30 March 2010

Interview: Putting democracy on hold to fight climate change

More from the environmental front: Yesterday, the "Guardian" newspaper printed an interview with the 90-year-old independent British scientist James Lovelock, named one of the world's top-100 global public intellectuals by "Prospect" magazine in 2005 (article "James Lovelock: 'Fudging data is a sin against science'" by Leo Hickman):


During the interview, Lovelock reportedly fired "off verbal thunderbolts at the various 'dumbos' with whom we have bestowed our collective fate: namely, 'the politicians, scientists and lobbyists'. [...] He is not one to toss around crumbs of comfort when he believes they're not justified, and displays a great deal of contempt for what he believes to be the naive idealism and ideologies of much of the current environmental movement – a significant proportion of which still looks up to him with a certain reverence. For example, it was his high-profile switch a few years ago to promoting nuclear energy as the best hope for saving ourselves that helped convince many environmentalists to rethink their instinctive opposition to this technology. Now, he says, he is not convinced that any meaningful response to 'global heating', as he likes to call it, can be achieved from within the modern democracies of the western world.

"'We need a more authoritative world,' he says resolutely. 'We've become a sort of cheeky, egalitarian world where everyone can have their say. It's all very well, but there are certain circumstances – a war is a typical example – where you can't do that. You've got to have a few people with authority who you trust who are running it. They should be very accountable too, of course – but it can't happen in a modern democracy. This is one of the problems. What's the alternative to democracy? There isn't one. But even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while.'"

In a full transcript of the interview posted by Hickman on the Guardian's environment blog, Lovelock is quoted as saying: "Elitism is important in science. It is vital. [...] Science was always elitist and has to be elitist. The very idea of diluting it down [to be more egalitarian] is crazy. We're paying the price for it now."

And on the Copenhagen summit: "The UN was a lovely idea, but its primary objective was to make sure the British Empire was got rid of. You just can't get all those people to agree."

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