this issue. And that's for US ALL ....not just the other guy. You'll all have to sacrifice your comfort and lifestyles. The future of the planet demands it.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 8, 2007 at 8:45 pm

"We would be much better with state-run boarding schools where in addition to avoiding all the consumptive waste associated with today's system, children could be schooled about the proper stewardship of the earth and its fragile eco-system that we adults seem bent on destroying - without interference from well-meaning, but hopelessly addicted to consumption, parents. "
I don't know why my earlier comparison of the above suggestion to Brave New World got me dumped, because I believe I was much less insulting than is this total condemnation of our lifestyle.
As for the personal comment above, they don't even allow women in the infantry today, so my gender should be of no question.
The statement "...we seem bent on destroying..." is so far from reality as to be amusing, except some policy makers feel that way as an avenue to bring everyone to the Warmie Jesus, kicking and screaming. If we were to cut our living standard in half, then so would the rest of the world, and for them that would be disaster. Or is that what the Ludd/Malthus really want?

Posted by JK
a resident of Barron Park
on Feb 9, 2007 at 8:29 pm

Let me try to make the case as to why global warming, if it is even occuring, isn't caused by man.

The CO2 levels spiked in the 1850s and agains in the 1940s, even though temperatures showed no dramatic changes.

Both the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are growing in thickness. Sea ice around Antarctica is growing. Temperature is falling at the South Pole. Temperature in the Arctic Ocean region is just now achieving the levels of warmth experienced during the early 1940s, and the region was warmer still (sea-ice free) during earlier times.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2007 at 6:34 am

There is actually one theory that the control of rivers with dams, elimination the winter flooding, has denied the ocean the iron [in the flushed out silt] to feed the plankton that sequesters CO2.
This can be remedied by scattering iron on the ocean surface.
China needs to compensate for the reduction in silt from 3 Gorges.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 10, 2007 at 7:13 pm

If the science of global warming is proven beyond question, then why spend any more money on climate studies? Cancel all the grants.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 12, 2007 at 1:06 pm


I also think we need to make changes in our lifestyle to deal with energy consumption. However, you strike me as having that good old American Puritan streak. We've gotta suffer and suffer big.

Fact is, we *did* live in houses, not green apt. building when our energy consumption wasn't a problem. There are personal energy consumption things that do matter--the vehicles we drive, natch, and the energy efficiency of our homes. However, when I look at the big energy picture, I look at the global supply chain. Energy's been so cheap that it's cheaper to make things on the other side of the world than make them nearby. The global economy may start getting a bit more parochial again. and, yes, we'll be spending more on food and consumer goods, which have been insanely cheap.

In my family, our average-sized lot grows most of our vegetables for half the year. People underuse the food-making potential of the suburban landscape. My guess is that it's more energy efficient for us to live in a small house where we grow food instead of moving to a new apartment building where our food will have to be trucked to us and the construction of the new building (and tearing down of old) will have contributed to polluting the environment.

Re: ethanol. I thought there were far better crops than corn, such as sugar cane, for producing ethanol. Maybe we should grow them.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 13, 2007 at 9:19 am

If ethanol, then without subsidies and protective tarrifs.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 14, 2007 at 2:16 am


I'd rather have even subsidized ethanol than nuclear power. The only reason we don't read more about low-level radiation and cancer is that the government really doesn't like subsidizing the research on that. But there are lots of small, grim studies coming out of Europe post-Cheronobyl.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 15, 2007 at 9:34 am

Research on low level radiation goes on, and the government probably pays more than it is worth. What we do know is that the low level radiation from nuclear power plants is well isolated, while the low level radiation in ethanol is breathed into the lungs. The primary problem with subsidizing ethanol, other than the corrupting of so many politicians in both parties, is that it is not needed, and, in fact, worsens the energy picture and concurrently raises the price of all foodstuffs. The nation would be far better off just to send a check for a billion dollars or so to Archer Daniels Midland to shut down.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 15, 2007 at 2:00 pm

Longterm, I think the energy issue will need to be tackled in a variety of ways--greater efficiency and conservation, a wider array of energy generation. Ultimately, I think there has to be some decentralization, or a lot of it, and the government/lobbying game is set up that bigger and more central is always promoted over smaller and diffuse. There's a tendency to have energy monopolies, but that's exactly what we don't need. We shouldn't all be trying to use one type of energy.

Re: nuclear power--it stays controlled, until it doesn't . . . we don't know how to get rid of the radioactive waste we've got, I think we need to be careful about generating more.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 15, 2007 at 3:37 pm

Grab a 550 pound weight and lift it one foot in one seconnd, and keep doing that all day. That is what electricity does for you. Central generation yields economy of scale and economy of diversity. If every home had a plant large enough to handle its maximum power demand wo would have 10 to 20 times the generating capacity we have now, with the increased pollution from the smaller units, the fueling problems and the maintenance. Hello, candles.

we have a solution to nuclear waste storage that is being held up by barratry in the so far successful ploy of killing nuclear with constipation.

When nuclear plants go out of control they ??? So far no deaths of injury from contained reactors, and a wild exageration of the damage even from Chernobyl.

Only energy separates us from the savages. Only fools separate us from energy.

Posted by Draw the Line
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 15, 2007 at 4:36 pm

I don't understand, Walter, about the foot analogy. Please explain.

As for nuclear energy risks...there are risks with all of our energy. Coal and wood burning have killed many times more people and polluted much more than nuclear energy has done in the last 30 years.

To this day, people complain about wood burning fire places increasing asthma, and the "cloud" over Asia from all the wood fires contributing to global warming.

I choose nuclear energy potential risks over the absolute risks of the rest.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 16, 2007 at 10:14 am

One horsepower will lift 550 pounds one foot in one second. This is an order of magnitude above most of the proposed home power systems, but is is available 24 hours a day from the grid.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 16, 2007 at 5:40 pm


Every woman in my mother's family came down with cancer 25 years after radiation exposure. They died without knowing about that exposure, because it took that long for an FOIA to get out the information about nuclear testing during WWII. Their cancer cases have never been entered into a cancer-from-radiation-exposure database. No such data was being collected.

We *know* low-dose radiation causes breast cancer and other solid tumors 20-30 years later, but there's never been any official connecting the dots between the dramatic rise in solid tumors decades after the rise of the atomic age. That kind of vast data collection hasn't happened.

Fact is, we don't know the longterm results of Chernobyl--we're still playing the waiting game in terms of time.

Get back to me when they've found a way to clean up Hanford--you know, in Washington, the state with the "unexplained" highest rate of breast cancer in the country as well as the largest Superfund site.

Posted by Draw the Line
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 16, 2007 at 8:01 pm

Thanks Walter for the explanation.

OhlonePar- Very interesting. Hadn't heard of this. Do you know how France does it? They have socialized medicine, and so would have a very high incentive to prevent cancer. How do they dump their waste?

Anybody know ?

By the is a shame about the females in your family. x-rays also came into regular use at the same time as the beginning of the atomic age, as did many other aspects of post WW2, so there may be many explanations for the increased breast cancer in Washington. Didn't I just read that Oakland has one of the highest in the nation?

Not sure on that.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 16, 2007 at 9:23 pm

In the late 40s they had X-ray machines in all the shoe stores to help fit shoes. Even at that, human life span continues to increase in nations with high energy availability and reduce in nations where energy becomes too dear.
The superfund is God's gift to lawyers because there is little evidence that any of them pose any threat to public health.
Get back to me when you have any evidence of above background level radioactive material outside the Hanford reservation.
We do know that Chernobyl killed 30 or 40 people, but the coal burned to replace the power from the broken reactor accounted for several hundred deaths in the mines and likely an equal number from emphasema from the burning, plus the radioactivity in the exhaust from a coal fired plant far exceeds that allowed from a nuke. If you have a sleeping partner you receive more radiation from him, her or it that would be allowable from a neighborhood nuke.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 17, 2007 at 1:56 am


In 1930, breast cancer rates were 1 in 34 women, it's now 1 in 8. Average onset is mid-50s--changes in life expectancy have little to do with the increase.

Life expectancy is up, largely, because infant mortality has dropped so dramatically in the last 100 years. Several diseases have been successfully dealt with. None of this changes the connection between radiation and cancer. Nor does near eradication of smallpox make it okay to induce cancers in people.

They don't have those foot X-ray machines in stores anymore for a reason. By the way, the reason they know about low-level radiation and breast cancer is because young women who'd had repeated therapeutic chest X-rays developed breast cancer 25 years later.

At Hanford, the waste is sitting there--yeah, it's not on the surface, but there's an ongoing concern that it could leak--given the 25,000-year half life, that's kind of long time to worry.

Of course, there are problems with other types of energy. That doesn't make nuclear energy A-Okay, that's a basic logical fallacy.


Increased X-ray use wasn't localized, so the increase from that would be anywhere.

Washington (and parts of Canada and Idaho) were repeatedly exposed to radioactive waste being released by the Hanford plant. Teen-age women are particularly susceptible to radiation exposure--Hanford did some test runs at the end of WWII that let out all sorts of radioactive gunk over a wide area. (They wanted to see what would happened with the dispersal when they launched the bomb.) Though the radioactive materials had a relatively short half-life, it was long enough to get into the food supply (think glowing dairy cows). And, yes, my mother was a teenager at the time.

I suppose I'm particularly skeptical about the assurances about the safety of nuclear energy because it took more than 40 years for the information about Hanford to come out. There's a long history of being hush-hush about radiation

Anyway, it's also little things like this that make me wary about nuclear energy:

Web Link

And the work of John Gofman, which is available on the Web--his work was on cancer and medical radiation.

I also saw a recent Belgian study that indicates that there is a gene mutation which makes some people more susceptible to the effects of radiation than others. In other words, a cancer gene that only becomes a cancer gene when zapped.

I just don't think we know enough to risk the risks of nuclear energy.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 17, 2007 at 7:20 am

I believe the radiation from the Mt. Saint Helens eruption exceeded all man made radiation releases. Was there a corresponding downwind increase in cancer?
Most radioactive waste will decay below their natural occuring level within 5 to 7 hundred years. The transport mechanisms of waterborne radioactives is such that the water will pass through naturally radioactive soils to the extent the artificial contribution is soon lost in the noise.
How about the radioactivity in coal and in natural gas?
It is a radioactive world, and man's contribution to the total is minimal.

Posted by Draw the Line
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 17, 2007 at 2:34 pm

OhlonePar - interesting statistic, and you are right, the risk of dying from breast cancer has increased dramatically for women since 1930.

The problem with this as an isolated fact is that it ignores the fact that the average woman dies at a much older age now than in 1930.

In other words, SOMETHING is going to kill us, and the older we get, the more likely it will be cancer, perhaps from the cumulative effects of living. Most younger deaths are heart, most older deaths are cancer.

I am just saying that i wonder if the rate of death from cancer is higher now because something has to kill us, and so if we survive the "heart attack" ages of our 50s, the cancer gets us in our 60s and 70s, whereas we didn't live much past the heart attack years before.

This would be interesting to really study. We need a public health "expert" to point us to some good reading.

And, I still want to know what is happening in France. If 25 years is about the time this happens, I want to know if their cancer rate by their first sites, which are that old, has gone up.

Calling a Frenchman to research French data please!

I would really like to understand this fear, so as to know how to vote.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 17, 2007 at 6:14 pm


The reason I gave you the average age of onset was to point out that the increase in breast cancer does not correspond to change in mortality. In the 19th c. and before, child birth was a huge risk, but this had dropped by 1930. If breast cancer, like prostate cancer, was a disease of old age, I'd grant you that. But it's a disease of *middle age*. And by 1930, most women were living into middle age.

And the rate of breast cancer among premenopausal women is up.

We really do need better studies on it. But the focus has been on genetic factors for cancer--even though only a small percentage of breast cancers follow a genetic pattern. Researchers go where there's money and the potential for tenure--genetics is hot, radiation isn't.


My Googling indicates that the radiation released by Mt. St. Helens was little above background noise. I came across about four scientific abstracts that said this as well as this:

Web Link

Yes, nature does nasty things, but, again, it's a logical fallacy to argue that just because the sun causes skin cancer that it's all right for us to cause other kinds of cancer.

Background radiation is a problem for us biological beings, we have various cellular functions geared to combatting the damage from natural radiation. Additional radiation seems to stress those systems past the breaking point.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 17, 2007 at 8:28 pm

The radiation dose from St Helens was not high but the dispersion was great. The dose makes the poison.

And check when women started to smoke.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 17, 2007 at 9:28 pm


If smoking were the big cause then the rate should have dropped not skyrocketed in the 70s and 80s. Smoking predisposes one to all sorts of cancers, however, the groups of women who get breast cancer are less likely to smoke than the general population.

A single wide-range dispersal of low-dose radiation is hardly what you claimed previously. Since the dispersal was so wide any local effect would be hard to trace, no? So you were asking for something difficult to show--particularly as the latency period for solid cancers is such that we'd only be seeing it now.

Low-dose radiation causes breast cancer in women, particularly if they were exposed in adolescence. This is solid science thanks to those "beneficial" chest X-rays. Young women were exposed to radiation during the atomic testing period. Really, it's pretty simple.

All that's missing is a large study that connects the dots--exposure and cancer incidence. It would be expensive and, as far as I know, the government's never funded such a study--particularly since there's such a big latency period. I think, on some level, we don't really want to think about what we did to the civilian population in the 40s, 50s and 60s. It's eaiser to talk about antioxidants.

But we need to look a little harder if we're going to reconsider nuclear energy.

However, if we're going to risk nuclear energy, then

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 18, 2007 at 6:06 am

Everybody lives long enough to die.
Without energy, they live less long. Without energy they live less well, less clean.
When energy is priced out of the budget your life suffers. That most of the price increases have resulted from well meaning but dumb interferences with the energy market is no solace to the person who has to cut somewhere to pay that cost.

Posted by Draw
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 18, 2007 at 7:57 am

OhlonePar, you said "genetics is hot, radiation isn't"

I couldn't help but laugh at your reverse pun. Nice to be able to joke in the face of such a serious subject. You have the same black humor that health care givers have.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 18, 2007 at 2:15 pm


I agree we could use a better energy policy. Nuclear energy ain't it. I think it will end up being a combination of things--or should. We're a smart species and we've been efficient with fuel use before.


If I don't treat it with some humor I, literally, get a headache. I started researching the subject (originally hereditary breast cancer) for obvious personal reasons. It was a shock when I realized that the family history didn't fit the genetic patterns, but it did fit an exposure pattern. Then, waiting for me, was the obvious exposure. I had to take a break from the research because it was that stressful, though a couple of MDs keep sending me research they find. I try to stick to peer-reviewed work because it's such an explosive (g) subject.

Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 18, 2007 at 3:43 pm


Could you please provide the direct evidence that increased radiation from Hanford, or above ground tests in Nevada, has caused a cluster of cancer events? I seem to remember that there was a big deal made about a cluster in Long Island - turns out it was not a cluster at all. There is an incredible amount of hype about low level exposures to radiation.

Nuclear power should, in no way, be hampered by speculative fears and hype. You own family's history, while tragic, proves nothing.

Nuclear power can solve so many problems. We should not allow fear to drive us away from nukes - there is too much to lose.

I would also like to say that your (and many other's) notion of decentralized, micro power (e.g. solar power on residential roofs), conservation, renewables, etc., all in lieu of nuclear power, does not pencil. It is a naive pipe dream.

Posted by Walter_E_Wallis
a resident of Midtown
on Feb 18, 2007 at 4:50 pm

And as long as we dscuss efficiency, the sensible way would be to dump CAFE standards and eliminate the excess deaths they caused, and go to ton miles per gallon. Buy as much car as you need, and don't get your safety traded down so the company can sell more Suburbans and Hummers.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 18, 2007 at 5:58 pm


I've already said that the studies have not been conducted. There's a basic problem in that the exposures from Hanford were not known until 40 years after the fact. Well after the time the data could have been easily tracked and collected. You're being disingenuous.

When there's a 25-30 year latency period between exposure and the appearance of solid-tissue tumors, it's not simply a case of looking for cancer clusters. Though here's a little tidbit:

Web Link

Web Link

The studies have focused on thyroid tumors and problems because thyroid cancer's a dirty cancer--i.e. radiation's pretty much the one cause. Breast cancer doesn't have such a tidy correlation (radiation isn't the only cause, though it has been shown to be one.) so it's not been tracked in the same way. Right now, there's a lot of money spent on genetic cancers, even though most breast cancers don't fit a genetic profile.

As for my family's history--no it doesn't *prove* anything, but it's one more indicator (there are many) that we are not fully informed about the risks we've already been exposed to re: nuclear energy. In my family's case, it's a matter of Occam's razor. It's too many cases over too short a time to be random. At the same time, it doesn't fit the genetic model (One family member too old. Cancers clustered by time instead of age. Cancers not in the extended family or history. Wrong ethnicities.) Ergo, environmental exposure is an obvious place to look. Lo and behold, there was exposure to a known carcinogen--at just the age when such an exposure is most damaging.

Look, I'm not surprised at the knee-jerk reactions from you and Walter. Nuclear power has been heavily politicized and there's a tendency to dismiss evidence from that "other" side. But it's not that simple. When I started doing the research I wasn't looking for radiation exposure. I thought, frankly, at most, I might find some nasty pesticide use. Instead I found medical research and data that supported a radiation hypothesis. I also found a lot of research "holes"--fascinating smaller studies without the ensuing larger studies to follow them. Thyroid cancers tracked, but not the longer-latency ones. Medical radiation shown to cause cancer, but that data not extrapolated and applied to *other* higher-dose radiation exposures.

Just because we don't know, doesn't mean there's no problem. I think you're naive to assume that all the studies were somehow done and that medical research has somehow taken place in a vaccuum where political and financial interests play no part.

As for nuclear energy--yes, if it didn't kill people off, it would be a very tidy solution. However, I don't buy that it's the only solution. Let's see, greater efficiency plus decentralized microsources plus better biodiesels (such as that used in Brazil from sugar cane) plus natural gas. You seem completely certain that we're too incompetent to come up with truly safe energy sources. Funny thing is that we become very good with fuel managment when it serves us to be so. Even now, much of the issue is initial cost (installing all those solar panels) rather than missing technology.

It's odd that someone in the middle of Silicon Valley has so little faith in technological innovation.

Posted by John
a resident of College Terrace
on Feb 18, 2007 at 6:35 pm


"As for nuclear energy--yes, if it didn't kill people off, it would be a very tidy solution."

That is the type of hyperbolic statement that undermines the credibility of the anti-nuke crowd. Exactly how many people have been killed by nuke plants in the U.S.? I believe the answer is zero. Compare that to coal mines and drilling rigs and refineries and gas explosions. Nuclear is clearly superior. No carbon footprint, either.

I think someone in the above posts mentioned France - the experiment has already been done. What is the cancer data there?

When you talk about decentralized micro power, are you saying we abandon the grid? If you keep the grid, it is a centralized system, although one could pump back into the grid with any excess electricity from solar (during the day). My reactions to your energy proposals depends, critically, on the grid vs no-grid answer.

Posted by Draw the Line
a resident of Stanford
on Feb 18, 2007 at 8:09 pm

yes, I am really hoping someone who was born and raised in France and is biliterate to the scientific level can tell us if there are any peer-reviewed, even translated, French studies of cancer rates, especially breast cancer, over the last 30 years.

That would be fantastic.

Spread the word, and maybe will get some info.

Not trying to dismiss any concernes, I am just very skeptical given that all of this sounds like the fears of 30 years ago that stopped us from building nuclear power, and has hamstrung us now. So, if France has found an increase in breast cancer by each of its' dump sites, this would be significant, since the French tend to be much less mobile than we are.

i can't help but wonder what else can cause an increase in breast cancer.

For example, Oakland has a severe increase in breast cancer lately, and esp amongst black women. Why? French women have just now begun to eat the kind of junk we have been eating for oh..about 30 years, especially if we are not food conscious. Could it really be the additives and dyes in our foods?

Or the fact that so many of us live so close now to freeways, and just breathe in a pack per day equivalent of smoke?

Too many factors.

Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 18, 2007 at 10:15 pm


No, I didn't mean abandon the grid. I meant decentralizing, to some extent the production of power.

We don't know who's been killed by nuke plants in the U.S. because we haven't tracked cancer data that way. The rates of cancer do seem to be higher around plants, but the cause and effect with many cancers just isn't as tidy as it with the thyroid cancers.


France has a higher breast cancer rate than the U.S., though it is far from the highest in Europe--basically, the farther north, the higher the cancer rate. The rate (age factored in) has been growing, with a pretty big jump between 1975-1985. France also has the highest cancer rate, in general, for men.

Iceland has the highest rate in the world, followed by the Scandanavian countries. There are some known genetic factors there--isolated founder populations (like the situation with the Ashkenazi Jews).

Oakland was a heavily industrial city for years, any number of carcinogenic chemicals have worked their way through there. Again, part of the problem with environmental causes of breast cancer is that it's less about what's happening now than what was going on 20-35 years ago.

For better for worse, my family's situation is more clearcut than most--we know Hanford released a huge amount of iodine-131 into the atmosphere. We also know that it was iodine 131 that quadrupled the incidence of breast cancer in the chest X-ray patients.

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