Wednesday, August 06, 2008

let's all go nuclear

George Monbiot is the latest eminent environmentalist to come out in (qualified) support for nuclear power stations. James Lovelock of course has been vocally advocating nuclear for some time. Newsnight debated this last night, and poor George was attacked quite personally from both sides – a governmental nuclear apparatchik called him a “slow learner” on the one hand (one would think they would have welcomed his contribution – Mr Monbiot potentially can deliver millions of Guardian readers to their cause) – and on the other Jonathan Porrit castigated Monbiot for selling out. In fact Porrit seemed far keener on castigating Monbiot than on addressing environmental causes.

Newsnight presenter Gavin Esler did nothing to moderate these personal attacks (even appearing to find them quite funny). George kept his cool and came out really well, I thought, especially in the face of Porrit’s provocations. Perhaps Mr Porrit is a little envious of Mr Monbiot’s environmental star status.

Anyway, even Julie Burchill is attacking him now – he replies to her criticisms in today’s Guardian:

“The environment is inseparable from social justice. Climate change, for example, is primarily about food and water. It threatens the fresh water supplies required to support human life. As continental interiors dry out and the glaciers feeding many of the rivers used for irrigation disappear, climate change presents the greatest of all threats to the future prospects of the poor. The rich will survive for a few decades at least, as they can use their money to insulate themselves from the effects. The poor are being hammered already.

In reality, it is people like Julie Burchill – who is, incidentally, far richer than almost any green I have met – who treats the poor with contempt. So that she can revel in what she calls "reckless romantic modernism", other people must die. But at least you can't accuse her of hypocrisy: she cannot fail to live by her moral code, for the simple reason that she doesn't have one.

Sure, we are hypocrites. Every one of us, almost by definition. Hypocrisy is the gap between your aspirations and your actions. Greens have high aspirations – they want to live more ethically – and they will always fall short. But the alternative to hypocrisy isn't moral purity (no one manages that), but cynicism. Give me hypocrisy any day.”

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