Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

Transition Culture has moved

I no longer blog on this site. You can now find me, my general blogs, and the work I am doing researching my forthcoming book on imagination, on my new blog.

6 Dec 2006

The Idiocy of Renewing Trident

trident Tony Blair, despite talking about climate change as being the greatest threat facing humanity, has just announced that he intends to renew the UK’s Trident missile capability, at a cost of £20 billion. Good move. Of course we could have spent the money on a huge programme of energy efficiency and building of local food and energy infrastructure which would have made us less oil dependent and thereby less of a target but no, Trident it is. Among all the column inches on this subject, my favourite is a letter in today’s Guardian from David Collins. *”Why all this fuss about the need for a new Trident? We haven’t used the old ones yet”*.

Categories: General

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.


Jason Cole
6 Dec 2:58pm

I don’t think the Government really have much of a choice about this:

James Taylor
7 Dec 10:52am

I can’t see the value or relevance in suggesting we have no choice in deciding whether to have nuclear weapons or not by referring to some 1958 US/UK Mutual Defence Agreement.

1) I don’t know the ins and outs of this agreement, but nothing in the Wikipedia entry seems to provide ant ‘legal’ reason why we can’t choose not to have nuclear weapons.

2) In fact the Wikipedia entry refers to the whole issue of how UK dependence on US missile systems is in fact a breach on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

3) Ignoring all of that, the idea that something agreed nearly 50 years ago can’t be changed now is just poppycock.

4) The people choose what the Government does. Sadly our democracy is representative not participatory, even on issues as important as this – but we can still choose candidates that share our views on this issue, and lobby our representatives to represent our views. We can support groups that campaign on this issue, and we can campaign on this issue ourselves. To act like it is simply the government that chooses, and then to say they don’t have a choice – is a double dereliction of our duty to affect positive change in the world and to act as merely a victim of circumstance.

Jason Cole
7 Dec 2:02pm

The point is, on this issue, the UK is intertwined with the US. The people do NOT choose what the Government does in terms of defence of the realm. That’s a matter for the security services.

Naive. So naive.

James Taylor
7 Dec 4:34pm

What’s your response to this situation, as you’ve not chosen “naivety”?

Cowtowing to the powers be?, living within a slave mind set?, accepting that whatever happens to you is outside your control? Perhaps it suits you to feel you don’t have any power, then you don’t have to do anything about the issue?

Everytime someone dismisses their power with statements like yours – they create a self-fufilling situation. They’re saying I am a victim.

As I understand it you make two further statements to support your initial statement:

1) “On this issue, the UK is intertwined with the US.”

I agree, but I don’t see why the fact that on this issue as with many others the fact that we have a joint history means there is no point questioning that relationship and trying to change it.

International relationships change all the time. They have done so in the past they will do so in the future. Such changes are related to a range of factors, public opinion is one of them.

The UK public is a lot less supportive of US military policy dictating UK actions post the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.

2) “The people do NOT choose what the Government does in terms of defence of the realm”

As I stated in my initial response, NO we do not have a participatory democracy, one in which we would asked to decide actions in “defence of the realm”.

However we do choose our Governments, and not all UK political parties support the UK maintaining an “independent” nuclear deterrent.

Not all MP’s within parties which do apparently support such a nuclear deterrent support it themselves. By backing these politicians we help to effect change in the policies of those parties. An Alternative White Paper on Trident has been delivered to Downing Street by a group including Michael Meacher MP, Linda Riordan MP, Katy Clark MP, Gavin Strang MP, Jeremy Corbyn MP, and Kate Hudson, Chair of CND.

We can express our feelings about this issue directly to decision makers. You can contact your MP directly and express your opinion. You can add your name to the e-petition on the 10 Downing Street website calling on the Prime Minister to “to champion the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, by not replacing the Trident nuclear weapons system”. It is amongst the most popular petitions on the site and curently has over 500 signatories.

Now, I gather from your patronising tone that you write off actions such as these, out of hand as ineffectual and illusory.

Well if you don’t try them you’ll never know will you? How about taking a chance that you actually do have some power and giving it a go, I don’t see that you’ve got anything to lose?

Jason Cole
7 Dec 5:27pm

We don’t have an “independent” nuclear deterrent, not since 1958.

I’d argue that the decision was effectively made a couple of years ago – the 1958 agreement was extended to 2014 and thus influences every Government decision on the matter during this period. I would have bet money that Trident would either be extended or replaced no matter how many MPs like it or not. Margaret Beckett spoke volumes when she said, “I reluctantly accept the need for replacement”.

“Living a slave mind set”? Not exactly. On issues where we can have some successful influence, such as Peak Oil and Climate Change, I believe it’s worth the effort.

On issues such as defence of the realm, it’s pointless. It’s also a distraction; speeches made about Nuclear Weapons during a Climate Change march only serves to dilute the message.

I would be willing to bet that, if £20bn wasn’t spent on Trident, the money would go to the NHS. It wouldn’t go to PO/CC mitigation, because it’s still not something the majority of the public care enough about. I believe that’s where we should be directing the whole of our efforts.

James Taylor
8 Dec 9:49am

I’m pleased to see that you believe we can have some successful influence in government policy. I think that influence might extend into more areas than you, but we can agree to differ on that.

In relation to the UK nuclear deterrent, I put the word independent in inverted commas too as I don’t consider it to be independent either, so we agree on that (come to think of it, I probably should have put deterrent in inverted commas too).

I’m not sure that we can neatly separate all these issues however. How long before peak oil and climate change become “defence of the realm” issues?

Do we engage militarily in the middle east to try and secure fossil fuel resources or do we seek to move toward an alternative energy programme at home? Some people would argue that peak oil is already a defence of the realm issue.

Several reports issued recently suggest that climate change will be the greatest source of global instability in the future. Sea level rise, water shortages, declines in agricultural output etc. are all likely to lead to large migrations of populations. These issues could quickly become “defence of the realm” ones for the UK.

In regards to the nuclear issue, we can’t ignore the relationship between the nuclear weapons and nuclear energy industries. Maintaining a nuclear weapons capability also supports a nuclear energy industry and the attitude towards energy policy that appears to follow.

£20bn (plus a lot more probably) spent will result in a lot of carbon going in to the atmosphere. If that money and concommitant carbon emissions were spent on building long term infrastructure in the NHS for example or elsewhere it would obviously be a better use of energy than producing weapons. It would be interesting to see the carbon footprint of the nuclear weapons industry.

So I think that they are connected issues (at the end of the day everything is). I think that you are quite right though, if you think that your energy is best and most effectively directed on the issues of Peak Oil and Climate Change, to do that. Everybody must act where they feel they can be most effective. I hope that you can continue to respect those people who will campaign on more issues and on different issues.

James Taylor
8 Dec 11:29am


I’ve referred to our dialogue in a post here:

I think that I’ve presented your case fairly there, but please feel free to comment if you want to add anything.

Best Wishes,


Jason Cole
11 Dec 7:01pm

Hi James

Nice article on “The Whole Of Our Efforts”. You have indeed both understood and communicated my position well.

Regarding the overlap, I’ll leave you with this idea. National security depends on energy security, so those who campaign relentlessly against wind farms are effectively terrorists!

Good luck