Food, water, shelter, electricity
So the other day I read a cartoon, on a webcomic that isn’t normally political, advocating for nuclear power on grounds that it’s the only viable alternative to fossil fuels.
And I understand and respect that argument. My main problem is, if those really were the only two alternatives, fossil fuels might still be preferable. On grounds that as massively destructive as coal mining is (we’re going to hit peak oil soon, but we’re a long way from running out of coal) and as much as it’s possible that global climate change could completely wipe out human beings’ ability to exist, nuclear power is even scarier. No, I’m serious. Read up about nuclear waste on wikipedia, or your preferred source of information, look at the the time scales involved, compare how long they are to the entire course of human civilization and think about whether we actually want to mess around with something that can cause that level of havoc over that sort of time scale.
I mean, seriously, sometimes I have trouble looking ahead six months. I know as a country we have trouble looking ahead more than a couple decades, tops. Maybe in countries that have been around for more than a couple hundred years people can conceptualize longer periods of time better. But tens of thousands of years, maybe millions? I don’t believe anybody on the planet is capable of getting their head around that sort of time scale.
Any sane civilization remotely interested in self-preservation would look at the what we know and what we don’t know, recognize that the risks of things getting massively fucked up beyond our ability to fix them or even live with them are just too high, and decide to just not mess with the stuff. Off limits. Not an option. End of story.
It’d be one thing if we’d had electricity from another source for centuries and centuries, so long that figuring out how to live without electricity would be a major hardship, perhaps civilization-crushing, and there was literally no other way to get electricity. Even then, civilization collapse is something that humanity can recover from. It’s not like it hasn’t happened before.
And living without electricity? We’ve done that for most of human civilization. It’s been done before. Living without electricity is an inconvenience for most people, but electricity isn’t food and it’s not clean water and it’s not oxygen.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think we should have to live without electricity. I think it’s worth looking into flat out using less electricity, and getting more into renewable energy to the extent it’s feasible, and having better technology that provides the same results with less energy. And perhaps some fossil fuels, used judiciously.
But yikes, nuclear? When did electricity become something worth messing up the earth for tens of thousands of years (or longer) for?