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Hubert Reeves

Updated: Apr 4




I first found interest in Hubert Reeves, when I started to watch one of his TV segments on the UQAM university channel Canal Savoir. It must be Star Teller, or "Initiation à l'Astronomie - Le Cosmos et l'Être Humain", certainly a demystification class of science and astrophysics. His classes were more appealing and easier to grasp. He would feed your curiosity with the sublime story of the sky and the origin of the universe. This, he would do so in a more digestible way so even little kids could be drawn by it. Saying that he is an astrophysicist and environmentalist, does not give justice to his accomplishments and impact on both fields.


Hubert Reeves was born on July 13th, 1932 in Montreal, Quebec, and went back to the stars on October 13th, 2023. The knowledge that he shared played a crucial role in the broadening of my perspective of the environment, and nature beyond planet earth. In his book titled “Mal De Terre” adapted in English as "Painful Earth", there is a chapter that displays different scenarios of the disruption of our environment. The 3rd scenario transposes us to the planet Venus while also reminding us of the climate of the earth billions of years in the past. The current conditions we are living in, which favor life as we know and enjoy it, have been part of a long sequence of events. The Venus scenario brings us back to what Earth was in its first hundred million years. Venus as it is observed currently is a sterile planet. With a temperature of 460 degrees Celsius, its surface is like hell, where it rains sulfuric acid. Hubert portrays Venus and Earth as twins. Though their atmospheres are radically different, their mass and distance from the Sun, and their quantity of carbon are approximately similar. The issue here is that Venus is composed of carbon dioxide which is said to be the cause of a gigantic greenhouse effect. Therefore, in this condition, life as we know it is impossible. To Hubert’s saying, this scenario is less likely to happen, however, it should not be discarded. The nature we belong to is beautiful and resilient though not infallible.


In his book, Hubert does not come through as a catastrophist. Though he gives a clear warning concerning our current treatment of natural resources, climate change, and pollution, he also comes up with practical solutions. He gives concrete observations, analysis, and solutions to what could be an unbearable disruption of our environment thus way of life.


The notion of energy is one considerable aspect of shaping our future. In the second chapter of the book, we are walked through the evolution of energy consumption. Hubert shows us the upsides and downsides of all types of energy, specifically with his own experience and perspective. First, he points out that our most common and mastered forms of energy such as petroleum, natural gas, coal, and nuclear fission (with uranium -235 as fuel for the nuclear reactors). Those sources of energy are expected to be depleted before the end of the century and coal within two to three centuries.


Then there is Fast neutron nuclear power which involves the fission of -238 uranium and thorium that may last a few thousand years.


Now from a perspective of millions of years and so, we have solar energy that can manifest itself in many ways. Direct absorption of the sun rays, or indirectly through the wind, the waves, the streams better known as hydraulic. Then a sun-like energy such as nuclear fusion from hydrogen to helium. Finally, thermal energy is contained within the planet. Hubert says that in many cases, those techniques will necessitate large financing and technological advances. I have to say that there are continuous breakthroughs, in terms of efficiency, affordability, practicality, and accessibility.  


Originally, Hubert Reeves was a strong supporter of nuclear energy as a potential solver of climate change. A comparison is made where one gram of uranium can generate as much energy as one ton of petroleum. At 24 years old (1956) Hubert migrated to the United States of America to study at Cornell University. This coincides with the booming of nuclear energy which was almost perceived in a utopian way; a free energy that would end poverty. Post the disastrous events of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, nuclear energy then started to be branded positively.


Despite the enthusiasm, Hubert concluded that nuclear was far from the best energy choice. This started with his experience with Hans Bethe, who is known to have discovered that the stars were huge nuclear reactors, and also worked on the atomic bomb. When Hubert met Hans Bethe, this one was a scientific consultant for companies building civilian reactors. Bethe was the one who offered Hubert to work for the company General Dynamics. The company was testing fast neutron nuclear reactors, which were more efficient than classic ones.


General Dynamics was settled in Detroit and was not in the good favor of the big players such as Ford or General Motors. Due to its high risk of disastrous casualties, and being near the automobile factories, such concern was raised to the point that General Dynamic faced a lawsuit from those companies.


Therefore, as a scientific consultant, Hubert was tasked to submit a file concluding the absence of risk and danger for the region. After a week of work, Hubert could not conclude the impossibility of risk, so he declined to file a favorable report and went back home.  Nonetheless, the reactor was still made operational. One year later, an instability in the cooling system caused a blockage and a serious breakdown. For a few hours, the whole city of Detroit was under alert and ready for evacuation. Though they were able to fix the issue, the highly radioactive reactor was eventually closed and barbed-wired. Ever since Saint Clair Island on Erie Lake is still inaccessible.


Through this incident, Hubert kept championing nuclear energy for many years. He even debated the late Pierre Elliott Trudeau, before he became Prime Minister of Canada. Trudeau was then against nuclear energy while Hubert was for it. Both eventually change position on the topic. Hubert gradually changes his mind, because of the issues tied to the extraction of energy, yet also, no one masters nuclear, the risk surrounding managing the waste, and potential casualties. One of the things Hubert says is that you must almost be perfect to master such energy. It commands precision and no mistakes are granted.


Overall, Hubert has brought a clear perspective of what is at stake as well as what can be done. He gives us a microcosmic and macrocosmic view of nature and the universe. It expands our minds, to grasp the essence of nature, and find ourselves in a place that is beyond earth just like a stardust.


“Toi, moi nous sommes tous fait de poussières d’étoiles, notre vie est précieuse, brillante, unique comme les milliards de points lumineux que tu vois dans le ciel. Observe au tour de toi. Cherche à comprendre. Tu te sentiras un habitant de l’univers.”


"You, me, we are all made of stardust. Our lives are precious, brilliant, and unique like the billions of points of light you see in the sky. Look around you. Seek to understand. You will feel like a citizen of the universe."


Quote by Hubert Reeves on the audio project titled: “Les Étoiles d’Hubert” meaning “Hubert’s Stars”. This is the introduction track of the audio project.



Painting By :Noble-Derby :LeMoore.




Hubert Reeves interview on the Belgian television program called "Noms de dieux" The show is hosted by Edmond Blattchen. Originally broadcasted in October 6th 1993, the topic of the day is nature God and humanity.



 

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Nothing is New Under the Sun.

There are Numerous Studies and Facts.

 

Earthquakes, Hurricanes, Tornados, Floods, Droughts, Acid Rain, Soil Acidification,

Air Pollution, Space Pollution, Water Contamination, Food Contamination, Extinction of Species (Biodiversity), Industrial Disasters,

Nuclear Waste, Waste Piling, Global Warming, Global Cooling,

Overexploitation of the Natural Resources, War,

Man's Effect On Nature

... 

Are all Matters of Concern, when it comes to Health and Survival on Planet Earth.

Also on how to build Strong Communities, And Create Wealth in a Sustainable Way.


Quote by :Noble-Derby :LeMoore.

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References:


Official Website of Hubert Reeves


Humanité Biodiversité


Book: Mal De  Terre – Painful Earth by Hubert Reeves – P. 24-26, P. 73-75, P. 75-78.


United States v. General Dynamics Corp No. 62 Civ. 3686 August 26, 1966

 

United States v. General Dynamics Corp., 415 U.S. 486 (1974)



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