April 23, 2015
Recent attacks on environmental NGO activists by government officials have left many to conclude that environmentalism should be criminalised. The Risk-Monger finds this just a tad too harsh, and on the occasion of Earth Day, thought he should come to the defence of his green friends. Although I agree we should not act or design policy based on their naïve idealism, I would not then conclude that we should allocate prison resources to trying to keep them silent.
However, many global political figures appear to disagree with me. Here are a few recent examples:
- The Canadian government declared that environmental activist campaigns against their oil-based economy are to be considered as a threat to national security (thus a form of eco-terrorism). OK, I can understood the frustration at a minority that feels they have a right to interfere with the economic interests of the vast majority, but weren’t Canadians supposed to be the nice people of the planet?
- Then there were the recent eco-terrorism attacks made on the New Zealand-based milk producer, Frontera and the Federated Farmers group. Someone had poisoned packages of milk powder with sodium monofluoroacetate, also known as 1080, a substance used in pest control. The eco-terrorist sent letters threatening to contaminate infant and other milk formula with 1080 unless New Zealand stopped using the substance for pest control. This does not imply that all environmentalists would rather poison babies than pests.
- I don’t believe that all environmentalists are eco-traitors or treasonous and we should avoid making this assumption. However, an Australian Member of Parliament, George Christensen, seems to think otherwise and has declared that the actions in Australia of groups like Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth to be “treacherous”.
- Bill Gates has recently been under attack for how he invests his money (which he then gives away to try to solve problems created by environmentalists … like malaria). I think this is related to how he riled them up recently by declaring that by 2035, advances in agricultural technologies will bring the end of poverty. This of course has offended NGO activists campaigning against technologies like GMOs, pesticides and fertilisers and they will do everything possible to stop Bill from achieving this goal.
- Former UK Environment minister, Owen Paterson, gave a speech recently that made even the Risk-Monger blush. He referred to environmentalists as “Luddites”, scorning technology and happy to sit by and let everyone suffer. They are “condemning millions of people in developing countries to economic dependency on aid, starvation and death by their refusal to accept the benefits of genetically modified crops and lifesaving advances in plant sciences.” While I feel he is correct, I think it is more the fault of leaders like the Right Honourable Mr Paterson, who stand back and allow these Luddites to influence policies that affect so many. It is up to politicians to stand up to these ill-founded pressure groups and let them know that their dreams and selfish idealism do not advance the greater good.
Indeed it has not been a good time to be an environmentalist. Although their revenues have trebled, their capacity to spread fear and misperception via the emerging social media tools have allowed them to grow their ranks, and they have been able to plant their activists in many high-powered positions, at the same time, they have squandered any public good will they might have earlier had through their failure to engage in dialogue, support evidence-based policy or even attempt to compromise. This however, does not make them criminals, but rather highlights the inadequacies of our leadership who should never have allowed them to have reached such a state of influence.
I don’t believe that environmentalists should be thrown in prison for the deadly consequences of their activism that have led, for example, to increased global food insecurity (from promoting organic farming), high levels of energy poverty (from their relentless demands for inefficient renewables), millions of deaths from severe diseases (like malaria) and interference with scientists trying to solve pressing global crises (like combatting the deadly Vitamin A deficiency with Golden Rice). But like any religious zealots that put what they want to believe before hard realities, all thinking people should be very careful before following their prognostications and converting them into policy. We should make a clear distinction between criminal behaviour and actions that are just very damaging to the interests of society. Environmentalism is not a judicial matter, I feel, but merely a form of social deviance that should be limited and controlled.
There is palpable frustration among leaders today that these ragtag bands of anarchists and neo-Marxists have been able to abuse the emerging social media tools to pretend to speak for a majority of the people who actually need to work to pay the bills and feed their families. That they are exporting their naïve idealism onto the fragile economies of developing countries and infiltrating international governance bodies is no doubt a further irritation. But simply put, ignoring them is a much better option (in any case, most environmentalists ignore people who disagree with them as well as those who try to use reason and scientific evidence against their campaigns). Like other groups of fundamentalists and Luddites, this is more sensible than treating them as criminals. Society has already paid so dearly for policies based on their manipulative campaigns and should not be further burdened with the costs of their incarceration.
We also need to correct some issues that have allowed them to abuse our societal structures. They should be taxed like businesses given that they are often earning more than companies that try to invest in people and technology, and often use these funds to terrify the public about the social goods available from emerging technologies. They should not be given public money if they use it to create antagonism and negative perceptions of other stakeholders, delay lifesaving benefits from technologies or continually deny basic scientific facts.
Speaking as a person who has often been attacked by environmentalists, I would like to make the following compromise (this being their pretentiously self-declared Earth Day after all). I will continue to fight for the environmentalists’ right to freely speak and not be sent to prison if they promise to become reasonable, engage in dialogue, listen to others, not lie, deceive or create ridiculous fear campaigns (like the bees or endocrine disruption). If, however, environmentalists continue to act irresponsibly, then I cannot do much to prevent the authorities from having their way with them.
Happy “Earth Day”!David Zaruk
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