During the recent power outages and denial of interweb service, I took up reading a book I picked up a while back on a subject I have always had questions: The Case for Nukes: How We Can Beat Global Warming and Create a Free, Open, and Magnificent Future by Robert Zubrin (Polaris Books 2023). It’s a very thoughtful argument that debunks the toxic falsehoods that have been spread to dissuade us from using it by the ignorant, the fearful, and the fanatical from returning to the use of Nuclear power as a remedy to our festering Twenty First Century problems. Here’s a quick synopsis of what I culled from his book.
In a very literal sense, energy technologies have molded humanity. The invention of cooking with fire by those small brained Homo Habilis dudes cut the metabolic energy needed to digest meat, making it safer to consume and allowing the primates to eat more small animals or their enemies. Evolution directed some of these surplus calories to their brains, enabling the hungry organ to grow in size and ability, leading to the industrious little guys, Homo Erectus, the forerunner (to) us, the Bozo Sapien.
Over the millennia, humans learned to harness fire to smoke meats, craft pottery, bend metal, and more, forming much of the material basis of the pre-fossil fuel world. Wood power (or what is now called “biomass”) was such a good deal that parts of Europe started running out of forests in the 1700s. Britain was the first nation to innovate itself out of this dilemma, which they did by burning coal.
Mastering coal and other fossil fuels prevented energy scarcity, but also led to an unforeseen revolution in human life. Synthetic fertilizer, electricity, cars, plastics, smart phones, x-rays, ChatGPT—nearly all elements of modern life—exist because of fossil fuels. Today billions of people enjoy a prosperity that would be unimaginable to their ancestors.
This history of energy begins The Case for Nukes. Robert Zubrin, an American aerospace engineer of three decades tells the history of energy to set the stage for one of his core arguments, that humanity should use more energy. Over 700 million people languish in extreme poverty today and billions have not reached a standard of living equivalent to that of a developed country.
In contrast, radical environmentalists urge people to use less energy, which they believe is necessary to avert climate and ecological apocalypse. Zubrin contends that slashing energy use would be so harmful as to be borderline genocidal, but he does recognizes that the environmental harms of fossil fuels are unsustainable. Thus he endorses nuclear energy, asserting that only atomic energy can lift all people out of poverty while conserving the environment.
The fabulously talented and visually stunning Diogenes Sarcastica™ closes her post by gleefully declaring, “I say let’s start smashing some fucking atoms and keep the lights on,” a proposal with which I must enthusiastically agree; by gum, those fucking atoms have it coming. Before that beautiful, beautiful dream can hope to become a reality, though, it will be necessary to dispense with a great many Luddite shitlibs, which requirement I consider to be more plus than minus—a side benefit, shall we say, making the whole thing a win-win for everyone that matters.