On Tuesday, October 4 Howie Hawkins, New York environmental and political activist spoke in USC’s Learning Center for Sustainable Futures on sustainable energy, green jobs and student activism. As Green Party candidate for governor of New York State, Hawkins received nearly 60,000 votes, and secured a ballot spot for the NY Green Party for the next four years.
Theresa El-Amin, a member of the the national Green Party steering committee and a long-time worker with the Southern Anti-Racism Network introduced Hawkins and spoke on how her work as a student activist developed into a commitment to anti-racism and the environmental exposure of minority communities.
Tom Clements, Regional Nuclear Policy Director for Friends of the Earth and 2010 SC Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate was on hand to address specific questions about the nuclear waste in South Carolina.
Here’s how the USC paper, the Daily Gamecock reported the event:
Green Quad speakers discuss nuclear power’s harmful effects: No Nukes Tour visits campus
By Caroline Baity for the Daily Gamecock
All across the South, nuclear power companies are setting up shop, causing tax increases and endangering the environment and human lives, according to Howie Hawkins.
“Nuclear energy is the most unsuccessful and destructive industry in history,” Hawkins said Tuesday during a lecture sponsored by Sustainable Carolina.
Hawkins, the green candidate in New York’s 2010 gubernatorial election, is traveling the Southeast to expose the negatives of nuclear energy with the No Nukes Tour, organized by the Southern Anti-Racism Network.
According to Hawkins and Southern Anti-Racism Network founder, Theresa El-Amin, nuclear energy is causing serious environmental damage across the country, particularly the Southeast.
“Nuclear companies receive huge government subsidies to build a plant,” Hawkins said. “This causes citizens to pay more in taxes for a plant that they don’t even know will work. Half the time the project goes bankrupt and taxpayers never see any of their money again.”
The speakers said this process of raising taxes before the project has been completed or even started is known as Construction Work in Progress, meaning that regular Americans, who have to act as investors, are paying for something that does not and may not ever exist.
“That’s how we appeal to the Republicans and the folks who just may not care about nuclear energy,” El-Amin said. “We make them realize they are paying for nothing.”
The Savannah River Site in Aiken is upping the nuclear ante for protestors and advocates alike.
SRS is to become the “temporary” holding place of nuclear waste across the country. The waste will have to be shipped to South Carolina, a dangerous venture within itself, and stored in specialized containers that are cooled with water from the river.
Tegan Plock, executive board member of Students Advocating a Greener Environment, said that there are a few main issues with the SRS plan.
“One problem is that the waste containers require massive amounts of water for cooling processes,” Plock said. “South Carolina is in a drought and people have a problem with good drinking water being spoiled on nuclear waste. Plus, once this waste is there, it will probably be there forever.”
The second point of debate is over safety.
In 1986 the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine suffered an explosion and released large amounts of radioactive contaminates into the environment.
“If South Carolina was to be hit by a strong earthquake, it is possible that the waste containers could be compromised and contaminants would leak into the Savannah River,” said Scott West, a first-year librarian information science graduate student. “It could destroy the ecosystem and endanger human lives for hundreds of miles around.”
El-Amin said that the first step of putting a stop to the 36 nuclear energy plants proposed for construction in the southeast is for students to get involved with organizations around campus.
“Young people bring energy to the cause and will not accept the government’s lack of action,” El-Amin said.
South Carolina is home to six major nuclear plants, not including the Savannah River Site. Three of these plants are operated by Duke Energy, who recently joined with USC and Sustainable Carolina to work towards a more environmentally friendly campus and world.
Howie Hawkins has been an organizer in movements for peace, justice, labor, the environment, and independent politics since the late 1960s. He has run for a number of local, state and national offices as a Green. Most recently, he received over 60,000 votes as candidate for NY Governor. He offered a platform for a New Green Deal in his campaign for Governor of NY.
“We need a Green New Deal that restores the commitments in the old New Deal including full employment, income security, and the right to health care. And we need to go beyond the old New Deal with a Green New Deal that taxes the rich to fund a public investment program that puts people back to work building a sustainable prosperity based on replacing nuclear and fossils fuels with clean renewable energy, mass transit, organic agriculture, and clean manufacturing “