In order to improve conditions in the environment we need to protect nature from what has proven to be its greatest threat: Green activists and environmentalists.
While this may seem counter-intuitive, in the 25 years I have been involved in discussions on environmental-health concerns, I have understood how the complexity of the issues, the increasingly more accurate data and the speed of emerging technologies require a flexibility and an open-mindedness to adapt to the best available knowledge, technologies and tools at our disposal. In such situations, the biggest obstacle to protecting the environment is the dogmatic fundamentalism widely expressed by most green cultists, zealots and ideologues.
Over that quarter century I have had my fair share of confrontations with a wide range of “environmentalists” – from activists to gurus to politicians (to sisters-in-law). Two common threads in many of these interactions with activists became evident:
- Their inherent cynicism – that the world is going to hell in a hand-basket and anything we do will be too little too late. Cancers are rising, climate change will drive us to extinction, bee colony collapse will lead to mass starvation, the rising oceans are choking on plastic and humans have gone sterile. Rather than supporting innovative solutions, they demand that we stop doing most activities and practices that define western culture … but even that won’t be enough to save us and the planet.
- Their inherent narcissism – that only the greens are trying to save the planet and that most people, particularly industry shills like the Risk-Monger, are mindlessly polluting, wasting and destroying the planet. Good and evil are determined by whether you are with them … or if you question them, you are identified as a threat that must be isolated. Without a strong religion to structure meaning and worth today, virtue is sought (and signaled) by how environmentally purposeful our actions are.
Neither of these approaches are helpful.
So you can just imagine how these environmentalist zealots must feel when someone like the Risk-Monger comes up to them and informs them they are the biggest problem to the environment… “Banned!”, “Shut down!”, “Fired!”.
Maybe some examples of these closed-minded cults will help set the context.
Organic farming and agroecology
When farmers, seed breeders and agronomists are fighting to meet the challenge of feeding 10 billion more affluent people with higher yields on less land, protecting soil and fighting limited water resources at a time of climate stresses we find organic farmers and agroecologists rejecting technology and pining for a 19th century ideal of agriculture. Instead of no-till farming with cover crops and glyphosate, environmentalists espouse more tillage leading to soil depletion and erosion. Instead of higher yields on less land, weak organic yields will require more meadows and forests to be ploughed under to meet the food needs of present populations. Instead of seeds bred to reduce infestations and fungal attacks, politically-motivated agroecologists are happy to impoverish smallholders with more second-rate pesticides and less food security.
I am always stunned to see groups like Greenpeace, the Environmental Working Group, Pesticide Action Network and Friends of the Earth campaign against synthetic pesticides and seed breeding while tolerating far worse pesticides approved for organic farming. They would rather see farmers in developing countries suffer lower yields and higher exposure to older pesticides than allow them to use Bt cotton or brinjal. Their justification is not science but ideology and their green, anti-industry alternatives would be a disaster for the environment … but it was never about the environment.
Nuclear vs renewables
The best way to ensure a long future for coal-based power is to insist on banning nuclear power and promoting a renewables-only strategy. One need only look at Germany to realise how this madness also created a large population of energy-impoverished poor in Europe’s strongest economy. If environmentalists were serious about the need to fight climate change, then they would line up to demand more support for developing the next generation of nuclear reactors … but they don’t. Bill Gates is the one person seriously trying to get us there and we know how much the activists hate Bill.
Nor do activists wish to talk about the negative environmental burden of renewables (impact from production, maintenance and post-use), the poor yields and reliability. Renewable energy sources have different production levels according to geography. Trying to have a rational discussion with an environmental activist on the right energy mix for any region or economy is like trying to have a rational discussion with a toddler on eating his spinach – there is only one answer so you might as well give up.
The practicality of their ideal of powering our energy needs solely on renewables is not up for discussion or compromise. So as planners are prevented from bringing cleaner energy sources on line, we are stuck relying on fossil fuels for much longer than we should. But it was never about the environment.
As environmentalism has become the new religion, the doomsday ‘cataclysmists’ have sought the opportunity for political revolution. A group of far leftists formed an NGO about a year ago called Extinction Rebellion with the expressed goal of overthrowing the capitalist system and replacing it with a series of citizens’ assemblies. Revolutionaries know you can only succeed if the public is outraged, terrified or facing crisis and a bleak future. So the organisers focused on climate change and took a worst-case scenario passage out of an IPCC report, twisting it to declare that humanity would go extinct and we would face ecological collapse in a decade unless we acted immediately. Since governments are not capable of acting to stop this, the public will need to rise up and rebel against the capitalist system (ending all international trade, finance and industry). This must be done now to stop the mass extinction.
These activists were clever to make their campaign feel like a virtuous act (saving the planet for our future generations), making it seem like their (alarmist) science was being ignored in favour of the status quo of corporate lobbyists. Humanity however could not continue to do nothing. Extinction Rebellion provided no solutions (except a promise that citizens’ assemblies will make the necessary decisions in a post-industrial world) and none were needed … it was never about the environment.
Ideology over Ecology
Science doesn’t care what you believe – it is not dogmatic. It looks at all of the evidence and finds the best practices to solve problems, improve conditions and correct past errors. In the case of ecological challenges, scientists are not bound by ideological impediments like: “The solution must be based only on natural substances” or “The best solution must not involve large investments or corporations”. When ideologues come into ecological discussions and impose their environmental restrictions: solutions must be nature-based, not involving technologies that carry risks, must fit left-wing social justice theories …, we are no longer being scientific and any ecological solutions will be handicapped (and most likely worsen the situation).
Environmentalism is a very large church with many denominations, sects and cults. Like any church, the different actors find their places among the pews. The gurus and preachers need to write sermons to fulfil the needs of the vulnerable flock (climate, plastics, bees, obesity, pesticides, corporations…). The righteous zealots sit in the front pews genuflecting loudly to show off their virtue, the activists administer to the congregation’s needs, the true believers engage in theological debates while the choir provides the emotional service to the believers. The majority though occupy the pews near the exits, looking for meaning and virtue but aware of the diversity of churches outside. The sermons need to address those at the back of the church and often aim their fire and brimstone at the true heathens – the scientists. (See the Risk-Monger rip into these modern eco-preachers with his own fire and brimstone sermon.)
How have the scientists countered these ideologues who are doing real harm to the environment? With today’s social media immediacy and the breakdown of professional journalism, I would have to conclude: Quite poorly. The environmentalists are using all of the emotional tools to make reasonable solutions well-nigh impossible to implement.
- The Extinction Rebellion Armageddon Complex tactic has led a generation of young people to weep in the streets at the thought they will be the last generation of humans on the planet. Students are not marching on Fridays for more science and better investment in schools – they are marching to stop technology.
- The rise of naturopathosis (only natural substances are acceptable) has severely hampered the capacity of scientists to provide meaningful synthetic ecological solutions.
- The anti-corporate ad hominem attacks mean the funding potential for any innovations is severely restricted.
- The breakdown of dialogue and tolerance for innovative solutions has left science with an unworkable regulatory framework to provide meaningful ecological improvements. The main policy demands, after twenty years of the precautionary principle, is to pull back and stop most human activities influencing the environment (driving cars, eating meat, keeping pets, flying…).
Within this context, let me repeat the thesis of this article: In order to improve conditions in the environment we need to protect nature from what has proven to be its greatest threat: Green activists and environmentalists.
But it gets worse. How can science provide solutions when the mob has left their church and is out on the street with pitch-forks in hand.
It’s all about the Outrage!
Ideology and eco-religious virtues will only get you so far. Activist groups have recently found the hyperspace button for their campaigns: moral outrage and indignation. A campaign can’t go anywhere until the public feels wronged and demands a vengeance-driven extraction of justice (cue the Predatort lawyers, victims, lobbyists and evil corporate greed).
Any church or religion needs to counter its belief system and virtues against the forces of a perceived evil. For the eco-religious, satanic beasts manifest themselves in every doctrine. On climate, ExxonMobil is out to fund the deniers to destroy humanity. The greed of the bankers and financiers have destroyed economies and people’s homes. On public health, Big Pharma, McDonald’s and Coca-Cola share the goals of shortening our lives and increasing our suffering. On pollution, Volkswagen lied to us for profit while children choked on diesel fumes. And then there is the great Satan: Monsanto. A corporation so evil that even the demise of the company has not stopped the preachers from using its name to send a chill up the spine of every believer.
And scientists have been associated with all of these evils.
So an outraged eco-religious public has excluded the scientists and their evil corporations from the public discourse on ecological solutions. The main people who could actually practically address the ecological challenges we face today. They have been excluded from the room and the dialogue process has been restricted to only those who agree with the activists – who belong to their intolerant church.
Before we throw our hands up in the air and scream: “This is madness!”, we need to remind ourselves of one important point: This was never about the environment.