Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Now that's what I call a responsible job. According to George Monbiot, writing in the Guardian about nuclear power, bureaucrats making the wrong decision about British energy policy must be held responsible for the consequences ... all the consequences, for as long as the Earth shall abide. He writes:
And how does any system - political or technological - cope with the timescales involved? If, as a result of slow leakage into the groundwater, radioactive materials from a burial site were to kill an average of only one person a year for one million years, those who made the decision to bury them will - through their infinitesimal and unrecorded impacts - be responsible for the deaths of a million people.
The scene: Bureaucrat Heaven, Anno Domini one million...


SECRETARY: Oh, Mr Pye, come quick, someone just broke down the door of our cloud.

Commotion. Smoke grenades. RoomCloud fills with heavily armed S.W.A.T. angels.

MR PYE: What is the meaning of this?

OFFICER (Shoving ID card under Pye's nose) Police raid! J S Pye KCMG, you are under arrest.

MR PYE: W-w-what have I done?

OFFICER: Like you didn't know. Stand away from the desk. Don't move those wings.

MR PYE: You can't do this! This cloud is the property of the Department of Celestial Affairs. I'll have you know that I am on very good terms with Minister Shang-Ti himself.

SECRETARY (helpfully): The Minister gave Mr Pye a medal. One million years devoted service, it said.

OFFICER: The Minister sent me, perp. Says here that you have caused the untimely deaths of one million persons over the period 2006 - 1,002,006 AD.

MR PYE: But - but - I lived a virtuous life. Dam-d-d-darn it, I'm in heaven. You can't take that away from me because of the cumulative consequences of one mistake propagated over a period a hundred times longer than civilisation had existed up till then - (Suddenly remembering he is on home ground) Just you wait a minute! (Turns to computer screen, types frantically) It says here that you have caused the deaths of five trillion people over the the last million years as a result of your life on Earth as a Guardian columnist.

OFFICER MONBIOT: Nice try, perp, but no cigar ...

SECRETARY: I should hope not. Heaven has a strict no-smoking policy.

OFFICER MONBIOT: ... I'll have you know that I got a free pardon for the Guardian stuff.

MR PYE (bewildered): You mean that even after the untold misery caused throughout human and post-human history by the economic and philosophical fallacies you helped propagate, they let you off?

OFFICER MONBIOT: Sheesh, yeah. That was just politics. Honest mistake.

MR PYE: Exactly! My point exactly! Don't you see that my little mistake with the nuclear waste is just the same ...

OFFICER MONBIOT: Nuclear waste? What are you talking about? Museums down on Earth pay good money for that stuff nowadays. No, your rap sheet doesn't mention any nuclear waste. J S Pye, it is my duty to inform you that the Fifth, Sixth and Seventh Galactic Plagues all originated from your decision on or about the sixth of February 2006 when caught without a Kleenex to surreptitiously wipe your nose on your sleeve. Now say goodbye to your departmental harp, evildoer. 'Cos you are going down.

Afterthought: If you're wondering why I made Mr Monbiot an angel rather than a mere saint in my little drama, it's because he's a Guardian angel.

After-afterthought: And his police badge says, "LAPD."