November 12, 2005

Tim Worstall: Nuclear Revisited.

Tim Worstall responds to this post by Rochenko on the Pro-nuke argument. Tim covers the technical parts but the paragraph that I want to talk about is the last one:
"As you might gather, the deeper problem I have with the current pro-nuclear publicity is with its recurrent underlying assumption: that the best solution to a perceived technological problem is a technical fix that focuses on that problem alone, as opposed to the problem as rooted in a global economic, political and ethical context."
There is a trend amongst the environmental movement to have this romantic idealised view of life as it was when people lived in tune with nature. Moonbat is the most extreme example, and there are shades of this attitude visible in this last paragraph. But this is factually wrong.

As Tim points out that currently with our current levels of growth the world is getting a better place to live. More people live longer, happier lives than at any other time in human history. And so long as the world economy keeps growing it is only going to get better.

This is partly due to the simple fact that thanks to our technology there are more people living than at any other point in human history, and less having to scrape an existence at the subsistence level. There is a reason that in every developing country as fast as the economy develops to allow it people move from the countryside to cities. Life in cities is easier than trying to live off the land.

I can only think of two instances where a society tried to deliberately reverse this on a large scale. Zimbabwe under Robert Mugarbe, and Cambodia under Pol Pot. In both instances there was an economic collapse and famine (plus massive repression to force people onto the land against there will, which in the case of Pol Pot extended to genocide). Subsistence farming and 'living in tune with nature' simply cannot sustain current population levels. If people are really advocating returning the world to the environmentally lower impact life style of a few hundred years ago (Rochenko isn't suggesting this, but Moonbat certainly is) then the world population will have to drop to a level similar to that of a few hundred years ago.

Pro-nuke people like me or Tim advocate a technical quick fix (if only as a stop gap) because to try and reorder the world society based on current, non-poluting, non-nuke, technology to be environmentally sustainable will require a lot of people living a lot harder lives, for shorter lengths, and a lot less of them. I don't see this as a morally defensible position.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


We are, I think, at a point in history where whatever solution we adopt to the energy issue is going to have heavy costs, one way or the other. This is the 'context' I was referring to. The blindness among certain 'golden age' environmentalists to these costs which you rightly point to is mirrored, I think, in the pro-nuclear case - the nature of the costs in either case may be different, but both sides need to be aware of them. Pointing this out hardly commits me or anyone else to some concept of 'nature-in-itself' to which we can return once we've somehow purged ourselves of all this nasty science gubbins.

10:45 pm  
Blogger chris said...

I was using your posts as a launching pad for my points on the Moonbat style of enviromentalism which is also anti-nuke. I did try to say that you personally where surgesting getting back to nature, and have edited the poast to make it clearer. However there are many anti-nuke enviromentalists that are.

1:29 pm  

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