The Un-paving Paradise Project March 2014: ‘Nuclear reactors and what happens when it all goes wrong’

That’s the thing that often gets missed about ‘science’ – it is seen as a separate thing from politics, ethics or people, even. But it isn’t. The USSR government officials at the time of the Chernobyl disaster didn’t tell local people what was going on until some time after. They ‘didn’t want to create panic’ so they exposed thousands of people to radiation poisoning instead.
The Met office’s chief scientist, Dame Julia Slingo, recently said that ‘all the evidence suggests that [the recent extreme weather events are] link[ed] to climate change.’ Not only have many areas in the UK been severely flooded week after week, but one only has to look across the Atlantic at the Americas to see that they too have experienced extreme weather. Given imminent climate change and the crises it could yet bring (this is just the beginning), nuclear power may be a better option than fossil fuels, but as both Chernobyl and Fukushima have shown, politics/economics/people are not entirely rational and to use nuclear power safely you need to be able to guarantee that it will be managed rationally (for want of a better word). This is why I always sigh at the idea that ‘Science’ will come up with something to save us all from the effects of climate change. It is unlikely. We have opened Pandora’s box and now we have to wait and see what happens. At an individual level there is so much that we in the West can do, however. In my country, the UK, 80% of carbon emissions are from households, not government, not businesses. We have to wake up to our culpability, not wait for the fairy godmother ‘government’ to wave its magic wand. It won’t and it can’t.


1. In the wake of Saville…

There have been so many cases in the UK news lately about well-known people being investigated or charged with sexual offences. It all began in the wake of the Jimmy Saville scandal. Far be it from me to make any kind of judgement on any of the cases – I do not know any of the facts having deliberately avoided reading about them – yet I do have something very important to say. It is this: our justice system takes the stance of ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and, although I cannot see how it could operate otherwise, we must not blind ourselves to the fact that either sexual predators are likely to never be prosecuted, or they may ‘walk free’ due to lack of evidence. This is what happened in my own case. Because of a catalogue of errors dating back 20 years, the Crown Prosecution Service was unable to proceed with a case against the one who destroyed my childhood through years of sexual abuse and terror. Sexual crimes take place behind closed doors. There are often no physical ‘scars’ left to prove what occurred. 

It is my belief that the way evidence is used and presented in cases of sexual crime makes our country a predator’s paradise. This has to change. One woman who had to go through the unspeakable horror of learning that one of her children inexplicably became a monster and terrorised his sibling – my mother – overheard a conversation a few weeks ago along the lines of “they [the alleged victims] must be making it up – I just can’t believe it”. My mother stepped in and said, “Do you want to hear the other side of the story?” and told them, quite simply and honestly, the tragedy that has shaped our family. They were truly shocked. Mum said their greatest shock was that it happened within a loving, middle-class family home.

Sexual predators are no respecters of class, of gender, or any other label. These predators are experts at manipulation and Oscar-worthy in their performance towards other adults.

Where does the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing hide but among the sheep?

Often only the victims know the truth and if we live in a culture which still, in the 21st century, naively says “I just can’t believe it…” then our culture will be, at least in part, responsible for countless more victims.

There are far more predators who walk free than are convicted.


2. Floods: when should we build the ark?

I read the other day that the recent extreme weather events, both in the UK and across the Atlantic, are ‘the trailer for Climate Change: The Movie’. This is a very good way to express it. Yet what has the response to the environment been, so far? A ridiculous, almost pointless, ‘tax’ on plastic bags; a few ‘they should have dredged the rivers’; an Avaaz petition trying to prevent climate change from occurring. Unfortunately, while I agree with what the Avaaz campaigners were trying to do (raise the issue of climate change as urgent), they are perhaps too optimistic: climate change cannot be prevented. It’s too late; it has already begun.

BUT if we all take responsibility for our actions we can slow the effects of climate change, so that the catastrophic results of a Global Mean Surface Temperature rise of several degrees Celsius (as opposed to a rise of one or two degrees) can be avoided. If we do not act, the ‘worst case scenario’ looks highly likely.

Individuals, you and I, can make an enormous difference.

We must stop treating the issue of climate change as a left-wing conspiracy. This has to be the ultimate in how to miss the point.

Climate change recognises no political boundaries; it can and will affect everyone, and the poorest will be worst affected UNLESS WE ACT NOW. TODAY.