Tag Archive for: rational environmentalism

Rational vs. Religious Environmentalism

Just over ten years ago, the world lost Michael Crichton, best selling author and screenwriter, who succumbed to cancer at age 66. His loss was greater than we could know at the time, because during the final years of his life he became increasingly focused on the politicization of science. Few critics of this corruption, if any, are as articulate and influential as Michael Crichton was in his time. And yet it is politicized science, and the justifications it provides activists, journalists, politicians, and corporate opportunists, that is now more dangerous than ever.

Crichton’s scientific background – obtaining a medical degree in 1969, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies – distinguished him from the typical author of thrillers, and informed his life-long interest in science and technology. To put it another way, whenever Crichton expressed skepticism with this week’s environmental crisis of the century, he had credibility.

Probably the most succinct and moving example of Crichton’s thoughts on this topic came in the form of a speech he gave in 2003 at San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club entitled “Environmentalism As Religion.” The transcript offers a compelling defense of rational environmentalism vs. environmentalism as a religion, and warns against the politicization of science. Here are some of the key points he makes:

“DDT is not a carcinogen…the DDT ban has caused the deaths of tens of millions of poor people…”

“Second hand smoke is not a health hazard and never was.” 

“The evidence for global warming is far weaker than its proponents would ever admit.”

“There is no known technology that will enable us to halt the rise of CO2 in the atmosphere in the 21st century.”

“The percentage of U.S. land that is taken for urbanization, including cities and roads, is 5%.”

These are contrarian assertions, but they’re based on facts, not faith. Crichton is correct about DDT, and assessing DDT – along with second hand smoke – rests on basic toxicology. Properly applied, DDT was a fantastic weapon against malaria. Banning it instead of properly regulating its use was a tragic mistake. Back in 1972, when DDT was banned worldwide, malaria was on track to become eradicated like smallpox. Instead, malaria continues to kill over a million people per year, and there is no end in sight. As for second hand smoke, obviously it can be dangerous under prolonged, extreme exposure, but Crichton was saying the criteria used to justify smoking regulations were far below genuinely harmful levels.

Crichton’s statement regarding low levels of urbanization is another area where facts contradict environmentalist faith. There is plenty of open land in the United States that could be developed without violating pristine wilderness areas. Declaring “open space” to be endangered is ridiculous.  This fatally flawed argument – now buttressed if not guaranteed by the trump card argument of supposedly stopping global warming – is the justification to force people into ultra-dense, punishingly regulated and taxed urban bantustans inside the “urban growth boundary.” This is dangerous nonsense.

Here’s one more of Crichton’s contrarian zingers:

“The Sahara desert is shrinking, and the total ice of Antarctica is increasing.”

It is difficult to find consistent data to support or refute either of these assertions, especially considering how fundamental they are towards assessing global climate change. But there is evidence supporting Crichton’s claim that the Sahara desert is shrinking. And while there is conflicting data on Antarctic ice volume, you wouldn’t know it from recent headlines. Behind the alarmist hype lie nuances. Volcanic activity, not global warming, may be causing melting of West Antarctic ice. Increased snowfall in the Antarctic interior, very hard to measure, may be offsetting ice loss. But only the alarmist reports find their way into the establishment media. Politicized science, perhaps?

Despite his well founded skepticism, and contrary to the attacks from his critics, Crichton was an environmentalist. He was a rational environmentalist rather than a religious environmentalist – but nonetheless someone with environmentalist sentiments. Consider this:

“It is incumbent on us to conduct our lives in a way that takes into account all the consequences of our actions, including the consequences to other people, and the consequences to the environment.  I believe it is important to act in ways that are sympathetic to the environment, and I believe this will always be a need, carrying into the future.  I believe the world has genuine problems and I believe it can and should be improved.”

Environmentalism, according to Crichton, has gone well beyond these principles, and has become a movement that cannot admit to past or present mistakes or excesses.  Crichton believed that environmentalism fulfills an innate urge that urban atheists embrace as an alternative to religion.  This may be a bit much at least insofar as environmentalists, including Crichton himself, come from a wide diversity of faiths and personal ideologies. But Crichton was on to something when he questioned the reactions he would elicit from many environmentalists to, for example, his observations regarding DDT, second hand smoke, global warming, urbanization, or the Sahara and Antarctic.

Why is debate closed on these issues when they can be challenged on a factual basis? Why can’t the facts speak for themselves? The intense reactions environmentalists displayed towards Crichton during his life, and towards his legacy today, are unfounded unless something more powerful than reason is involved – belief, ideology, passion, a primal inner need for meaning and mission.

Crichton’s opening remarks included compelling reminders that humanity has always adapted and humanity has relentlessly improved the collective well being, and this is continuing.  In his closing remarks he warns how politicized and entrenched environmental organizations have become, stating “what more and more groups are doing is putting out lies, pure and simple, Falsehoods that they know to be false.”

Fast forward to 2019. Does that sound familiar?

How about this zinger: “At this moment, the EPA is hopelessly politicized. It is probably better to shut it down and start over. What we need is a new organization much closer to the FDA. We need an organization that will be ruthless about acquiring verifiable results, that will fund identical research projects to more than one group, and that will make everybody in this field get honest fast.”

That is exactly what President Trump is trying to do. And it is driving everyone crazy.

Of course everything Crichton said is not true, just as everything the current environmentalist establishment maintains is not false, or unhelpful, but in his final remarks, he also described his state of fear, shared by many of us – and to paraphrase former Czech President Vaclav Klaus – what is at stake, our global climate or our freedom?  Or according to Crichton,

In the end, science offers us a way out of politics. And if we allow science to become politicized, then we are lost. We will enter the Internet version of the dark ages, an era of shifting fears and wild prejudices, transmitted to people who don’t know any better. That’s not a good future for the human race.”

Had he lived, Crichton today would have been the same age as Bernie Sanders, and would hopefully have been striding the national stage with similar energy. Imagine what Crichton would have had to say about the Green New Deal, renewable portfolio standards, “we’ve got only 12 years left” alarmism; the whole raft of climate activist rhetoric. Imagine him using his celebrity pulpit to expose and criticise the high-tech complicity in silencing debate on these issues.

Crichton’s intellectual clarity was matched by a charismatic and persuasive style. Ten years ago, the world lost a great man before his time.

This article originally appeared on the website American Greatness.

 *   *   *

An Environmentalist Agenda for Earth Day 2010

Back in 1970 when we celebrated the first Earth Day, what would we have thought if we had known what environmentalism would become by 2010? Back then I was in 7th grade, and an avid member of my Junior High School’s “ecology club.” We planted trees, collected litter, and painted all the garbage cans on campus green, among other things. And back then, as now, the teachers were enthusiastically encouraging the students to care about the planet.

The results ensuing in the 40-50 years since “Silent Spring” was written and the first Earth Day was celebrated are impressive. When I grew up in California’s Santa Clara Valley in the 1960’s, on a bad air day you couldn’t see the Santa Cruz Mountains five miles away. Then we got rid of unleaded gas and mandated catalytic converters and today, with ten times as many people living in what we now call the Silicon Valley, there is never more than a faint wisp of smoggy haze, even on the worst days. We cleaned up our rivers, got rid of acid rain, saved the Condor and countless other magnificent wildlife species, and on and on and on. And then we went too far.

Today environmentalism is run amok. It is the creator of artificial scarcity, the enabler of the very corporate greed its denizens naively decry, it is a faith and a religion, an ideological smokescreen for statism and socialism, and it has lost most of its connection to the original values we believed in. And the reason for this is clear – once the environmentalists accomplished important goals, their cause began to lose visibility and had to struggle for relevance among the American public. So instead of continuing to emphasize environmentalist goals that still mattered, environmentalists sold out, and embraced the absurdity of anthropogenic climate change.

In honor of Earth Day and everything it still represents that is good and still urgently valid, this post isn’t to debate, yet again, whether or not the earth’s climate is catastrophically tipping, whether or not humans have caused this, or whether or not humans can do anything about this. Read “The Climate Money Trail,” and the reports linked to in that post, and make up your own mind. It is beyond comprehension to me that anyone can follow the logic and facts in those posts with an open mind and fail to conclude what I have, that concerns about anthropogenic climate change are unfounded.

Instead of dwelling on that debate, in honor of Earth Day, here is a list of genuine environmental challenges that remain with us. Challenges we might be making more progress in addressing, were the trajectory of our responses not diverted by the great boogyman of climate change:

1 – Enforce sustainable fishing on the world’s oceans. Stop incinerating the world’s forests to grow subsidized biofuel. Revisit plans to carpet the world’s open spaces with wind generators and solar farms.

2 – Eliminate toxic metal and microscopic particulate emissions from coal powered generating plants. Complete the transition to clean fossil fuels (clean, not CO2-free). Develop clean coal, shale gas, and offshore oil.

3 – Clean up tainted aquifers in places like the Los Angeles basin and begin harvesting and storing storm runoff.

4 – Build nuclear-powered desalination plants to augment natural sources of fresh water. In general, accelerate construction of nuclear power stations.

5 – Eliminate particulate and other genuine pollutants from heavy diesel trucks and machinery.

6 – In order to stimulate economic growth, which will empower society to fund genuine environmental mitigation, repeal “decoupling” policies so public utilities will nurture competitive, cheap energy and water from all sources, instead of enabling utilities to make more money when they produce less.

7 – In addition to encouraging wealth creation, support female literacy around the world, so the combination of wealth and literacy leads to voluntary reductions in family sizes, accelerating humanity’s inevitable path towards population stabilization.

8 – Continue reasonable and realistic attempts to protect endangered species, including educational campaigns to reduce consumer demand for endangered animal parts.

9 – Restore balance to protection of open space and wilderness areas, recognizing that excessive curbs on private land development hinder economic growth which in-turn reduces the financial wherewithal to mitigate genuine environmental challenges.

10 – Reinvent environmentalism to embrace property rights, limited government, and reasonable environmental goals, in order to achieve a clean, sustainable civilization on an accelerated path to universal abundance and prosperity.

This set of objectives may seem like heresy today, now that the global environmental movement has been hijacked by the climate issue. But 40 years ago these objectives probably would probably have seemed reasonable. The message that should be carrying the day right now is that rational environmentalism prevailed. It is institutionalized and its accomplishments are dramatic. Fulfilling these objectives here would return environmentalism not only to a viable common ground that would benefit everyone, but would arguably return environmentalism to its roots.

Earth Day should be a celebration of the accomplishments the environmentalist movement has logged over the past 40 years. It should also be a celebration of the future – where technology will yield abundant energy and water, and voluntary urbanization combined with voluntary population stabilization will yield abundant open space. But to realize this promising destiny, environmentalists must embrace capitalism, the engine of prosperity, the enabler of progress, and abandon the climate-inspired litany of doom.

Ruminations on Optimal Governance

If there were two words to describe how we might ensure our civic finances were sustainable, abundant, equitably collected and equitably distributed, it might be this – “Optimal Governance.” That theme, along with Civitas Fidelis, is a guiding principle for what we believe and advocate. There is a great deal of analysis and commentary, posted onto our earlier site EcoWorld (sold in May 2009) that can provide useful information and insight into many of the key issues surrounding these themes. With no further ado, here are 20 favorites:

The Abundance Choice –  March 28th, 2009

Smart Growth, or Green Bantustans? –  March 17th, 2009

Calculating Employee Compensation –  February 8th, 2009

Humanity’s Prosperous Destiny –  January 16th, 2009

The Tyranny of Unions –  January 6th, 2009

Principles of New Suburbanism –  November 23rd, 2008

Bonds Are Taxes –  October 22nd, 2008

Abolish Public Employee Pensions –  October 7th, 2008

The Crichtonian Green –  September 26th, 2008

Rational Environmentalism –  September 23rd, 2008

The XXIX Olympiad –  August 8th, 2008

Lucky Lucky America –  August 1st, 2008

Assault on Reason –  June 3rd, 2008

California’s Global Warming Act –  July 2nd, 2008

Environmentalist Priorities & Global Warming –  May 15th, 2008

Fossil Fuel Reality –  May 3rd, 2008

Unions: Ideals vs. Reality –  April 13th, 2008

Liberal Fascism –  February 23rd, 2008

Unions Aren’t Green –  February 20th, 2008

Inflation vs. Deflation –  September 25th, 2007