July 7, 2016


The death cult of environmentalism (Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, July 5, 2016, The Week)

There's nothing new, unusual, or dangerous about GMOs. Nothing. And all the science confirms it. And yet a strong and vocal fringe, and indeed a majority of people in some advanced countries, are opposed to GMOs. Here's Bernie Sanders vowing to fight for GMO labeling at the federal level.

This anti-science fringe is much less attacked than other fringes, because it is associated with the political left, and much of our media and commenting class assume that hostility to science is a value of the political right.

But the environmentalist left has a long history of damaging hostility to evidence, a hostility which has cost many, many lives over the decades.

Let's come up with just two examples. The biggest cause célèbre, which is also known as the founding of the modern environmentalist movement, is the (in)famous case of DDT. As a long article by Robert Zubrin in the review The New Atlantis explains, this miraculous insect-killer eliminated malaria, as well as many other insect-borne diseases, from the Southern United States, Southern Europe, and parts of South Asia, and was poised to do the same thing to Africa until it was banned by a fledgling EPA on unscientific grounds.

In 1970, in a comprehensive review on the pesticide, the National Academy of Sciences stated:

To only a few chemicals does man owe as great a debt as to DDT. It has contributed to the great increase in agricultural productivity, while sparing countless humanity from a host of diseases, most notably, perhaps, scrub typhus and malaria. Indeed, it is estimated that, in little more than two decades, DDT has prevented 500 million deaths due to malaria that would otherwise have been inevitable.

But no matter. DDT might have endangered the spotted owl (there's no evidence it did, by the way). And so it had to go.

Another famous example is nuclear power, which has almost no carbon emissions, is very cheap to run, and works fine. Opposition to nuclear power seems mostly motivated by superstition. Indeed, coal kills 4,000 times more people per unit of energy than nuclear, but in almost every country in the world, it's basically impossible to build a nuclear power plant. After Fukushima, despite a notable lack of tsunamis on German shores, Germany banned nuclear power and replaced it with a mix of dirty coal power and imported French (i.e. nuclear) power.

And what about all those ludicrously insane predictions of Armageddon that all those scientists made in the 1970s, warning that we would all be dead, or something like it, by the year 2000, if we didn't shut down power plants and oil wells right this minute?

Environmentalism sometimes has a little bit of a whiff of a death cult. It sometimes leans towards an anti-human worldview, one that views the Earth goddess as the only valuable "life-form" and humans as parasites. And it sometimes feels like more of a fundamentalist religion than anything else.

Heck, they don't even bother to hide their hatred of humankind anymore.  Alan Weisman's World Without Us was an extended argument--in defiance of physics--that nature would be superior without Man being part of it.  And the recent sci-fi novel, The Three-Body Problem, features an environmentalist heroine who encourages aliens to come and destroy us.

Posted by at July 7, 2016 10:35 AM