August 20, 2017

Covering up the future

The Foreword by Edward Goldsmith for Cover up: the facts they don’t want you to know by Nicholas Hildyard, co-editor of The Ecologist. Published by New English Library in 1981 (hardback) and 1983 (paperback).


In October 1980, Mr Trevor Brown, head of the chemical division at Aldermaston responsible for processing weapons grade plutonium, was officially reprimanded by the Ministry of Defence. His offence was a statement on a BBC television programme that “an obsession with secrecy had possibly lowered safety standards” at Aldermaston.

Clearly, such a statement cannot be construed as jeopardising our national defence. Nor can Mr Brown be accused of untruthfulness; indeed his thesis has now been vindicated at an official inquiry conducted by Sir Edward Pochin.

What he was in fact accused of is: failure to cooperate with his employers in covering up the now established fact that employees at the nuclear establishment are being subjected, during the course of their work, to unacceptably high levels of radiation.

The only object of such a cover-up is to permit the perpetuation of conditions that must ultimately condemn a lot of people to a slow and lingering death from cancer or to the psychological torture of bringing up malformed children. This, most reasonable people would concede, is a more anti-social thing to do than to, say, rob a bank and thereby simply deprive a few people of their surplus cash. Yet unlike a bank robbery it is, in effect at least, quite legal.

The law provides no means of preventing the government and industry from concealing information from the public, nor from providing it with misleading or indeed downright false information, which Mr Brown would undoubtedly have been expected to do had he been Aldermaston’s spokesman on safety matters.

What Mr Brown has been reprimanded for is, in fact, nothing more than his refusal to join a callous and cynical conspiracy to commit what should unquestionably be regarded as a serious crime.

If this incident were an isolated one there would be no need for Nicholas Hildyard’s book, but of course it is not. In the last decades, the public has been misinformed and indeed deliberately lied to, over and over again, both by industry and government to render acceptable to it activities which may be desirable on short-term and political and economic grounds, but which are highly undesirable on biological, ecological and social grounds and hence totally contrary to the medium – and long-term interests of the public.

What is more, many of these activities, I am quite sure, would never have been accepted by the public if their true effects had not been so systematically and unscrupulously dissimulated. This is undoubtedly the case with the spraying of 93 percent of our crops with synthetic organic pesticides, residues of which are present in just about all the food for sale in our shops.

It is undoubtedly the case with the re-treatment of spent fuel at Windscale which is leading to the irreversible contamination of the Irish Sea and of its fish life with caesium and plutonium, and it is also the case with the purposeful contamination of our food by the food-processing industry with known carcinogens such as the coal-based artificial colorants.

The trouble is that if the public does not rapidly become aware of the extent to which it is being misinformed on such critical matters then the economy will have become so totally dependent on the continuation of these highly polluting activities that they will have become virtually unstoppable. For instance, once our industry has become totally dependent for its electricity on nuclear power, even if that dependence is seen to coincide with an escalating cancer-rate, an increase in the number and seriousness of accidents at nuclear installations and a corresponding increase of radioactivity in our environment, the government will have no choice but to continue to deny any correlation.

It is difficult to avoid wondering how the government is going to render acceptable to the public such biologically suicidal enterprises as the projected construction and operation of a range of 1,000 megawatt breeder reactors, or the large scale ‘domestication’ of microorganisms by means of genetic engineering which must inevitably lead to the exposure of human populations to man-made viruses and bacteria of which they have had no evolutionary experience.

In order to succeed in doing so, cover-up techniques will have to be considerably refined. The cover-up will have to become a fine art – the literary genre of the last decades of the 20th century as the novel was of the 19th and the epic poem of the Homeric Age. It will have to develop a machinery and expertise of its own. It will also need to acquire the sort of funds to pay for the armies of researchers, copywriters and sundry other propagandists. Only then will it be remotely possible to render acceptable to the long-suffering public the Frankenstein-like monsters that our scientists have conjured up, in what can only be a futile attempt to regild their tarnished image and to resuscitate our collapsing economy.

This being so, we must pay a great deal of attention to Nicholas Hildyard’s book – and it must inspire a concerted action on the part of all responsible people to prevent the otherwise inevitable development of a ‘cover-up society’.

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