Yes, I'll admit it. For a few days I was one of the many Americans who are freaking out over the prospect of dangerous nuclear radiation reaching our shores from Japan. I anxiously sought out potassium iodide and ended up ordering some.
But facts are different from fears.
As my wife and I learned more about how much radiation is likely to make it across the Pacific Ocean into Oregon, even in a worst case scenario, we became a lot more relaxed about our personal situation -- though still deeply worried about the people living near the damaged reactors.
Inside Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory near San Francisco, scientists, engineers, and meteorological experts were analyzing those charts and maps to help policymakers predict where radioactive isotopes could travel.
"The models show what happens if the situation gets worse, if the winds change, or if it rains to predict what could happen," National Nuclear Security Administration spokesman Damien LaVera said. "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has said they see no radiation at harmful levels reaching the United States, and we're not seeing anything that is inconsistent with that."
I realize that in some circles (mainly right-wing and religious), scientists aren't trusted. Why, they consider that human-caused global warming is happening and that evolution is true. Gasp!
To me, the situation is akin to the classic adage about fishing: "The worst day fishing is better than the best day working." I change that to say: "The worst prediction by reputable scientists is better than the best prediction made by anti-science ideologues."
So don't worry about Japan's radiation until there is something to really worry about. And remember: I was blown away by a nuclear bomb when I was a kid, and am still blogging away at sixty-two.
As I said in that post:
Whenever I fret too much about modern environmental degradation, I like to think back to the not-so-good old days of the 1950s when the United States conducted over 150 above ground tests of nuclear weapons.
Most of these were at the Nevada Test Site. In 1955 my mother, who was divorced, moved with me to Three Rivers, California. Three Rivers is in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, on the other side of which lies Nevada.
Nowadays people worry over miniscule bits of contamination in our food, water, and air. Back in the '50s it was no big deal to set off honking large nuclear bombs above ground in the Nevada desert, spewing radioactive material all over the place.
Yes, it's good to be concerned about nuclear radiation.
But we need to keep things in perspective. And right now too many people in the United States are worrying way too much about themselves, and way too little about the Japanese who may actually be in danger.