Climate Change Nuclear

Public advocacy on nuclear power and climate change

Guest Post by Rob Parker. Rob is a civil engineer with over 30 years experience in both design and engineering construction of dams, freeways, water treatment and general infrastructure. More recently, when confronted by the environmental impacts of our patterns of consumption and growth, he decided to look at ways to influence our political policies. Its turned out to be much harder than first thought. He was a candidate for the NSW Labour Party in the State seat of Goulburn before realising the massive difficulties in getting the ALP to address climate change in a meaningful way. Rob lives in the NSW village of Berrima and campaigns on rational ways to address climate change.

This post is looks at methods to get nuclear power accepted within Australia as the primary defence against climate change. I have read with interest and gained inspiration from many of the contributors to the Brave New Climate site. Peter Lang’s posts, in particular, are a mine of information which have helped me to sift the “greenwash” from the good stuff.

Over the past five years I have experienced many twists and turns in climate change campaigning in Australia. Many of us have gone through the hopes for renewable energy as a benign solution to this wicked problem and come out the other end into a more hardnosed reality. The problem in Australia is that our political operatives are locked into policies designed only to get them elected. These policies are completely ineffective and also prolong inaction. Many contributors to this site will be familiar with the patter.

The most hardnosed of the realists have come to the position that society will not act on climate change if it impacts upon their perceived economic welfare. They have formed the opinion that the only viable solution requires that nuclear power becomes cheaper than all other sources. When this happens the environment will be the beneficiary.

Faced with actually doing something the political operatives have tied the climate change debate up in a complex web of emissions trading schemes and public subsidies for ineffectual technologies. None of them harm the status quo but like many acts of futility the debate descends into two bald men fighting over a comb.

Hopes were raised this year when the Liberals announced that their new policy would be that of direct action. Unfortunately both Abbott and Hunt squibbed it. They could have built upon Howard’s policies which with the benefit of hindsight were far more promising than anything that Labor has come up with. As an ex active member of the ALP I now recognise that the Howard Government did vastly more on effective climate change policies than the Rudd or any Labor State Government.

It was after all the Howard government who:

• established the Australian Greenhouse office,

• got the nuclear power issue going with Gittus and then Switkowski,

• were central to the Asia Pacific Partnership which does good work on improving industrial energy efficiency,

• Undertook much of the design of an emissions trading scheme

• initiated programmes for domestic energy efficiency.

• Engaged with Indonesia on programmes to reduce deforestation

As we head towards a Federal election I propose ways in which the BNC contributors could share their ideas with the electorate. It would be a great shame if all the good work and passion spent was not more widely disseminated.

There is a very big group in the electorate who are sympathetic to nuclear power and know that most renewable solutions are “greenwash” but there is another sizeable group who is fearful. They waver depending upon the effectiveness and not necessarily the truthfulness of a presenter having caught a bad case of the Caldicotts. Barry Brook and I experienced this at Melbourne Town Hall earlier this year when emotive arguments for concentrated solar power in Spain trumped those for nuclear power. To convince the waverers it is essential to create a passionate narrative which we must take out into the community.

Not all action will be on a grand scale. Some are not comfortable on a soap box but are quite prepared to quietly lobby.

This list hope contains a variety of possibilities. It’s a starting point which contributors to BNC can expand upon:

• Write letters to your local newspaper. Local community newspapers are more thoroughly read than the major city papers and the journalists will readily print wise but edgy articles particularly if you do the work for them.

• “Beard the Lion in his den”. Go to Greenpeace meetings. Join your local climate change or environmental groups or even start one. It’s essential to make lobbying groups accountable and to do it in a friendly and discussive manner. It can be lonely but each time I’ve tried people come out to you if you look approachable. Last year at Wollongong’s Walk Against Warming I used the smiley faced atom “Nuclear Power – Yes Please” as a poster. It got discussion going, some heated and some perplexed.

• Join a political party. Members of our parties are amongst the most motivated and moral in our communities. Humble party members engage in thankless unpaid work because they believe in the processes that guide our communities and they crave ideas. Politicians of the two main parties are steadily isolating their members because of the internal contradictions of their policies and the tango between party machines and the media. The membership will give you a good hearing and may even champion your cause. Within the ALP I never failed to get a pro nuclear position endorsed at branch level.

• Visit your local politician and state the case for nuclear power and environmental protection, preferably with three or four likeminded souls and better still if you have the endorsement of a local group. Give them a simple document stating your position – nothing too complex and ask them to bring it to the attention of the relevant minister. That’s their job – they represent you. At times they will be provocative but present the message simply, firmly and courteously.

• Church groups can be effective. Many see a real contradiction with man’s treatment of God’s gift. I have observed groups within the Uniting, Anglican and Catholic communities developing strong pro environment positions.

Most of these actions involve going out and meeting new people and that’s not always easy. Many engineering and scientific types such as myself feel more comfortable with likeminded souls who help us refine our ideas. One such is James Hansen whose delivery at the Seymour Centre in Sydney was the best most heartfelt plea for action on climate change I have ever experienced. In his quiet, slow methodical unveiling of the storey he very sensitively linked observed science with an unfolding human tragedy. James is a profoundly good man and he laid it all out for a very appreciative audience.

Within Australia we are fortunate to have Barry Brook’s massive energy, ideas and public advocacy. He sets us a great example. I’d be interested to know what other BNC contributors think of following his example with increased public advocacy and the methods to achieve it.

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By Barry Brook

Barry Brook is an ARC Laureate Fellow and Chair of Environmental Sustainability at the University of Tasmania. He researches global change, ecology and energy.

231 replies on “Public advocacy on nuclear power and climate change”

I am not an Australian, however your list of actions is spot on and applicable in any country. In particular you have identified the one very weak spot that the public has in the energy debate, and that is the majority are not interested in schemes that will see their standard of living drop.

In public, and certainly on the net, we find ourselves endlessly engaged with those who’s vision of the future involves huge changes in the culture we have now, yet they rarely emphasize that aspect of their position. They too will have to be exposed, and the public given a clear look at what the implications of following a high penetration renewable energy policy will mean for them and their lifestyle.

It has to be made clear that this will not just be a case of giving up one of their cars, and going to low-wattage lighting, but that it will have a profound impact on their workplace and their ability to earn a living. Simple put: moving towards high use renewable sources of energy, will require the de facto deindustrialization of any nation attempting it. The only other option is to maintain fossil fuel fired thermal plants to provide industry with the electric power it needs, thus losing any carbon mitigation effects from the renewable inputs.

Clearly, most people have not stopped to thing too hard about these secondary impacts, and that gives us good leverage in the debate.


Thanks Rob for this post.

I believe that there are many us who see a need for major shifts in thinking, not only on these issues of nuclear energy and climate change, but also on global issues such of overpopulation, deforestation and other loss of biodiversity. However, we also feel that these reasonably obvious approaches to public advocacy are too slow to achieve the results needed to prevent climate change, permanent loss of biodiversity and quality of life. The point we are at with these things is already past what should be considered acceptable.
I think we need make a call for a global state of emergency and the whole of the global community needs to be involved in recognising the issues and looking for ways to adapt and address the issues.
Some reasons for recognising a state of emergency are:

1) Continued rapid growth in human population depending on destruction of remaining natural resources is a recipe for global disaster on the grandest scale imaginable.
2) Nobody has identified any fundamental flaw in the science of climate change and there are no computer models that show that carbon dioxide at their current levels are safe, yet people are ignorant and ignore the risks.
3) Resource shortages will inevitably cause military conflicts and terrorism.
4) Politics is strongly influenced by the short-term economics of fossil fuels
5) Efforts to introduce renewable energy are placing unacceptable pressure on biodiversity.
6) People think that they can trust politicians to lead us through the current circumstances while they will only vote for them if they maintain the status quo.
7) Diesel is 90% of fuel used for food generation in Australia. The inevitable rise in the price of oil in the near future places us at great risk. Similar problems are likely throughout the world.
8) Political systems throughout the world are incapable of responding adequately to the need for change.

How then can we go further?

The things we need are perceptive vision, focussed information and widespread community involvement.
We need a vision for how the world should function. Tom Blees’ book is a good start. People need to be able to look on the Internet and easily obtain a verbal picture of a future world. This needs to be simple enough to be comprehended at a casual glance and to have more detail available to satisfy any concerns people may have.

Relevant information needs to be easy to find. The required information is largely available, but people do not know where to look. Becoming aware currently requires wide reading and self-education. Perhaps on-line courses would help. Information needs to be focussed to give perspective on the most important issues. People are worried about nuclear accidents and nuclear war, for example; accidents involving oil drilling and transport have been worse than nuclear accidents and wars caused over oil are ongoing with disastrous results.

It is not enough for us as a minority group to lobby politicians. The whole community needs to get involved. Home by home, street by street and needs to be involved. Social media on the Internet need to be employed. But there needs to be some sort of central organisation. The vision, information and debate need to be brought together in some way.
I guess that the next step is some brainstorming to find ways to bring these together. I certainly do not have the answers, but if people are thinking about finding solutions then such problems can be solved.


I’m a member of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and was there lead senate candidate on the NSW ticket in 2007. The LDP is best described as moderate libertarian or classical liberal. It opposes much modern prohibition including drug prohibitions, firearm prohibitions and nuclear prohibition. It favours lower taxes. It did not support an ETS or carbon tax but the party founder, John Humphreys (an economist), has written a good paper for the CIS promoting the virtues of a modest revenue neutral carbon tax (ie one that pays for the reduction of other taxes). It argues it’s position on most issues via two means. One is a fundamental argument in favour of liberty and individual freedom. The other is utilitarian arguments based on empiracle real world evidence. So for instance with firearms the party advocates a policy shift towards the much more liberal laws of New Zealand and will draw on data and experiences from such places to make the argument. Obviously the LDP isn’t everybodies cup of tea but if your sympathetic to the ideals and you are knowledgable about nuclear power it wouldn’t be hard to get involved in revamping the energy policy. Obviously the aim of a policy for a minor party is not to outline vast amounts of technical detail but to craft a credible message that can be used for evangelical purposes by motivated members at polling booths and the like. If anybody is interested in harnessing the LDP to promote nuclear solutions and is sympathetic to the broader LDP agenda then please get involved.


The one thing that all pronuclear groups face everywhere is a lack of funds. Without money it is very difficult to reach the numbers that are required to effect change in the political climate.

This is the blunt truth. Our opponents are being funded by those who see nuclear energy as a threat to their business. They know as well as we do how ineffectual renewable energy is, and they know that they can hide behind it and continue to sell their product.

It is going to take some very hard work, and creative thinking to overcome this deficit in our position, or some source of funds will have to be found.


I think some of the things Robert Lawrence talks about will manifest themselves in the next few years. I’d call them ‘signs of desperation’. For example BP’s troubled Deepwater oil well would only have met half a day’s world oil demand at best. The scramble by the miners to sell as much coal and iron ore to China may be because they fear it will evaporate at the hint of trouble. We are told to switch to battery cars despite a clear preference for big roomy cars that travel for hours on a tank. Fuel availability will exacerbate regional water problems making some basic foodstuffs more expensive.

Right now the party lines seem split between brown cornucopians (AGW is a crock) and green ecotopians ( RE will save us). What needs to emerge is a third way which is both forward thinking and pragmatic.


Rob Parker,

Thank you for this important contribution. It got me thinking about what else I can do, that is sustainable for the amount of time I am prepared to put in, and best uses my skills.

I started thinking about spreading our effort into contributing on pother blogs. I recently tried that on the John Quiggan blog site but John apparently does not like nuclear so that went nowhere. The site was inhabited by bloggers like BilB and worse. I’ve also contributed on the ABC, but couldn’t get through to the others on that site either.

Then I started thinking about how hard it has been to get the information across to new contributors on the BNC web site. And this is a web site that has many highly knowledgeable people. If it it this difficult on this web site, and has been this difficult for 40 years, I wonder what hope we have by going to more meetings.

Despite this slightly negative tone, I actually think we are making pretty good progress. I notice an enormous difference in the amount of interest shown by people I meet, ands the great increase in the number of pro-nuclear articles in the press, compared with what it was like in the Hawke-Keating era. We are making progress. The UMPNE report was a really good report and has helped a lot. BNC is doing a fantastic job.

I am wondering how I can be more effective. Just thinking out loud.

Thank you, Rob, for your thought provoking article.


Thanks Rob for posting on this topic. There is certainly an appetite here to effect change at a policy level. I’d be curious if you have any observations to make of specific community groups, unions, parties and factions. Which ones publicly support nuclear power, which ones are intransigently opposed, which are amenable to discussion? Where could the case for nuclear get some leverage?



Let me preface what I am about to say by dissociating myself from your bouquet to the Howard regime on climate change. It was no better than Rudd has done and both have made the same errors. I could argue that here, but it would be a diversion from the most important points.

Broadly, I’d agree with your points for action though I do think we need to be focused on a practical goal. Hence our pitch should be something specific — the struggle to replace Hazelwood seems emblematic and has been embraced by the pro-RE crowd. When we put out ideas, we should refer continually to Hazelwood and the options for replacing it on a low-emissions basis.

In my experience, talking about models of what could be done (or will happen) by 2050 causes the eyes of all but the most sympathetic to glaze over, and for some to reach for far off in the distance non-specifi options or to imagine that we can get there by energy efficiency.

It’s really simple we should say. Whatever solution we adopt should be able to replace Hazelwood in the grid. It’s the dirtiest coal plant in the world so it’s an obvious target for clean energy right? A solution that allows us to replace Hazelwood at acceptable cost will allow us to replace Muja and Playford B and progressively all the others. Until we can find a solution that can do that, talk of low carbon alternatives to coal is just hot air.

We should pitch the idea of a fund to pay for a solution and of withdrawing cash from scams like CC&S, FiT and MRET.


Right now the party lines seem split between brown cornucopians (AGW is a crock) and green ecotopians ( RE will save us). What needs to emerge is a third way which is both forward thinking and pragmatic.

Very well put John Newlands — I’ll borrow this turn of phrase (The obvious alternative being “nuclear energy cornicopians”, that is, NE is sufficiently abundant to support mankind for millions of years, and will give us the capacity to fix other areas of unsustainability. The world might not be a Magic Pudding, but energy can be a magic gravy poured on top).


Towards 2020 – Understanding the developing electricity drivers

Click to access Gas_Markets_DLAP_Snow_6October09.pdf

This describes what is happening and where we are heading. This is from an industry expert who understands the real world electricity and gas industries in Australia

What we are doing is crazy. It is being caused by irrational policy created by politicians who are responding to pressures from the voting public.

The voting public is demanding politicians act to implement renewable energy and gas generation. Not a mention of nuclear anywhere in this presentation.

These policies, which are being implemented by our politicians in response to our demands, are going to have some very bad consequences:

1. China becoming a major owner and controller of our electricity supply industry (one of our most basic needs!)

2. Massive use of gas (not sustainable)

3. Only minor improvements in GHG emissions – 20% improvement.

4. Huge, but unnecessary, electricity price increases

5. Throw away one of Australia’s main competitive advantages (low cost electricity), (The result: compared with where we should be, and compared with others our standard of living slips; the country becomes relatively poorer, and our standard of living slips: there less money for health, education, environment etc, than ther would otherwise be … you get the picture)

The alternative, nuclear, could provide near 100% reduction in emissions from electricity, and if we wanted to get past our silly fears, we could have nuclear energy for little increase in cost.

We, the voters, are causing this massive policy mistake.

We, the voters, have been driving this policy for 20 to 40 years

The Greens and environment activist are a major cause of this. They are misleading the public. They are, and have been for a long time, leading us to implement crazy policies.


Fran and others of similar ideological persuasion,

I hope you will take some time to go through the presentation linked in my post above. Not all of it is understandable from those outside the industry (me included) but the general message should be clear.

One of the messages I hope you and others can glean from this is that your anti-capitalist, pro-loony left beliefs are a major cause of the problems. It is these beliefs that have got us here and are keeping us here. You cannot pay for all the socialist, feel-good policies you want without thriving capitalism to pay for it.

I hope you will take the time to think about this and not just come back posting all the pro-socialist, anti-capitalist, anti-rational, Howard-hating and Liberal-hating arguments.


“You cannot pay for all the socialist, feel-good policies you want without thriving capitalism to pay for it.

I hope you will take the time to think about this and not just come back posting all the pro-socialist, anti-capitalist, anti-rational, Howard-hating and Liberal-hating arguments.”

Peter: given that we live under capitalism, your own comments about socialism notwithstanding, I am going to AGREE with you that the greens and the environmentalists are in general a significant barrier to the massive building of nuclear power. and I am going to agree with you that without a transition to an economy that is designed to meet human needs before profit, only a thriving capitalism in the rich countries will produce the capital(goes for more state oriented capitalisms) to build the necessary nuclear plants.

on the other hand, capitalism throws up its own barriers to solving the energy crisis. You like to emphasize the efficiency promoting elements of profit maximization and cut throat competition. But there are system wide dysfunctionalities connected to these imperatives: the need to cut costs thru shoddy materials, cheap labor; the dislike of regulation unless that regulation eliminates competitors; barriers to entry that flow from increasing monopolization of wealth and power making very very fast and equitable, safe sharing of technologies and best practices impossible/utopian.

I’ve read lots of libertarian energy analysis: including yourself and Robert Bryce and learned a lot from it. You should read David Harvey’s The Limits of Capital. You may not agree with it, but it might explain the systemic basis of what you like to analyze in terms of people’s irrationality and lunacy.

This reliance in your analysis on irrationality is itself irrational. a sign that you don’t understand what’s going on. It’s a problem we all share: this turn to “the crazy” when we are frustrated and don’t understand why things don’t go in the right direction.


One only needs to look to China to see that a socialist-capitalist hybrid political system (because that is what their modern version of communism is) is doing very well at getting nuclear power deployed…

greg, one can, in theory, have an Earth-based economic system that has ongoing growth in non-material products (e.g. information and knowledge, cyberspace), a very long-term reliance on effectively inexhaustible but finite products (e.g. iron, aluminium, uranium), and a steady-state relationship with the natural environment (biodiversity, habitat, etc.). The solar system provides many more future opportunities for a large further growth in the human enterprise, if we can get through the problems of 21st century unsustainability.


oh: and stephen gloor’s point (I very forcefully disagree with him on renewable energy) about limits to consumption is almost surely right. I think we need a steady state type economy at some point soon. though what we need and what we have are two different things to put it mildly.

and there are other pro nuclear people who have raised worries about exponential growth (whose environmental damage cannot be compensated for by improved efficiencies), including Zach Moitoza in his book The Nuclear Economy, chapter 6. I suspect Geoff Russel is in this group.

Needless to say, a steady state economy would have to be far more equal since trickle down justifications, pathetic as they have always been, have depended upon exponential growth to fund the trickles.

Please Peter: there are pronuclear leftists so stop the loony business. It’s embarrassing for you–smart guy that you are.


One more oh:

everyone should read Robert Bryce’s book, because it’s an unintentionally devastating critique of capitalism’s inability on sheer pragmatic grounds (not wanting to destroy their own capital, problems with asset inertia) to meet the challenge of climate change.

the book is called Power Hungry, I’ve mentioned it before and, Peter, you will like it: he even quotes you.

another book that’s worth a look is stewart brand’s book an ecopragmatist’s manifesto. He cites Saul Griffith, a materials scientist, laying out what would be needed to cut carbon radically enough to keep ghgs under 450 ppm (forgetting Hansen’s target of 350 maximum).

Griffith goes with a mixed portfolio of nukes and renewables and basically shows without saying so how unrealistic the renewables scenario is due to sheer time constraints (connected to renewables ridiculous ecological footprint). But the absurd speed required in his scenario (p. 14 brand) is also a powerful implied comment on our lovely capitalism’s inability to scale up fast enough, and Bryce the libertarian would say that such scaling simply ISN’T GOING TO HAPPEN. (he takes our present system for granted).

Let me quote Griffith:

“imagine someone said you need two terawatts of wind, two terawatts of pv, 2 tw of solar thermal, 2 tw of geothermal, 2 tw of biofuels and 3 tw of nuclear to give you 13 clean new terawatts…. what would it take to build this in 25 years?”
[total energy requirement for his scenario would be 17.5 TW total energy, factoring in a little growth]

Here’s what it would take:

…installing 100 square meters of 15 % efficient solar cells every second for the next 25 years…; 50 square meters of highly reflective mirrors every second; 4 olympic swimming pools of genetically engineered algae every second; a three hundred foot diameter wind turbine every five minutes; 1095 100 mw steam turbines every year; a 3 gw nuke plant every week times 25.

This is a condensed paraphrase. you get the idea. He has factored in overbuild for all the energy forms, though not storage, transmission, basepower requirements, load following etc.

Once again, a tacit devastating critique I think of renewable energy but also a comment on how fast we must go and a level playing field for nuclear alone ain’t going to cut it. Bryce is for this, and he would look at the above plan as, to use your favorite word Peter, “lunacy.” and this is your people.

We all better hope Hansen is wrong, cause under anything remotely resembling business as usual, we have no chance–if these analysts are at all insightful.


barry: I appreciate your comment and agree with it. I just wonder whether capitalism could limit its growth imperative to nonmaterial products, and let us remember that nonmaterial products have a material base: like more and more computers, computer power, and grid requirements.


Thank you all for responding to the public advocacy post. Many expressed frustration in their replies. I share this response. Robert Lawrence’s call for a global state of emergency to address the combined impacts of peak oil and accelerating climate change mirrors that of Churchill concerns regarding Germany before World War II. Its self evident but won’t happen until far more dire impacts occur.

The five actions I outlined were not intended to be spectacular. They are however the stuff of everyday life and they are all achievable. They help to establish links between likeminded people within our communities and this builds confidence and will certainly help to overcome the traditional fears of nuclear power. By way of example I was out today helping with political campaigning. A young man told me my talk in Newcastle a couple of weeks ago advocating a new industrial revolution based upon nuclear power was “awesome”. This result was inspired by links made through this BNC community.

John Morgan asked about groups that support nuclear power. One union, the Electrical Trades Union was addressed by Dr. Ron Cameron of ANSTO at its Biennial conference in 2009. Following that address the ETU passed the following resolution, “Conference notes the continued development of alternative sources of electricity generation. Conference supports the ongoing debate and discussion on all forms of generation, including nuclear power, as a means of resolving Australia’s energy and greenhouse gas problems.” The ETU has been very effective on the political arena and has some very intelligent members – it’s a shame they don’t pursue their community obligations more effectively.

Paul Howes of the Australian Workers Union is a strong advocate of nuclear power for Australia while the Federal Energy Minister Martin Ferguson continues to make statements such as “We as a community have to be part of the ever-complex question of how we clean up the world’s climate. And part of that debate is going to be nuclear power.”

In recent times the closest we came to having fulsome support of nuclear power by an Australian political party has been the Liberal Party under John Howard. Within the Labor Party, individual party units may endorse nuclear power but not the Federal or State policies. John Newlands is right – we do need a third more inspired political force.

As far as community advocacy groups go, the Australian Nuclear Association holds regular meetings bringing its members up to date on the most recent nuclear developments however in its current structure it is not an aggressive lobbying group and is only really active in NSW.

I think there is a place for national conferences dealing with nuclear power as a solution to climate change. We see masses of renewable energy conferences and legal/carbon trading gab fests. The thoughts of other BNC contributors on how this could be convened would be appreciated.


Peter Lang – I have a great deal of respect for you and appreciation of your in depth posts on BNC, however, I do wish you would desist from comments on the political persuasion of other posters. I have said before that this is not the forum for debating left/right issues. Let us stick to the point – which is to promote solutions to the global warming problem. Forays off topic, which incite conflict, are not helpful and may influence newcomer’s opinions as to the worth of BNC and the solidarity of its regular contributors.


Isn’t it interesting. The average reactor in the United States is operating at 93.1% of full power. Region 1 is at 99.7%. The average wind turbine in Australia has a capacity factor of about 5% at the time of posting.


Reading the Oakley Greenwood report linked by Peter Lang upthread my interpretation is this; the rush to gas and RET mandated wind is going to leave us out of pocket and vulnerable. The RET has become a pseudo ETS. It may lead to an overbuild of wind power which will be difficult to accommodate into the grid. Operators may have to sell Mwh too cheaply weakening both their bottom line and grid stability.

On the bigger picture domestic gas buyers will be outbid by export LNG prices. It is not clear if southern Australia can get cheap gas long term. Summer peak demand looks set to worsen.

The report doesn’t appear to cover the distortion of $2bn in RECs or the likely rise of CNG transport fuel.


Generally speaking it seems that there is some agreement among those who post on this website on the need to address climate change and at least the need to consider nuclear power. If there cannot be agreement amongst this community for the need for a far more systematic and coordinated approach to policy development and public advocacy then it seems it is not going to happen until it is too late.

There may come a point at which there is a global awakening to the emergency due to some massive disaster or the reaching of one or more of the tipping points. Without the kind of approach I am talking about we are left to the mercies of charismatic personalities and events that catch the attention of large numbers of people. We are left with a strategy of political stunts and point scoring from individual disasters.

Personally I think we have come too far along a pathway already. There has already been half a degree Celsius of global warming that has caused extinctions, started melting ice caps and changing rainfall patterns. Glaciers supplying water to huge numbers of people are on the way to disappearing. A majority of people on this planet have unacceptable standards of living. How much further do we have to go being led by company directors making a killing from the stock market and supporting the election of governments that maintain the status quo?


Greg and Mr Perps,

Please Peter: there are pronuclear leftists so stop the loony business. It’s embarrassing for you–smart guy that you are.

As long as Fran, you and others keep posting such utter drivel on the Lefties utropian beliefs, I’ll continue to respond. I ignored them for ages but its getting steadily worse. The loony-left has caused us to be where we are now.

You seem to believe that you and the others with similar beliefs, should be able to dictate how society should behave, what it should want, what it should buy, eat, think and say. You want to impose your beliefs on society through regulation. You want more regulation. You want more bureaucrats to enforce it. More public sector and more lawyers to enforce the laws. You want the ‘nanny state’.

You think bureaucrats, directed by politicians, who are then directed by Lefites controlling the power of the state will give us a better world. What a joke. Look at all the places the Lefties have been in control.

I, on the other hand, want appropriate, light regulation (a good example of which is the excellent prudential regulation the Howard government introduced; it is one of the main reasons why our banks, and our economy, fared better than most through the GFC).

I also recognise, but you clearly don’t, that investors have got to have a return on investment that is commensurate with the risk they take; otherwise they will not invest. We cannot regulate the maximum profit that organisations can make unless we are also going to regulate the minimum profit they can make. In other words, no one is allowed to go broke. Quite honestly, I see your understanding of what makes our system work as naive and silly.

As long as we keep having posts like the one that I responded to by Fran, I have no intention of not responding to such posts. Either stop posting this loony Left,, capitalist-hating, Howard-hating, Liberal-hating drivel or get used to me posting replies to it. I see the loony-Left as the main cause of the problems with having RET, FiT, massive subsidies for renewables, nuclear banned in Australia, nuclear at 2 to 4 times the cost it should and could be in the west.

So stop posting your ideological beliefs and once I am convinced they have stopped permanently, I’ll stop pointing out how silly is the basis of those ideas. I might add, it really doesn’t matter how many loony-left authors you read, there are just as many rational authors writing sensible material.

Got all that? Enjoy your weekend :)


3. “Pass laws that will prevent public disruption during construction.”

an idea of Peter’s from an earlier post.

who would pass such laws? if you ban civil disobedience here, where else would you want to do this?

would this be a “nanny state” dictating such bans? or a military state? a state of non bureaucrat, non politician folk? Investor state?


“How much further do we have to go being led by company directors making a killing from the stock market and supporting the election of governments that maintain the status quo?”

Robert: you must stop that investor hating, Mugabe loving talk. without investors, nothing would get done!!!

I will not allow such lunacy and silly naivete to be propagated without an honest and forthright response.

Robert: just kidding. I was role playing to see what it feels like to be Peter.

Feels pretty good. I feel more powerful.


As long as Fran, you and others keep posting such utter drivel on the Lefties utropian beliefs, I’ll continue to respond.

I agree that in the face of leftist drivel polite silence is a poor choice.


greg meyerson, on 6 June 2010 at 10.23 Said:

3. “Pass laws that will prevent public disruption during construction.”

an idea of Peter’s from an earlier post.

who would pass such laws? if you ban civil disobedience here, where else would you want to do this?

would this be a “nanny state” dictating such bans? or a military state? a state of non bureaucrat, non politician folk? Investor state?

As I see it we have two choices for baseload power:

1. nuclear (low emissions, long term energy security, lower environmental impact, safer, cleaner, better health for the population, and should be cheaper)

2. fossil fuels and continued high emissions.

It’s that simple.

Its also simpole and obvious that we will not have nuclear if it is a higher cost alternative that coal, or at least, the replacement of coal will be slower the higher the cost of nuclear.

France built nuclear without allowing disruption of the process. USA and UK has had ongoing disruption of the approval and construction process. Public actions in the USA are now causing NPP’s to be closed down for bogus reasons. No investors will invest in nuclear power when this can be allowed to happen.

You want regulation for anything that suits your beliefs. Yet you do not accept that we need regulation to provide certainty for investors. If we want good capitalism and all the benefits it brings, we need good(light) regulation that ensure a level playing field and investor certainty.

If we are going to allow the sort of ongoing disruption the USA experiences with the building and running of its NPPs, then we simply wont have them, or if we do they will be far higher cost than they need to be. That means our economy is less productive than it would otherwise be. The result is society gets less of the things it wants (like health, education, jobs, income, wealth, etc).


Terje said

I agree that in the face of leftist drivel polite silence is a poor choice.

Congruent rewrite with candour of Terje’s remark:

In the face of criticism of my shibboleths, spouting evidence-free angst in the service of the privileged elites is justified as this is consonant with my version of the libertarian ideal.


I think coal could soon get expensive without help from carbon taxes. More up-to-date sources suggest the spot price of export thermal coal is around $100/t at the moment. Perhaps that could increase 50% in the next few years. The main reason I believe is China’s domestic domestic coal production peak is expected around 2015. Australia and other coal exporters won’t be able to make up the deficit though they will go gangbusters for a few years. Victoria’s abundant brown coal is not export quality so it may be quarantined from price rises.

While world oil production appears to have already peaked it is not clear whether prices will rise that much. Reasons for this are discussed on The OiI Drum. However if there is the possibility that a world economic slowdown triggered by reduced liquid fuel supply could drag coal demand with it. I don’t think there is much danger of gas prices dipping too often since everybody wants it … peaking electrical plant, export LNG, ammonia plants, CNG truck fuel, industrial process heat and households.

My recollection is that the ACIL Tasman report had future coal prices on the low side. I wonder how NP would compete with thermal black coal prices around $150/t. NP keeps looking better with or without carbon taxes.


Peter Lang – what an outburst! Do you think maybe that you may not be right (no pun intended) about everything all the time? I repeat – this is not a good look and does you no credit. Calm down and stick to the point of the blog-PLEASE!


Mr Perps,

More nonsense. Are you a school teacher or something?

Why don’t you contribute something constructive?

When you and your loony mates stop pedalling your loony-left ideas on here, then I will stop pointing out how you and your mates are the reason we are in the mess we are in. Perhaps if you let go of your ideological beliefs and started advising people to vote where they can make a real difference, instead of for the loony-Left, then we’d start to pull out of this mess. I know I am wasting my time writing this because you simply have no understanding of the issues.

However, since you are incapable of letting go of pushing your beliefs, I may as well participate. See next post.


To the Loony-Left who want to keep pedalling their ideology, hatred of capitalists, Howard government and Liberals:

Regulatory environment for business

Under Howard: relatively stable, business friendly, allowed business certainty, allowed business to prosper, allowed business to know what changes were coming and provided sufficient time to implement changes.

Under Rudd: the exact opposite.


Under Howard: continued to progress the IR reforms that have been freeing up the labour market for decades. Reduced unemployment. Real wages growth. Removed union control of our imports and exports (the wharves).

Under Rudd: IR reform set back 30 years. We are heading back to the era of unions in control, industrial action, strikes for everything, central wage fixing by a bench of Lefties in Canberra.

Government debt

Under Howard: paid off the $90 billion debt inherited from the previous Labor (socialist) government

Under Rudd: just 2.5 years into their first term of government we’ve run up $76 billion debt and climbing at $10 per working person per day!!

Sovereign Risk

Under Howard: Australia seen as low sovereign risk for investors. This improved throughout the term of the Howard government

Under Rudd: Australia’s sovereign risk suddenly ratcheted up by this governments totally incompetent handling of the Resource Rent Tax (RRT) issue. (to spin this, the government decided to call it a Resource Super Profit Tax). The government misled the industry and is now spending $38 million of tax payers money to try to convince the electorate to accept the governments spin on this. The whole policy developed by Treasury in secret without the normal policy development with stakeholders is seriously flawed. International investors’ perception of Australia’s sovereign risk has been ratcheted up permanently. Even if the government walks away from the RSPT or does make the necessary changes the damage has been done.

Greenhouse emission

Under Howard: Genuine policies to reduce emissions.

Under Rudd: All spin, no substance. Signed Kyoto for the fan fare and publicity when everyone else was walking away from it. What a joke.


Under Howard: Uranium Mining, Processing and nuclear Energy study and report. Strong backing from the Coalition at all levels. Had the Coalition continued for another term we would be on the way now to implement the education facilities and begin the long process of setting up the regulatory infrastructure

Under Rudd: Rudd says “never on my watch”. No change from Labor policy 20 years ago and 40 years.

Administrative competence

Under Howard: a decade of excellent reform progress, stability and good administration

Under Rudd: The greatest incompetence since the era of the Whitlam Labor government

• IR reforms – set us back 30 years. Unions back in control of running the country.
• ‘Pink Bats’ home insulation fiasco – $3 billion wasted. Much of it has to be ripped out. Four deaths and >100 house firs so far. The emissions avoided are about $200/t CO2 avoided. That is about 10 times the cost of making electricity emissions free with nuclear energy. But Rudd maintains his total opposition to any consideration of that option
• “Building the Education Revolution” – $11 billion spent so far and $5 billion of that is wasted. Still spending and wasting at the same rate.
• “National Broadband Network” – $43 billion committed by the Rudd government to rebuild the old Post Master Generals Department. Public sector employees, all unionised of course, so Labor can get more money from union fees to spend on getting re-elected. The government didn’t even do a Business case before it committed to this massive public sector ‘investment’. This is the greatest waste imaginable.


Could we all drop the political back-and-forth accusations and inferences, please? It does nothing to raise the tone of this blog, and I’m frankly getting sick of it. Sure, this post is partly about politics, but it’s NOT about whether one side or the other is better. Terms like ‘loony left’ or ‘rabid right’ have no place in this forum. I’m strongly tempted to re-write BNC’s commenting rules to exclude any political discussion, but that would be a shame as there is much fertile ground to cover in this area provided we don’t resort to name calling and insinuations on people’s deeper motivations.

I’m not targeting this at anyone in particular, this is just a general observation from someone who cares about all of the valued, regular commenters on BNC and doesn’t want the community to degrade into a rabble that soon disperses into other forums.

Line in the Sand


Those rules suit me Barry … I have been fairly restrained and strongly focused on the objects of this blog … as the posting record shows, the desire to pursue a different and explicitly hectoring approach has come from another quarter …


I merely wanted to point out, Peter, a component of your rhetoric. for you, “leftists” want to dictate and regulate and peddle, but presumably you do not wish to dictate or regulate or peddle.

but of course you do. and in fact everyone wants regulations in accord with their beliefs.


I have been tempted to enter your political fracas by reading Barry’s post on 5 June at 23.11. In it, he stated that economic growth should still be possible in a world of material constraint. If he is correct, and I hope he is, then it may just be possible for a growing world population to reach the stage at which it can voluntarily reduce itself. Clearly, our exponential growth is not sustainable for much longer.

Peter, you, single handedly almost, are fighting the capitalist corner, but you must appreciate that the market can only work if economic growth of some sort can be maintained. Repayment of debt depends upon this growth. The causes of the current financial crisis are complex, but most certainly have some origins in weak regulation of money supply, over-borrowing and the massive increase of, possibly unsustainable, debt. Simultaneously, globalisation and cheap transport have enabled capitalists to source product from the countries with the cheapest labour. Partly in consequence, certainly in western style democracies, distribution of wealth has favoured the very few at the expense of the great majority and there is increasingly less “trickle down” effect, the trickle going instead to those in the exporting nations rather than to those recipients of the cheap imports.

This has all happened under both left and right wing governments because democratic electorates dictate policies that provide illusory or short term rewards. Thus, in the UK, our erstwhile and unlamented leftist government vastly increased welfare spending, immigration and underclass (the immigrants work while the underclass is paid more not to, relying on generous welfare) and relied upon the capitalists (city financiers rather than producers) to provide the funding. Casino capitalism and its demise have been the almost inevitable consequences.

Peter, you blame the lefties for lack of (or unnecessarily expensive) nuclear power. However, I am acquainted with plenty of right wing lawyers and NIMBYs. These groups are quite capable of blocking both appropriate and inappropriate government initiatives.

The left can be thought of as idealists and the right as pragmatists. The search for fairness and equality is primarily to be found on the left, albeit often selfishly motivated by envy. As one trained in biology, I appreciate that life isn’t fair. In the animal kingdom, survival of the fittest is the name of the game and the welfare state to prop up the old and sick is not manifest. We, uniquely, have evolved consciousness and, with it, a big dollop of empathy and a great potential to experience psychological suffering. Some neuroscientists think that the evolution of our emotional consciousness represents an epiphenomenon, acquired accidentally as the cognitive abilities of our brains improved and gave us an evolutionary edge. The cognitive advantage might be outweighed, eventually, by emotional consciousness which has no obvious benefits for species survival and may cause us to breed ourselves and many other species to extinction.

Fran, you are of the left. May I ask you a simple question? Suppose I have two children and you have ten. Would it be fairer for my two each to have five times greater life chances than your ten? A biologist, I suspect, would answer in the affirmative.

I don’t believe our species can carry on as we are. I am not convinced that left/right arguments, framed as they have been, take us anywhere. It might be more instructive to debate whether, in our current but largely unappreciated state of emergency, we are best served by democracy. Is globalisation all that it’s cracked up to be? Certainly, a global effort is needed to effect significant emissions reduction, but wouldn’t the Indians and Chinese be producing a lot less CO2 if they weren’t preoccupied with exporting to us?

Sorry that this is incoherent and rambling. It indicates a somewhat fading faith in Peter’s preferred political stance, combined with a continuing antipathy to left wing sentiments.


Rob, thanks for your response. It seems the Electrical Trades Union has had a dramatic change of heart:

The Electrical Trades Union has banned its members from working on uranium mines, nuclear power stations or any other part of the nuclear fuel cycle.

The ETU says other unions have expressed strong support for the campaign against uranium, which it has labelled the “new asbestos” of the workplace.

“We’re sick of hearing about nuclear power as the panacea of global warming, we’re sick of people sweeping safety issues under the carpet,” ETU secretary Peter Simpson said on Tuesday.

“Our view is there’s enough ETU labour in the place … that we’ll be able to starve the industry out.”

He was speaking at the launch in Brisbane of an anti-uranium DVD, When the Dust Settles, alongside pediatrician and activist Dr Helen Caldicott.

I do like your suggestion of some sort of national conference on nuclear power as a response to climate change. I don’t have any ideas on how this might proceed but will give it some thought. Peter Lang, how’s your public speaking?


John Morgan,

Public speaking is certainly not my strenght. Try Terry Krieg, he loves it and wins over every audience he speaks to. He is an ex-school teacher so is well experienced at getting the message across. He has tried to get elected to parliament as a Labor member, so he may well be the right person to get through to union members. Terry, are you following this?


I think this blog has identified the two key memes that stand in the way of most people even bothering to consider the nuclear question.

i) global warming isn’t a serious problem.
ii) renewable energy may cost a little more but it’s a viable alternative to coal.

Of the two I think (ii) is the more serious issue because plenty of people who agree with (i) are not believers in (ii) and are already open to nuclear power anyway.

As such you have to convince people that renewables are not now and are not likely to be any time soon a viable large scale energy solution. How you do that on an emotive level whilst windmills are sprouting like mushrooms is very tricky indeed. For now government policy (MRET) has created an industry that appears to be prospering. The fact that they produce a dud product proped up by subsidies is beside the point.


Douglas Wise asked:

Fran, you are of the left. May I ask you a simple question? Suppose I have two children and you have ten. Would it be fairer for my two each to have five times greater life chances than your ten? A biologist, I suspect, would answer in the affirmative

Of course not. That’s absurd. All human lives count equally, IMO. The Golden Rule applies: One may not claim what one does not warrant in others. Ethical human beings are bound to do whatever they reasonably can to ensure that every fellow human — every child who begins for the first time to fill his or her lungs with air — has the same life chances as they insist upon for themselves, regardless of the happenstance of gender, genes or geography. When this is not the case, as it frequently is in practice, this not merely tragic but subversive of the integrity of all community and we humans, who are cosil animals and derive our sense of purpose, identity and possibility from community are diminished by it. Accordingly, those who say that this is merely how things go or suggest that in attempting to restore community we must cower like frightened children at the door of the privileged are, whatver they may claim of themselves, likewise subversive of human community and by extension, of individual human interest. Such ideas need to be refuted and exposed for the misanthropy they are. Human equality is foundational. That is why I am a leftist. It is the only position that comports with a recognition of the intrinsic value of human life, itself a function of human community.

It seems to me very clear that we must work assiduously to ensure that our fellows –all of them — may have at least what we minimally demand ourselves, and that to the extent we do this successfully — i.e. that the marginalised are empowered, that like us, the vast majority of people will choose not to have families of 10 children or even 3 — so the problem to which you refer can be addressed without coercion and in a way that comports with the dignity of all human beings.


I think what everyone is missing is that if one is ONLY looking for a solution to climate change, then nuclear is at least a sensible option to look at.

If one is trying to solve the whole problem of humanity’s unsustainable demands on the ecosphere then planning for nuclear to be the predominant method of future energy supply is just another grossly foolish red herring. As a centralised, high intensity, energy source which depends on geopolitically concentrated fuel sources, nuclear ticks an awful lot of the unsustainable strategy boxes.

Look at the whole picture to come up with viable solutions.


On Saul Griffith (further to Greg Meyerson@23:33 5/6/10), there is a presentation by him on SlowTV that is well worth a look if you have an hour or so to spare. He lays out the magnitude of the fossil fuel replacement task very effectively, though strangely ignores or is ambivalent about the nuclear option for much of the talk.

On political advocacy options, Rob seems to have given a major party a pretty good go. Are single-issue parties likely to be any more effective? One I came across the other day is Environmentalists for Nuclear Energy. They seem to be largely NSW-based. Has anyone else heard of or have an opinion of them?

I note they have moved to “drop all left-right political alignment and focus solely on achieving the strongest possible action on climate change”. This, at least, seems eminently sensible.


All human lives count equally, IMO.

Nice in theory. However the life of an unexpected stranger encountered in my living room at 3am will in my book count for close to nothing along side the life of my children, my wife and me.

And if you are serious here is a challenge to you. Saving lives is cheap. Very cheap. A few lousy bucks can save a life in a developing nation. I’m certain you discount these lives almost completely relative to your own. Ever bought a cup of coffee for you for a few lousy bucks, ever hired a DVD, ever bought a new pair of shoes, ever made a long distance phone call just so a relative might feel kindly towards you, ever decorated the house or fed a dog. The reality, as revealed by behaviour, is that nobody thinks all lives are equal. At most a large number of us demonstrate a belief that we should do no harm to others (ie a strong belief in negative rights rather than positive rights). The rest is mostly just feel good, look good, chatter. Our laws, institutions and economics ought to reflect how people really are, the nature of man as the natural law crowd would say, not how we imagine angels living on a some philosophical pin might be.


Nick – when you say that nuclear power depends on geopolitically concentrated fuel sources what does this mean?


Terje said:

Saving lives is cheap. Very cheap. A few lousy bucks can save a life in a developing nation.

Only in theory or else only on heroically optimistic assumptions and where “saving a life” means no more than “deferring death for a very short time”.

If you add up all the small amounts of money and use them to effect stable delivery of vital services and transaction costs are low then yes, some lives can be saved. I’d be more than happy if the state were to donate to well run secular programs (as per above) on my behalf and to charge me and others similarly privileged an apt share of the total proportionate cost.

I’d be very happy to pay more for goods I imported based on the securing of fair labour standards in originating jurisdictions or equipping them with the clean energy these states need to avoid local pollution and global CO2 emissions. Yet I personally have no means to donate my coffee or DVD money to bona fide organisations that can reasonably ensure such outcomes. Very little of it would get there.

The most important issues attach to the quality of governance and this is not, by and large, something individuals here can do much about. Governments have to address these issues.


Only in theory or else only on heroically optimistic assumptions and where “saving a life” means no more than “deferring death for a very short time”.

I think you’re dodging the point. And also I think my “theory” has much more evidence to support it and relies far less on heroic optimistic assumptions than this one:-

All human lives count equally

In essence you are saying that Unicef and the like are fibbing. From their website:-

A donation of just $75 could help us provide enough ORS to help save the lives of more than 200 children.Few other medical breakthroughs of the 20th century have ORT’s potential to save so many lives, so quickly and at so little cost.

That’s under 40 cents per life. Or about six lives for every cappuccino indulgence that you skip.

I contend that you don’t care anywhere near as much as you pretend. That you value your life and comfort vastly more than the lives of others. And if you can’t even get yourself to care then what business do you have moralising to the rest of us.


I am going to be very careful at theis point Terje because I don’t wish to go where Professor Brook would not want us to go so when you claim:

I contend that you don’t care anywhere near as much as you pretend. That you value your life and comfort vastly more than the lives of others. And if you can’t even get yourself to care then what business do you have moralising to the rest of us.

I’ll respond that the “business” I have is that Doug asked me to specify my views and Professor Brook suggested that this post of Doug’s was apt.

Unlike you, I don’t see the solution as substantially to be found in individual acts of charity, any more than the solution to CO2 intensity is to be found in people installing solar panels or putting their appliances on standby.

You prefer this model because it gives you a weapon to attack others advocating system-based solutions which would impinge on your freedom to do nothing at all. You want others to share your lack of interest in the welfare of others, whereas I want others to share my interest.

That’s the difference.


Why are you two even bothering? The left and Right don’t agree on the Social Contract? In other news the sun rose in the East this morning.

You guys aren’t going to convince each other, and the rest of us have heard it all before.

Just give it a rest.


Fran – My comments are not personal. Plenty of people use the same nice words you do about human lives all being equal. People that I love and care about use such words. I’m sure I’m guilty of using such slogans at various times. I do however think these words are intellectually quite empty. I do think you are entitled to your views. I don’t literally object to you having views or even to you moralising to the rest of us, I just intended to show that those views were shallow in case somebody took them as intellectually serious.

I’m not sure what problem you are suggesting that I see as being solved by individual acts of charity. My whole point has been that individuals don’t act to solve lots of problems. As such notions that “all human lives are equal” does not appear to be what real individual humans actually believe. It does not follow that individual acts of charity will solve world poverty. Clearly it won’t. Commerce and trade and investment and development seem like far more viable means of solving world poverty than individual charity.

Just because individual acts of charity will not solve a given problem it does not follow that collective coerced acts of charity must be implemented. It could be that some problems simply don’t belong to us.



Thanks for your reply. It didn’t surprise me. I respect your position and don’t expect to change it.

In a reply to TerjeP, you made an interesting comment which I would like to explore further. You stated that “the most important issues attach to the quality of governance and that is not something individuals can do much about”. That, if I may say so, is the most pithy condemnation of democracy that I have ever read. I might go further and suggest that democracy cannot produce good governance because our leaders are in a fight for votes and, accordingly, try to meet the short term wants of the majority rather than the long term needs of the population as a whole.

The next problem to address is what to do about it . You made a negative statement when you proferred the opinion that individuals were largely powerless under the present system of governance. Could you go one stage further and suggest something better fitted to our current chronic emergency state? I have toyed with the idea of national governments – something that got the UK through the last war when left and right came together to fight a common enemy. The idea has seemed repugnant to all I have tried it on. Can you do better?



I like your conclusion that democracy cannot produce good governance – at least for our current model of democracy.

There are two problems with the current model that come to mind. First is the idea of choosing only one representative for a location. I would like to choose a number of representatives and have them vote on my behalf like a proxy vote at a share meeting.

The second problem is uninformed voting. I can vote on line without bothering to be informed. On-line poles collect votes without having the necessary background information. This system reinforces existing biases rather than producing informed debate and seeking to find consensus.

I am sure we could do better than the current system. Obviously, changing to a better system would not be easy.

I believe that parliament should run like a committee and I find the concept of political parties offensive. I always vote for independents before choosing which of the major parties. Frankly, I can hardly tell them apart anyway. Sorry Peter Lang and others with strong alliances .

Barry, I hope I am not crossing your line in the sand; it is hard to discuss public advocacy without addressing politics.



It was astute of you indeed to discenr that I have some serious reservations about democracy as it is currently configured in most places where it is asserted that it exists.

You seem to implicitly support a more authoritarian or cororatist form of rule, but I take a sharply different view.

My response is to advocate a radical redesign of the polity combining sortition and deliberative voting for candidate selection and direct democracy to resolve major issues of policy direction or seriously contentious issues. In all matters, parliaments would play a guiding role in leading community debate up to a resolution.

This seems to me in the current circumstances to best strike the balance between individual and collective interests. Such a system I’ve dubbed inclusive governance.

Under such a system we would get continuous guided self-education of the populace and continuous data on what substantively people wanted. Political parties would effectively be shut out of the business, except perhaps as proponents of policy options — which is their proper role. I suspect this also addresses some of Robert’s concerns.

The problem at the moment is that rather than trying to give the informed majority what it wants (the majority are not informed, but tribally loyal), the parties try to give the semi-informed and engaged minorities whose favour they need to win what they fancy they want, but since even this is a trade-off what we get is a dogs’ breakfast that frequently makes little sense as a package.

What we need first of all is an engaged and civically educated majority — and only on that basis is bona fide inclusive governance possible.

To consider the question that is here at the front of our minds — the role of nuclear power in an energy system — the destruction of tribal voting and the winner takes all system would make a fair discussion of the merits of this possible as no party or settled group could be wedged or advantaged relatively. The institutional obstacles to nuclear power when people realise the merits of the case would be swept aside. As things stand however, even if 60% of the populace thought nuclear power a good idea, it would be subsumed by the broader desire of the major parties to secure or hold onto power.


Fran and Robert:

We all seem to agree that democracy, as currently constituted, does not seem to provide the solutions needed to extract us from the mess we’re in. It was good enough before things started to become seriously alarming. Unfortunately, the majority are still not seriously alarmed. Perhaps, therefore, as others have suggested, our musings are pointless. Anyway, FWIW, I’ll continue to debate in order to explore new ideas.

Fran, you suggest that my preferred option is corporatist and that you would prefer a system based on sortition and deliberative voting. Lacking your erudition, I was forced into a quick visit to wikipedia. It seems that sortition involves selecting one’s leaders by lot. As far as deliberative voting is concerned, matters are somewhat more complicated. I did read, however, that an example was to be found in the constitution of the Green Party of the United States. As you might imagine, this hardly warmed me to the idea. However, “rationally motivated consensus” sounds good.

You talk of guided self education which rather begs the question of who’s doing the guiding. Perhaps more tellingly, you admit that a necessary precondition of your preferred system is an engaged and civically educated majority, something that you admit is not present currently. Perhaps the uneducated should be disenfranchised? How would one qualify to be well enough educated to receive a vote?

I am not being deliberately obstructive. I think your analysis of why, currently, nuclear power may never be on the political agenda, even with the majority in favour, is extremely compelling. Furthermore, in principle, I wouldn’t object to your proposed system except that I regard it as possibly too idealistic. Lacking your faith in human nature, I tend to think that the tail of the dog will forever be uneducated – hence my preference for a more elitist, meritocratic form of governance. Educability (if there is such a word) is surely correlated with intelligence, which, in turn, is mainly, but not solely, determined by one’s genes. Life ain’t fair. However, I do accept that, however thick I am, it would be a bit churlish for me to be despatched in battle without any say in the matter .


DV82XL, on 7 June 2010 at 10.17

TerjeP, on 7 June 2010 at 10.32

Geopolitically concentrated. Whilst I understand Ozzies, with their large reserve of the global uranium supply, being keen to become the new OPEC of non fossil fuel energy don’t you think that nations having too much of a stranglehold on resources ends up causing trouble? Either because other nations can’t access it or because powerful nations, who find themselves getting short, launch wars to get some, or influence over some, for themselves.

As far as unlimited energy, “too cheap to meter” being a panacea surely you realise that energy resources is not the only constraining parameter on sustainability?



Nick Palmer, by the time nations who are currently pursuing nuclear power are pressed by significantly rising uranium prices, fast spectrum and thorium-cycle reactors will be well into the large-scale deployment stage. At this point, stockpiles of depleted uranium, once-used nuclear fuel, and various forms of low-grade uranium will render your concern moot. There will never be a geopolitical concentration of power centred around uranium, as the very driver of such regional resource power will inevitably undermine itself. It’s a classic negative feedback.


Nick Palmer, on 7 June 2010 at 20.38 Said:

As far as unlimited energy, “too cheap to meter” being a panacea surely you realise that energy resources is not the only constraining parameter on sustainability?

Actually it is. With cheap, abundant energy every other issue can be dealt with.


I wouldn’t accept, Douglas, that the success of my proposal depended on positive assumptions about human nature. On the contrary, it’s my view that the system should predispose education, dynamically connecting process and goal. That is the educator in me talking of course.

If you want educated people, you must give them a reason to self-educate. If you want it to be of quality, the underlying processes must reward what amounts to questions of quality. Deliberative voting, guided discussion by represpesentatives of the public, direct democracy, the ansence of dynasty of a settled political class — all these lead in this direction.

Of course, I attach only passing sigbificance to genetic patrimony in determining intelligence. I’m with Edison on this — genius being 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration.

And even where one does see what most of us take to be inordinate intelligence, it is not a complete solution to ethical and therefore poilicy rectitude. There are all many considerations to weigh in framing a policy which sees to the interests of entire diverse communities.

In my experience, most people have at least one useful thing that they can teach almost anyone else, no matter how apparently intellectually feeble each of the “teachers” may be.


I started this thread with a brief overview of the state of play in our political system of climate change policy and in particular the increased use of nuclear power. I then outlined a few modest practical things that we could do.

I am a very “hands on” civil engineer. I get confidence by achieving things one step at a time and when I look back I marvel at how far I have come. I gave some examples of unions and politicians advocating nuclear power – I forgot to mention Bob Carr. I also forgot to mention the weekly writings on climate change by Dr. John Hewson or Malcolm Turnbull’s lonely walk in the House of Representatives. These are all small steps along the way. Right now in Australia we are seeing the national agenda being moved to mining taxes, health, boarder security and every policy except climate change because it got too hard.

I am trying in a modest way to get us back onto the “one step at a time” path and I sought comments and by inference commitments to do something apart from theorising.

May I please have some comments on the actions I outlined or suggestions for better ones. Are people on this blog prepared to commit to some of them or carry out their improved suggestions?


Robert: Good post. As you mention, many of your
suggested activities involve getting out and meeting
new people … which many people find tough, particularly when they risk getting howled down. My advice is to
attend your chosen activist group meetings for a while BEFORE putting your nuke position. That way people
know (and hopefully respect) you before you threaten
their ideological position. Build a little credibility first.

As for myself. I’ve written a pro-nuclear article which
got aired in a few places and also a few letters, I’ve also had plenty to say in person to a politician who had
best remain nameless for now … I imagine he will
“out” when he feels more comfortable with the
numbers and arguments. That’s about it, plus countless
personal interactions including anti-nuke people outside
James Hansens talk in Adelaide recently … this was
only possible because I knew the people involved (see
above). As most BNC readers know, my
particular focus is on animal source foods because energy reform may be necessary but it isn’t sufficient to
prevent dangerous climate shifts. Undoing 200 years of
deforestation is also required plus reductions in non-co2
forcings. This requires global dietary change, which will
actually be MUCH tougher than energy restructuring because it can’t be done without daily lifestyle changes
for a couple of billion people … a nuclear style
“magic bullet” would be growing meat in a bio-reactor
with adequate efficiency gains. There are people working
on this.


Fran and I share an interest in the use of sortition in the reform of our democracy. As a very simple reform I think each of our 76 senators should be appointed by sortition. One new senator should be appointed by lot each month and each should serve for 76 months (just over six years). I’d exclude such senators from serving as ministers. The senate would under this reform act as a giant jury that sits in judgement of all proposed legislation. It would be far more represenative than any possible voting system and it would be free of the worst incentives of elected bodies ( popularism and party loyalty).

If presented with legislation to enable a nuclear industry such a senate would be free to consider and debate the facts entirely free from any incentive to do what is popular. After all popularity is not what gets you appointed under a system of sortition.

The one virtue of elections over sortition is the accountability incentive. I’d reserve elections for the lower house where executive government is formed.


TerjeP and Fran:

At first glance, sortition for second chambers has much to commend it. It would be particularly appropriate if this chamber were charged with consideration of pressing issues, taking expert evidence on same and reporting back to the first chamber and the public.


Assuming one wanted to keep a second chamber then Terje’s approach would be a step forward. I’m favour of deleting it. As a dry run though of how a deliberative/voting sortition approach could work to produce candidates and ultimately parliamentarians, it might be useful.

Under my deliberative system one could rate each of a set of candidate’s policies (say 10) on a scale from 1-10 (with 1 being “strongly oppose” and 10 being “strongly support”) and also rate them in terms of their significance in your vote. So for example, if one strongly supported a policy of keeping out “them furriners” but ranked this only 10% significant in determining one’s vote, they’d have a remaining 90% to allocate amongst the remaining options.

Candidates would get a rating based on the extent to which they got support for their policies, but they would also get feedback on what people approved and disapproved of. A candidate who got a 100% rating would get more chances in the final sortition draw than one rated only 70% or 50% supportable.

This way, the system would tend to prefer candidates who better matched the policy preferences of the electorate, since numerically, they would get more chances to be drawn out. Of course, once quite a few of the most supported were selected the chances of someone who was somewhat supported but who had one or two “out there” ideas being selected would go up. So the system could not become a new iteration of “the borg”. There would be a uniting consensus, but fringe ideas would stand a good chance of getting a hearing. If the fringe people wanted their ideas to get up, they’d need either to accommodate the consensus or persuade more of the public to support them.

And since in practice all of them would be gone in four years or so, they only get one shot and the public gets to reflect on what they have learned when the next parliament comes in. Rather than focusing on getting rid of some hate figure, they can focus on policy matters instead.


The problem with meritocracy is that intelligence and goodness are only weakly correlated and the problem with
a randomly selected review body is that it guarantees
only a modest amount of both.


Geoff Russell said on the 7th June:

“My advice is to attend your chosen activist group meetings for a while BEFORE putting your nuke position. That way people know (and hopefully respect) you before you threaten their ideological position. Build a little credibility first”

Geoff, thankyou for your advice.
I understand the reasoning behind this and have tried it. In our local climate change group I bit my lip for 18 months and watched solutions become steadily less practical. Perceptive people left the group as they became disenchanted with poorly thought through technologies and ideologies. In the end I “came out” and was criticised heavily.

Its hard to hide the spots on a leopard so this time around I am advocating the full story – nuclear leads to a new industrial revolution maintains jobs and the economy with a clean environment as the dividend – a cohesive narrative.

So far it works better because I actually believe in what I am saying. Nevertheless the need for diplomacy which is behind you suggestion is paramount. Picking your timing, audience and delivery is critical.


I think your claim, Robert, that picking your timing, audience and delivery is critical is indeed germane. Your account of biting your lip for 18 months and seeing the group gop backwards does ring true.

A balance needs to be struck, in which you move the group to consider the merits of your position without appearing either as a one-trick pony or worse yet, as agent provocateur. It seems to me that this is not so much a matter of time spent in the group as it is in the quality of the relationships you can establish with those who are respected. Common work on group goals in which you distinguish yourself for your focus, wisdom and commitment under pressure earns credit rather more than passive and polite timeserving and attendance. You must be seen as bringing something of value to the group. It’s only in that sense that time is relevant.


Fran – my reservations about the deliberative system is that I’m pretty sure it would still be driven by biased positions more than considered positions. The great strength of representative democracy is that the representatives have the opportunity to review the facts in much detail and to review their biases. Of course elections mean that they have an incentive to keep their biases so long as they align with those of their voting constituents. Hence my preference for an upper house with sortition. I’m pretty sure that over time such a house would get to review a great breadth of ideas as the fortunes of the elected lower house tilt back and forth. Lots of ideas would come in the front door, and mostly only good well considered ones would pass through.

Geoff – an upper house appointed by sortition would have a certain amount of filtering up front as only the engaged tend to volunteer for such things. Even so the merit and goodness would be mostly a reflection of the merit and goodness of the broader society. The notion that an elected house has more merit or goodness than our broader society would be one that I would reject. And in fact most people rate our elected officials as having above average tendancies to lie and cheat. Which should not surprise given the incentives that dictate their selection and their success.

An upper house appointed by sortition would be a technically modest but very meaningful reform to the DNA of Australias system of government. We could even experiment with the notion first at a state level in one of the states with an upper house.


Terje said:

my reservations about the deliberative system is that I’m pretty sure it would still be driven by biased positions more than considered positions.

Gosh … it only seems like ten minutes ago that you thought it appealing but only for hobbyists and would be too complex for people to get their heads around …

most people don’t want to be bothered with all this stuff. You he and I are interested but most people have other hobbies and want to be left alone

I can’t imagine how deliberative voting could lead to any result apart from more useful data about what people actually want out of governance or a better informed polity than we have now.


We have polls that tell us what people actually want. You can create lots of data with polls. However just because people tell you want they want and how much they want it that doesn’t mean their views are well considered or that they will become well considered just because you keep asking. Perhaps you can explain how the process gets people to engage in debate and discussion, to take in new data and view points and to reflect on their initial position.


Terje said:

We have polls that tell us what people actually want.

Nonsense. We have polls telling us how existing stakeholder interests are seeking to frame the issues and these in turn have to pass the elite interest media filter. At best, we have broad binary questions on various issues whioch often assume facts not in evidence or set up inadequate dichotomies.

Perhaps you can explain how the process gets people to engage in debate and discussion, to take in new data and view points and to reflect on their initial position.

Plainly, candidates are going to be involved in an extensive dialogue with actual and potential constituencies, and, over time, an increasing proportion of those constituencies will either have been candidates themselves, or been in close contact with those who have been. Parliament groups and members would be leading active debate so as to impriove the prospects of policy preferences being taken up, and since we could not read the answer to what would happen from pre-existing party alignment, the progress of these activities, the terms of debate, the persuasiveness of key figures and the ownership of matters before parliament amidst the populace etc would be the stuff of media narrative.

It’s hard to imagine anything more likely to produce reflective citizenship than that!


How does a set of votes on what people want feed into a set of incentives for candidates. Candidates already do detailed polling on what people want, precisely so they can taylor their dialogue but the narrative still sucks. The idea that candidates should focus on what people want is in my view a big part of the problem. Instead they should be focused on the public interest which is not the same thing.


p.s. What is the benefit of a reflective citizenry? Good public policy is surely the objective not a population of elite philosophers.


Terje asked:

How does a set of votes on what people want feed into a set of incentives for candidates?

Fairly obvious I’d have thought. Candidates have access to the feedback both on their policies and on those proposed by others. they follow the debates and public commentary. They may modify their positions to improve their chances before the final vote. They can choose not to if they prefer of course and this would not exclude them from being elected.

What is the benefit of a reflective citizenry? Good public policy is surely the objective not a population of elite philosophers.

Again, I’d have thought this obvious, especially to a self-professed “libertarian”. Having a reflective citizenry improves the prospect that state’s action will express each person’s legitimate interests. It is hard to see how the state can act this way unless the citizens know what these interests are — unless you take the view that the state knows best what serves each citizen, merely because it is the state.

I am the parent of two children (well one of them is now 26 and the other 17). When they had no idea where their best interests lay, I assumed this role on their behalf, but I saw my success as a parent in fostering their practical capacity for social and cultural autonomy — or to use the phrase I used with them so often until such time as you can make good decisions in your own behalf .

There exists an analogy with the state here. Until such time as people are able to make good decisions in their own behalf, the role of the state should be to make them for them. This is ultimately unsatisfactory as the state can, at best, only effect a rough approximation of the best interests of individuals, foreclosing gross harm and predisposing generalised goods. Of course, the fewer the institutional constraints to serving the public interest and the better the grasp of what those interests are, the less rough this approximation becomes.

Now the state will of course continue to play the role of arbiter in disputes and continue to act to foreclose what behavioural economists like to call “collective action problems” but as the citizenry better grasps its individual and collective interests and can make these manifest in public policy, so too the space for the state to unwittingly or otherwise trample on the citizens diminishes. The state will shrink to the size needed to do what the citizenry cannot or should not do themselves.

So long as the political class stands aloof from and above the public, and the public is either disengaged or unable to confront the cultural privileges of the career politican and the wealthy exploiters who stand behind him, democracy will continue to be more apparent than real — a mere caricature of the public will or interest.

Reflective citizenship lies at the very foundation of the possibility of genuinely inclusive governance. Your formulation above stands in sharp contrast to your professed libertarian ideals.

I will concede that I am scarcely surprised at that.


I don’t buy your analogy. You seem to assume that the problems manifest within our system of government are a result of people not knowing what they want. I don’t think there is any such problem, at least not to a significant degree, with our citizens. The problem isn’t with there ability to decide what on the menu they like, the problem is that the menu is pretty horrid. And horrid for systemic reasons not because our citizens have not been reflective enough.


You seem to assume that the problems manifest within our system of government are a result of people not knowing what they want.

There’s no point in most people investing the emotional energy in deciding what they want or is even possible if voting is a tick and flick exercise. In fact, the clearer an idea you have of what would be ideal the more depressing voting is. My response is not to vote and to deluge politicians with what I want.

Most simply watch the sports, take up hobbies, bury themselves in work or find other diversion. Really, at the moment, the voters are for all practical purposes, an irrelevant nuisance to government.

Using 2nd best theory, abolishing voting and going with Doug’s meritocracy would probably be no worse. At least we would have some candour: you don’t count.


Geoff Rusell;

You suggest that intelligence and goodness are only weakly correlated. Having reflected upon this statement, I continue to find it very odd. It is reasonably easy to assess the former in a scientific manner. The latter cannot be measured other than through the eyes of an individual. It is thus subjective and no attempt to correlate it with an objective characteristic makes much sense to me.

What seems to emerge from your statement is your belief that there is something absolute about goodness. One also sees something similar in some of Fran’s writing. Her guiding principles seem to be ethics based, where ethics always trumps pragmatism or efficiency. At this point, I am tempted to suggest that the road to hell is paved with good intentions – so I will!

If one arbitrarily thinks of one’s brain as consisting of two components, one could make a distinction between the cognitive (reasoning) part and the emotional (feeling) part . Empathy stems from the latter. Lack of it is a characterisic of sociopaths. Notwithstanding, I have always believed that good governance should be driven primarily by reason rather than emotion, just as there is supposed to be benefit in the “blindness” of justice.

My thinking is driven by study of animal brains and behaviour. Animals lack self awareness and reasoning parts to their brains but have a degree of emotional awareness. Social animals tend to have rigid class (caste) systems and there are many manifestions of physiological stress within groups. Dominants have to fight to stay at the top but are able to confer advantage to their progeny while there. They may experience the effects of surplus adrenaline with different adverse manifestations from those encountered by subordinates. The latter are subject to the malign effects of chronically elevated cortisol levels which lead to loss of immunity and earlier death (and a national health service wouldn’t materially change this).

I like to work on the premise that our motivations are all, essentially, selfish. Empathic individuals gain satisfaction from caring for those in less fortunate circumstances and, to this extent, their behaviour can be construed as selfish. Those dominated by their reasoning brains will generally see that short term exploitation of others will bring them disadvantage in the long term.

I accept, however, that man may have evolved so far beyond non human animals as to make the drawing of lessons from the latter meaningless. Nevertheless, I would be very interested were Fran and Geoff to read up on behavioural and physiological studies of free living groups of chimps, baboons and wild dogs. I wonder whether it might change their views on goodness and ethics.

I am beginning to question the relevance of all this, so I’ll stop.


TerjeP and Fran:

I quite liked TerjeP’s sortition for second chambers. I might be disposed to refine it by allowing a pre-selected range of interest groups each to have its own lot-drawing process (perhaps even allowing trade unionists a guaranteed lot! ). Fran, you seemed to want to place deliberative voting as a first step before advancing to sortition. If I understood correctly, this, IMO, would be counterproductive because you’d start with a self selected group of power seekers, scrabbling for popular votes and shaping their views accordingly.

An alternative or additional role for a second chamber might be to curb the excesses of press/media freedom. Clearly, this is a delicate matter and couldn’t be left to a party political first chamber. However, we might all agree that the media thrives on sensationalism, dumbing down and short termism. None of these tendencies is in the long term public interest and all promote bad law.


I think you may have misuderstood Doug

1. Select candidates at random from voter roll of those who specified willingness to serve about 2 years before service is needed
2. Deliberative voting processes (at iterations of about 6 months)
3. Calculate final weightings in sort immediately prior to draw
4. Draw with alternatives

I’m not keen on corporate sortition blocs. Too many definitional problems. Let the public figure it out.

As to animals, at least some of the higher order animals do show altruistic and non-instrumental conduct, including sometimes at their own cost. It’s not immediately relevant here, but that is the case.


Fran, I’ll think on but, as I’m shortly off on a fishing trip, I will have to let things slide. Probably a relief for others as we’re tending to drift off topic. However, I do use these debates to gather more effective ammo for energy solution lobbying. Sortition is new to me and seems like an interesting subject to pursue further.

I can’t finish without challenging over your animal altruism claims. You state it to be the case as if the science is settled. It’s far from it.


I don’t see how the science could ever be settled on animal emotions — mental states are very hard to measure. Indeed, though I may attribute a given mental state to you, really it’s only an inference based on mapping knowledge about my own to you and of course, what else I;ve read about the mental states of others. To the best of my knowledge though nobody has yet measured a mental state in a way that can be corroborated.

That said, I found this interesting some years back:

When Elephants Weep: The Emotional Lives of Animals


Rob Parker

“I sought comments and by inference commitments to do something apart from theorising.”

Getting back to your list of five actions, these assume a status quo in the political system, including the media and the voting public. Do you really think that a more widespread action by more people will be enough to cause a change to nuclear power in time to head off irreversible and catastrophic climate change? You have admitted that your strategy did not work in your local climate change group.

Replacing fossil fuels with nuclear energy is one of the major challenges for this century. The other main issues are overpopulation and loss of biodiversity. It is hard to rank these in order of importance; they all need to be addressed immediately. The need is the same for all of the issues. There needs to be informed community engagement on these issues. Current political systems with the primary goal of winning votes for the next election and media seeking stories to catch the immediate attention of a generally disinterested public is not a setting going to address the real challenges of this century.

In short, the greatest need at the moment is a better means of community engagement and decision making. We need to theorise to develop an approach to governance that is appropriate in the 21st Century before we can do much else. We need to start by asking what the consequences of the status quo are. We then need to start asking what we want the world to be like in 40 or 50 year or more. We will not need social engineers to answer these questions. Just asking them limits the options.

There is a human tendency to want to shut the gate after the horse has bolted. Currently the figurative horse is being chased out of the yard and we are prepared only to shut the gate so it cannot get back in. Climate change, biodiversity loss and the tragic consequential loss of human life and habitat that will not be recoverable. There is no point in a modest approach. We need an urgent revolution in governance away from personalities and topical issues to starting to think about what matters the most.

Ideally this kind of transformation would be led by governments and the media. I don’t know if anyone can envisage this. We who see the need for immediate change need to get organised and not let the current leaders call the shots the way they are currently. I struggle to envisage a solution, a way this could happen. So much depends on it that we need to find an approach. I have a vague idea of some kind of grass roots movement that starts asking and answering the big questions and makes the current form of governance with personalities, political parties, competing media outlets and even country boundaries irrelevant. We have the means with the Internet opening communication across the surface of the globe. We just need to see the need and get organised.

Are there any other options?


Terje, what is your position on “reflective citizenship”? what is its relationship to “negative rights”?

RC is associated with philosophers like Alasdair Macintyre (and Aristotle), perhaps John Rawls at his least libertarian. The project of shaping a certain kind of self as a precondition for effective citizenship is at odds, I thought, with libertarianism. So I assume that you oppose any mechanism for promoting RC even if you would prefer reflective to non reflective citizens.

To be pro sortition and anti RC strikes me as pointless or self defeating. Though I haven’t thought it through yet!


actually barry: I went to E’s site. he is doing a good job of pulling things together and is also forthright about highlighting potential problems with nuclear, even if they turn out bogus. He has one reference to a guardian article about a 9 gallon spill of HEU that “nearly went critical.”

can anyone parse this sort of claim for its plausibility?


@greg meyerson – There have been a few criticality accidents with solutions containing dissolved enriched uranium, and people have died from exposure.

However a system like that goes critical, or it doesn’t, there is no ‘almost’ and it’s most unlikely that a spill would ever be compact enough to reach this condition.


Yes, EclipseNow, thats a great page that Barry has referenced.

Directly relevant to Rob Parker’s post here is your page on

Starting your own group

I’m going to quote a couple of slabs since I think its very much to the point:

1. Why start a group?
2. If you have to, start an online presence
3. Recruit ‘kindred Spirits’
4. Things can happen FAST!
5. Develop a strategy to recruit local government, business, thinkers and talent
6. Develop an action plan for your area and start it.
7. Think about approaching the State and Federal government.
8. If all of this sounds like too much work…

# We met online.
# We met together.
# When meetup started charging $9 / month, we made our own peak oil “brand” and formed
# We met about once a month
# We talked online and on the phone.
# We used our “6 degrees of separation”, used our contacts and got into speak to some politicians.

o try discussing peak oil with:-

* eco-village designers
* University staff or lecturers in “sympathetic” fields
* organic growers
* community supported agriculture
* Permaculture adherents
* Conservation Councils
* Friends of the Earth
* Greenpeace
* Socialist Alliance
* the Greens
* The Environmental Protection Agency for your region
* community groups active about something
* folk festivals
* (Someone above may be able to offer a meeting venue, especially the University lecturer. That was Sydney Peak Oil’s experience anyway).

etc. and more.

This is good stuff. Quite inspiring.


@ Robert Lawrence

We need to theorise to develop an approach to governance that is appropriate in the 21st Century before we can do much else.

You appear to be arguing the pointlessness of any action which is undertaken before your notion of an acceptable “approach to governance” (whatever that may be – it’s not clear) is enacted. Perhaps I have misconstrued your position?

Changing societal structures and political ideologies is teeth grindingly, generationaly slow. The reason I first began to look at nuclear power was because I saw in it a chance to avoid this death trap. For most, nuclear power requires no great shifts in political ideology, no begrudging behaviour changes. A minority can lobby for it and the majority can go on living their life the way they always have, the way they were always going to, because to save the world all they have to do is nothing, all they have to do is not oppose it.

Now is not the time to worry about the status quo. In the short term we are stuck with it and in my experience (and going on recent discussions on this blog) the more one attempts to challenge peoples political allegiances the more closely they cling to them.

Wherever one sits in the political landscape it is your duty to convince your people and you must do so using the political arguments most applicable to your and your interlocutors sensibilities. Which party is in power will determine the political framework within which nuclear power shall be built. What we need is grass roots bipartisan support (or at least non-opposition). To that end individual action is an important precursor to greater action.

We need to garner support from an active minority (Don’t we already have that?), encourage the use of whatever activist proclivities, in which ever political hemisphere, individuals within this minority can bring to bear in order to engineer, at minimum, non-opposition from the majority. Then we can go on to lobby the government minus any major society wide impediments. It’s been done before. We can do it again.

Will any of this happen? Not if we stick to theorising.


Greg – sortition for our upper house as I have proposed it entails a representative group of citizens who can reflect and debate on matters of public policy. It does not entail all citizens doing so. In fact the whole point of representation is to avoid the need for all citizens to be well versed in the pros and cons of every legislative initative. Their representatives, appointed through sortition, would do this for them.


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