The Australian branch of Friends of the Earth, who really really hate nanotechnology, yes really, and will do anything they can to stop it (despite not being quite sure what it is) are threatening apoplexy, tantrums and running naked through the streets of Canberra painted blue as a result of the Australian Governments decision to have a “Nanodialogue on Nanotechnology and Food Regulation.”
The do seem rather Stalinist when it comes to the idea any discussion of the role of nanotechnologies, and have refused to take part with the assertion that the “primary purpose (of the Australian Office of Nanotechnology) in this area is to promote uncritical public acceptance of nanotechnology.”This does seem a little hypocritical for an organisation which seems to have gone out of its way to promote uncritical public hostility to nanotechnologies.
Part of FoE’s beef is that the government has made a decision to fund nanotechnology in Australia without consulting every Tom, Dick or Bruce about what they are funding, and giving them an option to veto any bit of science funding that they don’t like the look of. Unfortunately for FoE, the concept of representative democracy is something they can add to their list of things they don’t quite understand. Another addition could be how science actually works – there is no simple path from science to application, as this list of unintended consequences of science, quite brilliantly illustrates, with accidents leading to the invention of the telephone, antibiotics and photography.
They have even gone as far as to send a letter to the Australian Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Kim Carr, outlining the circumstances under which they would take part – presumably having an anti nano ranter on stage would appease them.
What really worries me is not so much that FoE seem to be rather dim when it comes to handling ideas any more complex than ‘environment good – everything else bad” but the venomous hostility of some NGOs, FoE Australia included, to any kind of informed and rational debate about nanotechnologies. I can quite understand why Jim Jong-Il might not want a public debate on his handling of the North Korean economy, but what on earth are the Friends of the Earth so afraid of?