Monday, October 02, 2006

The new romanticism

The Times has a book plug headlined with 'a leading scientist has warned that opposition to nuclear power by environmental campaigners is irrational as well as dangerously misguided'.

I'm not going to write any arguments about nuclear power specifically, but about a lifestyle trend amongst the mediaratsi (which probably means it'll be on everyone's radar eventually - aspiration and all that) which encompasses organic food, new ageiness and endless articles about fleeing to quiet parishes and living in eco communes (near the bottom).

I am a very keen environmentalist but realise that food produced using 'traditional' farming methods, living in the countryside or choosing to live without electricity is a wealthy person's dream. It's like Marie Antoinette playing being a shepherdess.

If we want to feed the world, we can't feed them organically-reared, GM-free, bacon dry-cured using 17th century techniques. Productivity just isn't high enough to feed the current world population. We need to either reduce the world population or produce more food. Both of these need technological solutions. Farmers using manual labour have lots of children - they need to be able to leave the land, be educated and have access to working contraception (not least to tackle the tragedy of HIV). And we need to devise techniques for tackling insect attack and crop failure whilst increasing yield that don't produce resistant/dangerous cross-bred species or pollute water courses.

There is a reason why we chose to develop modern medicine. Life expectancy was low, women died in childbirth and infant mortality was high. Yes, we should try to limit side effects, eschew medical intervention unless necessary and be open to alternative medicine where there is evidence to suggest it works. But no crystal-waving please. Likewise, in order to reduce both unnecessary flights and land travel we need to encourage people to live in high density housing in cities, close to good public transport. We also need to improve computing technology to the point where business people feel they can have as useful a meeting by remote as they can by flying. So writing:

has just got his first computer, though I try and limit his time on it

Is probably barking up the wrong carbon-neutral tree. Computing and urban life is not the enemy. And old-fashioned rural life was not romantic, authentic and fulfilling. It was nasty, brutish, narrow-minded and short. That's why it's 'old fashioned'.

So, media-people, can we have rather more about green lifestyles long-term achievable by all the 60 + million people in the UK and, more generally, the world? And rather less about wealthy Londoners embracing their inner tree hugger? If we want to save the world - we need the former, not the latter. Because if you rolled it out nationally and internationally, much of the latter would do about as much for long-term sustainability as a humvee.

6 Comments:

  • At 9:46 am , Anonymous Steve Guy said...

    Although I agree with much of what you say, I am interested that you don't expand on the nuclear argument specifically. The pro-nuclear lobby is spending big bucks trying to convince us that more nuclear is the only way to meet our electricity generation needs going forward. I am no tree hugger, but do believe that the same amount of money invested in renewables would also deliver the energy we need. I don't think there is anything 'romantic' about that!

     
  • At 9:53 am , Blogger Femme de Resistance said...

    Although I agree with much of what you say, I am interested that you don't expand on the nuclear argument specifically

    Ah. Intended to be the subject of another blog post when I've trawled some stats :)

    I'm going to run a series of posts on Corporate Responsibility, Sustainability and lobbying...

    The main aim of this post was to draw a division between 'techno-greens' who believe that new technologies like wind turbines, new fuels and lifestyle changes like compact cities are the way forward...

    ...and the somewhat reactionary 'back-to-the-past' movement which seems to be (being somewhat facetious) an unholy alliance between the Guardian/Times lifestyle supplement and Prince Charles.

     
  • At 11:30 am , Blogger Joe Otten said...

    It is intriguing why, then, you chose to introduce a blog post on the subject practical environmentalism versus impractical "feel good" tree-hugging, with the reference to the nuclear argument.

     
  • At 3:06 pm , Blogger Auberius said...

    It's relevant because, even within the Techno faction, nuclear is discarded out of hand because it isn't considered to be new technology, which as Dr Martin points out is fallacy.

     
  • At 3:33 pm , Blogger Femme de Resistance said...

    It's relevant because, even within the Techno faction, nuclear is discarded out of hand because it isn't considered to be new technology, which as Dr Martin points out is fallacy.

    Yeah - sorry. Missing a conceptual leap there :#/

    Am getting my blogging style going and I'm probably best posting when I've got something fully formed even if it's less frequent for QA purposes.

     
  • At 4:39 pm , Blogger Auberius said...

    I've just made that very point on my blog!

     

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home