NEW INTERNATIONALIST No. 284
Energy and equality
One woman’s idea of sustainability might not be another’s idea of equality. Vanessa B a i rd sets up an imaginary dialogue between Gloria, from the South, and Claire from the North. Go East, young atom 8 A visit to a new atomic power station for Gloria and Claire- and the nuclear industry's bid for new markets in Asia and Eastern Europe. Leapfrogging 12 Hi-tech nomads in Mongolia, low-tech highlanders in Peru... The Third World is getting there first - according to Claire. Discomfort one hundred 15 Is there a way out of gridlocks, pollution and fossil fuel folly? B en L a n e thinks there is. But Gloria will take some convincing. ENERGY - THE FACTS 18 Here comes the sun... and the wind and the rain 20 Claire and Gloria visit the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales and explore solar, wind and other 'renewable' energies. Meanwhile. Sara C h am b e r la in sends a personal testimony from California. SIMPLY 24 Real values 26 Politics, ethics and the future of the world. Some sticky moments and shifting of positions as the conversation between Gloria and Claire draws to a dose - for the time being. Action 30
L e t te r s
L e t t e r f r o m C h e c h n y a
U p d a te
T h e N l In te r v ie w w ith N o o r ia J e h a n 31 R e v ie w s i u s L ew is G ra s s ic G ib b o n s classic 3 2 C u r io s i t ie s w ith N l C r o s s w o r d 3 4 E n d p ie c e : by W in o n a L aD u k e 3 5 C o u n t r y p r o f i le : N ig e r 3 6
COVER ILLUSTRATION BY HANNAH FIRMIN MAGAZINE DESIGNED BY ALAN HUGHES. MAIN TEXT ILLUSTRATIONS BY PJ POLYP.
THIS M O N T H ’S T H E M E
E n e r g y
FROM THIS M O N TH 'S E D IT O R
My God, what's happening to you? Ido believe you are being seduced by science!’
Ifound, still find, it hardto believe. But something unusual washappening. Andthe tell-tale sign was there: a buzzofexcited optimism as Irelated tomypatient colleagues inspiring facts about theawesome energy potential of the sun. windandtides.
Myenthusiasmwasn't there inthe beginning as I ploughedmyway throughpiles ofbooks and papers on ‘energy’. (‘Such adeadly word,' remarked afriend and I instantly knewwhat hemeant, pictures ofpylons and faceless men inhard hats flashing through mymind.)
Thencame the startling realization that if youhadtoblameone thing for themost serious threat to life onearth today it wouldbe: energy. Global warming, acid rain, air pollution, radioactive waste. Younameit. Theyall result fromtheways inwhich we, inthe twentieth century, have chosen to generate anduseourenergy.
Hardontheheelsofthis insight came another, actually farmore significant, one. It does not have to be this way. Not at all. Wecanchange it. The science, the technological know-how is there. It's just that for the past 100 years or so wehavechosen acertain energy path; one that relies heavily on fossil fuels andmore recently nuclear fission instead ofusing the sun, wind, air, water orother ‘renewable' sources. Wecouldhavedone it differently. We just didn't.
Wecandosostill. Whetherwewill is another - a political - matter. Themore people Italked toduring the course ofmy research the more Icame to realize that alternative energy is actually one of the most hopeful areas towork inand write about today. Seduced byscience? Maybe. But ifone is going tobeseduced byscience it mayaswell be the natural, holistic and lifeaffirming type rather than the divisive, invasive, life-denying one.
Perhaps Imakechange soundeasy, which ofcourse it isn’t. And it’snot just conservative attitudes andvested interests holding usback. It’s also that wearenotoperating ona level playing-field. Ifwe are talking about changing theworld's energy systems wehaveto realize that the industrial North is glutted withenergy, using seven times asmuchpercapitaas the South consumes. The South is starved of the cheapenergy it desperately needs to fuel economic growth andhaul itself out ofpoverty. SoNorthern andSouthern priorities are likely to bequitedifferent.
Toexplore this tension Ihave usedafictional device andcreated two characters, Gloria Thembisa fromSouth Africa andClaire Green from England. Thismagazine follows them intheir exploration ofvarious energy paths. The device is fictive but the substance of themagazine is factual, with contributions fromother writers interspersed with the narrative. Special thanks go to SaraChamberlain for helpwith this research.
Andnowit’stime to unfasten yourmind-belts. Thejourney is about to begin.
Vanessa B a ird for the N ew In te rn a t io n a l is t Co-operative
OCTOBER 1996/NEWINTERNATIONALIST 1