HOME One World, One Village

If our world were a village of 1,000 people, what would its ethnic and religious composition be? Well, in the village there would be:

There would be:

Of these people:

Source: From Freres Sans Frontieres, quoted in World Development Forum, Vol. 8, No.7.

I wonder... How would we treat those less fortunate than us if we all lived in the same village? How much would the world condition be improved if a fraction of the energies we now expend on self-interested bickering were channeled to the betterment of all? It's a fact that the standard of living is directly correlated to an adequate supply of energy. Should we help others in obtaining access to energy? Don't all people have the right to a more equitable quality of life than what currently is the case? We in North America enjoy a position of power and privilege. Do we not have a commensurate obligation?

But, why should you give to others when there is no direct return? Ah, the Prisoner's Dilemma: should you cooperate in the hope that others will too (and thereby reap mutual rewards) or should you defect (and thereby out-compete the others)?

Whether you are a nuclear professional, a student contemplating a career in nuclear, a staunch anti-nuke, someone interested in looking to learn more about nuclear or whomever, it is worthwhile taking a step back and reflecting on the bigger picture once in awhile because the nuclear option, like all options, cannot be judged in isolation. The majority of people limit their scope to things that affect them directly. This translates to a few weeks in time and their neighbourhood in space - to, in essence, their circle of trust. This is human nature - the family and tribe are fundamental social units. This "local optimization" approach makes sense to the individual. But it is neither surprising or difficult to discern that this often leads to decidedly non-optimum results overall. (For more on the dynamics of human interaction, check out the Prisoner's Dilemma).

But let's get right to the heart of the matter. We banter back and forth, arguing the pros and cons of nuclear power, debating the risks and navel gaze on waste disposal policy, and basically armchair quarterback with genuine conviction from a position of self-proclaimed righteousness, from a position of privilege ... a position of privilege that, though we have worked hard and long to get to the position we are now in, is a result more of an accident of birth than anything else. Here I am and there you are, using computer technology that we didn't create, existing in a society that provides us with a vast array of goods and services with very little expenditure of energy on our part. We were born with the deck stacked in our favour. We're educated, well-fed, secure and protected. If the world were a ship, we'd be in the first class cabins. North Americans constitute about 5% of the world's people - they are on the top of the heap. And you are most likely well educated and upwardly mobile, representative of the top 20% of that 5%. The nub of the matter is that you and I are in a position of relative privilege and power compared to the rest of the world, compared to 99% of the 6 billion souls that populate this earth. It is, thus, unlikely that the decisions that we make to optimize our own patch are the right global decisions.