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A thousand words can improve an image
November 17, 2010 7:16 AM   Subscribe

What Matters (Flash based) is a book published in 2008 combining imagery and essays to tell stories highlighting contemporary issues benefiting from both images and text. The book was edited and curated by David Elliot Cohen (Wikipedia) including 17 essays (TOC, pdf) covering such issues as the Price of Oil Addiction (pdf) and Shop till You Drop (pdf). The complete book is available for free as a series of PDF documents.

The Aurora Forum hosted a discussion (iTunesU, #4 on the list) of many of the contributors to talk about their involvement and experiences in contributing to the book. The book combines the imagery from many of the best documentary and editorial photographers (Stephanie Sinclair, "Lost Girls", Heavy Flash on main page) today with essays by leading academics ("Fallout", David Marples) creating a powerful dynamic where words and images combine in a longer form of documentary story telling.
posted by michswiss (4 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

This seems like a pretty cool book. Combining image and text in creative ways makes it possible to make stronger arguments, and also give a multimedia experience.

Speaking of multimedia, and given the extensive use of Flash on the website, wouldn't this benefit from an app?
posted by hpb2earnest at 8:35 AM on November 17, 2010

It is interesting, but the Chernobyl Chapter is just misleading about the conditions that lead to disaster still being present, especially outside the former Soviet Union. The conidtions that led to the disaster are just not applicable to any modern design or anything that has ever been built anywhere but the former Soviet union and it wasn't a common design even there. It is mostly a scare story about how nuclear power is just a disaster waiting to happen and *look out, scary radiation*
posted by bartonlong at 1:13 PM on November 17, 2010

Ahh, the old "it can't happen here" refrain. The magic of Modern Technology notwithstanding, I think nuclear power is a questionable gamble going forward. Consider the institutions that have, in concert, enabled the rest of the world to use nuclear power for decades without our own Chernobyl:

Lots of cheap conventional energy
Mostly effective regulation
Large and mobile expert work force
Booming and liquid economy
Constant security through rule of law

These are all in jeopardy in the decades ahead. Capital constraints in particular may cripple the nuclear industry, hopefully before a serious accident happens. But the potential for one is there, even assuming the long decommissioning process for a plant is properly funded and diligently executed. Never mind the long term waste management.

The conditions leading to a Chernobyl disaster may be nearer than you think. The professional misconduct that directly caused that accident is not likely today in a US plant, though it is not impossible. On the other hand, perhaps that's offset by other threat vectors. One hypothetical is the Stuxnet virus. How secure are our plants against something like Stuxnet? Secure enough?

Going beyond that, the Chernobyl plant was embedded in a social, political, and commercial environment heavily compromised by debt, corruption, and irresponsibility. Those forces are readily apparent in our own society, and the trends are not improving. What will the Tea Party do to the NRC?

In the early days of the Chernobyl accident, much injury was caused because those who knew about the accident tried to hide it. Are you so trusting of any other industry and government that you think it can't happen here?

Situated as it was in the context of a deteriorating superpower, the Chernobyl accident should be taken as a cautionary tale. And it definitely has a place in this exceptional book.
posted by maniabug at 10:46 AM on November 18, 2010

Its not that I don't think it can't happen here. It is a human endouver dependeant on less than perfect humans, mistakes can happen. But like so much other commentary from reporters I find them thouroughly lacking in the technical details. And it turns out the technical details really do matter in this case. Nuclear power has been made into this bogeyman of the enviromentalists and by contimination of like minded people a large portion of the left.

I want to state clearly, based on generally accepted notions of nuclear power theory,

Fission Nuclear Reactors built everywhere else (that i now of) cannot have this kind of failure. They are moderated differently, they have a different pressure vessel design and most importantly they have a very thick concrete containment vessel. The accident at Three mile island (which as for causes is actually similair to Chernobyl) did not result in any fatalities, and the resultant radiation release that workers were exposed to was about equivelant to a medical xray-nothing to worry about.

The enviroment hazards posed by the entire chain of nuclear power is orders of magnitude less than that posed by coal, and somewhat less than natural gas (especially if you factor in the new fraking techniques). The only reason it is more expensive than any other kind of power is the litigation costs they are subject too by opponents of nuclear power. The other thing that really cheeses me off about nuclear power opponents is a complete unwillingness to discuss the actual design technical details of what nuclear power is, it's challenges and just how much our understanding and practices of how to responsibility handle it has grown as the technology has matured.

It is the only available, affordable, and abundant power source that can replace fossil fuel power plants in the near term (and maybe long term). They produce no CO2 during operations and much less than any other reliable source during its whole fuel cycle. This country has let the luddite know-nothings derail this technology and cost us all dearly in terms of affordable, clean and abundant electrical power-which is the real heart of prosperity and a modern standard of living. In the end I would love to live next to one of the new modular pebble bed reactors that provided reliable electricty without the need for landscape marring electrical grid, and maybe even enjoy cheap and plentiful heat from the expendend steam used to turn the turbines. I could go on and on about this topic but the scare tactics used in this one article make me also question every other article they write about that I am far less educated on.
posted by bartonlong at 2:58 PM on November 18, 2010

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