Friends of Which Earth? Giving Green the Red Light

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?

On the subject of Fukushima

It is not the purpose of this site to undertake the detailed analysis of the ongoing Fukushima nuclear accident. That is being done more than adequately elsewhere.

However I would not want anyone to think that Decarbonise SA is trying to ignore it. Reality is our friend around here; it serves our mission not one bit to ignore or obscure the facts of this event. The more people talk about it, and the more that talk is informed and constructive the better. 

To that end, I have provided links to three articles I have had published in relation to this event.

The first, Think climate when judging nuclear power, was a guest post on Brave New Climate during the height of the crisis. It was well received and broadly distributed, and was quoted by the Sydney Morning Herald. Here I was focusing on trying to have people retain an open mind, and contextualise the incident.

The second, What happened? What next? was published as the lead article for the Tech State on-line magazine. Here I am moving into considering the implications of halting nuclear power on the back of this event.

Third, Life after Fukushima: the future of nuclear power in East Asia, is something of a variant on the second post, but here I am beginning to explore the lessons that need to be taken from the event, with particular focus on the importance of nuclear power in East Asia.

I hope these articles will help to clarify my approach to this event, and how I feel it should impact our decision-making in energy.

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