An assessment of a fundamental execution and institutional capability that’s under attack. By Trump and allies in the US, but also broadly across the world, and not just by the politicians. Good awakening book about the boring truths.


The basic problem is that there is no constituency for the energy program
There are many constituencies opposed

—James Schlesinger, first secretary of energy

The American understanding of the risks people ran when they came into contact with radiation may have been weaker than the Soviets. The Soviet government was at least secure in the knowledge that it could keep any unpleasant information to itself. Americans weren’t and so avoided the information—or worse.

—Kate Brown, UoMaryland historian comparing American plutonium production facilities at Hanford with its Soviet twin, Ozersk


The fifth risk

“Program management”

The risk a society runs when it falls into the habit of responding to long-term risks with short-term solutions.

 

“Program management” is the existential threat that you never really even imagine a risk.

It is the ageing workforce of the DOE—which is no longer attracting young people as it once did—that one day loses track of a nuke. It is the ceding of technical and scientific leadership to China. It is the innovation that never occurs, and the knowledge that is never created, because you have ceased to lay the groundwork for it. It is what you never learned that might have saved you.


Now he sensed that poverty came in many flavours. He’s been lucky to have his particular parents and his particular community.

“There’s a real idealism that you have to indulge to think that people in New Orleans were now going to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. There were no bootstraps.


She’d discovered an emotional talent: she had the ability to decide not to be afraid. All the astronauts had it, she noticed. “If you are scared, I don’t want you to be there,” she said.
“Be here. Now. Here. Now. This is the game. Be scared before. Be scared later. Not during”.

—Dr. Kathy Sullivan, Astronaut, and a lot more


“We asked the question: What causes excessive use of police force?”

Police officers who had just come from an emotionally fraught situation—a suicide, or a domestic abuse call in which a child was involved—were more likely to use excessive force.
Maybe the problem wasn’t as simple as a bad cop. Maybe it was the emotional state in which the cop had found himself. “Dispatch sent them right back out without time to decompress. Give them a break in between and maybe they behave differently.”


Kathy, helping families of Challenger disaster astronauts:

“… the astronauts’ families had decided to create a science education program—though of what sort they didn’t yet know. The spouses asked Kathy to figure it out.

“I told them, ‘it’s your legacy to the crew. But to do it you need to create a network of people who feel they can shape it. The conversation really matters. Converse means exchange with. It does not mean transmit at. That’s how you get new thinking.

 

The only thing any of us can do completely on our own is to have the start of a good idea.