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Where Occupy and No Nukes Merge and Win

Insights + Opinion
Where Occupy and No Nukes Merge and Win

Harvey Wasserman

The global upheaval that is the Occupy Movement is hopefully in the process of changing—and saving—the world.

Through the astonishing power of creative non-violence, it has the magic and moxie to defeat the failing forces of corporate greed.

A long-term agenda seems to be emerging—social justice, racial and gender equality, ecological survival, true democracy, an end to war and so much more. "When the power of love overcomes the love of power," said Jimi Hendrix, "the world will know peace."

Such a moment must come now in the nick of time, as the corporate ways of greed and violence pitch us to the precipice of self-extinction. At that edge sits a sinister technology, a poisoned cancerous power that continues to harm us all even as three of its cores melt and spew at Fukushima.

Atomic energy, the so-called "Peaceful Atom," has failed on all fronts. Once sold as "too cheap to meter," it's now the world's most expensive electric generator.

Once embraced as a corporate bonanza, it cannot obtain private liability insurance. Once hyped as the world's energy savior, it cannot attract private investment. Once worshipped as a technology of genius, it cannot clean up its own radioactive messes. Once described as the "magic bullet" that could power the Earth, it's now the lethal technology threatening to destroy it.

The non-violent campaign against this agent of the apocalypse has helped raise the use of peaceful mass action to an entirely new level. In the wake of the movements for labor unions, nuclear disarmament, civil rights—including minorities, women and gays—peace in Southeast Asia, and more, the messages of Eugene V. Debs, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King and so many great apostles of non-violence have become part of an emerging new culture.

For decades, the No Nukes campaign has conducted hundreds of demonstrations involving thousands of arrests in dozens of countries. Violence has been renounced and almost entirely avoided. Injuries have been present but minimal. There's been at least one murder, that of the anti-nuclear activist Karen Silkwood. But overall, given the magnitude of the movement of more than 40 years of confrontation, individual casualties have been slight.

And the accomplishments have been historic. Whereas Richard Nixon once promised 1,000 U.S. reactors by the year 2000, there are now only 104. These dangerous relics are now under attack, especially at Vermont Yankee and Indian Point, New York.

Worldwide we have seen Germany renounce atomic energy and commit to renewables. Siemens, once a corporate nuclear flagship, has turned instead toward Solartopian technologies. Like Japan, now horribly contaminated by Fukushima, Switzerland, Italy, Spain and others are following suit.

But the final fight remains to be won. While pouring billions into cornering the global solar market, China is still poised to build some 30 reactors. India, Britain, Korea and a few others are also toying with more. But especially in the wake of Fukushima, they are not a done deal.

In the U.S., the key is to deny the nuclear industry the federal funding without which it can't build new reactors. And here is where the Occupy and No Nukes movements intersect. Wall Street has actually retreated, and will not finance new commercial reactors. So the industry has gone straight to the White House and Congress to force taxpayers to underwrite new construction loans. In the past decade reactor backers have spent more than $60 million per year lobbying Congress and the White House to get this money. With no such budget, the national No Nukes movement has been defeating these give-aways.

Now comes the turning point. In 2011, for the first time, solar and wind are being recognized by mainstream economists as cheaper than new nukes. And renewables overall in the U.S. generate more usable power than operating reactors. If we can hold off these loan guarantees for another year or two, and shut some older reactors like Vermont Yankee and Indian Point, the dam will break, and the corporate impetus to build new reactors may finally go away.

Atomic energy is, after all, a means of centralizing power in corporate hands. But there is only so far the one-percenters can ride a dead horse, especially if it's radioactive. Our struggle then comes with fighting to keep the Solartopian conversion in the people's hands. We will love defeating fossil and nuclear fuels. But we want to guarantee our energy supply—even if it's driven by the wind and sun—is controlled by the community, not the corporations.

And here is where Occupy and No Nukes can jump the power of democracy to a whole new level. Human society is on the brink of its most significant technological conversion. Green power will be a multi-trillion-dollar industry, outstripping even computers and the internet.

But who will own the sun? Will the corporations again monopolize a nascent revolution? Or can the Occupy and No Nukes movements keep this technology decentralized, with the power Mother Earth gives us resting in the hands of the people?

In this struggle, longevity is the key. The grassroots No Nukes campaign is some four decades young and going strong. Every few years the corporate media runs features about how it has died and gone away, and they have always been wrong. We will not disappear until the nukes do.

The same must be the case for Occupy. Any day now the Foxists will proclaim the movement dead and failed. It will be nonsense. But in the long term, it's up to us to prove them wrong. All the bright futures above come true only if we stay with it as long as it takes. At the intersection of No Nukes and Occupy, we know that true democracy can only come when our energy supply is owned by the people. A grassroots-based energy supply is at the core of a sustainable Solartopian future.

In the 1970s a grassroots movement led by the Clamshell Alliance nonviolently occupied a reactor site at Seabrook, New Hampshire, and sparked a global green powered revolution whose completion may be in sight. This year the Occupy movement took to Wall Street, and has exploded into a global democratic revolution with unbound potential.

There are innumerable hurdles along the way. But as these two movements flow together like a mighty stream, let them wash away forever the corporate plague of atomic energy, and free at last the path to a democratized, green-powered Earth.

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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