Science vs environment

August 2nd, 2013 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Robert Wilson at The Guardian writes:

Do many environmentalists hold anti-scientific positions? This idea, put forward by environmental journalist Fred Pearce and others, may have received some pushback (eg Anne Chapman earlier in this series) but for me, it is merely a statement of the obvious.

Consider that great scientific battleground of the early 21st century:embryonic stem cell research. Here is an issue where too many greens hold views indistinguishable from those of the Vatican. Greenpeace brought and won a lawsuit against the German scientist Oliver Brüstlewho wanted to patent a method of turning human embryonic stem cells into neurons. In a debate with writer and neuroscientist Kenan MalikGreenpeace claimed they were not opposed to embryonic stem cell research. Yet their own press release at the time made it clear that they were opposed to it.

Until 2010, the UK’s Green Party had rather unambiguous views on the issue too: they wanted an EU wide ban on embryonic stem cell research. Parts of a statement from Caroline Lucas were reminiscent of the religious right.

And what were the UK Greens against?

Exactly what did Lucas think the associated health risks are in attempting to cure debilitating diseases? To me, this is not merely anti-scientific, it is morally repugnant.

And on GE they ignore all the , as they also do on fracking:

And let’s not forget the fondness of some environmental groups for destroying trials of genetically modified crops. Whether it is Monsanto or government scientists doing the research there always seems to be an environmentalist or two thinking of doing some uprooting. And we are not talking about fringe lunatics here. Last year’s failed attempt to destroy a trial of GM wheat in Rothamsted was supported by both the Green Party’s candidate for the London mayoral election and their current leader Natalie Bennett.

Greenpeace has a much richer history of ripping up GM crops. For some the defining image of Greenpeace campaigning may be brave activists climbing Europe’s tallest building, for me it is grown adults wearing hazmat suits to destroy crops they have no reason to be afraid of.

That Greenpeace takes a dogmatic, not a scientific, approach was made clear when Lord Melchett, then director of Greenpeace UK, made thefollowing statement on opposition to GM crops whilst appearing in front of the House of Lords:

“It is a permanent and definite and complete opposition based on a view that there will always be major uncertainties. It is the nature of the technology, indeed it is the nature of science, that there will not be any absolute proof.”

Such statements would make even religious dogmatists blush. The UK’s main organic farming group, the Soil Association, naturally did not mind such dogmatism: they made Melchett their policy director.

A permanent, definite and complete opposition. They should work for the Spanish Inquisition.

Our choices about the future of energy supply need to be based on solid evidence, yet let’s consider the UK Green Party’s attitude to the evidence about nuclear power. In 2003 they published a report, enthusiastically endorsed by Caroline Lucas, that claimed “radioactive releases up to 1989 have caused, or will eventually cause, the death of 65 million people worldwide.” The research into this report was written by the rather absurd figure of Chris Busby, who apparently for many years was the Green Party’s main “expert” source on nuclear issues. I put scare-quotes round expert here for in late 2011 he was exposed for attempting to sell ineffective “anti-radiation” pills to people in the Fukushima region. For years the Green Party grounded their opposition to nuclear power in junk science, and it appears it still does.

If all of this leaves you unconvinced of the marriage of irrational, unscientific, and unethical attitudes by many green organisations then you should read about the history of opposition to golden rice, an innovation that has the potential to greatly reduce human suffering.

Golden rice provides Vitamin A, which boost the immune systems of children in developing countries and helps prevent blindness.

Am I not playing into the hands of the climate change sceptics by saying environmentalists are not consistent on science? No, I am not. Environmentalists who say we should accept the scientific consensus on climate change while telling us to ignore it on other issues are the people who are playing into the hands of those who oppose action on climate change. Because if we are to win the fight against climate change we will need to replace ideology, wishful thinking and spin with sober analysis. As the great physicist Richard Feynman said, reality must take precedence over public relations.

This is the great hypocrisy. They say you must accept the science around climate change (which I do), but they fight tooth and nail against the science around GE, fracking, fluoridation and nuclear. The reality is the extreme environmental movement is more akin to a religious organisation. They have a view of the world which is minimal human activity or interference with “nature”.  Hence why they see science as the enemy so often.

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23 Responses to “Science vs environment”

  1. Black with a Vengeance (1,868 comments) says:

    The reality is the extreme environmental movement is more akin to a religious organisation.

    And the extreme business/financial sector isn’t…you telling me Money isn’t their God and to hell with the environment ?

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  2. Peter (1,695 comments) says:

    And the extreme business/financial sector isn’t…you telling me Money isn’t their God and to hell with the environment ?

    Who says “to hell with the environment”?

    That’s the kind of extreme reaction I’d expect from the religious, especially telling is the use of the word “hell”.

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  3. mikenmild (12,446 comments) says:

    ‘against the science around GE, fracking, fluoridation and nuclear’
    Are the Greens here against fluoridation?

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  4. UglyTruth (4,554 comments) says:

    And on GE they ignore all the science, as they also do on fracking

    To consider GE only in terms of scientific arguments is like pushing for compulsory euthanasia by arguing that it reduces medication costs.

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  5. Kea (13,580 comments) says:

    The motivation of the greens has little to do with climate or the environment. They are a political movement who want to dismantle modern industrial, capitalist, society. They are as motivated by “social justice” as they are concern for the environment.

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  6. bhudson (4,741 comments) says:

    It’s just BWAV/Pollywog desperately clinging to the idea that the Greens have some sort of positive value to offer despite their policies being undermined by the very experts they claim agree with them.

    – Sir Paul Callaghan in 2011 on their economic policy – “Surely, then, I should support the Green Party suggestion. On the contrary, I oppose it wholeheartedly.”
    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/opinion/news/article.cfm?c_id=466&objectid=10755089

    – Prof Wolak on their single buyer model – “Just one problem with that. Wolak thinks single buyer systems are a crock.”
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/opinion-analysis/8989538/Labour-Green-electricity-poster-child-won-t-play-ball

    – Prof Robert Wade (a contributor to Max Rushbrooke’s book on inequality in NZ) on Quantitative Easing – that it will serve only to concentrate more wealth in the hands of the already well off.
    Q&A – 14 July 2013 – http://tvnz.co.nz/q-and-a/2013-07-14-video-5508182

    When really the Greens are just a menace to society.

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  7. Peter (1,695 comments) says:

    George Carlin nails environ-mentalists.

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  8. PaulL (5,450 comments) says:

    On climate change, we’re not being asked to accept the science. We’re being asked to accept the policy response to the science. It is entirely rational to say “I think the planet is warming and I think humans are probably causing it” and to not follow up with “I think we should push people into poverty by implementing policies that don’t actually reduce carbon emissions anyway.”

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  9. Black with a Vengeance (1,868 comments) says:

    It’s just BWAV/Pollywog desperately clinging to the idea that the Greens have some sort of positive value to offer…When really they are just a menace to society.

    It’s not the economy, stupid. It’s the environment!!!

    Society is currently going to hell, and it’s not because of the greens though eh ?

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  10. Kleva Kiwi (291 comments) says:

    Wow DPF. The “science” around climate change is just as fabricated as the “science” the greens use for any other of their emotively based policy.

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  11. Peter (1,695 comments) says:

    It’s not the economy, stupid. It’s the environment!!!

    The environment – the planet – is not going to expire.

    As for humans….

    The Greens would like to make our lives considerably more unpleasant, as they appear to favour socialism, or whatever the fashionable word for socialism is these days. They seem adverse to economic prosperity. If you want to see why economic prosperity is important for you and your children, and their children, watch this:

    http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_shows_the_best_stats_you_ve_ever_seen.html

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  12. bhudson (4,741 comments) says:

    It’s not the economy, stupid. It’s the environment!!!

    Actually, it’s the Greens’ credibility. Which is all shot to hell…

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  13. PaulL (5,450 comments) says:

    @Peter. I think they’re averse to economic prosperity. I’d argue also that they’re adverse to it, but I don’t think that’s what you meant.
    /pedant

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  14. thedavincimode (6,890 comments) says:

    People who have never grown anything beyond a cabbage in the backyard or fungus in their jock straps shouldn’t be beating up the notion that GE crops will save the world. We should also consider the prospect that what is probably the world’s largest agri-chemical (poison) manufacturer might have a vested interest in GE outcomes.

    There is in fact scientific stuff (as distinct from the melons pull it out of your arse stuff) out there that hasn’t been sponsored or produced by Monsanto that raises significant concerns about soil degradation as a consequence of all sorts of stuff that farmers have been slapping on their little part of the prairie without realising it’s taking them backwards. GE and glyphosate resistant crops feature in this.

    People who do grow more than a cabbage in the backyard or fungus in their jockstraps have spent years hearing smooth-talking moleskin-wearing seed salesmen make promises about the next miracle seed variety that has been tested under highly controlled bullshit conditions and that will transport them to economic nirvana. They are still waiting for this to happen.

    Commercially, given the amount of food that NZ is capable of producing for export, it seems a bit nuts to even contemplate going GE, irrespective of any resolution of honest scientific debate, given that the volume of food required by the warm fuzzies consumers far and away exceeds our production capability.

    Disclaimer: This comment was written and posted by the thedavincimode. It does not originate from Griff and Griff has not hacked the thedavincimode’s login.

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  15. UglyTruth (4,554 comments) says:

    And on GE they ignore all the science, as they also do on fracking:

    If we look at recent studies, they actually highlight the failures of GE technology to deliver on its promises, and the mounting evidence that agricultural productivity is better served by a focus on ecological agriculture[1]. For instance, the latest study (Heinemann et al. 2013) by the University of Canterbury, New Zealand found that “Despite the claims that GE might be needed to feed the world, we found no yield benefit when the United States was compared to West Europe, other economically developed countries of the same latitude which do not grow GE crops”.

    http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/news/Blogs/makingwaves/the-fake-promises-of-ge-crops/blog/45669/

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  16. hj (7,184 comments) says:

    Science vs environment
    …..
    Aren’t earth sciences sciences any more?

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  17. Black with a Vengeance (1,868 comments) says:

    Actually, it’s the Greens’ credibility. Which is all shot to hell…

    Perception…is not Reality!

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  18. bhudson (4,741 comments) says:

    Perception…is not Reality!

    It is in the mind of the consumer – which, in this case, is the voter.

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  19. Black with a Vengeance (1,868 comments) says:

    You can alter the perception, but the reality stays the same…

    http://pollywannacracka.blogspot.co.nz/2011/11/living-dreamnz-election-2011.html

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  20. Alan Wilkinson (1,938 comments) says:

    “Because if we are to win the fight against climate change we will need to replace ideology, wishful thinking and spin with sober analysis.”

    That would be nice. Of course it would mean examining all the evidence dispassionately and sceptically rather than chanting “Consensus!”

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  21. Yoza (1,927 comments) says:

    Alan Wilkinson 3:34 pm

    “That would be nice. Of course it would mean examining all the evidence dispassionately and sceptically rather than chanting “Consensus!””

    The “consensus” that humans are most likely responsible for the global warming we are currently experiencing is the consequence of dispassionate scientific examination. Being skeptical of that conclusion is becoming akin to being skeptical about evolution in favour of creationism.

    bhudson 11:15 am

    Perception…is not Reality!

    It is in the mind of the consumer – which, in this case, is the voter.

    “The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it.”

    ― George Orwell.

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  22. OneTrack (3,376 comments) says:

    Yoza – No warming for 15 years. Which models are producing accurate predictions on real world measurements? What do the Greens want to do with the ETS taxes? Do they still want to send that money to poorer countries so that they can buy cars and diesel generators? If the science is settled, why do we need to keep employing all these climate scientists?

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  23. alephnaught (18 comments) says:

    It’s really unfortunate. The waters around issues like climate change have been so muddied in the public sphere that by and large, as a socio-political group, only die-hard environmentalists (and the Green parties they support) treat the issue with the seriousness it deserves and keep themselves well informed about developments in the science.

    Yet their completely muddled attitudes to so many other aspects of the sciences completely sideline them on the one issue they’re actually consistently right about (in terms of prioritisation, if not necessarily policy), and render their politicians unelectable.

    It’s absolutely tragic that policy around climate change – one of the gravest economic, humanitarian and indeed, existential threats that we face – isn’t a hot issue in mainstream politics. But with so many vested interests set against any serious remediation, and those pushing for it so politically impotent, I can’t see the situation changing any time soon.

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