Volcano Revisionism Erupts

More

Was Chicken Little right? European conservatives and libertarians are asking pointed questions about the extent of the air traffic shutdown. There's a good summary of that point of view, with links, in the blog of the Telegraph's Brussels correspondent, Bruno Waterfield.

What's at stake is the concept of the Precautionary Principle. A pro-Government editorial in the Independent defends the decision, with some good comments.

Watch the expert post-mortems on Eyjafjallajökull. This isn't only about volcanoes and aircraft. It's about dealing with all uncertain risk, including nuclear power, anti-terrorism measures, earthquake and tsunami predictions, and vaccines and quarantines during epidemics. In Germany, homeland of the Precautionary Principle, Der Spiegel recently blasted "the Swine Flu Panic of 2009," praising Poland's health minister, Ewa Kopacz, for resisting international calls for mass vaccination -- ironically, on grounds of "first do no harm."

Scientific and engineering organizations will be studying the response to
Eyjafjallajökull for years. Whatever the outcome, their findings will help shape how governments deal with future uncertain risks. Already at least one respected NGO voice, the director of the Carnegie Endowment's European Center in Brussels, shares his second thoughts:

"Europe is the victim of the precautionary principle," Mr.[Fabrice] Pothier said, of "an uncoordinated overreaction to possible risk." That led to a huge oversupply in swine flu vaccine, for instance, and, as Mr. Quatremer noted, the European aversion to genetically modified grain.

"It's the same principle for the ash cloud," he said. "We fear everything and want maximum safety for our citizens," just like the way in the United States, he said, the society will go to extremes to protect citizens from terrorism. "No one can argue with security," he said.
Jump to comments
Presented by

Edward Tenner is a historian of technology and culture, and an affiliate of the Center for Arts and Cultural Policy at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School. He was a founding advisor of Smithsonian's Lemelson Center.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Adventures in Legal Weed

Colorado is now well into its first year as the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. How's it going? James Hamblin visits Aspen.

Video

What Makes a Story Great?

The storytellers behind House of CardsandThis American Life reflect on the creative process.

Video

Tracing Sriracha's Origin to Thailand

Ever wonder how the wildly popular hot sauce got its name? It all started in Si Racha.

Video

Where Confiscated Wildlife Ends Up

A government facility outside of Denver houses more than a million products of the illegal wildlife trade, from tigers and bears to bald eagles.

Video

Is Wine Healthy?

James Hamblin prepares to impress his date with knowledge about the health benefits of wine.

Video

The World's Largest Balloon Festival

Nine days, more than 700 balloons, and a whole lot of hot air

Writers

Up
Down

More in Technology

From This Author

Just In