ENVIRONMENTALISM: by Joseph PoprzecznyNews Weekly
Greenpeace co-founder has second thoughts
, February 5, 2011
Canadian environmentalist, Dr Patrick Moore, who helped found Greenpeace, says he left the organisation because it became "increasingly senseless as it adopted an agenda that was anti-science, anti-business, and downright anti-human".
In a hard-hitting article for The Vancouver Sun
(January 7, 2011) he said he joined Greenpeace "before it was even called by that name".
Moore went on to play a key role in blocking American and French nuclear testing in the Pacific, and helped launch campaigns against whaling, baby seal hunting, driftnet fishing, and toxic-waste dumping.
He said: "Our campaigns were highly successful at changing opinions and energising the public. Through the power of the media and the people, we were steadily influencing government policies and forcing industries to clean up their acts. We had achieved the support of the majority of people in the industrialised democracies.
"By 1982, Greenpeace had grown into a full-fledged international movement with offices and staff around the world. We were bringing in $100 million a year in donations and half a dozen campaigns were occurring simultaneously."
But just as Greenpeace was moving into full stride, Moore began having doubts.
During the early 1980s he altered his "perspective on the direction in which environmentalism, in general, and Greenpeace, in particular, were heading".
He said this came with his introduction "to the concept of sustainable development", followed by noticing that his Greenpeace colleagues were opting for policies he saw as "extremist and irrational".
He said: "These two developments would set the stage for my transformation from a radical activist into a sensible environmentalist."
In 1982 he attended a United Nations environment conference in Nairobi where he would be one of 85 environmental leaders asked to prepare an over-arching statement on global environmental protection.
That experience showed him that two quite different stances existed on environmental questions; the first being an anti-development syndrome whose backers were environmentalists hailing from wealthy industrialised countries and the second "the pro-development perspective of environmentalists from the poor developing countries".
One of the pro-development activists told Moore that if he backed the anti-development line, it would get him "laughed out of the room".
Moore observed: "A well-fed person has many problems, a hungry person has but one. ... We could see the tragic reality of poverty on the outskirts of our Kenyan host city. Those of us from industrialised countries recognised we had to be in favour of some kind of development, preferably the kind that didn't ruin the environment in the process. Thus the concept of sustainable development was born."
What this alerted Moore to was that putting sustainable development into practice would be markedly more difficult than merely launching media campaigns for impact in wealthy peoples' homes.
"At the same time I chose to become less militant and more diplomatic, my Greenpeace colleagues became more extreme and intolerant of dissenting opinions from within," he said.
Moore, the only Greenpeace leader at the time with a doctorate in ecology, insisted that whenever they debated issues they should not resort to exaggeration, a stance that soon gained him the nickname "Dr Truth", which, he said, "wasn't always meant as a compliment".
"Despite my efforts, the movement abandoned science and logic somewhere in the mid-1980s, just as society was adopting the more reasonable items on our environmental agenda.
"Some activists simply couldn't make the transition from confrontation to consensus; it was as if they needed a common enemy. When a majority of people decide they agree with all your reasonable ideas the only way you can remain confrontational and anti-establishment is to adopt ever more extreme positions, eventually abandoning science and logic altogether in favour of zero-tolerance policies."
Then came the collapse of world communism, an event that "added to the trend toward extremism".
He said: "The Cold War was over and the peace movement was largely disbanded. The peace movement had been mainly Western-based and anti-American in its leanings. Many of its members moved into the environmental movement, bringing with them their neo-Marxist, far-left agendas.
"To a considerable extent the environmental movement was hijacked by political and social activists who learned to use green language to cloak agendas that had more to do with anti-capitalism and anti-globalisation than with science or ecology.
"I remember visiting our Toronto office in 1985 and being surprised at how many of the new recruits were sporting army fatigues and red berets in support of the Sandinistas."
Interestingly, Moore doesn't blame them for seizing this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to re-invigorate pro-green activism.
He said the green movement contained a great deal of power, and leftists who found themselves without a cause, since the Soviet utopia had so dismally failed, were able to revitalise themselves by proselytising another revolutionary agenda.
He said: "To this day they use the word industry as if it were a swear word. The same goes for multinational, chemical, genetic, corporate, globalisation, and a host of other perfectly useful terms. Their propaganda campaign is aimed at promoting an ideology that I believe would be extremely damaging to both civilisation and the environment. ...
"A lot of environmentalists are stuck in the 1970s and continue to promote a strain of leftish romanticism about idyllic rural village life powered by windmills and solar panels. They idealise poverty, seeing it as a noble way of life, and oppose all large developments."Patrick Moore's new book, Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist (Vancouver: Beatty Street Publishing, 2011), is available from News Weekly books.