Saturday, September 01, 2007

Dr. Jekyll Mr. Hyde Environmentalism

It's so hard to care for Mother Earth these days. What's in is out, what's out is in. Good is now evil, and evil good. There seems to be no solid ground to stand on for those trying to save the planet.

For years we were told the right answer to "paper or plastic" was plastic. Now San Fransisco has banned plastic grocery bags. For years we were told that having too many kids would be our ruin. Now the UN says, whoops, never mind, and ohbytheway the developed world's economy just might crumble because there's too few people. Walk instead of drive? Apparently, because of the replacement cost of the calories you burn, walking is far more harmful to the planet than driving is. Even diesel fueled buses can be more earth-killing than driving a Hummer. You health conscious organic food eaters? According to global warming scientist Chris Goodall, it's your fault the world will soon be on fire.

Flatly stated, it's just too hard to do what's right, because what's right keeps changing. It's to the point where even Al Gore can't escape criticism.

Of course, that might be the point. Environmentalism has long had the rap of being anti-people. Extremist, even. Why do their pronouncements and predictions seem to be wrong so often? It might be explained by ethics like these:

"Now, in a widening sphere of decisions, the costs of error are so exorbitant that we need to act on theory alone, which is to say on prediction alone. It follows that the reputation of scientific prediction needs to be enhanced. But that can happen, paradoxically, only if scientists disavow the certainty and precision that they normally insist on."

or, put more directly:

"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 honest."

But these scientists are well intentioned. Right? I mean, they've found a possible catastrophic problem, so what's the harm in trying to prevent or fix it?

The harm is that science once thought overpopulation was a grave problem. A finding which led to theories like, "To feed a starving child is to exacerbate the world population problem." Science once convinced the world to stop using DDT, despite its proven prevention of malaria. A policy which led to millions of deaths in Africa, to which the lead scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund said, "This is as good a way to get rid of them as any."

Science is the answer you say? Well, which answer? The one that said we're all gonna die from global cooling, or the one that says we're all gonna die from global warming? The one that says DDT kills humans, or the one that says DDT saves humans? There's a lot of money, and a lot of lives, riding on the answer. Choose, as they say, but choose wisely.


Goat said...

Its all about socialist control and energy is the most effective control, observe Putin and his NG plays with East Europe. Cheap energy is freedom and kleptocrat regimes can't have that.

Charles D said...

I see you found a web page on environmentalism by a retired computer science professor with an ax to grind. I'm sure one could collect quotes from people advocating almost any point and, taking them out of context, attempt to prove that all those people are out of touch or malicious or whatever.

When one looks however at the credentials and associations of those who are arrayed for and against environmental protection, you often find the latter are not experts in the environmental sciences and are allied with polluting interests.

Cheap energy is a thing of the past as is socialism in Russia, by the way.

Unknown said...

Hallelujah! Global warming is a scam. Democracy lover simply doesn't know what he/she is talking about. The first thing an environmentalist or liberal does is attack the source of your information, if it contradicts theirs. Never mind that dozens upon dozens of scientists and experts agree that there is no global warming. Never mind that it was hotter in 1935 than it is right now. Shew away all the facts and usher in the fear. Man is ruining the planet, they must be excised. Maybe it's not that drastic, but it sure seems that way.

Way to go for standing up for something you believe in. I stand with you.

Goat said...

DL is an admitted socialist, energy is the easyist way to control a populace as energy is the key to advancement and economic growth. Ethanol is a pipe dream and another way to control by hurting the food supply, let animals convert food to energy not machines. The US is sitting on massive reserves of natural gas and oil, far larger than many would want to admit or tap.

Charles D said...

Candace is correct, dozens of scientists (well, at least one dozen) agree that human-created global warming doesn't exist. Tens of thousands of scientists agree it does. The scientific community is as near unanimity on this issue as it gets.

It is important to ask oneself why it is so important that you not acknowledge the truth of global warming? Why don't right-wingers find this so hard to swallow? Of course, it must be that this problem is so large that it can only be solved by (gasp!) government. Any problem requiring government intervention must be bogus.

Goat is actually correct to some extent. Energy is a great way to control a populace, and ethanol is not the answer. Of course he neglects to note that our nation is run by energy interests (2 oil men in the White House) and ethanol will drive the price of corn through the roof helping the large agri-business firms.

Cameron said...

DL, you've missed the point again. This is not about grinding axes, or Big Oil, or that my scientist can beat up your scientist. How unanimous was global cooling, overpopulation, organic food, walking to work, plastic grocery bags, or ending the use of DDT? The scientific community was as near unanimity as it gets on those issues too. And they were wrong.

Charles D said...

I'm sure you think they were wrong on all those issues, but the jury's still out.

Again, my question is why is there all this resistance to the science on global warming? Why is it that valid scientific data proving that humans are causing global warming being contested so strongly?

What is to be gained by refusing to believe the facts? What is to be lost if you're wrong about that?

Cameron said...

The jury is still out? So the earth really is cooling?

I brought up a number of issues in this post, all of which illustrated scientific flip flopping. And not only were they wrong, but they caused a whole lot of chaos trying to fix a problem that didn't exist.

Which, in effect, answers your question of why.

Charles D said...

Cameron, where the flip-flopping on "global cooling, overpopulation, organic food, walking to work, plastic grocery bags, or ending the use of DDT?". Global cooling exists and is part of the reason why global warming is such a problem. (I know it sounds crazy but you have to read up on it). Overpopulation is a very serious problem, organic food is better for you and so is walking to work. Where's the controversy over DDT?

Again, I ask - why the strong opposition to acknowledging the truth of global warming?

Cameron said...

DL, I've got a number of links in the post that answer your questions. Start there.

Then try here and here

Kira said...

Just for the record, we at Environmental Defense want to protect human life and health on any continent. If you can give a source to the quote you attribute to one of our scientists, I'd like to see it.

Also, our chief scientist recently wrote a post on global cooling and "scientific flip-flopping".

Cameron said...

Kira, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I linked to my source for the quotes in the post. Here it is again. This is how it is presented on that website:

This is as good a way to get rid of them as any.
- Charles Wursta, Chief Scientist for the Environmental Defense Fund, in response to the banning of DDT (as quoted in Toxic Terror by Elisabeth Whelan) ("Them" refers to "all those little brown people in poor countries.")

This particular quote is used quite often, and though I have tried, I have not been able to find it refuted anywhere. The comments in this blog post are the closest I have seen. If you have further information, please feel free to share it.

Unknown said...

This is probably a very silly question, but it's probably the way most of us unscientific people look at it. If there's no global warming taking place, why is there such a melt down going on in places where there should be solid ice? Or is that all a big con?

Shazam McShotgunstein said...

"This particular quote is used quite often, and though I have tried, I have not been able to find it refuted anywhere."

There is room to try harder, before holding someone accountable for such an odious expression.

For one thing, almost every single iteration of that quote badly misspells the scientist's name - it's Wurster, not "Wursta" - a telling sign of the research ethic behind the attribution.

I found a website that traces the attributed statement to an exchange quoted from the Congressional Record from 1971. The GPO website only has the Congressional Record since 1994, but there's a library with a federal depository seven blocks from my location where I plan on checking to confirm this.

The cited passage from the Congressional Record has John Rarick (a conservative congressman who later ran for president on George Wallace's American Independent Party ticket - interpret that how you will), while supposedly questioning a lawyer from the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), read into the record a statement attributed to another lawyer that had previously been fired from the EDF by Wurster, which was purported to be a quotation from Wurster.

So, the statement originated third-hand - from Congressman Rarick (an extremist politician who later ran for an openly racist party) supposedly quoting an embittered fired employee supposedly quoting Dr. Wurster - in a medium that is legally immune from a lawsuit for defamation (i.e. members of Congress speaking in an official congressional meeting).

When Wurster found out about this statement being attributed to him, he filed a statement with the same committee, also to be entered into the Congressional Record (Mr. Yannacone is the fired lawyer who reportedly attributed your statement to his old boss, Wurster):

"I wish to deny all of the statements of Mr. Yannacone. His remarks about me, attributed to me, and about other trustees of EDF are purely fantasy and bear no resemblance to the truth. It was in part because Mr. Yannacone lost touch with reality that he was dismissed by EDF, and his remarks of May 1970 indicate that his inability to separate fact from fiction has accelerated.

I respectfully request that my denial of any truth to Mr. Yannacone's remarks be made part of the record of these hearings."

Here's the website that provides the quotes from the 1971 Congressional Register:

I will follow up once I get a chance to look at the hard copy of the 1971 Congressional Record for myself.

Your later-hand source for the quote attributed to "Wursta", Elizabeth Whelan, has some serious issues of her own:

In the meantime, blogs do not enjoy the same legal immunity from defamation as official congressional debates - and moral immunity applies to neither. You might consider an appropriate followup for helped perpetuating a shocking sentiment attributed to someone based only on dubious hearsay.

Goat said...

CO2 causes global warming? all living creatures emit CO2 when they breath and methane when they fart or belch decaying plant matter also releases methane. Plant life feeds on CO2 and converts it into oxygen. Geez its called living on earth where the climate is always changing. Like I have and always will say it has nothing to do with the enviroment, it is all about socialist control of people, control their energy, food and healthcare and you have effective control over the masses. Its classic socialist propoganda designed to fool the young. Note the people pushing it grizzled socialists and young folks that don't know what polution actually looks like, I grew up near a steel city and I do, its gone now but the industry is still there just smaller and far more productive, the joys of advancing technology. I am an ex- Sierra Club member in Ca. and I know from the inside the agenda.

Goat said...

Yes,Ann, the melt down is a scam they film at the height of summer the ice pack in the interior areas is very stable and even growing in some places, the planet is not stable never has been never will be, were just microns with insignifacant influence other than aesthetic really. I am one of the greenest folks around as an amateur naturalist but I don't buy the hype, read my posts. Be green not stupid, plant a tree and keep your yard pretty and happy and don't worry about it, its a socialist lie.

Tristi Pinkston said...

My feeling is, it's all going to be burned in the Second Coming anyway, regardless . . .

And then the earth will be renewed (10th article of faith.) That's better than any plan Al Gore or the other guys can come up with.

By the way, hi! I'm on this same web ring.

Anonymous said...

Yay! I want to be raptured too!

So much misinformation, so many idiot mormons.

Hilarious, absolutely hilarious.

Anonymous said...

Let me try to explain a few things, and in doing so I'll type VERY slowly so goat can possibly understand:

Scientists do not interpret things for you. They take data and they make conclusions. They are NOT able to tell you what the future will be, exactly, but they can make educated trend-based guesses.

The media are the interpreters. How many journalists have any science education above the 10th grade or can even recall something as simple as cellular reproduction occurs? So you get the media, looking for ratings, that take the scientific results and they need to make it explosive, entertaining and interesting. So they spin it a bit.

So what do you idiots do? You blame the scientists for giving out fact based data on what is happening right now.

Must be the scientists fault, alright.

And then you also entertain people that say we should continue to rape the earth because a mythical cloud being is going to rapture you all up, because you are GOOD and everyone else is BAD.

And you wonder why no one respects you in the morning.

Anonymous said...

I really get tired of reading about this study showing that it is better to drive rather than walk to work.

More than 30% of American are obese. Driving to work is part of a sedentary lifestyle that may result in obesity, among other problems.
Someone that drive to work will certainly not eat less. He will simply build up more fat.
Somewhat that walk to work will not eat more, he will burn some of the calories he ate, and be healthier.