Atomic Show #241 – Rachel Pritzker, philanthropic problem solver
Rachel Pritzker is a philanthropist motivated to solve problems, even if they require rethinking long held notions. She is the founder and chairman of the Pritzker Innovation Fund, which she operates along with her brother, Roland. The tagline used by her organization is “Supporting the development and advancement of paradigm-shifting ideas to address the world’s most wicked problems.”
Rachel is also the Chairman of the Advisory Board for the Breakthrough Insititute and played a role in the production of Pandora’s Promise. She is one of 18 authors of the recently released Ecomodernist Manifesto.
Philanthropy Today published an article about her in May 2015 titled Rachel Pritzker: A Philanthropist Takes on “Wicked Problems” by Backing New Ideas
Like many progressive thinkers who are worried about climate change, providing ample energy supplies for a more prosperous world, and addressing many other challenges that can be solved with more abundant clean energy sources, Rachel has overcome her initial assumptions about nuclear energy to become a strong supporter for advanced nuclear energy technology.
We’ve been trying to schedule a chat for the Atomic Show for a couple of months, but our travel schedules were out of phase until today. I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did.
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I will listen to it.
The NOAA report for July is rather stunning :
“As July is climatologically the warmest month for the year, this was also the all-time highest monthly temperature in the 1880–2015 record, at 61.86°F (16.61°C), surpassing the previous record set in 1998 by 0.14°F (0.08°C).” ( http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/sotc/summary-info/global/201507 )
Also related to this conversation for those interested – Gordon McDowell put together some very well done videos of other speakers from the Breakthrough Institute during this past Thorium Energy Alliance Conference:
A quick search on their website indicates “Breakthrough is a fiscal project of, but not funded by, Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisers.” The Rockefeller Foundation was brought up during the podcast (as well as others), but this specific point was not addressed. Is there something more to this connection?
I’m going to put on my virtual thick rubber gloves and insulated boots and then touch on what I believe is the “third rail” of discussions among philanthropic funders.
I’ve gotten the feeling from several different interactions over the years that they never discuss motives. No one in “the community” wants to discuss the possibility that charitable foundations make grant selections for any reason other than their stated mission or goals. They refrain from questioning motives and tacitly agree that whatever funders have decided to do in the past was done for only the best of intentions and shouldn’t be questioned.
I’m willing to bet the above statements, if read by people within the community, would be grounds for keeping me off of some party invitation lists. That is okay by me, there are plenty of ways to pass the time made available by a lack of a social life.
Just listening…. Rod, you mentioned DiLithium.. If I were a writer for Star Trek, I’d have a scene where some leader of an impoverished planet, dressed in a rag cloak, explains to Jean Luc Picard or Cap’n Kirk to forget about DiLithium; That it takes more energy to dig it up and process it than you get out by consuming it in a trans-galactic, matter-antimatter, warp drive engine.
Great talk Rod and Rachel
You covered a lot of territory.
A general comment about how to get more people to accept nuclear energy. First I definitely agree that aligning nuclear advocacy with climate change and ocean acidification is essential.
One of my strategies to draw more attention and to find commonality is that whenever I mention climate change I also always add ocean acidity. This reminder is an essential way to take some of the abstract out of the picture. The fact that one trillion tons of CO2 has been accumulated and has been gradually getting absorbed by the oceans and will continue to be for centuries without mitigation is a continuous threat. That message of acidity or pH getting lower therefore with significant probability of causing a mass extinction is an important message to convey.
Even if there is only say a 10% chance of that happening the right thing to do is act upon it. If you knew your child’s bus driver drank alcohol one out of every 10 days before driving would you let them ride the bus? Extinction events are permanent.
For a musical way to say it. We need to tackle the twin tragedies of climate change and ocean acidification. We can’t let our feeling that our message does not count.
In my book I’m developing an idea that when we start to feel that we are too insignificant to affect change I suggest that we seek to discover others that have ideas about solving the same problems. I call them stewards. They can be the scientists and engineers but also the think tanks and communicators.
You mentioned the idea of a sense of excitement about an atomic age slowly began to disappear after reports of nuclear fallout. I agree there was a time when people had a lot of hope for an atomic age. The cartoon animation “A is for Atom” from the early 50s is a perfect example. So if you will humor me
I will say something about Buddhist teaching. They teach that emotions are an illusion. When you meditate on the source of an emotion you often discover it is based on some personal view of how you want to be perceived. If you have a fear then it is probably from a lack of knowledge. Knowing yourself to be open to learning allows you ti lose that fear because learning is about becoming and that means we can stop worrying about how we are perceived if we take the time to understand why or if we should fear a situation. Remaining in fear without knowing the full reason is like being a slave to fear.
As a musician I recognize that I will be ostracized by some of my colleagues for being @pronuclear but I feel the time is right to come out of the closet so to speak.
Thank you for being an inspiration.
If you like some of my ideas check out patreon.com/energyrealist
Actually. The more I think about it the better I like it.
These days to say you are coming out of the closet does raise a few eyebrows.
How about we start a campaign to get well know people at first but any high positioned people to say “I’ve come out of the closet” ….. “I’m pronuclear”
Could that get some mileage. I think so.
Thanks Rod, thanks Rachel, I really enjoyed that session very much.
I, too, am heartened by the sense of moving into a new phases where we can form coherent, responsible, evidence-based answers to our challenges from a moral, progressive framework.
Rachel is correct on the nature of the problem. The real problem is that over 2 Billion new consumers will be coming on line soon. The question in the race to supply them with power who will be that supplier? Robert Hargraves recognized that we needed Atomic Energy that is cheaper than coal to compete in this space. All the crying about CO2 will not put power in the hands of these poverty stricken individuals. In fact / we need Atomic power that is cheaper than coal and cheaper than Hydro to compete with massive hydro projects in these same areas. Currently there are several massive hydro projects in Ethopia and China. Other countries like Laos will be needing more electricity in the near future and while they are currently 90% hydro as their population moves much past the 7 million mark it is currently at they will need other sources.
Bill Nye’s attitude that the more reactors we build the more chance there is for a real problem is sensible if we continue with the light water designs we currently have. Especially if those reactors are located in areas with very marginal governments or technical infrastructure. They are too big and too complex to be used in the areas where people are just starting to gain access to electricty. Those types of communities need to be using designs that are inherently safe, fairly small (transportable) and which can supply smaller communities of 20,000 to 100,000 people (20 to 50 MW) and which can load follow with little to no operator intervention, and finally that are cheaper than coal! Most of these types of designs also consume their fuel well so that having stuff outside the reactor that could be used for a Bomb is far less likely and that material that does come out has some amazing properties that are very valuable as Nadir has pointed out in one of your podcasts. In other words, if we don’t have to throw it away it could be sold and used well!
These are possible and these are what we need. If we had those, I would love to be a sales person. You would have oppressive governments buying these up and installing them for their massive sales potential. In countries where the market is open investors would buy these for their sales potential.
I agree that the concepts of caping carbon with a price tax, or using energy efficency will not get us any true reductions in CO2. I get angry at the ideas because I have friends who live on a light bulb – a single light bulb – in their home and the energy cost of that light bulb consumes a good percentage of their monthly income (500 out a montly income of 3000 or about 16%) The cost of electricity is between 25 to 40 cents / KwH. This island nation has built coal plants and is shipping in coal to supply their needs.
I also lived in Indiana for a time and did the research for a wood burning power plant. We had low prices due to coal and could not pay back the capital cost of a 10 year loan at the very low cost that electricity sold in Indiana. We were able to compete without that high capital cost, but in Indiana, as in MOST places around the world, renewable electricity is not subsidized. We need to be able to supply plants at a lower capital cost than coal.
Panic driven messages about how guilty we should feel about using fossil fuel will not stop CO2 production.
But, let me say, that I am one of those people who doubt that we are in a hugh problem with CO2. My support of Nuclear is humanitarian. For years I have seen that the costs of Nuclear are mostly fear. The intrinsic costs are actually in the initial design.
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