About Greenpeace: Confessions of a Dropout

On May 25th, many faculty, staff, and students gathered at John Cabot University to listen to Canadian scientist and author Patrick Moore. The event, “About Greenpeace: Confessions of a Dropout,” also included Antonio Polito, a columnist from Corriere della Sera, who interviewed Moore about his latest book, recently translated into Italian as L’ambientalista ragionevole (The Reasonable Environmentalist).

Patrick Moore

Patrick Moore

Patrick Moore was co-creator of Greenpeace, yet now believes the organization strayed from its core philosophy and beliefs about environmentalism 15 years after its creation, which caused Moore to leave. He believes that Greenpeace has failed to consider its agenda in economic terms. He further asserted that it has adopted an agenda that is “anti-science and downright anti-human.”

JCU Computer science professor Stefano Gazziano introduced Patrick Moore, noting that he is the only founder of Greenpeace to have a PhD in Ecology. Ever since the organization grew more radical, Patrick Moore had to defend himself against those who called him “eco-Judah.”

Antonio Polito: You say that Greenpeace strayed from you, but then you became a reasonable environmentalist, and discovered the value in sustainable development. You say that you understood that people coming from poor countries, where there is limited development, is perhaps the biggest environmental problem in our world. Can you explain to us what you mean by a “reasonable environmentalist,” and, what you mean when you say the problem with Greenpeace was not just its anti-development, anti-business, and anti-science sentiment, but also its anti-human element? There are some environmentalists that believe humans are distinct from nature, and that the problem is the fact that we have 7 billion people interested in living well. Can you explain what you mean in this respect, including something about your case for forestry?

In response to this question Patrick Moore emphasized the need for pragmatism, and the use of logic over emotion. One of the issues he has with his environmental directors in Greenpeace is that, as he put it, “they don’t like people. They perceive people as a disease on the earth that is spreading and killing nature, and the idea is the earth is dying because of the humans.”

The Earth, however, is still green and flourishing with life and biodiversity. Though the earth is getting a little warmer, this is a prospect like any other that will be good for some and perhaps bad for others. The idea that humans are evil and nature is good does not merit validity. Humans evolved from nature like any other species. The idea that humans are perceived as a rogue species is reminiscent of the fire and brimstone arguments, and an interpretation of original sin that environmentalists have adopted.

We can feed the Earth’s population, we have the ability to be intelligent and use technology in ways that do not damage the earth in the ways that they do now. Moore’s book gives significant attention to the fact that we need to reduce the use of fossil fuels. The environmentalists, however, refuse to accept solutions to the problem, and assert that we need to simply stop using gasoline. “How do we stop using fossil fuel to make our electricity to keep these lights on, to run our factories? Environmentalists say the solution is wind energy, while ignoring the fact that wind blows only 25% of the time. If we accept these solutions and build wind farms everywhere, we will not have money for a real solution.”

Polito: What are your views on forestry?

Moore’s views on forestry are given more attention in his book Trees are the Answer. Trees are indeed the answer to a great many questions of mankind from practical matters to aesthetic ones. Trees are the most important solar energy collectors in the world. Every year trees collect more energy than is used by civilization. Moore explains that the most environmentally friendly thing we can do is to both plant more trees and use more trees.

The view of Greenpeace is that we should simply stop cutting trees. Moore explains that this is an anti-environmental position to say this, because every time you cannot use wood, you must use more steel and concrete, both of which will require CO2 emissions to transport and to make. Wood, on the other hand, is the most important renewable resource we have in our world today.

Trees should only be cut as fast as they grow. The cutting of trees is unlike harvesting. In harvesting 100% of the crop is taken, whereas when logging 1/40th of the trees are cut down. The rest of the forest grows and produces a valuable renewable resource. Today the United States and Europe have forests that are growing. This is because as the value of the resource grows, the companies that need them, plant them. After all, it is in the interest of every paper company to maintain a healthy forest.

This is not the only renewable energy source that is opposed by environmentalists. Environmentalists also oppose hydroelectric energy. Greenpeace recently tried to stop the building of the 3-gorges dam in China. The 3-gorges dam is equivalent to 50 coal fire plants, which is what they would have built had there been no dam.

Polito: You say in the book that the environmentalist movement right now supports only 0.8% of the current global energy production because it opposes hydroelectric and nuclear energy. You changed your mind about nuclear power. This is related to the “Peace” part of Greenpeace. This point of view came about because of opposition to nuclear tests. You use to view Nuclear energy as something bad, but you have since changed your mind. Can you please explain why you have changed your mind about using nuclear facilities for energy, and whether Japan’s nuclear disaster at Fukushima, has effected your opinion at all?

This, Moore argues, is related to the atmosphere of the 1970’s, which encompassed a fear of anything nuclear. Greenpeace was able to use this sentiment in the beginning of its organization. There were many great points being made at the time: stop the bomb, save the whales, and stopping toxic waste from going into the air. These were decent campaigns.

However, Greenpeace erroneously associated nuclear energy and nuclear medicine with nuclear weapons. This is not valid, just as you would not ban fire, and mankind’s right to cook with fire, when it burns down buildings. Nuclear energy is the cleanest form of energy, from an air pollution point of view. Although many people pointed to Fukushima as an example of the unsafe nature of nuclear facilities, Patrick Moore believes the fear to be unfounded.

No one has died from radiation in Fukushima. People have erroneously called it a disaster, despite the fact that no humans were harmed; it was merely an expensive mechanical failure. Moore acknowledges that Chernobyl was different. The Soviet Union was able to get away with building a nuclear facility that should have never been allowed. He also cites a statistic from the World Health Organization, who after studying Chernobyl said that only 56 deaths resulted directly from Chernobyl.

Thus, in the history of nuclear energy, 56 people have died, rendering your life safer in a nuclear energy facility than in an automobile.

Polito: Are you advocating the case for nuclear power because you are concerned about fossil fuels. Also, at the same time you say that global warming is not as bad as it is made out to be. What do you mean by that?

The last chapter of the book is entitled “climate of fear” and is about the powerful convergence of promoting the fear of climate change. This does not mean promoting the concern about climate, or the interest in studying climate, but the fear of it. To be afraid of the earth’s climate is a powerful fear that has been instilled in us by elites in government, elites in the environmentalist movement, elites in academia, and elites in business. All of these sectors are benefiting by instilling this fear into the public. This fear is a powerful convergence of interests. It serves the politicians well to promise to save the children. Politicians take advantage of each human’s natural empathy. The accusation of one party towards another for putting gas prices above the future of the children is a powerful campaign tool.

There are three main questions that we should ask: Is the Earth getting warmer? Are humans the cause of it? Will this change be mostly bad or mostly good? To the first question, Moore responds with a confident yes. The last time the river Thames froze over was in 1814. However, before the cold period was the medieval warm period, during which it was possible to grow grapes in Scotland.

In regards to the second question, he concludes that we cannot say for sure, but probably not. He cites the constant fluctuations in the earth’s temperature for the past 2,000 years, as evidence of this. In regards to the third question, he acknowledges that some will benefit and some will lose. However, there is much more to be lost if the earth’s temperature were to go down by two degrees, rather than up.

Many people have cited the dependence in the Himalayas of glacial melt for crops as a concern for global warming. Many movements have emerged to stop the glacial melting. However, the truth is that these societies benefit from glacial melt for their crops. In truth, rainwater and snowmelt is more of a necessity for societies in the Himalayas, rendering little conviction for this argument. A warmer world would be a better one for species, forests, and biodiversity. Ice, frost, and snow are the enemies of life. We are, after all, a tropical species. Should we reverse time, and allow ourselves to use only 0.8% of the energy we do today, civilization would end as we know it.

Question and Answer Session:

President Franco Pavoncello: Thank you for the interesting discussion. What we try to do at this university is to think critically about issues without preconceptions, so I must thank you very much. I am substantially in agreement with you and with your analysis, but I have a fundamental question. I was just listening to a conference on food security in which the president of world foods informed us that WWF sets the standards for the kinds of crops that can be raised, and by making very tough standards in terms of agriculture, they are cutting off the poor from the world from making products that can be bought by large multinational corporations. In a way I think this environmentalist coalition is really affecting the lives of growing numbers of people around the world in a very negative way. Thus, my question is, in your opinion, is this kind of ecological, deterministic extremism growing or receding? Do you see the world moving away from the ideology of Greenpeace and WWF? Or is this ideology expanding? What is the future? Are we going to become wiser about these issues? Or are we going to become more extreme?

Moore admitted to a large degree of skepticism when anyone claims to be a futurist. The force of the green movement is making it very difficult for the 3rd world to develop. The environmentalists boast that they have stopped 200 hydroelectric projects. However, Patrick Moore asks, “How do these people expect them to read in the evening?” Electricity and reading are powerfully connected. You need light to read. Moore then gave an account of his years in Indonesia working for different organizations there. One of those companies is Asia Pulp & Paper. Moore expressed dissatisfaction that the company is being vilified as a destroyer of the rainforest, despite the fact that they have 70,000 people planting trees.

Indonesia, which is trying to become a more developed nation, still has nearly 70% of its forest cover. Europeans, whose continent has less than 1 % of the original forest cover, are trying to stop the country from developing a percentage of their land to grow food and fiber. Regarding the future, Moore warns that he advises people to be prepared for a new intellectual dark age in these regards. However, public opinion also shows that there is a significant population who can see through the propaganda.

It was the environmentalist Bob Hunter who coined the term eco-fascism. This is where the environmentalist decides that he should be the arbitrator, he should be the judge, the government, and the decision maker, and leaves no room for democracy.

One of the most tragic cases of this is the case for golden rice. The World Health Organization has estimated that in Asia and Africa, half of one million children go blind and die annually from a lack of beta carotene that result from a diet of a cup of rice per day. Golden Rice is a genetically modified organism that contains Beta-carotene. This marvelous advancement could put an end to the loss of a half of one million lives yearly. However, Greenpeace has blocked this innovation from going forward. The international rice research institute now has the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, but it is very slow to progress due to the opposition from the Greenpeace. They are responsible for millions of blind children because they say something could go wrong with a rice plant that has vitamin A in the grain of rice. Greenpeace has valued its agenda over the lives of those in impoverished countries.

Professor Argentieri – Director of the Guarini Institute for Public Affairs: Did you have a chance to discuss with Al Gore, who, by the way, was in Italy recently? The views that he expresses in his film, An Inconvenient Truth, are completely opposite to yours and coincide with Greenpeace’s. Did you ever have a chance to discuss these issues with him, and what was the outcome?

“No, I haven’t met him personally, and I don’t think I could have a very productive or engaging conversation with him. He is not a scientist, but a politician. He attempts to come across as someone who is a scientist, but he simply is not. I listen to his rhetoric; he is basically a very clever snake oil salesman. That is how I see it. And I know a snake oil salesman when I see one. His main science advisor is a guy with NASA, named James Hanson. He is a maniac. He is not credible from a science point of view as I am concerned, and he has used this clever salesmanship to make himself many hundreds of millions of dollars by first making people afraid of climate change and then investing in securities and stocks which he knows will grow if people are afraid of climate change.”

Pietro Paganini- Business Professor JCU: I have a question that relates to business and Greenpeace. Greenpeace shouldn’t be a profit organization, but it seems that it has been just that. And I am referring to what President Pavoncello said before about their certification. You mentioned forestry, and exactly as it is in this country, as it is in most of Europe. Today if you want to buy wood or if you want to buy paper, you are obliged out of necessity. The paper is more expensive because it has to have a certification. This certification is established by a cartel, and these certification standards are established by organizations like “Legambiente” in Italy, and this is making products much more expensive and is a form of protectionism towards developing countries that are not allowed to export their paper to the E.U. Don’t you see this business model that the organization you created is today creating cartels in this part of the world? I believe it has become a business organization that is monopolizing the market at the expense of consumers.

I have written in my book that many environmental campaigns today are riding on the back of many trade disputes and conflicts. The protectionism of European agriculture is a reason why the anti Genetically Modified Organization movement works in Europe, and part of the reason that the certification of 3rd world agriculture works for Europeans. Very often there are trade and protectionist and non tariff trade barrier kinds of issues behind what are given to the public as environmental campaigns when in fact they have more to do with trade and competition disputes as professor Paganini has pointed out. This is bad for developing countries. In Europe agriculture has become a social program. It is no longer a competitive business.

Michele Testoni – International Affairs Professor JCU: I would like to ask your opinion about the Masdar city project in the Abu Dhabi desert. For those of you unaware, the Masdar city project aims to be the first zero carbon, zero waste, city in the world. It is a joint venture between the UAE and MIT and has recently begun undertaking this project. The City will be a combination of solar energy, wind energy and the solemnization of water. Since you focused mainly on wood, hydroelectric, and Nuclear energy, can you give us an opinion about that?

A new zero carbon city merits some skepticism. A zero carbon city is possible if based on nuclear energy and hydroelectric energy. But it would be difficult to have a city that runs purely on solar and wind, unless they are willing to put up with long periods without energy.

The technology exists that if there is enough money to put into something, a dream can be a reality. But in this case, the money is being made through the sale of oil, and the sale of carbon. This is an ironic way to build a zero carbon city.

Whether this type of technology can be applied in countries like Brazil, China or India will require a practicality of thought. It will be interesting to see the result of the project.