George Monbiot seems to have a rather individual view of how the media reports environmental issues. A few weeks back, when reviewing Margaret Thatcher’s 1989 speech to the UN (I have no idea why), he stated that from 1992 onwards the BBC and Channel 4
purged environmental programmes from the schedules. I suspect they saw them as counter-aspirational and, in Channel 4’s case, bad for business. From then on, they could broadcast only furious attacks on environmentalism, such as Channel 4’s series Against Nature and BBC2’s Scare Stories. Most of the newspapers, with an eye on the interests of their proprietors and advertisers, followed their example.
Environmental campaigns – especially the mobilisation against the roads programme Thatcher launched – proliferated, but, shut out by the media, the issue soon fell off the political agenda.
This appears to me to be rather at odds with reality. Environmental issues are regularly featured throughout the media, and opponents of climate change rarely make an appearance. Indeed, the debate has largely moved on from whether climate change is happening to why climate change is happening (whether or not it is influenced by human behaviour), and what can or should be done about it.
In this debate, the idea of a return to nuclear power seems to be gaining some currency due to nuclear’s low levels of greenhouse gas emissions. Fans of nuclear power famously include the unlikely figure of James Lovelock, founder of the Gaia green movement. Fair enough, you may think, and perhaps the nuclear option should be considered; it certainly shouldn’t be excluded from the debate.
However, a recent edition of Coast on BBC2, which has reached the north of Scotland, included a feature on Dounray power station. There the presenter stated that Britain is expected to produce enough nuclear waste over the next 100 years to fill at least five Albert Halls. This is where we stand with our current, somewhat diminished nuclear programme.
Now, for me, this is a real worry. After all, at the moment, to the best of my knowledge, we have only one Albert Hall. Just to deal with our current output of nuclear toxins we are looking at having to build another four over the next century.
So what happens if, as has been suggested, we greatly expand our nuclear industry? How many Albert Halls will we then have to build? Are we going to have to face constructing hundreds, perhaps even thousands of Albert Halls, flooding our landscape, filling our valleys and towering over our dales, scaring areas of natural beauty on order to contain contaminated junk?
“Jakers!” as my good friend Piggley Winks would say; it is certainly worth thinking about. There are clearly no easy solutions to this problem of global warming.