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Development is just another word

  • Published at 07:00 pm June 22nd, 2016
Development is just another word

In a talk with Dhaka Tribune’s Shegufta Hasnine Surur, Bjorn Lomborg, head of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre, tried his best to convince readers about the economic profitability of coal and nuclear power.

Local Bashkhali law enforcers, backed by complete support from the Awami League government, killed some local residents when they protested the establishment of coal-based power plants in Bashkhali. When a massive protest broke out against this horrible state-mandated violence, the entire region of Bashkhali turned into a sort of open-air prison.

To add insult to injury, thousands of cases had been filed against the locals by the Bashkhali police. Meanwhile, nuclear power plants in co-operation with the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation (ROSATOM) is slowly making progress.

When Dhaka Tribune asked Bjorn Lomborg whether he was pro-nuclear power or not, this was how he replied: “Global warming is a real problem, and the only way we’re going to fix that is by eventually cutting carbon emissions. The only way we can do that right now is by having nuclear power or renewables. Renewables have the dual big problems in that they’re expensive and they’re intermittent.”

If you are familiar with the work of America-based Bangladeshi scientist Dr Sajed Kamal, you know that these are wholesale lies about renewable energy. But if you are not, feel free to check out The Renewable Revolution published by Earthscan in 2011. Thanks to the internet, the truth is not “a mile away” anymore.

People are struggling. It is the responsibility of the intelligentsia to join this struggle by fighting against the Bjorn Lomborgs of the world, who use their intellect in service of transnational capital on ideological grounds

What does he think about coal power? In a response to another question, he said, unashamedly: “I think it’s worthwhile to remember that there’s potentially billions in benefits from coal power.”

And now, let’s take a look at how he compared coal and nuclear power when our friend asked him: “So, is nuclear better than coal in terms of cost and benefits?”

His answer: “No, coal is much cheaper. It kills a lot more people, but you can regulate away from all of that and it still remains much cheaper than nuclear power. So yes, there is a trade off. You’ll have much more air pollution from coal than from nuclear, even if you regulate it. But it’s probably still a better outcome.”

How do you justify such cynicism? Showing absolute indifference towards human life and ecology, Mr Lomborg only thinks of profit, more accurately profit maximisation. What does such one-dimensional thought signify?

I believe it is Fidel Castro who had an answer to this question, specifically in his speech on the 40th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution (January 1, 1999): “The most fanatical defenders of and believers in the market have converted it into a new religion. This is how the theology of the market emerged. Its academics, more than scientists, are theologians -- for them, it is a question of faith.”

Okay, then. What can be done about this? Comrade Castro replies: “People will keep on struggling … thousands of creative and ingenious forms of pressure and political action will emerge.”

Okay, but would that fight be easy? Castro says no. Why? Castro continues: “In the ideological war, as in armed battles, there are also casualties. Not everyone has the courage to withstand those tough times and difficult conditions.”

People are struggling. It is the responsibility of the intelligentsia to join this struggle by fighting against the Bjorn Lomborgs of the world, who use their intellect in service of transnational capital on ideological grounds.

This has to be done if we truly aspire for a better world, one that is free from ruthless exploitation-oppression-torture in the name of development, which is just another word.