Sunday, October 14, 2007

Former OU academic critiques moves towards nuclear power in his Quarterly Essay

In the most recent Quarterly Essay, entitled 'Reaction Time. Climate Change and the Nuclear Option', Ian Lowe describes how he arrived in the Technology Faculty at the Open University (OU) in 1971 as 'a believer in nuclear power' but whilst there his 'views were shaken by some colleagues who asked awkward questions about the economics and about waste management'. Ian's reflections are testimony to the ethos of the Technology Faculty which prided itself in developing a style of teaching in cutting edge courses which 'asked the awkward questions'.

Ian is now President of the Australian Conservation Foundation as well as being an Emeritus Professor of Science, Technology & Society at Griffith University. He has been an articulate and brave critic of the Howard Government in relation to a range of environmental issues. This essay continues that commitment. It is a powerful, systemic analysis which I commend to all who are concerned about how we respond to climate change and to securing our energy futures.
The questions that numbers reveal II

A colleague , Doug, in response to my earlier posting on this matter says:

'Just saw your blog post about the death rate in Iraq versus Washington DC. I've seen similar figures around the place, but what they all-but-actively conceal is that being a civilian in Iraq is much more dangerous than being a civilian in Washington. The comparison made is heavily-armed and -armoured troops in Iraq versus the entire population in Washington. The force protection measures the US takes to safeguard its troops work, in that they keep the death rate of the troops down, but at huge cost to the civilians. Take the recent Blackwater issue: their boss - rightly - claims a 100% success record in the job they are assigned (protecting diplomats). To do that job, they shoot first, and ask questions only if international outrage obliges them to later. It's appallingly tough on innocent civilians, and tough on the overall mission of the coalition forces in Iraq, but they are doing what they are organised to do. I think it links back to your other post about targets: they (and the regular US forces) are optimising to a single target measure that doesn't include a more systemic consideration of what the troops are there for.

(Though my personal view is that the work that needs to be done in Iraq isn't stuff that you can do with heavily-armed troops even if you could find squaddies who were selflessly devoted to a nation-building mission and unconcerned about their own personal safety.)'

I couldn't agree more. Thanks Doug for taking the time to make these important points.