A criticism of many green parties and organisations is that they are watermelons with a green shell covering a red heart.
Dr Patrick Moore, a founding member of Greenpeace, provides support for that contention in his book Confessions of Greenpeace dropout: the making of a sensible environmentalist.
You could call me a Greenpeace dropout, but that is not an entirely accurate description of how or why I left the organization 15 years after I helped create it. I’d like to think Greenpeace left me, rather than the other way around, but that too is not entirely correct.
The truth is Greenpeace and I underwent divergent evolutions. I became a sensible environmentalist; Greenpeace became increasingly senseless as it adopted an agenda that is antiscience, antibusiness, and downright antihuman. . .
While it might be anti-business, Greenpeace is not above exploiting people or using dubious commercial methods to raise money and lure new recruits.
Those people, usually young, who badger you to join up in the street are on commission and only get paid if and when those they sign up don’t pull out within the few day’s grace period in which they’re permitted to do so after joining.
. . . During the early 1980s two things happened that altered my perspective on the direction in which environmentalism, in general, and Greenpeace, in particular, were heading. The first was my introduction to the concept of sustainable development at a global meeting of environmentalists. The second was the adoption of policies by my fellow Greenpeacers that I considered extremist and irrational. These two developments would set the stage for my transformation from a radical activist into a sensible environmentalist.
In 1982, the United Nations held a conference in Nairobi to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the first UN Environment Conference in Stockholm, which I had also attended. I was one of 85 environmental leaders from around the world who were invited to craft a statement of our collective goals for environmental protection. It quickly became apparent there were two nearly opposite perspectives in the room—the antidevelopment perspective of environmentalists from wealthy industrialized countries and the prodevelopment perspective of environmentalists from the poor developing countries.
As one developing country activist put it, taking a stand against development in his woefully poor country would get him laughed out of the room. It was hard to argue with his position. A well-fed person has many problems, a hungry person has but one. The same is true for development, or lack of it. We could see the tragic reality of poverty on the outskirts of our Kenyan host city. Those of us from industrialized countries recognized we had to be in favor of some kind of development, preferably the kind that didn’t ruin the environment in the process. Thus the concept of sustainable development was born.
This was when I first fully realized there was another step beyond pure environmental activism. The real challenge was to figure out how to take the environmental values we had helped create and weave them into the social and economic fabric of our culture. This had to be done in ways that didn’t undermine the economy and were socially acceptable. It was clearly a question of careful balance, not dogmatic adherence to a single principle. . .
It is rank hypocrisy for people from developed countries with all the benefits of first world economies and the first world infrastructure and services that supports to tell people in poor countries development is bad.
Sustainable development is the balance between economic, environmental and social requirements. Its proponents aren’t anti-business or anti-people and they welcome science because it provides evidence-based information and solutions rather than greenwash which might look fine but might do no good and at times causes harm to the environment.
An example of this is recycling. It certainly reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills but the environmental cost of transporting and processing is sometimes greater than that of dumping.
. . . By the early 1980s a majority of the public, at least in the Western democracies, agreed with us that the environment should be taken into account in all our activities. When most people agree with you it is probably time to stop beating them over the head and sit down with them to seek solutions to our environmental problems.
At the same time I chose to become less militant and more diplomatic, my Greenpeace colleagues became more extreme and intolerant of dissenting opinions from within.
In the early days we debated complex issues openly and often. It was a wonderful group to engage with in wide-ranging environmental policy discussions. The intellectual energy in the organization was infectious. We frequently disagreed about specific issues, yet our ultimate vision was largely shared. Importantly, we strove to be scientifically accurate. For years this had been the topic of many of our internal debates. I was the only Greenpeace activist with a PhD in ecology, and because I wouldn’t allow exaggeration beyond reason I quickly earned the nickname “Dr. Truth.” It wasn’t always meant as a compliment. Despite my efforts, the movement abandoned science and logic somewhere in the mid-1980s, just as society was adopting the more reasonable items on our environmental agenda.
Ironically, this retreat from science and logic was partly a response to society’s growing acceptance of environmental values. Some activists simply couldn’t make the transition from confrontation to consensus; it was as if they needed a common enemy. When a majority of people decide they agree with all your reasonable ideas the only way you can remain confrontational and antiestablishment is to adopt ever more extreme positions, eventually abandoning science and logic altogether in favor of zero-tolerance policies. . .
We have only one world and most people agree on the importance of looking after it. There is however, disagreement on the how and finding a way to do it in a way which is not anti-business or anti-people is much more likely to succeed than the radical recipe promoted by red-greens.
To a considerable extent the environmental movement was hijacked by political and social activists who learned to use green language to cloak agendas that had more to do with anticapitalism and antiglobalization than with science or ecology. I remember visiting our Toronto office in 1985 and being surprised at how many of the new recruits were sporting army fatigues and red berets in support of the Sandinistas.
I don’t blame them for seizing the opportunity. There was a lot of power in our movement and they saw how it could be turned to serve their agendas of revolutionary change and class struggle. But I differed with them because they were extremists who confused the issues and the public about the nature of our environment and our place in it. To this day they use the word industry as if it were a swear word. The same goes for multinational, chemical, genetic, corporate, globalization, and a host of other perfectly useful terms. Their propaganda campaign is aimed at promoting an ideology that I believe would be extremely damaging to both civilization and the environment. . .
Those perfectly useful terms are almost always used with negative connotations by radical environmentalists and their ideology is dangerous.
. . . The main purpose of this book is to establish a new approach to environmentalism and to define sustainability as the key to achieving environmental goals. This requires embracing humans as a positive element in evolution rather than viewing us as some kind of mistake. The celebrated Canadian author Farley Mowat has described humans as a “fatally flawed species.” This kind of pessimism may be politically correct today, but it is terribly self-defeating. Short of mass suicide there doesn’t seem to be an appropriate response. I believe we should celebrate our existence and constantly put our minds toward making the world a better place for people and all the other species we share it with. . .
Unlike those he criticise, Moore is optimistic about the future of the world and people’s place in it.
He also has some suggestions on what we could do to protect and enhance the environment at no great cost to the economy or people:
• We should be growing more trees and using more wood, not cutting fewer trees and using less wood as Greenpeace and its allies contend. Wood is the most important renewable material and energy resource.
• Those countries that have reserves of potential hydroelectric energy should build the dams required to deliver that energy. There is nothing wrong with creating more lakes in this world.
• Nuclear energy is essential for our future energy supply, especially if we wish to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. It has proven to be clean safe, reliable, and cost-effective.
• Geothermal heat pumps, which too few people know about, are far more important and cost-effective than either solar panels or wind mills as a source of renewable energy. They should be required in all new buildings unless there is a good reason to use some other technology for heating, cooling, and making hot water.
• The most effective way to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels is to encourage the development of technologies that require less or no fossil fuels to operate. Electric cars, heat pumps, nuclear and hydroelectric energy, and biofuels are the answer, not cumbersome regulatory systems that stifle economic activity.
• Genetic science, including genetic engineering, will improve nutrition and end malnutrition, improve crop yields, reduce the environmental impact of farming, and make people and the environment healthier.
• Many activist campaigns designed to make us fear useful chemicals are based on misinformation and unwarranted fear.
• Aquaculture, including salmon and shrimp farming, will be one of our most important future sources of healthy food. It will also take pressure off depleted wild fish stocks and will employ millions of people productively.
• There is no cause for alarm about climate change. The climate is always changing. Some of the proposed “solutions” would be far worse than any imaginable consequence of global warming, which will likely be mostly positive. Cooling is what we should fear.
• Poverty is the worst environmental problem. Wealth and urbanization will stabilize the human population. Agriculture should be mechanized throughout the developing world. Disease and malnutrition can be largely eliminated by the application of modern technology. Health care, sanitation, literacy, and electrification should be provided to everyone.
• No whale or dolphin should be killed or captured anywhere, ever. This is one of my few religious beliefs. They are the only species on earth whose brains are larger than ours and it is impossible to kill or capture them humanely.