Sea birds are squawking as Patrick Moore boards a ferry on the British Columbia coast.
A co-founder and former member of Greenpeace, Moore is now the co-founder and chair of Greenspirit Strategies Ltd., a firm in B.C. focused on helping companies develop communication around sustainability. Moore says only now is the world starting to understand what being sustainable means.
The author of two books, most recently Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist, will be in Saskatoon on Monday giving a keynote presentation at a Frontier Centre for Public Policy luncheon at the Hilton Garden Inn. Registration can be found at Fcpp.org.
StarPhoenix business reporter Cassandra Kyle asked Moore five questions about the environment.
SP: How would you describe your time with Greenpeace?
PM: It was a very exciting time. We were taking on some of the world’s biggest powers.
Our first campaign was against U.S. hydrogen bomb testing in Alaska and it just went to show that if a few people get up and do something they can accomplish an awful lot, because we basically won that campaign.
Then we took on French atmospheric nuclear testing and we won that. It took three years, but we drove them underground in the end because it became a big embarrassment for them that they were the only major power that were still blowing up atomic bombs in the atmosphere. Then we took on the Russian and Japanese factory whaling fleets and we won there. That took five years, but in the end the International Whaling Commission outlawed factory whaling and we won a huge victory.
We went from a church basement in Vancouver to a group with $100 million a year coming in by the time I left in 1986. So they were heady days, there were very exciting times and we made a big impact. We got a lot of people realizing how important the environment was.
SP: What keeps you interested in the environmental cause?
PM: I’ve always been a nature lover. I excelled in the life sciences in my education-I went right through to a PhD in ecology.
I have been personally interested in all of the species on Earth and how everything is inter-related and how we as humans can continue to get our food, energy and material from the environment without damaging it as much as we did in the ways we did it in the past. In other words, constantly improving our methods, improving our technologies.
My main fascination is the relationship between humans and the Earth’s environment and how we can improve that relationship and be living more in harmony with the Earth while at the same time having a modern style of life, because I don’t believe in going back to grass huts.
SP: What’s the inspiration behind your new book?
PM: I wrote my book so I could share my 40 years of thinking, talking and doing environmentalism.
For a short period of time I started a small family salmon farming operation at my childhood home on northern Vancouver Island where I also learned a lot, but it was really all about the environment too, and it led me into the whole discussion of aquaculture from a sustainability/environmental point of view. The idea that maybe we should do more farming in the sea rather than just exploit it and do the same thing we did on land 10,000 years ago, which is basically to move from hunting and gathering to nurturing and farming.
I think we should be growing more trees and using more wood rather than the opposite, which my former colleagues in Greenpeace seem to favour, which is cutting fewer trees and using less wood. I think we should expand the forests wherever we can, wherever there’s land that can be converted back to forests again without compromising our need for food, I think we should be doing that.
I’m also a big supporter of nuclear energy and, of course, Saskatchewan supplies nearly a third of the world’s uranium and it’s a big part of your economy there. . . . There’s been quite a few stories lately about how when you look at it, nuclear energy is safer than all the other major energies including coal, natural gas, oil and hydroelectric power. They all cause far more deaths in routine operations than nuclear does. So we have to make our choices.
SP: Is a sensible environmentalist an endangered species?
PM: I do not believe that we’re all going to fry from climate change in the next 10 years, or whatever they’re saying, and I believe that in many cases the so-called cures that they offer would actually be worse than the effects of the so-called disease that they think we have.
It really bothers me that human beings are depicted as some kind of plague on the face of the earth. We are part of nature, we are of the environment, we are in the environment -we are not environment versus humans. The main teaching of the science in ecology is that all nature is inter-related and we are part of nature, we are a self-conscious part of nature trying to figure out with our intelligence how to do things right and we’re making great progress.
SP: What will be your message in Saskatoon next week?
PM: My main message is that human beings are part of the environment and our challenge is to learn to live with the environment, but it shouldn’t be portrayed as people bad, environment good.
It’s good people in a beautiful environment trying to live in harmony with the Earth through innovation, ingenuity and intelligence.