By Lizzie Kendal
At the Frontline Club on Friday 21 March, a screening of Pandora’s Promise was followed by a Q&A with director Robert Stone and environmental activist Mark Lynas who features in the film, which was moderated by Tom Clarke, Science Editor for Channel 4 News. The film asks the question whether nuclear energy is actually the answer to global warming and unsustainable fossil fuel consumption in our rapidly modernising world.
Robert Stone said:
“To me, just as a film maker, there was this delicious irony that the one technology that environmental activists had been united against for decades, may turn out – I believe will turn out – to be the one technology that is most necessary in solving today’s energy problems and climate change.”
Not surprisingly, this controversial topic sparked many questions and comments from the audience present.
One of the central issues that the film addresses is the need for a vast increase in sources of energy in our rapidly developing world. Lynas said:
“Even if you could convince a significant proportion of people in industrial countries to reduce their consumption by 10% or something, how does that compute compared to the needs to industrialize India, China, Brazil, sub–Saharan Africa? Now a great stat I saw the other day was that my fridge uses six times as much electricity as the average Ethiopian – just my fridge! . . . Vast amounts of potential energy consumption [are] going to be coming through the system globally if countries who are currently underdeveloped continue to emerge from poverty.”
In light of media coverage of meltdowns in Chernobyl and more recently, at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, the public is wary about the safety of using nuclear power as a solution. Clarke reiterated a question from the audience addressing this:
“As we go into a more uncertain future in terms of the climate and problems we might be facing environmentally, can we trust our engineers and our designers to make plants that are safe?”
“Compared to what? . . . We are facing an absolutely irreversible [environmental] catastrophe. . . . If we had a Fukushima every year somewhere in the world, that would still be better . . . than the absolute certainty of absolute catastrophe, who knows, 100 years from now if we just continue on that current path.”
When asked whether they were giving up on renewable energy sources Lynas added:
“You’ve got to be pragmatic about this, we are facing a catastrophic situation potentially, where we need realistic solutions.”
The documentary has hit some obstacles as far as distribution is concerned, as mainstream television channels in the UK have rejected it. Clarke asked:
“Do you think the problem is that British broadcasting is anti-nuclear? I don’t know, I worry personally as someone who tries to communicate science in my daily job, there is actually a lack of appetite amongst commissioners for things that arguably deal with technology, deal with ideas about technology, deal with ideological issues beyond humanitarian – though arguably this is exactly that.
“I’ve been making films for 30 years.” Stone added. “My films are shown by every broadcaster all over Europe – every film I’ve ever made. This film – nobody wants to touch it.”
“I think there is a generational bias, and that people who came of age in the Sixties and Seventies who . . . embraced the idea that the wind and solar world of extreme austerity. . . . That generation now they are the politicians and the broadcasters. . . . I’ve taken this film all over the world and young people totally get this.”
Pandora’s Promise is now available of Netflix and iTunes and is available in over 50 countries around the world. It calls for an end to prejudices against nuclear power and aims to debunk myths surrounding it. It is also a call to action. Stone concluded:
“Our generation of people who are alive today, we’ve got to make this decision. . . . We’ve got to fix this and we’ve got to fix it with the technology we have available now. . . . I am convinced that we can actually fix this. France in 15 years de-carbonised their electric grid, they built 50 reactors.”
Pandora’s Promise is released by November Films and now available on DVD.[vimeo clip_id=”78411058″ width=”630″ height=”354″]