WHY WE
FOUNDED
emergency
reactor

Zion Lights

 

I’ve been a climate activist for as long as I can remember. I had eco-anxiety when I was a kid. Made my parents recycle before kerbside collection was a thing. Never learned to drive (and still don’t). Went vegan at 18 before it was cool, quit flying. I was arrested for climate direct action multiple times in my early 20s.

For many years I used to argue for renewables. I helped to found my university’s first ever green group, which we called the Campaigns Forum, and together we convinced our university to switch to ‘green’ – renewable – energy.

Then I had children, and I wrote an evidence-based book on green parenting which was endorsed by Bill McKibben, Natalie Bennett, and many other prominent greens. My book contained a chapter on vaccinations. I wanted to present the science to green parents, but I was attacked and called a ‘Big Pharma shill’…

I went back to university to learn to understand and communicate data better, and completed an MSc in Science Communication, while raising two daughters.

I have seen first-hand what poverty looks like, and it is never far from my mind because my family abroad still lives in that reality. They need energy justice, and I’m determined to create a space in the green movement to talk about addressing it. Environmental discussions cannot continue to exclude social justice issues.

The fact is that two billion of our fellow humans already live in a reality that is as terrible as the scenarios of potential societal collapse that are depicted by climate activists in wealthy nations.

I became a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion, finally able to talk about climate change to a large audience – but unable to talk about solutions. I started to question the idea of living with less energy, as I could see that the world around me was clearly finding new ways to use more energy, not less, all the time. I also read the science, and realised that solar and wind power cannot do it alone. And that they need a reliable back up energy source, which is currently usually fossil fuels.

I used to argue that battery storage to make renewables better was just around the corner, and I still hear people argue this today. But over time, I realised that I couldn’t keep making this same argument. I realised that climate change was getting worse and that we don’t have time to wait to turn more corners.

An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report eventually brought me around to nuclear energy. It wasn’t easy to admit that I had been wrong. Previously I had protested and spoken out against nuclear power. But rich countries need reliable, non carbon energy to wean off of fossil fuels, and poor countries need clean energy to develop. No matter how you look at it, the solution comes back to energy.

So I changed my mind, publicly, to advocate for nuclear – and some traditional green activists now call me a ‘nuclear industry shill’.

I don’t work for any industry. I am only a mother, raising daughters, with family living in poverty in the Punjab, who is worried about climate change and wants future generations to inherit a better world.

The changes that we make to address climate change must be based on robust evidence, else we risk making things worse instead of better. We cannot continue to ‘shill’ our way through the Anthropocene. We need to react now, rationally, based on scientific evidence.

I have co-founded Emergency Reactor with this in mind. I hope you’ll get involved.

Zion Lights, Co-Founder

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