The best part of critical thinking is the task of untangling public myths and exposing them to the harsh light of reality. Today’s “conventional wisdom” bombards us with the claim that the world’s modern, market-based economies are degrading our planet’s environment. An important new book puts the lie to this orthodoxy.
In “The Skeptical Environmentalist”, Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg mounts a fearless challenge to the so-called fact of environmental decline. Chock full of facts and figures and meticulously buttressed by 2930 footnotes the book measures the actual state of the Earth’s environment. Lomborg cheerily admits that he once held what he calls “left-wing Greenpeace views”, and he had expected his analysis to confirm the view that we are all going to hell in a hand basket.
Nothing of the sort happened. Instead, the trends he discovered nearly all pointed in another direction. An ethical academic, Lomborg went where the evidence took him, and he skewers one grim environmental prediction after another. Canada’s temperate forests are expanding, the air in London, England, is the cleanest it has been since the Middle Ages, and species of wildlife are not disappearing at the speeds assumed in the public’s imagination. Deer, geese, ducks and many other species are more abundant than ever.
Lomborg criticizes environmental organizations who selectively twist statistics to cultivate public support for their causes. As the respected magazine, The Economist, notes, “Lomborg argues that the environment is not in nearly as bad a shape as green activists and their dupes in the media would have the public believe.”
Why all the duplicity? Follow the money. Environmental activists have spawned a huge industry. Strong believers in a style of governmental regulation by means of central command and control, academic ecologists and their allies in national and international bureaucracies have a direct stake in environmental alarmism. Over time, these folks have built up a web of funding and laws that support thousands of careers, all of which hinge on the public belief in what Lomborg calls “the litany of our ever-deteriorating environment.”
Lomborg’s book has been met with furious opposition. Denounced by the prominent Harvard scientist E.O. Wilson, who deplored the “Lomborg scam,” and the subject of a sneering editorial plus pages of attack articles in the normally staid Scientific American magazine, he has even been physically assaulted. In an unusual lead editorial defending Lomborg, The Economist concludes that these supporters of the Green movement are “strong on contempt and sneering, but weak on substance.”
Canada’s own “Lomborg” is Dr. Patrick Moore, a founder of Greenpeace, who recently gave a talk at Manitoba Ag Days in Brandon. He discussed the early days of Greenpeace and showed some dramatic and funny pictures of himself as a young man chasing Russian whaling boats, hugging baby seals and fighting against nuclear testing.
Moore describes his intellectual transformation from the “politics of confrontation to the politics of solutions and consensus” in a frank Frontier Centre interview (see www.fcpp.org). During that journey, he became more appreciative of his family’s logging heritage and the need for a sound economy. He now believes that human ingenuity can solve many, if not most, environmental problems.
This change of heart has sparked attacks from environmental activists. “Eco-Judas” is one of the milder insults. The Forest Action Network’s website says in bold letters “Patrick Moore is a Big Fat Liar”, and he is now on the list in Greenpeace’s “Guide to Anti-Environmental Organizations”.
Through his website (www.greenspirit.com) Moore notes: “I now find that many environmental groups have drifted into self-serving cliques with narrow vision and rigid ideology. The once politically centrist, science-based vision of environmentalism has been largely replaced with extremist rhetoric. Science and logic have been abandoned and the movement is often used to promote other causes such as class struggle and anti-corporatism.”
He supports these statements with real evidence. He describes Greenpeace’s duplicity in the “Brent Spar” campaign that actually resulted in more environmental damage after the Greenpeace “solution” had been adopted. Moore told us about his challenge to the current dogma about endangered species, which states we are losing about 50,000 species per year due to human activity. “Name one”, he challenges, but has received no replies as of yet.
Moore makes a plea to use wood and wood products whenever we can. Wood is the most sustainable and renewable resource that we have and using more of it, he says, means that we will have more forests. Buying a wooden two-by-four is essentially an order to someone else to plant more trees. And they do. This is why 80% of the wood supply for the United States is from private land. Landowners have a real incentive to grow trees, profit from their sale and grow even more, to the benefit of us all.
Bjorn Lomborg and Patrick Moore’s commitment to the truth demonstrates an encouraging trend. Credible people are challenging the politically correct forces of the world that have done so much to damage rural communities and our overall economies. Real environmental problems do exist, but they require real answers, good science, a thriving economy and, above all, common sense.