46 new coal power plants in Turkey alone: Running ever faster against the wall

In times of climate crisis and environmental degradation new coal power stations are built; same mindset, same business, larger catastrophe. Support people in Turkey defending their right to a healthy life.

Coal power plant

Have you ever heard the term Climate Change? Well, there is still much confusion on the issue. Until the unbelievers get convinced that climate change is here and that we face a huge problem, we will already have crashed against the wall. At least they are living in blissful ignorance.

The scientific community is verifying with an ever-increasing certainty that climate change is real, is human-induced and is escalating at a faster pace as we keep on demanding more energy within the current system. We are talking about the scientific findings of the vast majority of the scientist. More importantly if we take an honest look around we can feel it ourselves: the proliferation of human activities are massive, we have actually degradated all ecological systems on Earth. That something visible and tangible, no academic textbooks are needed.

At a global level, solutions are drowning in bureaucratic procedures that are directed by industry lobbies. That explains why there is not much progress during 17 years of negotiations (COP 17 of the United Nations just finished), while we are assured to be heading towards unprecedented catastrophes that will wipe out humanity (not the Earth of course).

At a national level, the picture is also similar. Few countries have taken the lead (like Denmark with wind energy), but the sum effect is negative since energy use and CO2 emissions are increasing at a dramatic pace globally.

There are fundamental issues in how global economy works. From the tar sands of Canada to the highway that was planned to cut through the Amazon destructive development schemes are constantly popping up from the same corporations with the same mindset. It is no coincidence.

But whereas in the past, we were not sure about the consequences, now we know and people are rising up everywhere on the planet to stop these plans and provide alternatives. It is about our own quality of life and the life of the children to come. It is a matter of survival on the planet. Many believe, including Freegan Kolektiva, that the only sustainable solution will come from the bottom, from the grassroots, from society, from you and me.

I was once again astonished by the lack of responsibility of governments, which succumb to corporate pressure, when I read that 46 (!) new coal power plants are in store in Turkey.   They are already approved by the EPDK (Energy Market Regulatory Agency) [1, 2]. Do not lose hope though, there are also thousands of Turkish citizens protesting for the rights to a healthy living.

On the shores of Black Sea, at a place called Gerze (close to Samsun), a construction of a huge 1200 MW coal power plant has been proposed. Local residents struggle againsta such an installation is going on for 3 years already. They have been organizing peace camps and street demonstration which culminated in a 10.000 people march last November [4]. Banners were showing slogans like “Gerze people are not for sale” and “We don’t want death chimneys.” [5]

It is forecasted that the demand for energy is going to rise by 60% until 2030, while fossil fuels are going to provide 85% of all this energy. There are 50.000 coal power plants worldwide, a number that is starkly on the rise. Only this fact is enough to know that we are going to experience severe global warming with unimaginably harsh consequences for everyone.

What is the problem with fossil-fuel power stations? Well, quite a few:

Carbon emissions

The combustion of coal contributes to air pollution and acid rain while GHG (greenhouse gases including CO2) are responsible for the greenhouse effect and global warming, which results from capturing solar radiation in the Earth system. The use of carbon-based fossil fuels for the generation of electricity accounts for more than 40% of CO2 release, in countries like the US.

Finite resources

Fossil fuels are finite and we are running out of resources. We are using in just a few generations all the resources that resulted from million years of geological processes. It is self-evident that we cannot do that for much longer. We live in the ‘peak-everything’ era, when production and demand are peaking to be followed by a sharp decline.

Exposure to particulate matter

Public health is undermined from exposure to particulate matter. Particulate matter can enter the lungs and cause respiratory and cardiac failure among other diseases like asthma, bronchitis etc. This affects the people that live closer to power plants. This can be partly only prevented by filters (baghouse), which is not applied in most cases.

Exposure to radioactivity

Coal is a rock that results primarily from the sedimentation of plant matter but includes many inorganic elements as well e.g. uranium, thorium and other radioactive isotopes albeit in low quantities. However, by burning all those huge quantities of coal, radioactive contamination occurs. During regular operation a coal power station releases 100 times larger effective dose compared to a nuclear plant (excluding nuclear accidents).

Coal ash contamination

Toxic elements, including arsenic and lead, from coal ash waste of power stations pollute the ground water while they cause skin, bladder and lung cancer, respiratory diseases etc.  Coal dust is also a health threat to nearby populations. There is no regulatory framework to control waste disposal as most governments knuckle under industry pressure.

Mercury contamination in fish

The largest sources of mercury contamination are coal power plants. All 291 streams, tested by government scientists in the US, were contaminated with mercury. All fish contained mercury, even the ones from isolated rural waterways. In 25% of the cases, the mercury in the fish samples was above the safety levels [3].

Have they included all these facts in their environmental assessments? Is every single well-informed of the impact from 50 new power plants? I am afraid that somewhere along the way between CEOs, lobbyists, government officials and mass media information is slightly distorted.

We have contaminated natural elements and biological organisms, even or own bodies. How much longer can we last under these conditions? There are alternatives, we have the know-how for less resource-intensive, renewable energy!

You can show your solidarity to the people of Gerze here.

Remember that we are all affected; climate change, pollution and corporate dominance do not recognize borders. We need to go through together with solidarity, love and respect!

[1] Hatam J (2009). Get with the times, Turkey: coal plants are sooo last century. Retrieved on 23 December 2011 from: http://www.treehugger.com/corporate-responsibility/get-with-the-times-turkey-coal-plants-are-sooo-last-century.html

[2] 350.org (2011). Received as an email on 20 December 2011 from 350.org. It is also available here: http://www.350.org/en/about/blogs/solidarity-stop-huge-coal-plant-turkey

[3] Wikip[edia (2011). Fossil-fuel power station. Retrieved 23 December 2011 from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil-fuel_power_station

[4] Harte J (2011). 10.000 Turks gather to protest coal-fired power plant. Retrieved on 23 December 2011 from: http://www.greenprophet.com/2011/11/10000-turks-gather-to-protest-coal-fired-power-plant/

[5] SINOP – Doğan News Agency (2011). Thousands protest thermal power plant. Retrieved on 23 December 2011 from: http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/default.aspx?pageid=438&n=thousands-protest-thermal-power-plant-2011-11-27

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