I have two wonderful daughters, Arwyn (age 9) and Raven (age 6.5), who are both enthusiastic science fans and nature lovers. They enjoy The Magic School Bus, Space Sessions (the album by Canadian astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield), learning about planets, fossils and dinosaurs, building with Lego, wild swimming, rock-pooling, dressing up, cycling, and much more.
My youngest daughter’s middle name is Ada. They have many illustrated science books and a real thirst for knowledge.
My children are lucky. They go to good schools, get enough food to eat, and have a safe home. Many of my cousins who live in the Punjab region of India, where my parents emigrated from to the UK in the 1970s, lack access to the things that make life so great for us.
I visited the Punjab in my 20s and was utterly saddened by the way my cousins live in such poverty in the villages, with so much uncertainty and without the infrastructure they need to have a better standard of living. Life for them is a struggle, without the safety nets that come with industrialisation which, let’s face it, depends upon masses of energy that they don’t yet have access to. With the impacts of climate change, they face even more difficult conditions.
I find this difficult to discuss with my daughters. I could focus on the doom and gloom side
of things as many other environmentalists do, but I don’t believe that taking the joy out of our lives will compensate for the struggle in other people’s lives. Perhaps that too makes me an outlier of sorts, but by now I’m used to that.
I believe that the scientific method should be celebrated. Without it, we would know so little about ourselves, the world around us, and the universe. I have a Carl Sagan quote tattooed on my arm and the Pale Blue Dot speech mounted on my bedroom wall.
I’ve marveled at Jupiter's stripes and been wowed by the beauty of the Ring Nebula through my telescope, and I’ve given countless talks on astronomy to children and adults. In 2018 I gave a TEDx talk on stargazing.
I’ve taken my children to discover fossils in Dorset, made a handmade outfit of Zita the Spacegirl for my oldest daughter for World Book Day at her request, and… I think you get the picture.
I was against nuclear power for a long time, and although I didn’t actively organise anti-nuclear rallies, I wrote about nuclear in a negative light and attended various protests with anti-nuclear elements.
To be frank, as an environmentalist surrounded by other environmentalists, it was simply part and parcel to be anti-nuclear. Many of us didn’t even realise that we were doing it. Few of us dared to question it.
As I explained in the public letter in which I came out as pro-nuclear, I was very active in Extinction Rebellion UK (XR UK) with the team that founded the movement, but I couldn’t openly advocate for nuclear in XR due to my role as a spokesperson for the organisation.
However, I noticed that pro-renewables language and campaigns crept into some of what XR did in the same way that anti-nuclear sentiments had surrounded me for most of my life, and I questioned this imbalance.
It’s a difficult thing to step away from your tribe and question long- and often deeply-held
personal beliefs. I wasn’t sure where I fit any more in terms of politics or the environmental movement, and the more I read about nuclear, the more I realised that I couldn’t be against it.
I had asked to ensure that evidence had an advocate, and this weighed on my mind.
I decided to study the science behind effective science advocacy, so I completed an MSc in Science Communication.
This can be a challenging vocation, as I found when my evidence-based book on green parenting was published and the chapter on vaccines, which debunked many of the myths surrounding them, enraged some readers. I had to deal with an unexpected torrent of hate mail and claims that I was being paid by ‘Big Pharma’. This isn’t pleasant: but I felt then about vaccines as I feel now about nuclear power: compelled to communicate the truth.
It’s easy to campaign against things, but what do we stand for?
If nuclear technology was invented today, I believe we would celebrate it as the clean energy solution it is. It can get us
to net zero emissions. It can bring down air pollution. It can help to lift people out of poverty.
All of these things are, to me, solutions worth talking about and celebrating.
When I decided to become vocal about nuclear, I told myself that it would be worth the hate mail because my aim was to help make the world a better place. It’s not an easy fight, but it’s one worth getting into the ring for. Only, I’m more likely to start explaining how the MilkyWay got its name and why we shouldn’t fear nuclear waste, than throw any punches.
I’ve been on numerous TV programs and podcasts, and - in short - I’ve realised that I’m not
as alone as I thought I was. Perhaps being an outlier is more common than we think.
Either way, when it comes to discussing solutions and discussing nuclear, one thing’s for sure. For this green parent, mum’s no longer the word.