Does history repeat itself? Looks like we are being softened up for a decision to commit to a new UK nuclear power programme. Front page news in Sunday Herald and several mentions elsewhere.
What caught my eye was a piece by Tim Luckhurst in the Scottish Sunday Times which mentioned Torness http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2090-1890567,00.html
|Scotland must face its nuclear destiny|
There is no excuse for the executive dragging its feet. Only one method of power generation guarantees the country’s economic future, argues Tim Luckhurst
|The year 2003 was a vintage year for dodgy dossiers. The first, promoting the spurious claim that Saddam Hussein had chemical weapons he could launch in 45 minutes, inflicted grievous damage on Tony Blair’s reputation. The second posed a graver threat to the national interest. |
The white paper on energy concluded that nuclear power was “an unattractive option” for meeting Britain’s future electricity needs. The prime minister knew it was untrue. He understood it would cripple efforts to tackle global warming, but antipathy to nuclear power is so entrenched that Blair pretended he could postpone reality.
Last week that pretence unravelled. No 10 was still imprecise and the advice from Sir David King, the government’s chief scientific adviser, avoided firm conclusions. But nothing could disguise the logic. Without a new generation of nuclear power stations, Britain will fail to cut greenhouse gas emissions. dot dot dot
The opportunity facing ministers in Edinburgh is plain. We have scientists who understand nuclear safety and the storage of waste. Our police and military have procedures for ensuring security. So Scotland can approach a new nuclear era with confidence.
Against this opportunity stand increasingly peculiar arguments from the anti-nuclear lobby.
I first witnessed the origins of that hostility near Dunbar in 1978, where, to my enduring shame, I was one of the idiots who turned up to protest against Torness nuclear power station. The assorted peaceniks, Socialist Workers and girls in dungarees who made up the Scottish Campaign to Resist the Atomic Menace (Scram) alerted me to my silliness. Their arguments were a confused collage of the hideous consequences of nuclear war, mutant monsters from 1950s’ sci-fi movies and a conspiracy theory that Torness must, secretly, house weapons.
During the cold war, nuclear power had become linked with weapons. Even sensible people condemned anything involving radioactivity as inherently sinister. Paranoia lurked around the fact that radioactive waste remains radioactive for centuries. I forget how many times Scram activists reminded me “Long after you’re dead it will still be emitting radiation”.
It is a non-argument. Years after we are all dead the M8 will still be a motorway. Longevity does not confer intrinsic moral status. But Scotland is powerfully swayed by the illusion that nuclear power is malign.
Tim's mention of Torness in this context is interesting. Looking through back issues of Undercurrents magazine (as scanned in various blogs below) Torness seems to mark the beginning of environmental NVDA [non-violent direct action] in the UK and the " girls in dungarees" he mentioned directly started a Femininists against Nukes strand which anticipated the Greenham Women's campaign of the eighties.
Torness also 'politicised' a generation -so that 'my' South of Scotland Green Member of the ScottishParliament (Chris Ballance) is a veteran of the Torness campaign.
What Tim Luckhurst does though, is to suggest that to oppose to nuclear power is a sign of naivety, of youthful ignorance of grown-up reality. His youthful self was 'an idiot'. It is part of a wider process of the marginalisation of green issues as 'soft politics'.
Real politics, it is claimed, is about 'hard issues'. Damn, I have lost the clipping, but another article I read on Sunday made the point. It was about neo-conservatism and the war in Iraq I think.
Essentially the argument is that 'the public' live in a cosy world of infantilism, cushioned against the harsh reality of the world by cheap energy and consumer culture. The neo-cons and grown-up politicians realise that we can't handle this real world. We may protest about their actions, but aren't prepared to give up the comfort-blanket of the Spectacle.
So they get on and do what needs to be done- even if it means invading Iraq, or building nuclear power stations. It may not quite be full blown patriarchy, but it is strong paternalism- and it is still 'real' men in suits who are the decision makers.
The counter-argument, the argument from the counterculture, is that it is these men in suits who live in an illusion. An illusion which kills, destroys, mutilates, rapes, tortures and abuses 'others' / the Other in their attempt to protect us from harsh reality.
Complicity in the Spectacle
Are we complicit in the Spectacle? Do we prefer infantile dependence to adult responsbility? So long as we do, then we will have our wars in Iraq and our nuclear power stations. Our cheap holidays in the sun on other people's misery, our fast cars and our cheap food at Tesco.
If Tim Luckhurst is right, if membership of the counterculture requires 'idiocy', then no effective opposition to the paternalistic/patriatrchal neo-cons is possible. We are simply too stupid to resist properly.
As an optimist, I disagree. As a realist, I am not so sure.