Group-think in action: Greens who don’t toe the party line vilified by traditional sections of the environmental movement.

 In the Pundit’s opinion, serious difficulty with solving global environmental problems is lack of open-minded and objective evaluation of all of the options on the table. Another difficulty is that without full knowledge about how the world works, without practical engagement with the challenges of findingsolutions to real world problems, it’s easy to regard distant problems as being unimportant. The proverb out of sight out of mind comes to mind. One example of this is bad take-up in industrialised countries of vaccination programs for diseases which have seemingly been brought under control because of active vaccination programs.

In the absence of raging disease parents think that diseases such as measles will not strike their own children. In the area of food production and abundant availability of food over the last 30 or 40 years seems to make future food security something we don’t have to worry about.

So we should listen to debates about new technologies particularly keenly even though they are unpopular among many people: 

Leading environmental campaigners support nuclear and GM
Leading environmental campaigners have performed a u-turn on two key technologies they have opposed for decades by openly calling for greater use of nuclear power and genetically modified crops to help the world tackle climate change.

Daily Telegraph, UK, By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent
Published: 10:15AM GMT 31 Oct 2010

The activists now say that by opposing nuclear power they encouraged the use of polluting coal-fired power stations.

For years they campaigned against nuclear power and genetically-modified food. But now some leading environmental campaigners have performed a U-turn and said that they got it wrong…

…The activists feature in the Channel 4 documentary What the Green Movement Got Wrong, which will be broadcast this week.

They say that by successfully lobbying against the building of new nuclear power stations, environmentalists forced governments around the world to build new coal fired power stations instead, resulting in billions of extra tonnes of carbon dioxide and pollution being poured into the atmosphere.
Mr Lynas, who along with other activists ripped up trial GM crops in the 1990s, said that GM food had now been consumed by millions of people in the US for more than 10 years without harm, and this had convinced him to change his views.
The campaigners say that since they expressed their change of position, they have been vilified by traditional sections of the environmental movement.

Update:

Comments at Ferrari’s for all :

mong the many comments on the Channel 4 documentary were:

* A range of comments by greens in a Guardian feature including by representatives of Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the New Economics Foundation (Andrew Simms).

George Monbiot in the Guardian accusing the programme of being imbued with corporate thinking.  This is his standard technique for avoiding hard arguments on difficult topics.

* A critique by Tom Levitt in the Ecologist.

* Matt Ridley, one of the most eloquent critics of environmentalism, in a blog post entitled “sinners that repent”.

For more general background:

* Rob Lyons wrote a review of Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Discipline for spiked.

* The main proponents of progressive environmentalism in America are Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute, authors of The death of environmentalism. However, they were not mentioned in Thursday’s Channel 4 documentary.

Written by David Tribe

David Tribe’s research career in academia and industry has covered molecular genetics, biochemistry, microbial evolution and biotechnology. He has over 60 publications and patents. Dr. Tribe's recent activities focus on agricultural policy and food risk management. He teaches graduate programs in food science and risk management as a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Agriculture and Food Systems, University of Melbourne.

6 comments

  1. http://www.channel4.com/programmes/what-the-green-movement-got-wrong/episode-guide/
    What the Green Movement Got Wrong: The Debate Krishnan
    Krishnan Guru-Murthy chairs a studio debate to discuss the issues raised in the documentary, What the Green Movement Got Wrong.
    First broadcast: Thursday 04 November, 10.20PM on Channel 4
    What the Green Movement Got Wrong
    A group of environmentalists across the world believe that, in order to save the planet, humanity must embrace the very science and technology they once so stridently opposed.
    First broadcast: Thursday 04 November, 9PM on Channel 4

  2. The discussion boards are raging already about this before it even been aired. Typical!
    The crux of all arguments seem to be lack of independant research. What always mystifies me is that Greenpeace and their ilk
    a) won’t believe any industry data even though its all performed and scrutinised under GLP.
    b) won’t beleive industry-funded independant research groups.
    c) won’t believe independant research done by institutes where industry funds other research groups in that institute, even when no links exist between those researchers.
    d) won’t believe work funded by governments as they too are obviously in the pay of industry.
    Yet they also don’t do any research themselves which would be the obvious way around their dilemma. So why do Greenpeace not perform some high quality GLP GM research with clearly laid out methods for execution and analysis in advance? It’d carry far more weight than stuffing their Euros in CRIIGENs coffers.
    Hopefully someone in tonight’s debate will put this idea to them.
    Jonathan

    1. Jonathan,
      There is one answer for all of your questions.
      Doubtless you have heard the phrase, ‘Calling for a public debate about (insert green target)’.
      Debate underpins all the money and influence wielded by Greenpeace et. al. If they were to become factual or agreeable, or to yield to simple common sense, they would literally be out of business.
      Last I looked, Greenpeace was generating ~$175 million annually.
      Who would willingly walk away from that kind of money?
      Persons of conscience, of course, which says a great deal about the leadership of Greenpeace, Fiends of the Earth, etc.
      Grotesque.

  3. Jonathan,
    If Greenpeace and Co. were to do their own tests, they would, first, be bound by their results, second, subject to scrutiny and challenge over their results and, third, constrained in their propaganda since they would not be credible if they were launching a campaign before having done the research. The ‘independence’ of their research would also be questioned.
    The solution they have found is to entrust the ‘research’ to entities such as CRIIGEN, or Testbiotech in Germany. Check the bios of the Testbiotech ‘members’ and you will have a clear picture of the notion of ‘independence’.
    Eric,
    ‘Greenpeace was generating ~$175 million annually.’
    Which Greenpeace?

  4. What a great programme and also debate afterwards. Conflicting pounts of view, yes, but that is good. I liked the new environmentalists a lot and admired their adherence to Green goals and principles whilst realising that their beliefs have to be based on scientific evidence.
    I was also impressed with the restrained arguments of Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and journalists like George Monbiot. All people I rarely have time for. They stuck to their guns but were open to debate and criticism on those points of view. So refreshing compared to the rabid eco-lunatics you encounter when trying to have a reasoned debate on these topics on the internet.
    The public poll conducted at the end of the documentary asked the British public, Could GM crops and nuclear energy make a positive contribution to enviromental policy in the future. By 11.30pm last night approx 67% had voted ‘yes’ and 33% ‘no’.
    A change in public perception of technologies? I hope so. Let’s see.
    Jonathan

  5. In April last, Oxfam America dared to scratch the ‘green’ anti-GM articles of faith. Result:
    « We the undersigned, as part of the global food justice and food sovereignty movement, are writing to you to express our grave concerns with the recent position publicized by Oxfam America in support of agricultural biotechnology as a viable solution for addressing poverty faced by resource poor and subsistence farmers in developing countries. We deemed necessary to write to you not just because of a recently released book, but also because Oxfam America appears to be positioning itself as a ‘good broker’ for independent research on Bt cotton in West Africa with support from the Gates Foundation. »
    (http://www.oaklandinstitute.org/?q=node/view/552)
    Even organising a debate is sin (http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_16775.cfm); same for sitting at the same table as Monsanto (http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/271944/wwf_and_monsanto_is_gm_soy_now_okay.html).
    On Channel 4:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/nov/02/channel-4-green-documentary
    « Channel 4 accused of misleading contributors to green documentary – Adam Werbach says he was not informed of the polemical nature of the programme, and that his opinions are not accurately represented »
    And there is more…

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