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The Invisible Killer

Tyler Camack

Abstract
I have never had a strong connection to nature, but I do love the urban environment. My favorite place
that I have ever been to is in Austin, TX. Although Durango, Colorado has a strong community, for the
most part that community revolves around outdoor activities such as hiking or skiing. I will concede,
nature is beautiful in its own way and it most definitely has its uses, but I dont understand why people
want to only spend their time in nature, just like people that dont understand my enthusiasm for
Austin. I show my environmental ethic when I say I may have only been there once, but the community
seems to be more accepting of everyone than some places in Durango. Everyone is entitled to their
own opinion of what they enjoy; everyones opinions will differ because of this. Because I dont care
much for nature I wouldnt say Im a preservationist, I more believe in sustainability. I hate the idea of
changing my daily routines and what I do, but at the same time I know that in order to save what is left
of this planet, we need to act now. Im a strong advocate of changing our energy production methods; I
believe that needs to be done before anything else.
~~~
Place is a difficult thing to talk about; for one, because no ones sense of place is the same. My sense of
place, for instance, is different than most other people around me. Growing up in Durango, Colorado
has been fairly difficult in terms of finding a sense of place because almost everybody is so in tune with
nature. Whether its skiing during the winter, or hiking during the summer, pretty much everyone
around here loves to be in nature.
This has created quite the predicament for me, as I dont understand why everyone wants to be in
nature all of the time. Its just something that I have never particularly cared for; in fact I prefer to be
surrounded by man-made structures than living in a small, isolated, tourist town. In my opinion the best
place to live would be Austin, Texas. I would actually say that I have a commodified relationship with
Austin because of how I perceive it. I may have only been there once, but the community seems to be
more accepting of everyone than some places in Durango. I, unlike almost seemingly everyone around
me, have a sense of place that is in the middle of the city. Its just what I prefer.
Most of Texas is actually different form many places in the United States. There may be both nuclear
and coal power plants in the state, but the state is also home to many of the largest wind power farms
in the world. The power produced from these farms is enough to power most of the state, but at a cost
of billions of dollars. The clean energy makes Texas one of the cleanest states in terms of its energy
production, but the issue is that most of the energy stays within the state. Some energy from the wind
farms goes to Las Vegas, but almost all of it is contained in the state. They are currently the leaders in
clean energy in the United States, they make the people not have to do much in order to be a clean
state, and that is exactly what this country needs.
One issue that doesnt really arise in a place like the middle of a city is the issue of energy production. In
a city, energy production isnt often talked about because power plants arent built in the middle of
large cities or towns. They are built in rural areas like anywhere in southwest Colorado. There are coal
power plants within 150 miles of myself and old uranium mines in my backyard. When living in an area
like a city you wont ever see a power plant in the vicinity and you most definitely wont see an old
uranium mine less than a mile from the water treatment facility. The difference of place will affect ones
perspective on energy production, in my case I feel like I have a good base of knowledge on the topic
that helps me come to an educated decision on my stance.
Energy production is one of the largest issues that we are currently facing, mainly because of the
pollutants that almost every type of energy production creates. There are clean energy sources, such
as wind energy and solar power, but that account for so little of Americas overall energy production and
consumption that they are often disregarded in the whole scheme of things.
I may not have a strong connection with nature, but I do believe that it needs to be a major influencing
factor in how we produce our energy. Our current way of producing the most energy is by using a coal
power plant. Coal power plant, among many things, produces an incredible amount of carbon dioxide
gas. Carbon dioxide has many effects on the ecosystem, including but not limited to water that is more
acidic, making it uninhabitable by any aquatic species that once lived in it. This is currently happening in
our oceans, although not to an extent that drives the fish out of an area, it creates a contaminated
ecosystem for the aquatic animals in the area. There have been reports of fish dying because of a higher
acidity in their environment caused by a buildup of carbon dioxide.
Another issue that is being caused by our current methods of energy production is the issue of acid rain.
The term acid rain means that, just like the water in our oceans and rivers, the water in the atmosphere
is being mixed with carbon dioxide, but in this case it is creating carbonic acid (Ocean). The water in our
oceans and rivers have a much lower acidic content than acid rain, so much in fact that if the water
surrounding us was as acidic, life within it would almost cease to exist. The few living organisms would
be bacteria and some types of aquatic creatures that thrive basically anywhere, called Tardigrades.
Other than that, our water would be empty and unusable to us (Ocean).
The issue with acid rain shows that if we continue on the path that we are currently set on, we could
change our entire earth. Yes, our earth. This earth is our responsibility to take care of and currently we
are doing about as poor of a job of that as we possibly can. I would tend to agree with most people; I
dont want to inconvenience myself in order to make the world a better place, but I know that change
needs to happen. Species are going extinct left and right; the common factor in all of it being humans
and our impact on earth. We have just about the least effective way of producing energy in a clean way,
really only because of the economics of the energy production process.
Coal, at the moment, is the second least expensive type of energy production that we have. The only
cheaper type of energy production that we have is nuclear, and that presents its own set of issues to the
environment. Nuclear energy isnt used as commonly because it isnt subsidized by the government.
Because coal power is subsidized by the government it is extremely cheap to build the plant itself,
whereas with nuclear energy the plant isnt subsidized, the estimated cost to make one is around $750
million. Unless youre someone like Bill Gates, you know that number is astronomically high. A coal
power plant on the other hand costs just a fraction of a nuclear power plant. So realistically you cant
blame companies for choosing to make a coal plant over a nuclear plant. This issue comes from our
current way of subsidizing our energy sources. We even subsidize our fuel costs. The United States
thrives on oil and coal, both of which we have chosen to subsidize in order to make the cost of living
much less for the average American.
Because of where I live I dont encounter issues arising from power plants near me, in fact the nearest
plant is still almost 145 miles away in Nucla, CO. Just for a bit of perspective, the Nucla plant is fairly
small, yet it produced 885,588 tons of carbon dioxide in 2006 (CO2). A typical plant produces 3.5 million
tons of carbon dioxide. In the US alone, there are 1,522 coal power plants (Existing). Using the amount
of carbon dioxide produced by the Nucla plant and that number of plants, a very conservative estimate
for the amount of carbon dioxide produced by coal plants in the US alone is 1,347,864,936 tons per year.
The Nucla power plant has a capacity of approximately 1/43 of some of the other plants in the world. I
would say a very conservative estimate for how much carbon dioxide is produced every year would be
around 20,000,000,000 tons. Although the nearest plant to me is 145 miles away, I guarantee everyone
in the world feels the effects on some scale.
So, what are the alternatives to coal power? Well, the obvious answer to me is nuclear power. Nuclear
power presents a set of risks on its own, but in this case the benefits outweigh the costs in every way,
shape, and form. Nuclear power does have issues though, one of the most well-known being the small
issue called a nuclear meltdown. By small issue I mean catastrophic, potentially life threatening,
radiation leak caused by the reactor core getting too hot and essentially melting through all rock and
concrete into the earth. This causes a huge radiation leak because as it does this it instantly turns all of
the cooling water into highly radioactive vapor that will kill basically anything. In the incident at
Chernobyl, the worst meltdown in history, very few people actually died as a result of the meltdown
itself. Only 41 people died due to the actual incident, some from radiation, some from the explosion,
and even four in a helicopter accident, but this number is still fairly small. Unfortunately, it was
reported just over a year ago that 985,000 had died from residual effects from the radiation caused by
the meltdown. The radiation formed a cloud and encompassed a large portion of the earth, so logically
thousands of people would die. That being said, the area in and around the power plant at this point is
still radioactive, but not so much that we cannot go into it. There are tours of Chernobyl and Pripyat,
the nearby town, which can be taken from specific tour guides. I, for one, would love to do this. It
seems like it would be amazing and honestly, Im not as afraid of radiation as I have been previously.
At our current stage of knowledge of nuclear power, this issue could arise at any time, in fact an
interdisciplinary team from MIT has estimated that given the expected growth of nuclear power
between 2005 and 2055, at least four serious nuclear power incidents would be expected to occur.
There are ways to prevent most incidents, but the truth of the matter is were humans, we make
mistakes on occasion. An advantage to building a new power plant is that we now have many ways to
create fail-safes, making the chance of a nuclear meltdown reduce significantly. Nuclear energy doesnt
produce any carbon dioxide; the only thing coming out of the cooling towers popularized by The
Simpsons is just water vapor. The nuclear part of a reactor is in a closed system that isnt accessible to
anyone; in fact the only way to change the reactor rods is to use a robot. The biggest effect that nuclear
power constantly has on the environment is how we dispose of our nuclear waste. At the moment we
do what is called a geological burial, which means we dig a hole and throw it in. Of course, the highly
radioactive materials are shielded in order to prevent as much damage as possible, but the high levels of
radiation can still leak out. Beyond that there will always be accidents, but nuclear power is by far the
cleanest form of cheap energy that we have.
As I said earlier, Im not exactly one for the environment. In fact, for the most part I couldnt care less; a
single person doing something will never change the world. I realize that change needs to be made but
change needs to happen as a group, so in a way I do care, but at the same time I know I need to be
willing to inconvenience myself. In order for one to change the world one must first join a group with a
cause that they believe in. I am by far not an advocate for preserving the land, it needs to stay clean,
but not using it at all is a waste. Its good to have protected areas, but honestly, are those areas truly
protected? It seems like the biggest impacts that we have on the world are within the atmosphere.
Global warming is caused because of an excess of greenhouse gases. Greenhouse gases are a good
thing, but anything in mass quantities is too much. A conservative estimate for the amount of carbon
dioxide, a greenhouse gas, produced by coal power plants is 20,000,000,000 tons per year. Using
nuclear energy would alleviate the issues caused by coal power plants, and I guarantee that the more
we use it the more we will understand it.
There are two types of nuclear reactions that produce energy, one we have a good grasp of and
understand and the other is, at the moment, almost impossible to replicate in a stable way. At the
moment we use nuclear fission for all of our nuclear power production, but if we could understand
nuclear fusion, in a matter of speaking we would have infinite clean energy. There is no worry of a
meltdown in a fusion reaction because a fusion reaction is caused by different factors. If a reactor were
to go offline in a fusion reactor, in theory the substances creating the reaction would just simply expand
to their original volume and wouldnt cause any problems. The sun is a fusion reaction in action, and if
that lost its density than it wouldnt cause an explosion or anything of the sort, it in fact the combustion
happening would simply stop. Of course, its more complicated than just that, but that is the basic gist
of what is happening in the sun.
Nuclear power would no longer be an issue if we could get a better understanding of how to produce a
fusion reaction, but at the moment because of the stigma surrounding the term nuclear power we
dont have much money allocated in research towards fusion reactions. If, by some chance, we
understand fusion reactions in the next 20 years, the chance of coal energy becoming a thing of the past
is almost guaranteed. There wouldnt be any reason to not use nuclear energy at that point. It would
be safe, clean, affordable, and better than all of that, the technology could hypothetically be used in
anything that needs energy to function. Cars, spacecraft, airplanes, basically everything would benefit
from this. As is, cars are extremely detrimental to the environment. The average car produces pound
of carbon dioxide per mile driven. If this technology could be harnessed than hypothetically the average
carbon dioxide emissions from humans could be reduced to almost nothing.
An issue that has been facing our planet for quite some time and that is continually getting worse is
global warming. Global warming, as is well known, basically means that the earth is getting warmer at
all times. The earths average temperature has increased by one degree Celsius, which may not seem
like much but it is. Experts say that at a two degree Celsius increase is when we will start to see the
effects of global warming. Many species will start to die out, and as biology states diversity equals
stability, so when one species die it could hypothetically make many more species die. Is it realistic to
think that global warming will absolutely cause this type of effect right away? No, but it is realistic to be
conscious of global warming and protect our planet to the best of our ability.
As I said a couple times before, Im not one to care all that much about the environment. Its more of an
issue of me being inconvenienced, but I know the problem at the moment is people that arent willing to
be inconvenienced. Im part of the problem, I acknowledge that, and I will change that. That being said,
unless we develop the technology to travel light years away to a goldilocks planet in the next century,
we need to save the planet that we have. The nearest goldilocks planet that exists is just over 12 light
years away, a currently unreachable distance; we just recently got something out of the solar system.
That satellite that left was launched in the late 70s. Our planet is approximately 0.0031468 light years
from the edge of the solar system. A conservative estimation for the amount of time it would take to
get to the next habitable planet travelling at the speed of light is 137,587.39 years. That is clearly not
even a realistic figure to look at, so why wouldnt we do everything that we possibly can to save our
current earth? We can make an artificial environment to live in in the case of a catastrophic even, but
humanity needs a planet to survive.
Even more than a planet we need wildlife. We need the plants, the trees, the rivers, in fact everything
earth has to offer we need, if not to survive, to keep our sanity. Imagine a planet with nothing on it,
basically if Mars had an atmosphere that would keep us alive. How would we keep our sanity?
Honestly, it would be possible, but the mere thought of what it was like before we had to evacuate
earth would stay in peoples minds and they would be longing for just one more glimpse of the green
forests, the tall waterfalls, or even the desert plains with wildlife.
The reasons to change how we approach energy production are endless. If not to enjoy the beauty of
nature and what we have, to survive. Its obvious that there isnt any other option of us, this is our
planet, and it will always be our planet. All of this, by the way, is coming from someone who doesnt
want to make an effort to change my daily routines. Im sure its mainly people like me, people who say
they dont want to be bothered, that claim nothing needs to be done. I dont want to change what I do,
but I know for the planet and for our species we need to approach our emissions issue in a different
way. I live in a fairly clean place, there isnt smog clouding the city or much trash in the river, but that to
me shows that you dont need to see the visual cues that we are doing something wrong.
My main request of you, the reader, at this point: dont let it get to the point of being irreversible. Just
from a scientific standpoint we couldnt be doing things more wrong that we currently are. I know the
inconvenience of changing our daily routine in order to be cleaner isnt desirable, in fact I would hate to
do it myself, but it needs to happen. We only have one planet, we need to keep it safe for generations
to come. Our carbon dioxide emissions are astronomically high, and we have the solution. The stigmas
surrounding a clean energy source, nuclear power, just because of accidents in the past, have influenced
our energy production methods. Its time to learn the facts of the situations. Its time to make a stand
and keep our planet clean.












Bibliography
"CO2 Emissions." Colorado.edu. Colorado.edu, Web. 12 May 2014.
<https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0
CDUQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Flearnmoreaboutclimate.colorado.edu%2Fuploads%2Fmodel-
lessons%2Fzoo-poo%2FCO2-
emissions.xls&ei=yhZxU_qDEZOPyASV6oDwBA&usg=AFQjCNER04w6dtN9X1l6yXlGf7PAneRbEA&bv
m=bv.66330100,d.aWw>.
"Existing U.S. Coal Plants." SourceWatch. SourceWatch, 3 Jan. 2014. Web. 12 May 2014.
<http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Existing_U.S._Coal_Plants>.
"Frequently Asked Questions." - World Coal Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 May 2014.
<http://www.worldcoal.org/resources/frequently-asked-questions/>.
"Ocean Acidification -- National Geographic." National Geographic. National Geographic, n.d. Web. 11
May 2014. <http://ocean.nationalgeographic.com/ocean/critical-issues-ocean-acidification/>
Rubric
TOTAL: _____/150
10
Complete
execution of the
standard
9
Strong execution
with some room to
improve
8
Meets the standard
7
Approaching the
standard
5
Below the
standard
0
Standard is not
present in the
paper
Content

Sense of Place ____/10x 3.5____35
______ Do you show a clear definition of the sense of place that most resonates with
you?
______ Did you communicate which category of sense of place (relationship and/or
attachment) best represents your sense of place?

Environmental Ethic____/10 x3.5 _____/35
______ Do you express a clear understanding of your emerging environmental ethic?
This means that you reveal which environmental ethic(s) is/are most important to you.
You may be torn between different ethics, but you must express how you are
grappling with that conflict or
how you resolve it.


Cohesiveness/Integration_____/10x 2.5______/25
______ Do you integrate your sense of place, environmental ethic and/or
understanding of our energy needs to shape and express your perspective?
______ Are you making connections between your ideas for your reader?
______ Do your ideas and paragraphs logically flow in a way that makes sense?

Descriptive Language & Elements of Nature Writing______/10 x2.5 ___ /25
______Do you use elements of the Grand Style to SHOW your place to the reader?
(at least two of the following are present: metaphor, simile, analogy, alliteration, assonance,
onomatopoeia, sensory images like sight, taste, touch, sound, smell)

Writing Mechanics
Sentence Craft ___/10
______ Are you writing sentences that are grammatically correct?
______ Is the meaning of your sentences clear and easy to follow?
______ Do you use simple and complex sentences for a varied effect?
______ Did you streamline your writing to be concise and descriptive? (avoid non-descriptive word
choice like, the tree is extremely tall, I really love ice cream)

Proofreading_____/10
______ Are there errors in your paper that spellcheck could catch?
______ Did you carefully read through your paper for proofreading errors?

Formatting Guidelines (Must
be met for me to accept your
draft!)
Title: Give your essay a
creative title! Center it at the
top of your essay.
Abstract: Include this
beneath the title
Artist Statement: If you
write a poem or short story.
Name: Write your name
underneath the title.
Font: Size 12
Word Length: 1,500-3,00
words