ENVIRONMENTALISM: by Patrick J. ByrneNews Weekly
Why so much heat in the climate change debate?
, September 3, 2011
The passion, heat and anger exhibited by green ideologues reflect a sanitised and romanticised view of the world in which humans are portrayed as the destroyers of the environment.
In the climate change debate, passionate environmentalists often express the view that humans are the destroyers of nature — of species, of biodiversity and of the environment — and that humans will soon have consumed all fossil fuels (coal, oil, gas, peat) on the planet.
There is an element of truth in the claim that man can destroy a species, or a forest, or a river; but are humans alone the destroyers of biodiversity?
The geological record shows that periodically nature is extremely violent and destructive of species and the environment.
There have been five mass extinctions and numerous smaller extinctions, long before humans set foot on earth.
The mother of all extinctions was the Permian-Triassic around 251 million years ago, in which 96 per cent of all ocean species and 70 per cent of land species vanished.
Scientists are uncertain about the cause. Theories include an asteroid collision with earth, volcanic eruptions, massive emissions of methane and hydrogen sulphide into the atmosphere from varioius sources, and the de-oxygenation of the oceans.
The dinosaurs were wiped out in the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event, approximately 65.5 million years ago. Most scientists think this extinction was caused by an asteroid striking the earth, igniting global wildfires and creating dust or chemical clouds that blocked sunlight from reaching the planet. But the science isn’t settled.
Paleontologists estimate that 99.9 per cent of all species that ever existed have been wiped out by nature itself.
If nature can foster and nurture life on earth, but also be the mass exterminator of vast numbers of species, why do many green groups idolise nature while demonising humans as the evil destroyers of biodiversity?
Why would it be acceptable for the lions of the Serengeti to, say, wipe out the Thompson gazelle, but morally reprehensible for humans to have caused the extinction of the American passenger pigeon?
Of course, it’s argued that humans have a moral compass and should behave responsibly.
This is true. Humans have a duty to treat nature responsibly, to not exploit species to the point of extinction, or resources to the detriment of biodiversity and future generations, or destructively pollute the atmosphere, water and land.
However, humans are also preservers of species, and, through domestication and breeding techniques, humans have increased diversity and made plants and animals more productive than their wild ancestors.
Cats, dogs and other animals have been domesticated and bred into a wide variety of breeds.
Food-producing and ornamental plants have been modified into a vast number of differing forms.
In calling on humans to act morally towards the environment, green groups are venturing beyond science into philosophy, ethics and religion.
Yet humans are also part of the environment, part of nature. On the whole, they are far less destructive of biodiversity than nature itself is.
As for depleting fossil fuels, there is an alternative. Nuclear energy from uranium or thorium could replace coal, oil and gas for electricity.
But this is rejected outright by most green groups.
The Australian Greens Party’s economic agenda is to phase out all coal-fired power stations, replacing them with highly expensive alternatives using unproven renewable energies.
This dovetails with their social agenda, which is aimed at reducing the Australian population. They would like us to live in a rural Hobbitsville or in some world like James Cameron’s apologia for pantheism (the belief that God is nature), depicted in his science-fiction movie Avatar.
This is a distorted view of nature from people living in cities where humans have tamed nature. Pet dogs, cats and goldfish have replaced the wild wolf and predatory lions, sharks and crocodiles.
People no longer live in flimsy bush shelters, but in comfortable homes that protect them from the extremes of temperature and weather in general. As their food comes from the supermarket, they no longer face the dangers of the hunter-gatherer.
The city-dweller’s sanitised, pantheistic view of nature fails to reflect the reality of nature untamed. Nature untamed is characterised by violence and survival of the fittest. Its cycle of life is a cycle of mortality, where life is nasty, brutish and short.
Human societies closest to nature understand this better than tree-hugging city-dwellers.
Our ancestors understood that humans are not at home with such cruel rhythms. Half inside and half outside the natural world, they understood that humans yearned for an upward escape to an immortal existence beyond nature’s cruel cycle of life and death.
The green climate-change alarmists’ portrayal of humanity as the evil destroyer of nature is premised on a pantheistic, idealised view of nature that’s vastly at odds with the cruelty and violence of the natural world.
Patrick J Byrne is vice-president of the National Civic Council.