"Mummy, mummy, there's a nuclear monster!"

One of the frustrating parts about being a proponent of nuclear power is when people rag at you for showing them facts that nuclear accidents aren't that big a deal. After all... "everyone knows" that a nuclear accident is a catastrophe unlike all others and that a "meltdown" means instant death to thousands of people, cancer to millions and huge tracts of land made uninhabitable for centuries... as told by various groups out there.

So when you point out to them that the TMI meltdown had zero casualties, that the Fukushima triple meltdown and explosion/fire in a fuel pool is presently holding the zero and that the prognosis is slowly starting to look hopeful, and that the current death toll from Chernobyl correspond to the number of people killed in US motor vehicle accidents in one day, people tend to take great offense at you questioning the supposed "truth" about nuclear power. I have been called quite a few unflattering things for this heinous crime of not being upset about nuclear accidents and - even more blasphemous - trying to calm other people about them as well.

Therefore it was with a great sense of recognition I read Lewis Page's piece "Mummy, mummy, there's a nuclear monster!" in "The Register today. I won't steal his glory but I will point out two core pieces and quote them:

This is the problem that everyone faces, who describes nuclear incidents as they really are – that is: insignificant. You are accused of being heartless, of failing to care about or empathise with people who are terribly frightened. You have committed the same sin as bracingly telling a toddler that there is no monster under his bed and that he should go back to sleep.

Part of the problem here is that in the case of nuclear dangers it is rather as though the toddler had a mentally troubled aunt or uncle who, in addition to telling the kid fairytales at story time, insists that the monsters in the stories are real.

The people in charge of story time here are the media, and like many of us finding ourselves troubled by bizarro in-laws, the media fails – seldom really even tries, often enough – to prevent the mad aunt telling the kids rubbish.

[....]

Some of us at least are getting a bit sick of the idea that you simply aren't allowed to tell frightened people quite bluntly to act their age – and we're getting more than just a bit sick of irrational or unscrupulous fairytale-spinners making them frightened in the first place.

That is pretty much it: you are considered a villain for telling people "Oh stop whining you baby, it's just a nuclear accident!". You're being painted as an arsehole for not playing along with paranoia and prejudice. They are calling you foul names and questioning your moral character for trying to make people less scared.

It's one of those things that makes me want to bang my head against the desk and tell people to go overdose on their stress- and angst-hormones if they are so much in love with them. It feels like getting yelled at by a drunk relative for taking his/her bottle away. Why would I bother?

Well... I must, because it's the right thing to do. If I didn't, then I'd be an arsehole for real, wouldn't I? If I firmly believe that someone is wrong in their actions and beliefs, and that they are hurting because of these beliefs, would you suggest I play along? Or should do as I would to the same human being if they had been 25-75 years years younger, by telling them that there is no monster waiting to eat their toes?

The worst part is - of course - that some people have a very strong self-interest in keeping others scared of the nuclear monster under the bed. Let me show you another example...

With "information" like that, is it any wonder that people are frightened? Those who made that video are the ones that should be called heartless, for using and abusing people's fears simply to advance their position and get more influence.

But good news are no news. It's easier to sell a story of Doom & Destruction than telling people that things are actually not very bad at all. You're considered the weird one for not being a paranoid alarmist professing the impending end of life as we know it.

What can we do to break the trend? How can we make people stop being scared of things that are not scary, and focus on the real dangers out there, such as fossil fuels that are killing literary millions of people every year?

Facts... keep speaking the facts... that's how you eradicate fear, prejudice and misconceptions. I have so far not met a single person who have learned the facts about nuclear power and who has since remained genuinely scared of it! Keep pushing the facts...

Let me close up this post with a video of a fellow swede that has opened up many people's eyes and minds by showing the cold hard facts in a very funny and interesting manner: Hans Rosling. Enjoy... I did. 🙂

EDIT: as commented below... there is more on www.gapminder.org. 😉