Science, People & Politics

Sciene, People & Politics, July - September, 2012

Summer reading 2011
by Helen Gavaghan

Global Corruption Report Climate Change.
ISBN paperback: 978-1-84971-282-8.
Earthscan, 2011.
Essays collated by Transparency International.

Only a few well cited tidbits are needed to demonstrate the authors' argument that combating global corruption with all in our legal armouries is a good idea for the future of the planet's environmental well being and its inhabitants.

Consider: "In 1963 Kenya had forest cover of some 10 per cent; by 2006 this figure had fallen to a meagre 1.7 per cent," a UNESCO citation on page 281.

Or think about: "Double counting and fraudulent trade of carbon credits", a heading on page 327. Interpol warned in 2009 of carbon credits which do not exist and which are being sold on the market.

If you prefer think about Papua New Guinea where: "...as of mid-2009 (p 345) there was no domestic policy, or specific legislation on carbon trading in PNG."

Make a plate tectonic shift, and, as you do business, take heed of the observation (p 176), "Colombian utilities demonstrate significant shortcomings, including asymmetries in information that prevent stakeholders from learning how companies manage and deliver public services, and an absence of strong corporate governance practices."

These four examples are my shorthand way of saying to scientists and politician: Be careful. There are shark infested, unchartered waters out their, and the customs police are stirring in their sleep.

Not Here, Not There, Not Anywhere.
Politics, Social Movements, and the Disposal of Low-Level Radioactive Waste.
ISBN paperback: 978-1-933115-92-4.
RFF Press, 2011 and an imprint in Earthscan.
By Daniel J. Sherman.

The author of this book is professor of environmental policy and decision making at the University of Puget Sound in Washington State. He writes clearly. No new disposal facility for low-level radioactive waste has been successfully established in the US under the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act since it was passed in 1980. That act was intended to ensure low-level radioactive waste disposal sites were equitably distributed around the US.

That did not happen. Instead, after two plus decades of action by activists on the street and in the Court rooms there are only a few sites, formed without a Federal dictat on State behaviour. They are in the Pacific north west, Utah and, most recently, Texas. All stand to garner significant revenue.

Such sites are needed for waste from medical facilities, not only nuclear power. Technological advances, writes Sherman, have reduced the amount of waste produced.

The amount could go up in future decades if the US nuclear power industry does flourish again as a means of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

The dog not barking in this book - easy to read - is the oil industry and its related industrial sectors, so maybe on this occasion they are not to blame, because the author does not strike me as coy.

Integrating Science and Policy.
Vulnerability and Resilience in Global Environmental Change.
ISBN paperback: 978-1-84407-606-2.
Earthscan, 2011.
Editors Roger E. Kasperson and Mimi Berberian.

"It is widely recognised that a serious gap exists beween science and expert assessment, on the one hand, and decision making on the other." That is how Roger Kasperson opens this book. I couldn't agree more. The gap exists, and the existence of the gap is recognised.

This book works very hard at exploring the gap with nearly every intellectual tool and concept in the book. I am looking forward to delving more deeply than its chapter headings, subsections, cross heads and after the event case studies. I will be looking to see whether the authors explore the limits of science. Say what in their view science is, and what it is not and what it cannot do.


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