Machines can’t be immoral

RICHARD and Alison Simmance view windfarms as immoral (Gazette letters, February 16).

Machines aren’t moral or immoral. The real immorality is in the shocking weakness of British local democracy. As with the crass housing developments forced on our villages in recent years, local communities like Elsdon are hugely disadvantaged in the face of grasping speculative developers and absentee landowners. If wind turbines were planned, owned and controlled by local communities for their own benefit they would be very popular. It is the politics of their installation which is ‘immoral’.

Renewable, local energy is in fact infinitely more humane than the damage caused by our insatiable demand for fossil fuels. Their hidden costs include the thousands of soldiers and civilians killed and maimed in Iraq and Afghanistan, our fawning politicians selling armaments to the evil dictators who control vast oil and gas reserves and the children toiling down mines in Colombia to dig ‘cheap’ coal.

It is deeply disturbing to see the Simmances dismiss decades of peer-reviewed climate science, the work of thousands of experts and accepted by every government on earth, as popular thinking.

Imagine a hypothetical situation in which scientists spot a rogue asteroid heading towards Earth: Urgent world-wide expert discussions are called and it’s calculated that there is a 25 per cent chance that the asteroid will strike in 20 years’ time.

Every nation and every person on the planet, whatever their political persuasion, would support the huge global efforts to avert this catastrophe. Climate change presents us with an equivalent global disaster, only with a much higher degree of probability. The potential damage through drought, flooding, famine and mass migration is equally catastrophic, but only on a slower time scale. However, the window of opportunity to take action, by drastically reducing carbon emissions, is equally short.

The difference between the two scenarios is that the asteroid threat would cause us all to lose out, with no benefit for anyone who opposed the united effort to save the world. In contrast, the efforts to reduce carbon emissions are making a tiny number of very powerful people in the fossil fuel industry, along with a few fanatical journalists who share their extreme politics, very unhappy.

The result is that the world’s climatologists are placed in exactly the same position as an earlier scientist, Galileo, who faced the outrage and wrath of the church by daring to say that science showed that the Earth went round the Sun rather than their powerful, but baseless, belief in the opposite.

Today’s elderly billionaire zealots who see science as a danger to their interests don’t actually threaten torture to enforce their unscientific beliefs like the cardinals in 1632. They use their wealth to manipulate public opinion, either through the media they own or by hiring professional liars, often known as lobbyists, to mislead us.

Last week, the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science admitted to being ‘scared to death’ by the anti-science movement’s vicious campaign of hate on climate change, evolution and vaccine which threatens to make us ‘slide back into a dark era.’

The reality of our situation is that half of the oil, coal and gas ever used in human history has been burned since 1980. The most vital moral issue of our times must surely be to face up to the evils of science-denial which threatens, quite literally, to cost our children the Earth.

Aidan Harrison,