A Weblog monitoring coverage of environmental issues and science in the UK media. By Professor Emeritus Philip Stott. The aim is to assess whether a subject is being fairly covered by press, radio, and television. Above all, the Weblog will focus on science, but not just on poor science. It will also bring to public notice good science that is being ignored because it may be politically inconvenient.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

The cycle of life.....

Here's a neat comment on Friday's blog about 'Saint' Joan Bakewell and nuclear power ('Where have all the flowers gone?, May 13) from Jaime Arbona of the ECE at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez (posted with permission):
'The problem of activists and fanatically religious people is that when they change, they go to extremes. Sometimes they follow a cycle. Take, for example, this reasoning by Joan:

"With the issue of nuclear power opening up again, my natural impulse is to clench my teeth and insist as I always have, "Not that way, not that way.""

1. "As a child I knew nothing of politics and strategy. I simply believed you had to have a bigger bomb than your enemy, hit them hard and win the war."

2. "The mindset of the child grew into the mindset of the nuclear disarmer."

3. "Being anti the bomb easily segued into being against all nuclear power. Nearer home in 1957 there had been a major nuclear accident at Windscale which released radioactive material into the atmosphere of Cumberland, up to 10 times the normal level."

4. "Now the mindset has changed again. Today we are up against global warming, and a dependence on fossil fuels that are not only running out but exist in places where they cause political mayhem."

5. "The odds at present are that global warming will wreak more havoc across the planet than nuclear power stations, even with their unresolved problems of radioactive waste."

6. "Changing your mind gets harder as you get older. You arrive at a worldview which seems the sum total of all life's lessons. So it is with me. It sits comfortably to be anti-nuclear power. I conjure up the evidence of my life - the nuclear race, strontium 90 in the milk, the Windscale disaster. But now I'm beginning to think it isn't enough. I'm going to have to think it all through again."

7. Go back to number 1.

So she's 70 and she's back to being a child.

What the fanatically opposed to nuclear power never seem to realize is that once the genie is out of the bottle there's no way to put it back. Better to make use of his powers to grant wishes and guard against his penchant to play tricks on us. It's still the safest way we have to generate power. We know, we have been doing it for 50 years.

P.S. The genie is out of the bottle for GMOs, etc. But the fanatics don't realize that either.'

Quite Shakespearian, Jaime:
"And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.
Then the whining schoolboy with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lined,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slippered pantaloon
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side,
His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."
[As you like it, Act II, Scene vii]

And, just as I like it too! Thanks, Jaime - great comment. The story of Luddites in many an age.

Philip, getting pretty close to that sixth age himself. "Now where are those pantaloons?" (Wife: "Hardly 'lean', though!") "But not, my dear, sans nuclear and GMOs." "Tea in the cool sun. Gunpowder or Earl Grey?"

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