by Rob Roper
Part 1 – Pop Environmentalism vs. Science
Patrick Moore was a founding member of Greenpeace, an organization he worked for from 1971 to 1986, championing many of its signature causes, such as saving the whales and ending the testing of hydrogen bombs. However, Moore and Greenpeace have parted ways with little love lost.
On its website, Greenpeace offers this warning: “Patrick Moore often misrepresents himself in the media as an environmental
‘expert’ or even an ‘environmentalist,’ while offering anti-environmental opinions on a wide range of issues and taking a distinctly anti-environmental stance.”
Moore, for his part, laments that fact that Greenpeace long ago left the world of science and logic and has for decades been peddling a brand of “pop-environmentalism,” which he describes as, “basically a populist kind of approach, appealing to emotions, using fear as a tactic – everybody should be afraid of everything they’re eating and drinking and breathing — and a lot of misinformation in the mix.”
“I personally believe that Greenpeace lost its way when the politicos got control of it, said Moore. “Basically, the far left got control of Greenpeace and much of the environmental movement.”
Real science ceased to be the driving force behind the activism in the 1980s, according to Moore. “I found myself one of five international directors of Greenpeace, the only one with a formal science education. The other directors, just by coincidence, happened to be more like political activists and social activists and even entrepreneurs looking for a career in the movement, but not necessarily with any environmental science in their background. And, we were beginning to deal with very complicated issues of chemistry and biology.”
“Now, you do not need a PHD in nuclear physics to be against nuclear war,” said Moore. “Perhaps you don’t really need to have knowledge of marine biology to want to save the great whales from extinction… But, when you start dealing with issues of toxics and issues of genetics, you probably should have some science background in order to make informed decisions on these subjects.”
Another aspect of the modern day “green” movement that Moore deplores as “the most counterproductive and nastiest aspects of environmental extremism” is its anti-humanist attitude. “A lot of the environmentalism today is sort of like the original sin in religion. The idea that we are born sinners.” Humans are the problem, an alien force that needs to be removed from the environment in order to cleanse it. Moore doesn’t see the world — or human beings — that way, and this is the source of much of the conflict he has with his former colleagues.
“One of the main lessons of ecology is that we are part of the environment,” said Moore. “We come from the environment. We evolved in the environment. So, we are as integral a part of the environment as any other species…. And, we’re not an evil part of the Earth’s environment.”
Moore offered an example of what he was talking about. “In the middle of the 80’s, my fellow directors decided we should ban chlorine worldwide as a Greenpeace campaign. That would be a global phase-out of all chlorine products. And, I just said, come on you guys. I mean, that’s one of the elements in the periodic table, one of the building blocks in the universe, the eleventh most common element in the Earth’s crust, and besides, adding it to drinking water was the biggest advance in the history of public health. Most of our pharmaceuticals are based on chlorine chemistry precisely because chlorine is toxic and can kill bacteria.”
“They have this naive vision of the world where there are no toxics,” he added, “where everything is non-toxic. Well, then, how do you kill the bacteria and stop waterborne disease from causing epidemics of cholera? They just would not accept the fact that there was this major exception…. That’s where they lost me.”
Moore applies a common sense, balanced and humanist approach to environmentalism. “When it comes to many of the issues where we are getting our food and our energy and our materials to build our civilization from the environment, you can’t just say ‘ban it.'”
Another example of inhumane environmental extremism Moore cites is genetically modified food crops, specifically golden rice.
“This is the problem with Greanpeace’s and their allies’ zero tolerance position on using the knowledge of genetics we have gained to modify our food crops to make them more nutritious, more productive, have better environmental qualities, etc. For Greenpeace there is no such thing as a good genetically modified crop. What about Golden Rice?”
“According to the World Health Organization,” Moore explained, “a quarter of a million children go blind every year in the rice eating countries, mainly in urban slums, because of vitamin A deficiency. Rice has no vitamin A in it. It also has no vitamin E, no iron, and it’s also lacking in lysine, one of the essential amino acids in proteins. Genetic engineering can fix that completely by putting those things in the rice…. Greenpeace says we’ll rip it out of the ground if you plant it…”
“And, why are they against golden rice? They say there may be ‘unforeseen environmental consequences.’ They don’t even know what they might be. They just say ‘unforeseen.’ Meanwhile, there’s a FACT of a quarter to half a million children going blind, and tens of millions of people with vitamin A deficiency, that could be cured overnight by planting this crop.”
Moore’s brand of a-political, science based, humanistic brand of environmentalism is a breath of fresh air, particularly in this den of pop-environmentalism that is Vermont.
Look for Part 2 of this interview with Patrick Moore in next Wednesday’s edition of True North Reports as he provides Vermonters with some cautionary lessons on energy policy as we consider shutting down our nuclear plant.