Environmentalism has begun to splinter...But perhaps the biggest rift is over nuclear power. Here, disagreements reach the most rarefied levels. James Lovelock, a chemist who invented the Gaia hypothesis (the earth is a balance of interdependent mechanisms) and is godfather to a generation of greens, provoked much anger and soul-searching in 2004 when he declared that nuclear power offered the only credible solution to climate change.
Opposition to atomic energy, said Mr Lovelock, was based on “irrational fear fed by Hollywood-style fiction, the Green lobbies and the media”. Equally influential organisations such as Friends of the Earth, the Sierra Club and Greenpeace preach the traditional anti-atomic doctrine.
Henry Kissinger’s remark about student politics—that they are so vicious because the stakes are so small—applies equally well to hardcore Marxists. With little chance of ever achieving political power, they can afford internecine warfare.
Today’s greens have the opposite problem. Environmentalism has moved from a kooky obsession of beardy left-wingers to something that even George Bush, an oilman-turned-president, must at least pay lip-service to.
From The Economist