It was 1978. Young Greenpeace leader Patrick Moore, hair Afro-style, was interfering with the annual baby fur-seal hunt off Newfoundland. He jumped on a baby seal to shield it with his body but found it was, as he put it, ‘a tough little bugger’ who didn’t want to be jumped on. He hung on to it for dear life, his film crews’ cameras whirring, but was arrested and dragged off. Two sealers bashed the pup’s head in and skinned their little victim.
At least Greenpeace had its ‘mind bomb’ – the term Greenpeace used for irresistible media airplay. But when the film got to CBC studios in Montreal, it was exposed and useless, either by carelessness or sabotage. But the still photos made it into 3000 newspapers.
It was a bit hard to reconcile that Greenpeace warrior with the balding, conservative 67-year-old at a Melbourne podium last Friday. He quit Greenpeace in 1986 after 15 years as a co-founder, saying the organisation had become anti-science and anti-human. He now runs consultancy Ecosense Environmental as “The Sensible Environmentalist”, combating what he calls green sensationalism, misinformation, and pop-environmentalism. His Melbourne talk was sponsored by the Galileo Movement, and based on his book Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout (Beatty Street, 2013).
Moore is not exactly being rushed by ABC interviewers, unlike, say, Green catastrophist Naomi Oreskes. He suspects his one scheduled interview appointment will involve a hostile host wanting to know about his Big Oil funding. (editor’s note: Moore was set to be interviewed by Jon Faine, of the ABC’s radio 774, but the host called in sick that day.)
In Melbourne, Moore began by narrating his small group’s original campaigns against nuclear testing on remote islands, with success at least against Richard Nixon, who cancelled the H-bomb test series in the Aleutians in 1972. The French were more aggressive, beating up a Greenpeace activist at Mururoa in 1973 and sinking the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland in 1985. Moore was on the wharf and dealt with the aftermath of the death of the Greenpeace photographer, who after the first blast ducked down to his cabin to get his expensive gear and was killed by the second blast.
Moore also helped organise various successful Zodiac-boat campaigns against whaling by Western countries, including Greenpeace’s sally down to Albany and Cheynes Beach whaling station in 1977.
His fellow directors were unqualified in science, whereas he has a PhD in ecology and environmental science. When they decided, against his advice, to campaign to ban chlorine, he split. “I told them, ‘Adding chlorine to drinking water was the biggest advance in the history of public health. Most synthetic pharmaceuticals and medicines are made with chlorine.’ But Greenpeace had drifted away from science and logic, and its tools now were misinformation, sensationalism and fear, all designed to get public donations.”
Moore’s main campaign today is the promotion of genetically modified rice, called “Golden Rice” which involves added Vitamin A through beta-carotine from corn. Beta-carotine is a natural element of green plants and is even in wild rice’s inedible leaves, as distinct from the seeds.
He says Greenpeace is fighting against introduction of Golden Rice, which could save the lives of up to two million children dying each year from vitamin A deficiency. This toll is as bad as malaria and AIDS. “Greenpeace advertises with skull and crossbones as though Golden Rice is going to kill the kids, not cure them,” he says. “The reality is that 250,000 to 500,000 kids go irreversibly blind from the deficiency each year and half die within a year . These kids are in the poorest families who can’t supplement their ordinary rice with other vitamin-rich foods.”
A co-inventor of the Golden Rice, Dr Ingo Potrykus, has described the Greenpeace campaign as a crime against humanity that should be dealt with by an international court.
Greenpeace’s campaign is largely based on a supposition that Golden Rice is both part of an alleged Monsanto conspiracy and could somehow out-breed into other species and ‘contaminate’ them with the corn gene, Moore says. Even if that were true, would it be worse than 500,000 blinded and dying children? Moreover, there is no issue of price-gouging of the poor, because subsistence farmers would get Golden Rice seed free.
I checked the Greenpeace official pamphlet “Golden Illusion” and found it unconvincing. It claimed that the world’s poorest farmers should seek out a more diverse diet, but unassisted by any donations from Greenpeace’s bulging $400 million-a-year budget:
“The tens of millions of dollars spent on this project [Golden Rice] would have been better spent on VAD (Vitamin A Deficiency) solutions that work. Golden rice is simply the wrong approach and a waste of money. Golden rice diverts significant resources away from dealing with the real underlying causes of VAD and malnutrition, which are mainly poverty and lack of access to a more diverse diet. Indeed, it is a risky distraction from solutions that are already helping to tackle VAD and malnutrition more effectively without subjecting the population to unknown health risks.”
Cosmos magazine this year began a story:
The sickly toddler is about two years old. Holding the hand of her thin, ragged mother, her eyes are horrible to behold, just a bluish membrane where eyes should be. She is, of course, blind and will probably not live beyond her third year. Like 500,000 other children born in poor countries, her blindness is a result of vitamin A deficiency, a problem that could have been fixed by a diet adequate in vegetables such as carrots or tomatoes… But in the rural east of India, while rice is affordable, year-round vegetables are not… [After 22 years research effort] Golden Rice was trialled in the Philippines last August. You might think the trial would have been met with celebration. Instead a mob of anti-GMO activists, bussed in from the city but claiming to represent farmers, tore into the crop. Globally their actions were championed by Greenpeace and plenty of others.
Moore believes Greenpeace’s real motive is that success for Golden Rice would undermine its absolute position that all genetically modified food is harmful. Every major Academy of Science supports genetically modified foods to combat malnutrition, he says.
As a test, I checked with the Australian Academy of Science, and found that it had recommended on December 6, 2007:
Gene technology can play a role in the alleviation of malnutrition, enhancing sustainability and securing yields worldwide. Its potential must be harnessed. Sometimes, the lack of full certainty, in an environment of manageable risk, should not be used as the reason to postpone measures where genetic modification can legitimately be used to address environmental or public health issues.
Moore grew up in a community of foresters. He is adamant that the forestry industry is a force for sustainability because it depends on replantings, whereas crop farming permanently removes trees. In Australia, farmers are often afraid to plant native trees because Greens will find ways to prevent the trees ever being cut. Hence farmers plant pine monocultures instead of native trees that could support a whole renewable ecosystem.
Australia has the world’s most variegated and beautiful native wood but is a timber importer because of Green opposition to the forestry industry. Australia ought to be a world powerhouse for sustainable native timber exporting, he says. Greenpeace successfully blackmailed the 2000 Sydney Olympics into banning native timbers in Olympics infrastructure, enabling Sydney to use the slogan “Green Olympics”. The result was use instead of steel, concrete and imported timber.
Building on its Sydney success, Greenpeace in 2002 managed to control the Sustainability Committee for Toronto’s 2008 Olympics bid. The committee specified that infrastructure should shun wood, PVC and even cadmium and tin. Greenpeace seemed unaware that cadmium was essential to laptop and smart-phone batteries, and that tin was needed to make the Bronze Medals. (Beijing won the Games). By contrast, the entire interior roof of the Vancouver Winter Olympics speed skating rink in 2010 was made of native timber.
Greenpeace campaigns against native timber in buildings, even though timber would lock up CO2 emissions for years to come and encourage timber plantings. Instead, architects specify energy-intensive steel and concrete, he says.
“In the long term, a sustainable forest management strategy aimed at maintaining or increasing forest carbon stocks, while producing an annual sustained yield of timber… will generate the largest sustained mitigation benefit.”
Moore says, “It’s a sad state of affairs in Australia, it’s not as bad in other parts of the world. Put 20% of native forests in national parks and encourage sustainable forestry in the rest. Do this for emissions reasons, even disregarding the employment and trade benefits.”
Moore makes fun of Greenpeace hypocrisy, instancing Greenpeace’s campaigning ship, Rainbow Warrior 111, which was built in 2011 for $US32 million and supposedly powered by electrics and wind in the sails. Its first mission was to protest at Holland building a coal-fired power plant to back up wind power. Not in video view was the Rainbow Warrior’s 1850HP Volvo diesel “back-up” engine, nor the main diesel engine.
He also expresses amazement that Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo had the brass to announce this month that there was nothing wrong with using celebrities “to move the agenda forward” for Greenpeace — even if the celebrities like Leonardo diCaprio happen to own lavish houses and private jets. Moore says such sentiments would normally be confined to closed-door internal strategy sessions, being so unethical and immoral.
He finished with a useful point: the only religion practicing good science is Roman Catholicism, while Anglicans are aboard the Greens’ bandwagon. Pope Francis gave his personal blessing to Golden Rice last November, while in 2010 leading members of the Pontifical Academy of Science reported:
“There is a moral imperative to make the benefits of GE (genetic engineering) technology available on a larger scale to poor and vulnerable populations who want them and on terms that will enable them to raise their standards of living, improve their health and protect their environments.”
“They are pretty smart guys, they’ve had some Nobel Prize involvement,” Moore says of the Vatican’s boffins. “The Anglican Church doesn’t have an academy of science; as far as I know the Muslims don’t either.”
Tony Thomas blogs at tthomas061.wordpress.com