Travels across PSR by new Executive Director
Catherine Thomasson, MD
May 22, 2012
It has been a pleasure getting to know the many chapters of PSR. Recently I have been to New York City, home of the United Nations and our current president (of PSR that is), Andy Kanter, MD. We have had six PSR leaders testifying at the United Nations this year on issues of the fate of the Fukushima refugees, the Millennium Development Goals and the Arms Trade Treaty.
While in NYC I was able to present on the health impacts of coal at the coal funders’ meeting. I also networked with many organizations making great strides to reduce coal as a source of electricity in the U.S. –Now down to 40% from over 50%.
Speaking of coal, my recent trip to Oregon and Washington revealed PSR’s excellent chapter work to counter the efforts of coal companies to export vast quantities of coal to Asia. All along the proposed route, from Wyoming and Montana to the sea via the pristine Columbia River Gorge, citizens are raising concerns about coal trains that would block roads, coal dust with its over 50 toxins spreading along the route, and diesel exhaust. This has led Governor Kitzhaber of Oregon to join us in calling for an environmental impact statement on the plan to double exports from 80-100 million tons nationwide to over 157 million tons! Of course the coal burned in Asia would blow the toxic mercury back over the U.S. west coast.
Washington State PSR’s new executive director Tracy Bier joined her board members in fighting to reinstitute grants from the State Department of Ecology to PSR and others to provide citizen oversight of the clean-up of the worst toxic waste site in North America: Hanford Nuclear Reservation. Oregon PSR organized with the Occupy movement for a rally in the tri-city area to raise the human health impacts.
San Francisco PSR was very welcoming. We began plans to develop a curriculum of PSR topics and advocacy skills. This work will continue guided by Tom Hall, MD, DrPH and Bob Gould, MD, among many others.
In all my travels, many concerned PSR members turned out to hear updates about our national work. While the students were well-versed in toxics issues by Washington board member Karen Bowman, RN, occupational health instructor, most thought the U.S. had already reduced the number of nuclear weapons to less than 50!
This shouts out for strong public education and media work that is aptly presented in “Nuclear Famine: a Billion at Risk,” the recent report by Ira Helfand, MD of PSR. The report, based on research studies funded by the Swiss government, assesses a grim but conceivable scenario: the impact of 100 nuclear weapon detonated in a war between India and Pakistan. Given the conservative estimate of 5 Teragrams of black carbon sent into the stratosphere by these explosions, the abrupt cooling it would induce (1.25ºC) would reduce grain and soy production in key areas around the world by 5-20% for up to ten years.
In addition, economics research indicates that not only might the 925 million currently malnourished people in the world die, but an additional 215 million would join the ranks of the malnourished and potential perish -- along with the over 20 million who would die from the explosions, fireballs and radiation.
My travels also led me to the Green Group retreat in Colorado. It has been an honor to get to know the CEO’s of national environmental groups and strategize together. While many of us feel it is very important to build the power of state actions to address global warming, we are still compelled to defend the strong work of the administration and the EPA to promulgate important rulings that defend our air and water.
PSR members in all my travels were pleased to visit our website and add their voices in support of the first-ever national action to limit greenhouse gases. Please join us if you haven’t already in supporting the Proposed Carbon Pollution Standard for New Power Plants.
I am very proud of PSR’s chapters and members, from Florida to Alaska. We do a tremendous amount of work and I am very hopeful that we can and will expand! Thanks for joining me on this journey.
P.S. Forward this to your friends so they can join PSR too.