Subjective Objectivity – The Blog of The Reasonable Man

March 22, 2011

In which I agree 100% George Monbiot

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 2:19 pm

Well, with a 5% margin of error. Devotees will know that I’m not exactly his biggest fan, and especially find his political analysis quite shoddy. I think the same about Paul Krugman, though for different reasons. But I digress.

To be fair, his environmental writing is generally pretty well constructed and ultimately aiming in the right direction, and further to his credit, Monbiot does research his pieces and is knowledgeable. I’d certainly not want to debate against him, if only because . Today he weighs in on nuclear power with a degree of reasonable analysis that is remarkable, especially as the German government (to name but one group) lose their heads over the energy source in the wake of the Fukushima apocalypse meltdown incident. To wit:

You will not be surprised to hear that the events in Japan have changed my view of nuclear power. You will be surprised to hear how they have changed it. As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.

A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features was hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami. The electricity supply failed, knocking out the cooling system. The reactors began to explode and melt down. The disaster exposed a familiar legacy of poor design and corner-cutting. Yet, as far as we know, no one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation.

It’s hard for headline writers to really capture the point that human ingenuity and engineering capability has got to the point where even a corner-cutting example of it is still relatively resilient against catastrophic failure. It’s by no means perfect and has required a great deal of ad hoc remedial work, but given the prevailing circumstances, I’m going to go ahead and put this in the “win” column for Man’s Hubris.

Of course, it would seem perverse to celebrate such a state of affairs in the wake of the disaster, as much is might seem perverse to celebrate the fact that, the terrible loss of life notwithstanding, a combination of engineering prowess and strict regulation, saved untold numbers of lives in the face of a potentially horrific earthquake/tsunami double-punch. It could have all been far, far worse (c.f. Haiti, 2004 Tsunami etc)

More on the disaster itself another time; back to nuclear, where George provides some further context:

Some greens have wildly exaggerated the dangers of radioactive pollution. For a clearer view, look at the graphic published by xkcd.com. It shows that the average total dose from the Three Mile Island disaster for someone living within 10 miles of the plant was one 625th of the maximum yearly amount permitted for US radiation workers. This, in turn, is half of the lowest one-year dose clearly linked to an increased cancer risk, which, in its turn, is one 80th of an invariably fatal exposure. I’m not proposing complacency here. I am proposing perspective.

Bonus points for linking to xkcd by the way. Click through to the diagram he mentions, it’s a nice illustration.

The rest of his post is a a fairly wonkish dissemination of how an effective move to fossil fuels could be effected, and worth a read, if only because it throws cold water on some of the environmentalist magical thinking that routinely does the rounds. But more importantly, I think it’s genuine progress for finding a solution to our energy and environmental problems (and no matter what one thinks of the latter, we definitely have the former) that even the most outspoken advocates of green issues can find a pragmatic basis on which to evolve their views in light of how facts and circumstances develop. It’s encouraging for the debate as a whole, which is uncharacteristic of most that is written from any side of the debate.

I don’t even have to put one of my usual snarky one liners at the end of a post, either.

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

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