[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Risk/governance/A rational approach???

I think trying to explain apparent flaws in the risk/benefit/decision making
process as it manifests itself in our democracy is folly, we do not actually
have a pure democracy in the US but some hybrid that involves the media as
a powerful player and does not account for the fact that the populace is
not "all knowing".  An objective look at the situation leads me to conclude
that we live in a dysfunctional "humocracy" or governance model so strange
it's funny!

Anyway, it's a fools day..........("Nuclear reactor" appears in the text so it's on topic)



SCIENCE:  Dr. Noitall, you are the ultimate world authority on
all types of risks, a revered figure who has just appeared in
national television.
Noitall:  A vast understatement of my true value.

SCIENCE:  You must have a large laboratory to uncover so many
facts not available to the regulatory agencies.
Notiall:  Facts are no longer created in laboratories, they are
created by the media.  Any pronouncement of mine repeated in
three periodicals, four newspapers, or one television program is
considered a fact.  My appearance on three talk shows is enough
to qualify me as an expert.  It is no longer necessary to have a
laboratory in my profession.

SCIENCE:  Could you give examples of how to avoid risk?
Noitall:  Stay out of the home.  More than 3 million people in
the United States were injured in 1987 in home accidents; 90% of
all automobile accidents occur within 10 miles of home.  It is
imperative that you stay away from home.

SCIENCE:  But I've heard that many accidents occur on highways.
Notiall:  That is true.  There is one fatality for every 10
minutes of driving on the highways in the United States.  I
have developed a rigorous formula that shows that the more time
spent on the highway, the greater the chance of an accident.
Therefore, I recommend driving 80 miles per hour as a way of
reducing the time spent on highways and thus reducing your chance
of an accident.

SCIENCE:  If one stays away from home, is there not an increased
chance of infectious diseases?
Notiall:  One has to give up sexual intercourse entirely.  The
danger of disease from that source is far greater even than from
eating an apple, and it should be avoided at all costs.

SCIENCE:  Are there other dangers about which the Environmental
Protection Agency has failed to advise us?
Noitall:  Breathing.  All breathing generates oxygen radicals,
which are the main sources of mutations in DNA, leading to
cancer, birth defects, and very peculiarly shaped molecules in
the urine.  Breathing has been observed 3 minutes before death in
100% of all fatalities.  We urge everyone to stop breathing until
the proper research has been carried out.  The EPA has been told
about this relation and has failed to act on it, a scandalous
display of irresponsibility.

SCIENCE:  What about hazards from crime?
Noitall:  A third of all homicides are committed on intimates,
about a third on acquaintances, and about a third on strangers.
Hence, it is imperative to avoid intimates, acquaintances, and
strangers in order to reduce your risk of homicide significantly.

SCIENCE:  Can one ever completely eliminate a given risk?
Noitall:  One can reduce a risk to essentially zero by adopting
what I call "the riskier alternative strategy."  For example,
one could take up hang gliding, as it has been conclusively
demonstrated that fewer hang gliders die of passive cigarette
smoke than those who never participate in the sport.  People who
bicycle without a helmet need not worry about a little nuclear
reactor nearby.  People who have a cocktail before dinner or
a little wine with a meal need never worry about a little
trichloroethylene in their drinking water.  By the proper choice
of alternative strategies, it is possible to reduce one's chance
of dying of any particular disorder to any desired level.  It has
relieved many people of risk anxiety syndrome.

SCIENCE:  This seems so sensible, I am surprised people don't
follow your advice.
Noitall:  Most ignoramuses are in fact following my formula
without knowing it.  Millions of people commute 20 miles to work,
take airplanes, and choose helplessly short-lived grandparents
and still worry about clean drinking water.  These people are
secret admirers of peptic ulcers.

SCIENCE:  We can't thank you enough for the time you are spending
with us, but I have one last question.  Do you practice what you
Noitall:  Sadly, the answer is no.  My family on the paternal
side has a hereditary weakness whose clinical manifestation is
the "eat, drink, and be merry" psychosis.  As a result, all my
ancestors on that side of the family have died prematurely, in
their early nineties.  I doubt whether I will escape the family
                                      -- Daniel E. Koshland, Jr.
                                         SCIENCE, June 30, 1989

Chuck Cooper
Dir. EH&S
Portland State University