Radical Environmentalism and Second Thoughts

Some of the movement's main leaders say sorry -- but is an apology really enough?

gpLate in March, Mark Lynas, a leader in the movement against Genetically Modified (GM) crops, did something virtually unheard of within radical environmentalist circles: he apologized for demonizing "an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment." In May, Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore was equally contrite, noting that his fellow extremists "have abandoned science and logic altogether." Others in the movement are expressing similar reservations. Yet in assessing the damage radical environmentalism has engendered, one may be forgiven for wondering if such apologies are sufficient.

Moore gets to the heart of the matter, explaining that while the 1980s ushered in the age of radical environmentalism, the issues for which he and his organization had fought have been largely accomplished. Thus, in order for his cohorts to remain employed, Moore admits they had to adopt increasingly extreme positions he categorizes as "anti: anti-human, anti-science, anti-technology, anti-trade and globalization, anti-business and capitalism, and ultimately, anti-civilization."

Real Clear Energy reporter Marita Noon encapsulates the end result: "Moore's view helps understand how the environmental movement has gone from trying to save the planet to killing the US economy."

In conjunction with an equally radicalized Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), activists are targeting the coal industry's production and exports, despite the reality that the United States has the largest recoverable resources on the planet, and developing nations such as India and China are clamoring to get them. The EU is in the mix as well, having discovered that the cost of renewables is prohibitively high. And despite environmentalist claims that exporting coal, and creating all the high paying jobs that come with it, will ruin the planet, all that will be ruined is our economy: exporters from Australia and Indonesia will fill the vacuum.

The same goes for Liquid Natural Gas (LNG). This product was once favored by environmentalists until fracking made it cheap, ruining their dreams of a fossil-fuel free world. Their case was made even more absurd on February 22, 2012, when former EPA head Lisa Jackson, an extremist whose agency over-reach has tested constitutional limits, told an energy conference in New Jersey, “I think that fracking as a technology is perfectly capable of being clean. I do.”

In August 2012, it got still worse for the radicals. The EPA dropped its groundwater contamination claim against Range Resources Corp., marking the third time in a period of months the agency was force to backtrack on such allegations. And last April, the agency "dramatically lowered" its estimates on the amount of heat-trapping methane released during the fracking process. Bill McKibben, the founder of 350.org, expressed the reflexive, pie-in- the-sky response of radical environmentalists to this politically inconvenient reality. "We need a dramatic shift off carbon-based fuel: coal, oil and also gas," he contended. To what, remains a mystery.

Lynas is also seeing the light in the energy arena. "Nobody can look you in the eye and say you shouldn’t be worried” about nuclear energy, he says in the new documentary “Pandora’s Promise.” Yet he, along with author Richard Rhodes, writer of the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Making of the Atomic Bomb”; Stewart Brand, Whole Earth Catalog founder; and Michael Shellenberger, a man Time magazine labeled a “hero of the environment,” have decided nuclear power is an integral part of our energy future--unless one embraces the Luddite attitude of enviro-radical Bill McKibben. “We might decide that the human enterprise has got big enough, that our appetites need not to grow, but to shrink a little, in order to provide us more margin," he writes in the Guardian. "What would that mean? Buses and bikes and trains, not SUVs. Local food, with more people on the farm so that muscles replace some of the oil.”

The NY Post's Kyle Smith gives McKibben a well-deserved smackdown. "Sorry, but only a few hippie hipsters want to raise their own chickens and pedal to work, and even they aren’t giving up their iToys," he contends. "Meanwhile, the peasants of India and China want meat and electricity and cars and hospitals, in the tens of millions. A planet that uses less energy is not an option."

Neither is a planet that produces less food, a reality that prompted Lynas' aforementioned apology regarding GM crops. Like Moore, he explains what changed his mind. "Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist," he writes. Part of what he discovered was that much of his anti-GM sentiment was based on "green urban myths," and that the process was far safer and more environment-friendly than he had ever imagined.

As part of his recantation, he takes a serious swipe at one of the pillars of radical environmentalism, namely that over-population is the principal threat facing the planet. He explains that while we will be tasked with feeding 9.5 billion people by 2050, the increase isn't caused by out-of-control rates of fertility, which at 2.5 is only slightly higher than the replacement rate of 2.2. The increase is due to declining infant mortality rates. "You don’t have to have lost a child, God forbid, or even be a parent, to know that declining infant mortality is a good thing," he writes. He shows contempt for Paul Ehrlich, author of the 1968 "Population Bomb," who suggested that mass famine was inevitable by the 1970s, and that we should eliminate food aid to countries like India, allowing for the inevitable starvation to reduce population.

Ehrlich's despicable goal to reduce population via forced starvation was never realized. Sadly, Rachel Carson, who wrote "Silent Spring," a seriously flawed tome regarding the dangers of chemical pesticides, notably DDT, did manage to produce enough of a political following to get that insecticide banned in many countries.

The consequences were disastrous: tens of millions of lives were lost to malaria and other diseases. A Harvard study estimated that high levels of malaria reduce economic growth by 1.3 percent annually--meaning that four decades of DDT bans have made developing nations more than 40 percent poorer than they might have otherwise been with effective insect control.

Again, science took a back seat to radicalism. For Carson, et al., the dosage level of DDT was irrelevant, as was the reality that alternative pesticides were equally toxic to other wildlife. Dr. Henry Miller, the Robert Wesson Fellow of Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, puts Carson's effort in perspective. "The legacy of Rachel Carson is that tens of millions of human lives--mostly children in poor, tropical countries--have been traded for the possibility of slightly improved fertility in raptors," he writes. "This remains one of the monumental human tragedies of the last century."

The 2007 movie "The Great Global Warming Swindle" was where Patrick Moore first made his aforementioned assertion that Greenpeace needed to become increasingly radical in order to maintain its "anti-establishment" bona fides. Yet far more importantly, he explained why radical environmentalism has inspired so much zealotry:

The other reason why radical environmentalism emerged was because communism failed, the (Berlin) Wall came down, and a lot of peace-niks and political activists moved into the environmental movement, bringing their neo-Marxism with them--and learned to use green language in a very clever way, to cloak agendas that actually have more to do with anti-capitalism and anti-globalization than they do anything with ecology or science.

And so it remains. On Sunday, the Telegraph's James Delingpole, commenting on Britain's Chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee Tim Yeo's apparent willingness to take a bribe to advance the green agenda, illuminates the havoc that agenda has wreaked in the UK:

The great Climate Change hoax has cost the UK not just the odd thousand here and there. It has cost it billions. Thousands of old people have been condemned to miserable deaths in fuel poverty; good businesses have been crippled by layers of environmental regulation; bad businesses have gorged themselves on free money they simply don't deserve by sucking on the teat of the subsidised renewables sector; property rights have been confiscated, views ruined, sleep disturbed, people's health damage, birds and bats chopped to pieces by wind turbines; our economic recovery has been held back by idiot green taxes and the idiot ongoing attempt by DECC and its allies to stop us exploiting our abundant shale gas reserves.

It's no different in America, where the Obama administration has held up the approval of the Keystone Pipeline expansion, despite an 82 percent approval rate by Americans who believe it would be good for the nation.

Yet cracks in the leftist environmental monolith are beginning to show. The Democratic governors of West Virginia and Montana are joining Kansas in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a challenge to rules that grant the federal government regulatory control over greenhouse gas emissions from power plants. Even more startlingly, the Democrat-controlled California assembly has voted down an attempt to ban hydraulic fracking in that state. Two factors likely driving that vote are California's unemployment rate of 9 percent, and the existence of the Monterey Shale formation that contains 15 billion barrels of oil. Oil that would provide a viable substitute for Middle East supplies.

That's a win-win for everyone but the radical environmentalists.

Furthermore, given the recent spate of government scandals, making American more energy and food self-sufficient--even as the economy is invigorated in the process--would have to be the quintessential no-brainer of the 21st century. Unfortunately, to satisfy the whims of radical environmentalism, much of the American left remains wedded to dependence on regimes that hate us, even as they pursue chimeric and wholly unrealistic, back-to-the-land solutions for our problems. Solutions that not-so-coincidentally require massive amounts of government intrusion to facilitate.

Lynas and Moore have apologized and recanted, respectively. One can only hope more of their ideological ilk will follow suit.

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Tags: Left, Apology