Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Environmentalists: What Are They Good For? (Part three of three)

John Stuart Mill said that, “… truth can only be established through free and frank public debate, and unless truth is ‘vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice’.
The received truth of environmentalism – that The Science has indicted mankind as a plague on the planet and we must atone for our sins by reducing our carbon emissions and reining in development – is indeed little more than a prejudice

There are, literally, hundreds of examples in the past 35 plus years, of the duplicity of the environmental community to use fear and lies to further their agenda. A recent scare involves the amount of pthalates in a clear plastic used extensively in water bottles and baby bottles and their movement into humans when using the bottles (You know the ubiquitous Nalgene bottles you see all the “healthy” people packing around and sipping on all day long in order to get their 8 glasses of water per day which recommendation itself is reputedly a recommendation, not from current highly researched sources, but from Aristotle). Studies are vague about any danger and speak of “large doses” fed to laboratory animals. The Alar studies showed that mice had to be fed the equivalent of what a human being would absorb by eating fourteen tons of apples, every day, for seventy years to show an effect. On the other hand, potatoes contain arsenic; lima beans contain cyanide; nutmeg contains a hallucinogen; broccoli contains a substance that causes cancer in animals.[1]

In another, more recent trend, parents are refusing to allow their children to get immunizations because of a fear of those shots causing autism in children. That connection has recently been shown to have resulted from erroneously reported results of the applicable research.

What do we know about the toxicity of substances? Well, we know that all chemicals are toxic but that the single factor which determines the level of that toxicity is the dose of that compound. That is, the amount we take over what time period (for instance we know that two glasses of wine can be therapeutic but two bottles will bring on intoxication). The chemical and physical behavior of a compound in the body is not a simple fact of exposure=problem. To assess impacts, one has to know how or how much chemical is adsorbed (attached to) what tissues, how they are then transported in the body, which tissues are they stored in, the extent of that storage (vs. how much is eliminated), how or how much the chemical physically binds to specific biological molecules, how much is converted to other more or less toxic groups and the excretion route and rates. Each of these has an effect on toxicity or lack of it. Some chemicals, when combined have a synergistic effect (larger impact than either alone would have) and some have antagonistic effects (one cancels out the effect of the other). Such things as existing internal problems (i.e. kidney or live disease), sex, race, hormonal status (puberty, pregnancy, etc.) age, body weight, etc. may multiply an effect. It is known that the ability to injure genetic material and, hence, injure a fetus is most critical in the first trimester. Whether a compound is ionized (carries a charge) is important. All of these things are tested for each compound over years, sometimes decades, before a compound is released for use.

The list of catastrophes goes on with new examples every day. It involves chemicals, wildlife, forests, climate, oceans, air, water and everything that you touch or that touches you in your life. Including you and yours. We are all obese, we smoke to much (unless it’s pot), we don’t exercise enough, we eat too much sugar, we eat too much red meat, etc., ad infinitum. And don’t for a minute assume that these last listed represent different people. Environmental activists=social activists=climate activists=social justice activists. All of these “crises” share a number of characteristics:

  1. All were initiated, basic storylines developed, and hyped (with the able assistance of an increasingly inept journalism class) by environmentalists. All of them were proved to be false. But, in nearly every case, the final proofs of their deceptiveness came too late to defeat what had become “common wisdom”. In a brilliant display of Lenin’s maxim, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth”[2]
  2. All of them, regardless of the formative issue, have a root problem: corporate malfeasance and greed, and human stupidity.
  3. The root solution in all cases was more government control and restricted access and use. The universal result was increased inefficiency, increased costs, and decreased individual freedom.

This all seems to defy any conception of reasonableness and fair play. That’s because environmentalists don’t actually care about science at all. They simply recognize that, in a society built on science, they have to use the language to further their aims, “…marketing it with the trappings of science in order to ensnare the unwary, the insufficiently educated and the too-easily impressed.”[3]

It is inherently dishonest to sell a political ideology through the use of science.[4] Politics is the art of answering for society the questions of “should”. Science cannot efficiently answer whether we should do anything. Science when used ethically does excel at informing the “should” discussions with objective “what’s” and “how’s.

The truth is, environmentalists see the protection of nature to revolve around protecting it from man, not for man. Environmentalism insists that we give up the value of material comfort and the expectation of material progress. We must distrust modern science and modern technology, since they only distance us from nature. We must live "in harmony" with nature.

In the discussions about cutting yew trees to produce Taxol, a compound discovered to have potential for cancer treatment, Al Gore, in his book Earth in the Balance,[5]”… declares himself incapable of choosing between people and trees:

“It seems an easy choice—sacrifice the tree for a human life—until one learns that three trees must be destroyed for each patient treated. . . . Suddenly we must confront some tough questions.” [6]

So, science is prostituted to an agenda. Dishonesty, as one of these pseudo-scientists explains, is their best policy: “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 right.”[7] In the end, they find “harmful” man’s liberation from a life of primitive labor. To them, the “harm” lies in the very existence of technology, wealth and progress; it lies in the fact of industrialization per se. Paul Ehrlich, for instance, declares:

“We’ve already had too much economic growth in the United States. Economic growth in rich countries like ours is the disease, not the cure.”[8]

It is, therefore, a mistake to believe we simply have a disagreement about how to achieve the same end – a way to have and use our natural environment at the same time. That’s not correct. The ends are radically different.[9]

The basic problem in fighting the lies and distortions is that, in exposing these activist lies and machinations, it is the activists initiate the issues using easily grasped and intellectually simplistic concepts that appeal to the audience on an emotional level. These, however, can only be refuted by reference to scientific concepts which are, inherently, “dense webs of linked ideas”. Scientists can look at the activists’ stories and can immediately see the fallacies and fabrications but to convey that knowledge to the lay public requires either assuming a substantial scientific background in that audience, which is not feasible, or developing a semblance of that background in the response. Few in the public will stand for that level of explanation in this “sound bite” world. The ready complicity of the media and politicians in this “groupthink” is a catalyst to the substitution of myth for science in the making of policy in the social and environmental arenas.

We will, however, “persevere to persevere.”[10]

[1] Elizabeth M. Whelan and Frederick J. Stare, Panic in the Pantry, (Prometheus, 1992), pp. 66-76.
[2] Also Goebbel’s Principles of Propaganda: “To be perceived, propaganda must evoke the interest of an audience and must be transmitted through an attention getting communications medium.”
[3] Vox Day, Prostituting science, World Net Daily Exclusive Commentary, Posted: July 02, 2007
[4] Ibid.
[5] Al Gore, Earth in the Balance (Houghton Mifflin, 1992), pp. 105-106.
[6] Peter Schwartz, In Moral Defense of Forestry, Delivered to the California Forestry Association, Napa, California, January 28, 2000
[7]Stephen Schneider, quoted in "Our Fragile Earth" by Jonathan Schell, Discover, Oct. 1987, pp. 47-50.
[8]Paul Ehrlich, quoted in "Journalists and Others for Saving the Planet," by David Brooks, Wall St. Journal, Oct. 5, 1989, p. A28.
[9] Peter Schwartz, In Moral Defense of Forestry, Delivered to the California Forestry Association, Napa, California, January 28, 2000
[10] Chief Dan George in “The Outlaw Jose Wales”

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