Excerpts from Greenie website Irregular Climate
Like it or not...the green movement has failed...This post is about the green movement itself and how it has alienated the public.
Part 1: Genetically modified food
Probably no clearer example of this alienation comes to us from Greenpeace in Australia. Recently a group of Greenpeace protesters broke into a research facility and destroyed a trial crop of genetically modified wheat. Amongst other things, this trial was attempting to determine the safety of this strain of genetically modified wheat.
Why did Greenpeace destroy the wheat? Because according to Greenpeace “Genetically modified food has never been proven safe to eat“.
Think about that for a second.
How are scientists supposed to determine if this genetically modified wheat is safe, Greenpeace destroys the trials that were designed to address that specific question? Greenpeace’s position here has nothing to do with science, and everything to do with ideology.
But not only is Greenpeace’s action based on ideology, it was actively anti-science, and anti-scientist.
It is anti science because such research provides valuable information as Christopher Preston, an agricultural scientist at the University of Adelaide, explains:
These trials are not just about the development of genetically modified crops that may at some future time be developed commercially, but frequently provide spin-off information that is of use in our understanding of gene action in the environment. This important information is also lost.
Valuable data was destroyed. This will set back the development of new ideas, which will cost farmers money. Ideas that are needed as the world struggles to feed over 7 billion people.
Not only data was destroyed, but possibly careers were destroyed as Christopher Preston again explains:
All the research staff working in my program are on short-term contracts, which is the nature of scientific careers these days. They need to continually produce research to further these careers.For them, the loss of a field trial could mean the difference between a new grant and leaving science.For postgraduate students, the situation is even more difficult. Typically, current postgraduate students only get two field seasons to complete their research. The loss of a field trial can have an enormous impact on their ability to complete their degrees on time.
But being anti-science and scientist is only the least offensive aspect of Greenpeace’s action.
Most importantly Greenpeace’s actions are anti-human. The genetically modified wheat they destroyed was designed with a lower glycemic index and a higher fibre content. Both are features which could improve human health and save lives in the developed and developing world. If human population continues to grow, then so does the pressure on our food production systems. Can we feed 7 billion people? What about 8, 9 or 10 billion? It is irresponsible to ignore the potential solutions that genetic modification provides.
Professor Mark Tester, a plant scientist at the University of Adelaide, sums up the situation:
[Genetic modification] technology is not a magic bullet but it does offer new opportunities to improve the quality and quantity of wheat. One cannot make any generalisations about [genetic modification] or any other technology – it all depends on how it is used… One cannot say that all [genetic modification] is good or that all [genetic modification] is bad but it is one of many tools in our toolbox to try and help protect the environment and feed people around the world.
Yet Greenpeace, blinded by ideology, was unable to comprehend this. They destroyed the field trial, and in doing so were anti-science, anti-scientist, and anti-human.
And they were even anti-Greenpeace, or rather anti-their-own-stated-goals. There are many legitimate reasons to oppose genetically modified food, things like patent law, and other policies are incredibly troubling (note this isn’t a scientific problem but a political one), but in recklessly attacking genetically modified food they draw attention away from these legitimate issues and focus it on the one area that is relatively free from controversy (the research designed to answer questions we all have, like is it safe?).
In it’s opposition to Genetically modified food Greenpeace is not alone. A large part of the green movement is also ideologically opposed to genetically modified food.
But, while this sad story highlights how Greenpeace and the green movement have alienated the public, it is not the only story.
Part 2: Nuclear Power
Take nuclear power for instance, At the same time Greenpeace states (correctly) that climate change threatens our very way of life, that unless something drastic is done many will die and everyone else will suffer greatly, and (incorrectly) that, no matter what, nuclear power must be opposed at all costs:
Greenpeace has always fought — and will continue to fight — vigorously against nuclear power because it is an unacceptable risk to the environment and to humanity. The only solution is to halt the expansion of all nuclear power, and for the shutdown of existing plants.
As discussed in episode 21 of Irregular Climate, it makes absolutely zero sense to adopt a policy of dismantling nuclear power plants. One needs only look at Germany, which is generally seen as an environmental leader, to see why such a policy is exactly the wrong thing to do.
After the Fukushima disaster, Germany pledged to shut down all of its nuclear power plants by the year 2022. Currently nuclear power supplies about 25% of Germany’s electricity. The best case scenario would be if Germany is able to replace all of this electricity with renewable sources. But even if Germany is able to accomplish this amazing feat, it would do nothing to reduce its GHG emissions. Germany would be replacing one form of carbon-free energy with another, and all that massive investment and deployment of renewables won’t reduce Germany’s emissions, because Germany wont be replacing its dirty coal power plants and will still be burning massive amounts of coal.
And that is the best case scenario. More likely Germany will not be able to replace all of its nuclear power with renewables and will fall back on burning more coal.
Such contradictions, understandably, confuse and alienate the public.
Part 3: The bigger problem
The green movement is against two technologies that could provide answers to some of the myriad of problems we face as human populations continues to grow: genetically modified organisms and nuclear power. These examples might be the most prominent, but they are not the only ones, and they are a symptom of a larger problem, perhaps best described by Hans Rosling and his magic washing machine:
There is a general trend of opposing new technology within the green movement. This opposition, as Hans Rosling describes in the video above is predominantly directed at people who live in developing countries. They cannot have the washing machine! Or much of anything else, apparently.
To support this position many greens present a romanticised version of the third world, where people are freed from the burdens of a modern technological life. Of course these same greens seem unwilling to give up these supposed burdens themselves. Or as Hans Rosling states: “Even the hardcore in the green movement use the washing machine!”
Of course people living the the third-world, don’t see things the same way. As Hans Rsoling emphatically says “If you have democracy people will vote for the washing machine!“ Inevitably this alienates people in the third world, and people who care about the third world.
This anti-technology position lends itself, inevitably, to an anti-development position. Without access to technology little development is possible.
But this leads to what is perhaps the biggest problem with the green movement. It is perceived as being part of the radical left, of being anti-capitalism.
The solution to the problems within the green movement are simple.
The green movement needs to drop its ideological positions. It needs to view the world as it actually exists and not as it wishes it existed.
This means embracing science. It means following the data wherever it leads, even if that means admitting you were wrong in the past....In short, we need a new green movement. One that is not bound by ideology, but is instead firmly rooted in reality.
These solutions might be simple but, none of them will be easy. However the current path the green movement has chosen will only lead to failure.