Bill Muehlenberg's commentary on issues of the day...

Assessing Green Politics

Jul 2, 2001

In any number of social causes, extremism often enters the debate, with the result that truth and common sense get trampled on along the way. This can often be the case with Green activism. Now concern for the environment is both necessary and welcome. Christianity has always had a place for a balanced view of environmental issues. It has understood the created order to be a sacred trust, a gift given to mankind. We are enjoined to be good stewards of these gifts, but we are not to worship any part of God’s creation.

Many radical Greens do worship the creation however. They see man as an intruder, see people as pollution, and see nature as God. Man is the problem, not the solution, and radical steps must be taken to right the wrongs.

Such radical environmentalism is often based on bad science and misleading or deceptive information. Many Greens resort to scare-mongering and sensationalism to state their case. Recall what Paul Ehrlich wrote in The Population Bomb in 1968: “The battle to feed all of humanity is over.” He was wrong then and he is still wrong.

Often overly pessimistic scenarios, and suppression of doubt or contrary viewpoints, seems to characterise much of Green rhetoric. Consider what one proponent of the theory of CFC damage to the ozone layer said, “We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we may have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.”

The story of DDT is a case in point. When DDT was patented as an insecticide in 1939, it was welcomed as a much-needed substitute for the toxic insecticides then commonly in use – arsenic, mercury, fluorine and lead.

Soon thereafter DDT was being used against all insect-transmitted (and epidemic) diseases, such as yellow fever, encephalitis and malaria. The result was nothing short of miraculous. For example, in 1948, before the use of DDT, there were 2.8 million cases of malaria reported in Sri Lanka; in 1963 there were only 17.

Overuse of the pesticide however led to small amounts of DDT being detected in soil, water and animals. Over-reaction followed. Books like Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) warned of the demise of all living creatures. As a result, DDT was banned in the U.S. in 1972, despite objections from the scientific community. Much of the rest of the world stopped spraying as well. The result was cataclysmic: in the 1940s 200 million people a year were stricken with malaria annually, with about two million deaths per year. By 1978 there were 800 million cases of malaria and 8.2 million deaths per year.

Examples of deceptions can be found much closer to home, and much more recently. I just read a story in the press about a new political party, Liberals for Forests, that will stand a candidate for the Aston by-election in Victoria in mid-July. There are at least four misleading points that can be observed. First, it is not connected to the Liberal Party at all, but is a front for environmental groups. Second, the State convenor admits to being “an ex-Labor person”. Third, he admits that they have “very few members at all in Victoria”. Fourth, the party’s candidate is an ex-Democrats supporter.

But staying close to the truth has not always been a strong point for many environmentalists. A number of greens have admitted that truth sometimes must be sacrificed in the interests of the environment. Consider this comment by Paul Watson, co-founder of Greenpeace: “It doesn’t matter what is true; it only matters what people believe is true. . . . You are what the media define you to be. [Greenpeace] became a myth and a myth-generating machine.”

Or consider scientists who have abandoned objectivity to promote their own pet causes. Pro-greenhouse scientist, Stephen Schneider, made these remarks: “It is journalistically irresponsible to present both sides [of the greenhouse, global warming theory] as though it were a question of balance. Given the distribution of views . . . it is irresponsible to give equal time to a few people standing out in left field.”

Such deceptions, coupled with a sensationalist media, makes for poor reporting of real scientific fact. And disinformation, repeated often enough, soon becomes accepted as gospel.

[723 words]

2 Responses to Assessing Green Politics

  • NB: Stephen Schneider 30 years ago was an advocate for global ice age scaremongering! In 1971, he co-authored a paper “Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Aerosols: Effects of Large Increases on Global Climate” (Science 173:138–141), which concluded:

    However, it is projected that man’s potential to pollute will increase 6 to 8-fold in the next 50 years. If this increased rate of injection… should raise the present background opacity by a factor of 4, our calculations suggest a decrease in global temperature by as much as 3.5 °C. Such a large decrease in the average temperature of Earth, sustained over a period of few years, is believed to be sufficient to trigger an ice age. [Emphasis added]

    Now he wants us to believe that he really means it this time? We are supposed to trust these guys now despite their proven track record of failed predictions and deliberate slanting of their stories?

    Jonathan Sarfati, Brisbane

  • This is so true. And regarding DDT and malaria, again what you write is sad, but true. We lived in Zambia a couple of years ago. While we were there, I heard that DDT spraying had been re-introduced. At first I was horrified that our family could be exposed to DDT! Later, I came to learn that it was not as bad as we were all taught. As you say, it was about the environment really.

    Now you wrote this article nearly 10 years ago, but for those who may not yet be informed….

    On 10th Dec 2000, the Malaria Foundation International won the right to lift the ban on the use of DDT to control malaria and any other vector-borne disease.

    To think of all the needless deaths caused by malaria is absolutely horrendous. And I believe that to this day, DDT is still not being used as extensively as it could be. People are still dying unnecessarily from malaria.

    Annette Nestor, Perth

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