The Lonely Hearts Club

It wasn’t that long ago that George Monbiot was accusing Stewart Brand of

running the most insidious and subtle exercise in corporate propaganda I have yet encountered.

I thought it was a tad hyperbolic. But that was then.

It turns out that both of these environmentalist icons share remarkably similar views on nuclear power, coal, and renewable energy.

For example, in a current interview with Foreign Policy, Brand says,

The main event, the century-size problem we’re looking at, is climate change. But frankly, if climate were not an issue by now, I would still be saying we need to go nuclear because it is the alternative to coal — and coal is all by itself such very large-scale, long-term bad news.

Here’s Monbiot in this week’s column for the Guardian:

the energy source to which most economies will revert if they shut down their nuclear plants is not wood, water, wind or sun, but fossil fuel. On every measure (climate change, mining impact, local pollution, industrial injury and death, even radioactive discharges) coal is 100 times worse than nuclear power.

Ah, the bonds that tie. Both Monbiot and Brand are now members of the Lonely Hearts nuclear fan club for greens.

11 Responses to “The Lonely Hearts Club”

  1. Heraclitus says:

    Keith, firstly you have missed off the first few words of that Monbiot quote, which starts with “I fear you are…”, which changes the meaning significantly.

    Secondly, why does disagreement in one area mean you cannot agree on another?

    And Monbiot is still far from being a fan of Nuclear, just because he thinks it is less bad than fossil fuels.

  2. Keith Kloor says:

    As I showed in my related post on this, I think it’s clear from the totality of Monbiot’s column then that he was, in fact, making Brand out to be a phony green who was more a corporate shill.

    Which makes it interesting to me is that Monbiot is in substantial agreement with Brand on the climate change/energy/nuclear nexus.

  3. Roddy Campbell says:

    Actually he is close to being a fan.  the heading of that article (ok, maybe not his choice, but not inaccurate) was:
    Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power

  4. Heraclitus says:

    Well, yes it’s fairly clear that Monbiot was saying that was the impression he was getting from Brand’s more recent pronouncements, but I think he was still hoping that Brand would show this was not the case. The paragraph previous to the one your quote comes from helps to add context:
    “You seem to be seeking to shape the environmental debate to suit the businesses you work for. Our correspondence does nothing to dispel this impression. Can you disabuse me of my suspicions?”

    It seems that Monbiot still has respect for Brand, presumably because he feels they still share common ground, so I don’t see the contradiction in their sharing similar views on nuclear – though they are a long way from being the same views.

    I do question what you were aiming for in this post. The impresson I am getting is that you are looking to undermine Monbiot in a similar way to your attempts to undermine Romm. Can you disabuse me of my suspicions?

  5. Heraclitus says:

    Roddy, I’m assuming the reference in the headline, almost certainly Monbiot’s choice as it is his blog, is not lost on you. But reluctantly accepting something is not the same as being a fan of it.

  6. Heraclitus says:

    Sorry, that wasn’t his blog – I was looking at a different article. Still probably his choice of headline though I’d say.

  7. Roddy Campbell says:

    Heraclitus – the headline in the relevant article was:
    ‘Why Fukushima made me stop worrying and love nuclear power’
    I think it’s tricky not to read that as being a fan.
    First par: ‘As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.’
    Sounds like a fan.
    In the article he hardly even caveats away: ‘Some greens have wildly exaggerated the dangers of radioactive pollution.’
    He ends with ‘The crisis at Fukushima has converted me to the cause of nuclear power.’
    Don’t tell me he’s not now a supporter of nuclear power.  And a supporter is a fan.  In soccer anyway.
    A sinner repenteth, heaven rejoices.  He even, unbelievably, attacks local hydro for its environmental damage and pathetic generating ability.  (I’ve chosen not to generate local hydro at my home for precisely that reason, damage to birds bees insects and stuff like that).

  8. Marlowe Johnson says:

    ‘fan’ is short for ‘fanatic.  I seriously doubt Monbiot is a fan of nuclear.  Grudging acceptance at best i think.
    Interestingly the headline in the guardian article is subtly different compared to the one he chose for his blog.  In the former it does indeed say ‘love’ while the latter says ’embrace’ nuclear….those damn editors eh Keith 🙂

  9. Heraclitus says:

    The title is adapted from the subtitle of Dr Strangeglove and I think you are pushing it to read anything into that. If you think Monbiot is a supporter of nuclear energy in anyway equivalent to a supporter of a football club then you must have been to some truly desultory matches. I can just imagine the chants – “If only there were a better team we’d walk out of here”, “We loathe the liars who run this club for us”.

    He sums up his position in an earlier post on his blog:
    “Before I go any further, and I’m misinterpreted for the thousandth time, let me spell out once again what my position is. I have not gone nuclear. But, as long as the following four conditions are met, I will no longer oppose atomic energy.

    1. Its total emissions ““ from mine to dump ““ are taken into account, and demonstrate that it is a genuinely low-carbon option
    2. We know exactly how and where the waste is to be buried
    3. We know how much this will cost and who will pay
    4. There is a legal guarantee that no civil nuclear materials will be diverted for military purposes”

  10. Keith Kloor says:


    I think you’re splitting hairs on Monbiot’s position on nuclear power. Clearly, as his latest post suggests (and as Roddy points out in #7), Monbiot is becoming increasingly supportive of nuclear power, just as he is letting the scales fall from his eyes when viewing the limitations of renewables.

    As for what I was supposedly aiming for in my post (#4), you read intent into individual posts. As a blogger, I don’t aim to persuade people. I’m more interested in providing perspective for folks to ponder and information to follow up on, should there be interest. Of course, I like to tweak some people, too.

    In this case, when I read Monbiot’s recent column and the recent Foreign Policy interview with Brand, I was struck by the similarities of their views on nuclear power, coal, and renewable energy. That made me revisit Monbiot’s churlish smearing of Brand late last year, over one thing–Brand’s pigheadedness over mistakes he made on the DDT issues. Based on that alone, Monbiot launched a reprehensible character attack on Brand.

    There are lots of greens and climate advocates who are aghast at Monbiot’s last two columns (particularly the last one). It might be tempting for them to say he’s gone over the to the dark side, or has lost his marbles, or whatever. You know question his motives or rationale (instead of debating the merits of his argument), which is to say they would be treating him just as he has recently treated Brand.

  11. Heraclitus says:

    Keith, I can’t see any comparison between Monbiot’s grudging acceptance of nuclear – his move from being against nuclear on balance to being for nuclear on balance – and Brand’s peculiar position on DDT, which, as Monbiot said, seemed indistinguishable from an industry advocate’s.

    There may be many environmentalists who are aghast at Monbiot’s latest columns, but there are many more who aren’t and these, I would say, are in the large majority. I don’t know anyone personally who’s thought about the issues and is still unequivocally pro or anti nuclear. You must have been surprised that your ‘whipping post’ turned out not to be so much fun to watch after all. This seems to me another example of the narrative that is being built about those who support positive action to address anthropogenic climate change.

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