Comment: Runaway disaster

日期:2019-03-02 02:09:06 作者:朱迮仝 阅读:

When Michael Heseltine, as President of the Board of Trade, decided to close Warren Spring, the government’s leading environmental laboratory near Stevenage, he gave two reasons. First, the transfer of Warren Spring scientists to AEA Technology’s Culham laboratory, which also has great environmental expertise, would create a National Environmental Technology Centre providing ‘a more comprehensive service’ than the two laboratories separately. Secondly, the move would save money. The money is still there to be saved, but the news that half the 150 Warren Spring staff invited to move to Culham are currently refusing to go seriously undermines the rationale for closure (see This Week). The deadline for decisions is Friday 17 September and, if so many scientists do decline the move, many expert teams will be broken up. With the destruction of these pools of expertise will go any hope the new centre has of bettering the service currently offered by AEA and Warren Spring. The value of any research institute resides mainly in the knowledge and skills of its scientists. Warren Spring’s expertise is a national resource valued not only by government but also by industry and environmentalists. Less than a third of the scientists in the laboratory’s group studying the deposition of acid rain have agreed to move to Culham. Yet its monitoring programme at 32 sites around Britain provides the nation’s basic data on acid rain. The group understands more than any other in Britain about how acid rain disperses. The wilful destruction of such a resource is not a pretty sight. Things are made worse by Heseltine’s continuing absence from his desk following his illness. The decision to close Warren Spring was Heseltine’s own, and no one else has the authority to delay, stop or reverse the process, however awful the consequences may be. As a result, the Warren Spring closure now resembles a runaway train. Warning signals flash unheeded and there is no one in the driver’s cab to apply the brakes in response to passengers as they desperately pull the emergency cord. It is far from certain that Heseltine will ever return to his job. If not, a replacement will have to be appointed by the time Parliament reassembles in October. He or she might just have the sense to stop the train,