Detail of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel

by Tracy Jamison*

Mark Lynas is an optimist. On February 29th, Mr. Lynas lectured here at OSU at LaSells Stewart Center on his book, The God Species. According to Mr. Lynas, humans are a God species and consequently we have to “run the planet as if we were gods”. Not the kind of Gods found in Greek mythology, when humans were still learning the nature of the world, but kind, benevolent gods who recognize that we have to be good stewards of our planet. Mr. Lynas related that the earth is estimated to be approximately 3.7 billion years old and Homo sapiens are estimated to have been on the earth 100,000 years.  Mr. Lynas stated, “We, as humans, have gone from poking sticks in an anthill to creating global communication systems”. At the risk of sounding anthropocentric, we have come a long way. Continue reading

by Jindan Chen*

What’s in Hanford’s backyard? What cleanup has been accomplished, and what are the current challenges? What can you do about Hanford? These questions were presented to the Feb 23 open forum here at Oregon State University about the former plutonium production facility in Hanford, Washington.  Participants in the forum included representatives from the Oregon Department of Energy (Ken Niles), Washington Department of Ecology (John Price and Dieter Bohrmann) and the Oregon Hanford Cleanup Board (Max S. Power). Continue reading

By Jacob Darwin Hamblin

Don Quixote attacked wind power and failed. (art by Gustave Dore)

The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan is a potent reminder of how vulnerable humans are to the shrugs and twitches of nature.

Nuclear power advocates are quick to say that the compromised Japanese reactors were of an old design. But Japan is a sophisticated, technologically savvy nation. If a nuclear catastrophe can happen there, it can and will happen anywhere. And it raises again the question of the kind of energy we should encourage on a state, nation and world scale. But for all the talk about safety, design, clean air and energy consumption, what’s often forgotten is a much deeper issue: the passage of time. (read more at

By Anita Guerrini

Aerial view of the 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill

President Obama’s June 15 speech about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill outlined government actions to deal with the immediate crisis, and also, though less precisely, outlined a new energy policy. We have been here before – in 1969.

From the air, the Santa Barbara Channel platform looked “like the metal handle of a dagger that had stabbed the world and made it spill black blood.” Thus did the writer Ross Macdonald describe his first view of that oil spill. On Jan. 28, a little more than a week after Richard Nixon’s inauguration, Union Oil’s Platform Alpha experienced a catastrophic blowout. Although the well itself was capped within a few weeks, oil continued to seep through cracks in the ocean floor for several more months. By May, nearly 100 miles of California coastline and 800 square miles of ocean had been contaminated by 3 million gallons of oil. The evening news and Life magazine showed images of oil-soaked birds and blackened beaches. (read more at