Why Atomic Humanism Will Triumph Over Climate Apocalypse – OpEd
Last Sunday, hundreds of pro-nuclear people in 33 cities around the world stood up for nuclear energy as a crucial technology to achieve the goals of universal prosperity and environmental protection.
The positive, peaceful, and humanistic “Stand Up for Nuclear” events stood in sharp contrast to the violent protests by Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists who blocked the London subway system three days earlier.
Hundreds of people attended 33 “Stand Up for Nuclear” events around the world. They were filled with balloons, flowers, and face-painting. They were life-affirming and safe for children.
Our event didn’t get the same amount of publicity as XR. But we made the front-page of the Netherland’s’ biggest newspaper, Bloomberg TV, a leading Swiss newspaper, by the nightly TV news in Melbourne, Australian, and media outlets around world.
And the Paris event was covered by a television crew from Germany’s second-largest TV station and France’s main (Canal+) documentary channel.
Most XR protesters are nonviolent. Not all carry around signs with the words “death” on them. Not all dress up as creepy ghosts and goblins.
But a shocking number of XR protesters do behave that way to the encouragement of XR leaders.
“If standing up against the climate and ecological breakdown and for humanity is against the rules then the rules must be broken,” tweeted Greta Thunberg on October 15.
I have been an environmental activist for 33 years. During that time, I have never seen a more depressing, death-affirming environmental protest than XR’s protest in London.
Londoners were right to be upset by the XR activists who blocked public transportation which is essential to reducing air pollution including carbon emissions.
Britain is already in a transition to low-carbon energy. It receives 19% of its electricity from nuclear, 11% from wind, 4% from solar, and 39% from natural gas. Just 5% came from coal last year.
In blocking the London Tube, XR shows once again that the concern of apocalyptic environmentalists is not climate change but rather the radical reorganization of society to become a low-energy agrarian one.
Before the protests, XR compared itself to civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks who refused to move from the front of the bus to the back of the bus and helped end racial segregation.
But just compare the two protests.
Rosa Parks was a black protester peacefully demanding integration while the XR activist atop the train was a white protester who violently kicked a black commuter in the face before being dragged down into a mob that could have killed him.
And Rosa Parks was fighting for the inclusion of formerly-excluded people in public transit and modern, high-energy life, while XR is fighting for their exclusion.
You don’t have to look very hard for the symbolism. XR put its own people in danger by urging them to engage in actions that could have resulted in their death and the death of others, all while demanding we go back into poverty.
Consider an 83-year-old XR protester who glued his hand to the train to prevent it from running.
When commuters demanded to know why he was blocking the very technology that climate activists say they want — mass transit — the man said, “Why on earth do we want economic growth when we are using 1.7 Earths.”
The man was repeating Malthusian nonsense. His claim is based on the scientifically-discredited work of “Earth Overshoot Day” and the “Ecological Footprint” organization I and others have debunked.
The man also condemned cities, but cities are how humans save nature.
By working in cities and growing more food on less land, humans move away from the poverty of small farmer life, which involves the use of wood as fuel, which destroys forests.
As humankind grows richer it moves from wood to coal to natural gas to uranium we use less electricity.
XR made it abundantly clear that it isn’t interested in saving nature or lifting everyone out of poverty.
What motivates the apocalyptic XR is the feeling of power its zealous adherents feel from terrifying themselves and others, including their children, and disrupting society.
Claiming the end of the world is just one side of the coin for apocalypse fanatics throughout history. The other side is utopia.
But in this case, the supposed “utopia” XR and Thunberg are demanding is of low-energy agrarian poverty.
Atomic humanism will triumph over the apocalyptic climate movement because most people want a high energy life and don’t want to go back to agrarian poverty.
Nor do most people want to keep wood fuel-using poor people in developing nations trapped in poverty.
An XR spokesperson tweeted, “The action this morning was not supported by the majority of XR Croydon nor XR as a whole. XR is a decentralised movement and this group was carried out by a small number of autonomous rebels.” Thunberg re-tweeted it.
But neither XR nor Thunberg have apologized for goading their supporters to take such dangerous actions.
Instead, they called the near-fatal incident a “mistake” implying the problem was merely tactical.
It wasn’t. The decision to shut down public transportation and engage in other dangerous tactics flows directly from the organization’s apocalyptic worldview.
After watching the traumatic event on London’s tube, I was thus happy to sing songs and meet the children of pro-nuclear advocates at Stand Up for Nuclear in Paris.
*Michael Shellenberger is a Time Magazine “Hero of the Environment,” and president of Environmental Progress. Follow him on Twitter @ShellenbergerMD.