Monday, July 24, 2006

NANOHYPE AWARD for June 2006 - Chain Reaction June 2006

While at the IRGC Meeting in Zurich, I met a representative from Friends of the Earth - Australia. She informed me and others that the new issue of CHAIN REACTION: The National Magazine of Friends of the Earth - Australia, June 2006, was dedicated to nanotechnology. The following is about a single issue of a magazine of FOE - Australia and should not impugn other issues or the FOE elsewhere.

Though I haven't given out a NANOHYPE AWARD in some time, this issue of CHAIN REACTION deserves it.

Page 15 - "...it seems governments have overlooked funding research into the inherent risks of social disruption (maybe and rightly so because this is infinitely regressive), and harm to environment and health (not true though more might be done), associated with nanotechnology, and have been unwilling to critically assess nanotechnology's broader implications for society (see SEIN or NELSI related research in the USA and in the UK).

Page 16 - "We propose that a public participation steering group, comprising representatives from research, industry, union and non-government organizations, is established to oversee this programme (meaning all nanotechnology) and to ensure its transparency." AND "Resources should be provided to enable all participants to take part in these processes in a meaningful way." RESPONSE - Huh? Who is on this steering group? Is it international? How does it have jurisdiction over private industry? Is it regulatory? If so, EHS? Or more? I enjoy reading anarchist literature but this is beyond the pale of reason. Resources for ALL participants - who pays? The public? The government which is the public? The industry which would kill the growth associated with employment and health?

Page 17 - First reference to nanoparticles as the new asbestos (no explanation beyond that).

Page 17 - "It also appears likely that nanoparticles can penetrate the skin..." NOT in the research I have seen.

Page 18 - "...fullerenes have also been found to cause brain damage in fish." REBUTTED.

Page 18 - "The public may also be exposed to nanoparticles as a result of nanopollution...." HUH? What is this about?

Page 19 - Second reference to nanoparticles as new asbestos.

Page 19 - "Most of the press coverage that there has been around the dangers of nanotechnology have been more in the realms of science fiction rather than fact." NO TRUE - I am not sure what press material the author read.

Page 20 - "...Swiss Re has also warned that the uncertainty about the risks that nanotechnology and nano-pollution pose mean that they currently will not offer insurance to the industry." NO TRUE - some have suggested it will be very difficult but industry is covered today.

Page 20 - Third reference to nanoparticles as new asbestos with the kicker "where millions of people were exposed to a killer dust that even today kills tens of thousands of people across the world."

And it goes on and on.

Toward the end of the issue we get warnings about globalization and human enhancement. On page 42, it adds "...there are still no laws anywhere in the world government the use of nanotechnology or nanomaterials to ensure that they do not cause harm to the public..." NO TRUE - while there may not be specific legislation, nanomaterials are covered under a lot of rules and regulations.

Page 45 - "Stakeholder groups who will be impacted by nanotechnology (e.g., labour groups, public health organizations, disability rights advocates, civil liberties advocates, consumer organizations, environmental organization, farmers associations, medical groups, specialist and industry organizations) should also be involved... HERE'S THE RUB. Who is not a stakeholder? If everyone is involved, then we have a plan to completely shut down the industry by bureaucratic dampening. This strategy of over-participation isn't fooling anyone. If enough folks get involved nothing happens. Why hide a complete moratorium under the guise of false democratic theory?

Finally, nanotechnology offers the anti-globalization people a wonderful pulpit to resurrect their claims to a decentralized, tribal society where industry is run by collectives. Folks, we did learn a few things about these phenomena. First, tribalism or small barter economies can be very nasty. Second, when socialism is centrally planned most of its promises are short-circuited.

In conclusion, I am beginning to question how well self-reported non-governmental organizations represent anyone but themselves at times. While there are some outstanding exceptions, such as Environmental Defense, Greenpeace, and others, there are too many other groups that are a website and a federal ID number run by a handful of folks overclaiming their representativeness. At other times, there are huge loosely coordinated groups, with members like FOE Australia, who represent a very small number of its members when they advance socialist agendas in international meetings.

Stakeholders cannot include everyone since everyone does not have a stake. Most of the public have more to worry about than science policy and do not care an iota about policy decisions in this area. There are thresholds built into stakeholder theory, a subject I am writing about for a Wiley Book. So more on that later.

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