London: How do you respond to the argument that technology is not inherently good or bad, it’s how we use it that matters.
Mander: That’s the major homily of our time. And it’s a very serious mistake. The idea that technology is neutral — that it doesn’t have social, political and environmental characteristics — is really dangerous.
Consider nuclear power and solar power. Both are energy forms, but they have entirely different effects on the system. Nuclear power is an inherently centralized technology. It requires centralized military-industrial institutions. Nobody knows what to do about 250,000 years of dangerous wastes. If we were to judge energy only in terms of who uses it, that would be like saying, “Well, if some good people got together and ran the nuclear power industry, the wastes wouldn’t have to be safeguarded for 250,000 years.” But these things are intrinsic to the technology. It’s not a question of whether good people use them.
Solar technology is the exact opposite — it is inherently localizing. A couple of people can easily put it together, it’s not expensive to use, the community can run it without having to hook up to the grid, and it has no lasting negative effects.