I was blocked on Twitter by Zion Lights after I, somewhat snarkily, retweeted one of her tweets. Zion Lights is the UK director of Michael Shellenberger’s organisation, Environmental Progress. Zion Lights has had a bit of a rough week, having been criticised by Extinction Rebellion for her association with Michael Shellenberger. I largely agree with their criticism of Shellenberger, but my impression is that Zion Lights is genuinely concerned about climate change and is sincerely promoting nuclear as a solution, unlike Shellenberger.
The tweet that I responded to was the one below
My slightly snarky response was simply “New?” It may have been poorly timed, but I was trying to make a serious point. There are many reasons to criticise the environmental movement. I’ve done so myself. However, the idea that it’s made up of people who think other humans are “bad”, who don’t accept evidence, who don’t think people should have access to clean, reliable energy, and who don’t regard positive change as possible, is a little bizarre.
I was going, though, to make a broader point about policy decisions being “evidence-led”. I’m a physicist. I completely agree with the idea that we can collect evidence and develop robust understandings of the world around us. In some cases we may even get to a stage where we regard some things as essentially true. However, this does not mean that some obvious policy immediately follows from some piece of evidence. Many other factors influence decision making. Our values and opinions, economic feasibility, and even the political climate, all play a role in how we go from evidence to policy.
It’s perfectly possible for nuclear to be safe and for people to still not want it to be one of the solutions. Its perfectly possible for nuclear to be a great source of alternative energy and it, currently, not being economically viable. It’s perfectly possible for people to accept the need for alternative energy sources and to still not want wind turbines all over the Scottish Highlands. Its perfectly possible for people to recognise that agriculture is a big source of emissions and still realise that the farming sector is an important part of our economy. You don’t have to agree with all of these to understand that reasonable people can hold these views.
In my view, we should distinguish between those who don’t accept things that are almost certainly true, and those who disagree with us about the implications of these truths. This would seem to be especially true if you really do want to work together with other people. Most would interpret a desire to “work together” as a willingness to work with other people even if they don’t completely agree with you, rather than only being willing to work with those who completely agree with you.
I think this is a really complex issue and if we are going to implement alternatives on a timescale that will avoid some of the worst impacts of climate change, then I do think we need to find ways to work together, rather than splintering into ever smaller factions. Currently, I seem to be seeing more of the latter than the former.