March 3, 2009
The latest issue of the Scientific Alliance newsletter reports on a number of environmentalists who have shifted from being vehemently opposed to nuclear energy, as you’d expect, to supporting its development, largely because they have come to believe that the alternatives to nuclear have proved to be worse for climate change.
A couple of observations:
- Maybe it’s just me but I didn’t see the revival of nuclear’s fortunes coming. With this story, which was reported widely in the UK press, and the current campaign in Belgium (I recently blogged about this) it would appear that it’s a trend. I guess the relative failures of sustainable energies over the years coupled with the general sense generated by the the financial crisis that we need to compromise on a number of issues has lead to this i.e. a point where industry can attempt to lead a dialogue and activists can say it may not be so bad without either fearing a lynching.
- Again on the compromise issue: I’ve often written about the need for activists and/or pressure groups to act responsibly and weigh up pros and cons rather than pursue issues blindly. This appears to have happened in this case and I hope there’s more to come. Not because I dislike or disrespect the activities of pressure groups in principal. On the contrary, it’s because I think they have such a leading role to play in providing checks and balances that I don’t want to see them lose legitimacy by being too hard-line or unscientific in their assertions.
February 25, 2009
An organisation called Forum Nucleaire, made up of a number of companies that invest in nuclear energy, has launched a campaign aimed at kick-starting a debate on nuclear energy in Belgium. They’ve ticked a lot of boxes in terms of good campaign practice:
- A good website which presents content clearly and which seeks to answer people’s questions rather than showcase a position.
- Good integration of online and offline communications: the posters around Brussels and the TV ad (can be seen on site too) are engaging, on message, and it’s easy to see that they form part of the same campaign.
The best thing about the campaign is the angle though. They are not presenting an overt position, which in their case could be (and usually has been): “nuclear is cheap, nuclear is clean, nuclear is not dangerous if safety standards are adhered to, oil is a lot worse, we rely on Middle-East or Russian oil, and in any case – it’s running out.”
Instead, they highlight that the debate is a complex one and acknowledge that there are good arguments on both sides. By doing so, they are hoping that people will want to learn more and make an informed decision on whether they support nuclear energy or not, instead of agreeing with the hype, which tends to be anti-nuclear.
This a smart approach for an industry which the average person traditionally opposes. It gains goodwill by opening up and admitting that there’s a viable position which does not necessarily support its commercial interests; and by seeking to raise the level of debate so that it is more rational, fact-based and scientific rather than emotional, it’s likely that it’ll have a better chance of winning public support in the long-run.
The website could be bit more interactive though, there should be more 3rd party endorsements, and I think there’s good scope for bringing in external content, especially from bloggers – but maybe that’s coming next. I’ll be keeping a look-out.