6 January 1998

Robert Ashby, FRSA, Executive Director, British Humanist Association

Our general position is in favour of sustainable energy sources, and thus for greater investment in solar, wind and suchlike sources. However, we recognise that we cannot impose or expect curtailment in developing countries of the sort of energy luxuries that we, in the West, have enjoyed for so long (exploitation of coal, gas and oil resources) and thus must ourselves set an example first – otherwise it becomes extremely hypocritical of developed nations. Additionally, sustainable developments in Western nations will prove useful models for developing countries. This, of course, requires greater investment in research and development (R&D) – from governments, from industry, and from the consumer.

R&D being taken up and further developed by industry is the most important aspect, if the public perceptions are to change. The solar house would be approved of by most of the British public. However, there is no information on how one finds a solar house to live in! Local authority and private developers’ new residential builds could be a far more important source of progress.

At present, even if one wants to take greater personal responsibility for the environmental effects of one’s life it is hard to do so. There is limited availability of recycling facilities (and, at these points, there is no information displayed on what the recycled material is used for, and how much it helps the situation – marketing is not good at all!), little availability of information (or the goods themselves) on alternative energy sources. Thus, public demand is a nebulously "green" plea, not a sustained demand for specific items or utilities.

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