There was a strong response and discussion following my posting where I mentioned my run-in with David Noonan of the Australian Conservation Foundation. So I decided to bring this post forward while I work on Part II of the Energy Plan.
Jim Green is a member of Friends of the Earth. I don’t know Jim but FoE is another organisation that I consider to have admirable goals, history and actions in a great many areas. I particularly admire the way FoE seems to get on the front lines in real global environmental trouble spots such as in settings of rampant deforestation in South East Asia. Here, they seem to do tough work, well, in partnership with other organisations. They appear to build evidence based studies using GPS coordinates, photographic evidence and scientifically referenced information to present the case, and they show no fear. Good on them.
Transplant this verve to Australia and it gets a little strange for me. God knows Australia has environmental problems, including in the management of forests, but we actually are not rampantly corrupt, and we basically manage natural resources like forests in a more sustainable and transparent way than the world trouble spots. My dealings with FoE in this setting, which were limited but direct during my years of working in Victoria, is that they lack a sense of compromise, and lack an appreciation of the value of forest and timber products and the value of jobs. Curiously, when the substitutes for construction timber are demonstrably worse for the environment, being mainly mined minerals, that doesn’t seem to cut through either. In a developed nation we must reach compromise in these areas. We need to accept that we are actually agents of management and stewardship for much of our environmental resources, some of which we will cordon off and conserve, and some of which we will use for a variety of purposes. Otherwise, the resources feeding our consumption will be imported from precisely the trouble spots FoE fights so hard to clean up! In this setting, I find the FoE approach a little hard to take. I concluded to my great disappointment that when FoE talks of a sustainable timber industry, what they actually mean is a cottage industry. It’s not the same thing. I can at least understand their motivations as it is pretty galling when the wrong things happen in our forests. But I disagree with their desired end point.
Then we get to nuclear power, and the situation gets truly ridiculous. They oppose it, vigorously. Exactly whose interests are they presuming to represent by opposing nuclear power? Surely not those in India who still burn sticks and dung for cooking fuel? Surely not those in China who burn coal directly in their homes? Surely not the rest of the Chinese living (and prematurely dying) in the Asian Brown Cloud, made partly from the emissions of factories and power plants? Surely not the poor worldwide who will be on the front line of the worst impacts of climate change?
Based on the article Radiation and Risk by Jim Green, which I was asked to rebut, they would appear to be representing deceased people who probably never existed. I realise that sounds weird, but read on and you will see. When I first read his article I was concerned. It sounded reputable and convincing, and seemed to be supported with his reference to the UNSCEAR. How could I rebut this?