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April 28th 2011 print

Daryl McCann

The Personal Costs of Spurning Green Misanthropy

Patrick Moore, Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist (Beatty Street Publishers, 2011), 400 pages, US$34.95. 

There is a darkly humorous scene in the Wachowskis’ film The Matrix in which the sentient computer program called Agent Smith explains his epiphany about the true nature of human beings: 

I’ve realised that you are not actually mammals. Every mammal on the planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment. But you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area … Human beings are a disease, a cancer of the planet. You are a plague. And we are … the cure. 

In those lines the Wachowski siblings encapsulate, if inadvertently, the raison d’être of Greenpeace. Perhaps this is because the same crypto-Marxist misanthropy that informs The Matrix is at the core of Greenpeace International. In his latest book, Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout, Patrick Moore explains that even in Greenpeace’s earliest days there were fantasists who spoke privately of the need for a “religion of the environment where people simply have faith in the gurus”.

Moore’s break with Greenpeace in 1986 is not entirely analogous to Leon Trotsky’s expulsion from the Soviet Communist Party in 1927, and yet certain intriguing similarities exist. Each man was once a seminal figure in a successful (albeit very different) radical political project, only to find himself at a later date in the crosshairs of the very same movement. The vilification endured by Patrick Moore might not equate exactly with the treatment meted out to Trotsky—there has, thank goodness, been no pickaxe in his head—but Moore knows full well what it means to be a pariah. In Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout he refers to a website created by the so-called Forest Alliance Network titled “Patrick Moore is a Big Fat Liar”. The site once featured a contributor who helpfully pointed out that “Judas Iscariot had the decency to hang himself after betraying Jesus”.                       

In 2007 Patrick Moore’s name was struck from the list of co-founders on Greenpeace International’s website. Only in old, mostly forgotten tomes like Bob Hunter’s Warriors of the Rainbow is Moore given anything like his due for the founding of Greenpeace. According to Hunter, who died in 2005, Moore was a vital member of what was originally a small team in Vancouver. Present at the meeting in 1971 when the obscure Don’t Make A Wave Committee voted to change its moniker to Greenpeace Foundation, Moore appears to have been one of the few founding members with relevant scientific training. Back in 1978 Hunter wrote: “Moore was quickly accepted into the inner circle on the basis of his scientific background, his reputation [as an environmental activist], and his ability to inject practical, no-nonsense insights into the discussions.”

Even now Greenpeace International hails the 1971 voyage of the trawler Phyllis Cormack towards the US nuclear testing zone near Amchitka, Alaska, as the moment the organisation arrived on the international stage. Their website relates how the heroic crew of Phyllis Cormack was “arrested by the US coastguard”, but fails to acknowledge Patrick Moore as one of those detainees, the same person who happened to be on board the Rainbow Warrior when the French secret service sank it in 1985. Patrick Moore was present that fateful day in Auckland harbour not as a member of the crew; he was, as he had been for the previous six years and would be for another twelve months, a director of Greenpeace International.                        

Patrick Moore’s transition from trusted Greenpeace insider to the creator of the eco-Judas organisation Greenspirit Foundation is most instructive. In 1991, as a reconfigured sensible environmentalist, Moore held official discussions with his former collaborator Monte Hummel, head of the Canadian branch of the World Wildlife Fund, on the subject of the WWF’s flawed document Forests in Trouble. In Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout Moore admits to relapsing into the kind of aggressiveness that had been his modus operandi as a Greenpeace activist. Hummel did not enjoy the experience one iota: “Monte became offended and at the end of the meeting, when I offered to buy him a beer, he said that would be a cold day in hell.” The high priests of our time do not take kindly to being hectored, especially by apostates. Soon afterwards Moore was flailed in the Canadian press in a six-part article written by Bob Hunter, after which half of Moore’s friends disowned him and he was denounced as a “quisling”. Fourteen years later, just before he died of cancer, Hunter offered Moore a “prolific apology” over a bottle of wine, but the damage had been well and truly done.     

The deeper explanation for Moore’s estrangement from radical environmentalism was not personal but ideological. Forestry, along with aquaculture, just happened to be the first endeavour in which Moore and the enviro-activists locked horns, with Moore’s enthusiasm for sustainable development putting him at odds with the belief that humanity is in the process of exploiting the entire planet “until every natural resource is consumed”. According to Moore, the art and science of silviculture (modern forestry) represent a giant leap from eighteenth and nineteenth-century practices that saw the devastation of Europe’s forests. Latter-day forestry is largely about cultivating trees in much the same way as we would manage “any other renewable crop”. In short, the whole enterprise has long ceased to be a zero-sum game.

Nonetheless, activists have successfully convinced too many of us that “when we buy wood from a lumberyard we are causing a bit of forest to be lost somewhere”. Nothing could be further from the truth, because the purchase of wood sends a message to the marketplace that more trees need to be planted. Thus, the true enemy of forests is the clearing of trees in order to create new farming land, and not the profitable and sustainable business of forestry, which benefits by expanding forests. Moore provides some persuasive figures. Over the past 200 years the forested area of Europe has grown from 10 per cent to approximately 30 per cent, while the demand for wood in recent decades by the middle classes of China and India has seen a doubling of forests in those countries. Moreover, a profitable forestry industry actually allows for the retention of old-growth woodland. Monte Hummel’s 1991 WWF report predicted that within fifteen years all old-growth forest would be gone from British Columbia: today, Moore informs us, “there are nearly 100 million acres of original forest remaining in the province”.                                     

As the son of a forester, and interested in outcomes that constitute a “win-win-win for the environment, the community and the economy”, Moore was probably destined to part ways with Greenpeace. Believing that human beings are “a cancer of the planet” has led enviro-activists to adopt anti-development, anti-capitalist, anti-industry and anti-globalisation positions on virtually everything. The dogma of Greenpeace or what is now the Worldwide Fund for Nature might be muddled, contradictory and illogical, but these days the reach of such cashed-up and media-savvy enterprises is pervasive.

These organisations and their powerful advocates—activist-journalists—are ever-ready to unleash ad hominem attacks, mostly along the lines that their opponents are morally bankrupt and peddle falsehoods because they are paid to do so by multi-national corporations intent on planetary rape and pillage. Last year George Monbiot, activist-journalist for the Guardian, demanded to know why Moore would work for—and “side with”—an Indonesian logging company. Apparently, the former Greenpeace campaigner is now a traitorous low-life who sells his services for thirty pieces of silver every time a company’s brand is “turning toxic” and silky lies are required to soothe a wary public.

Enviro-activists question Moore’s motivations at every turn, but that is mainly because their ideological blinkers prevent them from identifying what is blindingly obvious to any fair-minded observer. Moore’s starting point is that the population of the world is almost 7 billion right now and will probably nudge 9 billion before it begins to decline, and only then if we solve the problem of “billions of people … trapped in poverty”. The reason for this is that wealth has a direct correlation with reduced birth-rates. The key to overpopulation, therefore, is “employing all the advances in technology, chemistry and genetics … throughout the developing world”. Saving the planet requires more electrification, refrigeration, mechanisation of agriculture and, yes, forestry—not less, as the neo-luddites of the environmental movement contend. It might be that a degree of self-interest motivates Moore (and his Greenspirit Foundation) in his enviro-business dealings, but that is not to cast aspersions on his professionalism or overlook the existence of something called enlightened self-interest.    

From the perspective of Greenpeace, at least, a further example of Moore’s perfidy was his conversion more than a decade ago to the cause of nuclear power. In the jaundiced minds of enviro-activists, Moore’s treachery is the result of money received from shadowy, malevolent characters set to profit mightily in a re-nuclearised America. Nevertheless, Moore’s position on nuclear energy makes more sense than Greenpeace’s: “On the one hand the movement demands reductions in fossil fuel consumption while on the other it presents the greatest obstacle to achieving that goal.” Why not proscribe fossil fuels and nuclear energy? That way the entirety of humanity (Al Gore exempted, of course) can be reduced to a kind of holy impoverishment, a fate befitting a species that has sinned against Mother Earth.                                                

During the recent Fukushima nuclear power plant failures, which occurred in the aftermath of a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami, Greenpeace was quick to publish its condolences on a website: “Our thoughts continue to be with the Japanese people as they face the threat of nuclear disaster.” No mention on this occasion of the thousands of Japanese people lying dead under the rubble or swept cruelly out to sea. Why be diverted by a human calamity of unimaginable dimensions when the opportunity exists to score a propaganda point. Trouble was, no nuclear disaster ensued and the most unlikely of people began drawing all the “wrong” conclusions. In the Guardian on March 21 none other than George Monbiot wrote:           

You will not be surprised to hear that the events in Japan have changed my view of nuclear power. You will be surprised to hear how they have changed it. As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology. A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features was hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami. The electricity supply failed, knocking out the cooling system. The reactors began to explode and melt down. The disaster exposed a familiar legacy of poor design and corner-cutting. Yet, as far as we know, no one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation.  

Monbiot would find Moore’s evaluation of nuclear energy in Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout both reassuring and informative, but recommending the work of an eco-Judas to the Guardian’s most formidable activist-journalist hardly seems appropriate.           

In Confessions of Greenpeace Dropout Patrick Moore is more than capable of taking the high moral ground from the enviro-activists. For instance, his book addresses the calamitous consequences of Greenpeace’s pseudo-scientific anti-GM campaign. Also discussed is the thirty-year ban on DDT as an agent for controlling tropical diseases, a period that coincides with the deaths of 50 million people from malaria. Although the internet is brimming with websites accusing the late Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring (1962), of mass murder and genocide, even comparing her with Hitler and Stalin, Moore apportions responsibility for the millions of unnecessary deaths elsewhere. Carson, as it turns out, did not call for the unilateral suspension of chemical insecticides; she simply questioned their arbitrary and unrestricted use: “It was not Rachel Carson who was unreasonable, but rather the extremists who used her writings to further a zero tolerance agenda.” As late as 2000 Greenpeace and the WWF—without any apparent scientific justification—were lobbying the United Nations to rule out the use of DDT against malaria. Not until 2004 did Greenpeace and the WWF relent under enormous humanitarian pressure and publicly sanction the use of DDT as an insecticide. Here was one of those cold days in hell when “concern for human health finally triumphed over a dogmatic belief”. 

The chapter titled “Climate of Fear” offers no particular surprise or new insight on the subject of anthropogenic global warming. Human beings, Moore suggests, might have contributed in a minor way to a (relatively speaking) minor increase in global temperature over the past century, a phase of warming that might or might not recommence some time in the future despite having stalled these past twelve years. Furthermore, if the alarmists are correct and the rise in global temperature is not “natural” but due to human causes, then how do they account for temperature stagnation or even decline during a period in which man-made emissions (including carbon dioxide) continued to increase? “It is not logical to believe that natural factors are only responsible for cooling and not for warming.” Moreover, if carbon dioxide is a primary cause of global warming, why was there so much more of it about during the ice age of 450 million years ago? And what about the Medieval warming that occurred long before the Industrial Age arrived with its large-scale emissions of man-made carbon dioxide?

In short, Moore rehearses the sort of arguments that are now standard fare amongst well-informed people who dissent from the party line promulgated by the likes of the IPCC. The real significance of the “Climate of Fear” chapter, which includes a discussion of Climategate, is that it allows Moore to add a final piece to the jigsaw puzzle that is “activist science”, a strain of science which turns out not to be science at all.

The most chilling moment in Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout comes when Moore quotes Paul Watson, an early Greenpeace activist who today runs the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society: “We need to radically and intelligently reduce human populations to fewer than one billion … Cutting a body of cancer requires radical and invasive therapy, and therefore, curing the biosphere of the human virus will also require a radical and invasive approach.” As distinct from their Christian counterparts, the proselytisers of Gaia, daughter of Chaos, do not see humanity needing salvation so much as the planet needing deliverance from humanity. In the light of this I hope Patrick Moore’s testimonial plays no small role in humanity’s deliverance from Greenpeace and all the other eco-fascist outfits that currently plague our world.  

Daryl McCann reviewed The Uses of Pessimism by Roger Scruton in the April issue.


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