Journalists' Green Hysteria
by Gerard Jackson
'Journalist' peddles Green lies about the planet's future
This is the second of several articles written in response to a set of articles written by Kristin Owen, science reporter for the Herald Sun (31/5/97), in which a number of grossly misleading statements were made about the planet's environment and its future. Kristin Owen has been notified and does have the right of reply.
In Planning the Cure Kristin Owen quickly sets the tone of impending global disaster by immediately describing the earth's alleged environmental woes as "a cancer gnawing at the vital organs of the planet's life-support system". This journalistic hysteria was followed by the usual green claims about species loss and the need for "sustainable development". Well, I think the best way of dealing with Owen's panic-brand of 'journalism' is to deal with her imaginary threats of environmental destruction in a considered manner. Owen tells us that an estimated 50,000 flora and fauna are rendered extinct each year. The reader, however, can rest easy because Owen's 'estimate', for which she gives no source, is pure fiction and, I suspect, originates with the WWF's (World Wildlife Fund) outrageous claims of a loss of 1 million species loss by the year 2000. It comes as no surprise to students of Green ideology and its propaganda techniques that the WWF has never been able to provide a shred of evidence in support of its assertion. The best the WWF can do in its own defence is refer to Norman Myers' 1979 book The Sinking Ark.
Myers claimed that the estimated species extinction rate for animal had been about 1 every 4 years from 1600 to 1900, and that from 1900 to the '70s the rate had jumped to 1 a year. Myers gave no sources for his estimates. He then asserted, once again without any evidence, that the animal extinction rate may have reached 100 species a year at the time of writing his book. Thomas Lovejoy, a so-called 'scientist' with the WWF, managed to raise Myers' fictitious upper limit into the realm of pure fantasy, giving us a phantom figure of about 40,000 extinctions a year. But what can we expect from an organisation that makes such unbelievable claims as that the planet is "...losing one more animal, plant or insect species every 10 minutes". Yet 'journalists' like Owen mindlessly parrot these, and other green fictions, as if they were the established product of properly organised scientific research instead of being factoids conjured up by greens as part of their anti-growth disinformation campaign.
The idea of species loss is a very important weapon in the greens' campaign against economic growth. Whenever development is proposed sham environmentalists try to discover a 'new' species or invent the fiction that an existing species is endangered by the planned development in order to sabotage it. A notorious example of this tactic is the case of the Northern Spotted Owl. American greens falsely claimed that this owl was a species and was endangered by logging operations in the Northwest. On the basis of these lies the owl was listed as endangered; this caused a large number of mills to close and thousands to lose their jobs. In fact, the Northern Spotted Owl is, at best, a subspecies. Far from being rare and endangered it ranges from British Columbia into Mexico, also through Texas and up into the eastern states. So why did the greens lie? Because they want to shut down the logging industry. Green activist Randall O'Toole made this abundantly clear when he stated: "Cumulatively the environmental movement is interested in shutting down the [logging] industry", Newsweek, 30/9/91. (And the Logging industry is not the only one it has in its sights). The endangered-species tactic has been successfully used to attack a number of developments, the Tellico Dam being, I understand, being the first example.
What the Greens have on their side, apart from a hoard of non-thinking dishonest 'journalists', is the little-known fact that there is no strict definition of a species. Some, for example, believe grizzly bears belong to the same species while others believe that there are scores of such species.
There have been cases where male and female insects of the same species were originally defined as separate species. To compound the problem of definition we have the phenomenon of genetic drift. This occurs where a group becomes physically isolated so that it comes to diverge from the original group as mutation and genetic recombinations accumulate.
Obviously it is child's play for environmentalists to continually discover new species. Robert Zappalorti is particularly nauseating example of a biologist acting as a hired gun. Zappalorti, a former employee of Staten Island Zoo, set up Herpetological Associates (herpetologists are snake specialists) in 1979 to help communities block development by exploiting the Endangered Species Act. This he did by discovering 'new' species that would be 'endangered' by development. His success was such that he was quickly able to charge $US10,000 consultancy fees.
Owen admits that she took the cancer analogy from Maurice Strong who is a senior adviser to the World Bank and who she credits as being the father of 'sustainable development'. (That market economies generate sustainable development has obviously escaped her razor-like intellect). She presents Strong as a principled, knowledgeable man solely concerned with the environment. In reality he is an unprincipled utopian who wants to tear down our advanced civilisation regardless of the costs in terms of human life and misery. In his own words: "Isn't the only hope for the planet that the industrialised civilisations collapse? Isn't it our responsibility to bring that about. This group of world leaders [should] form a secret society to bring about an economic collapse". Maurice Strong can be counted on, therefore, to support any 'environmental' policy that will sabotage economic growth and living standards. And this is the creature that Owen holds up as an example to the rest of us. (Readers should also note Strong's contempt for democratic values).
Evidently believing that it would strengthen her pro-green anti-growth article by impressing her readers, Owen referred to a four-page document by the Union of Concerned Scientists alleging impending environmental disaster.
What readers were not told is that this so-called union of scientists solicits membership by direct mail to the public; therefore anyone can join this august body by merely paying an annual subscription fee. In fact, I believe most of its directors have not even been scientists. Some years ago Lichter and Rothman (political scientists) found that out of a random sample of 7,741 scientists only one was affiliated with the Union of Concerned Scientists. No wonder Lichter and Rothman's request to poll the organisation's membership was refused.
The Union of Concerned Scientists has an interesting history. It was originally devoted to the cause of nuclear disarmament but became notorious for its pro-Soviet stance and venomous opposition to nuclear power. Speaking for the organisation in the '70s the flagrantly pro-Soviet Helen Caldicott made its ideology clear: "Scientists who work for nuclear power or nuclear energy have sold their soul to the devil. They are either dumb, stupid, or highly compromised....Free enterprise really means rich people get richer. And they have the freedom to exploit and psychologically rape their fellow human beings in the process....Capitalism is destroying the earth. Cuba is a wonderful country". (Strangely enough this one-time strident apologist for the late and unlamented Soviet empire never once condemned the Soviet's own nuclear energy program). In its promotion blurb for a pro-Soviet propaganda film the Union of Concerned Scientists described it "as an expose of America's top level corporate and banking links with fascism . . . in the effort to gain worldwide domination. It dramatically ties American bankers with our first strike policies and shows how nuclear stockpiling has secretly polluted the United States . . . America -- from Hitler to M-X [missiles] indicts the United States as aggressor in today's international move to war . . ." No wonder a large numbers resigned in the mid-'70s reducing the organisation's numbers to only a handful of diehards. (I don't know its current size). None of this, however, stops 'journalists' like Owen from trying to pass it off as a respectable organisation with impeccable scientific credentials.
How it organises and uses petitions that its media mates then falsely publicise as representative of the views of the 'scientific community' is equally interesting. In 1975 it mailed an antinuclear petition to 15,000 scientists, subscribers to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, a publication well-known for its antinuclear stance. Even so, it managed to collect only 2,300 names. Nevertheless, 'journalists' still used this figure to falsely claim that scientists in general were urging a slowdown in nuclear energy, despite the fact that this number only amounted to 0.3 per cent of the total number of natural scientists in the US at that time. In 1989 it circulated a petition urging action against 'global warming'. Most of those who did not initially sign were generally approached two times or more. This tactic finally netted them 700 scientists, including some Nobel Laureates. However, it seems only 4 of the signatories at the most were involved in climatology.
In 1990 Frank Press (president of the National Academy of Sciences) warned members about lending their credibility to issues on which they had no specialised knowledge, drawing particular attention to the Union of Concerned Scientists' global warming petition.. (Ironically, the organisation's petition was undermined by a Greenpeace survey that found that only 13 per cent of climatologists surveyed thought the greenhouse effect was already underway and unstoppable).
So we find that two of Owen's sources lack any credibility at all. In fact, all of her sources lack credibility. I can only conclude that the reason she used them is because their views support her own green ideology. Her statement that "It would require at least three planet earths to supply everyone with the same amount of goods and energy used by the average Australian" is outrageous nonsense designed to frighten people. But what can we expect from a 'journalist' who swallowed the patently absurd claim that cropland equal in area to 2.5 Australia's (about 19 million square kilometres) had been lost to agriculture since World War II.
Let us first take energy. There never has been and never will be a shortage of energy. The amount of energy in existence is fixed: therefore it cannot be destroyed or created, only transformed. What is scarce is the means to convert various sources of energy into forms that are useful to human beings. The means of doing this is called capital (the material means of production) and capital comes from savings. It is true that technology is vital but technology has to be embodied in capital. So whichever way we look at it, the size of the planet has nothing to do with energy production.
Of course, the likes of Owen always fall back on the myth of diminishing resources to support their doomsaying drivel. But what they cannot -- or will not -- grasp is that from a human perspective resources are infinite. In 1974 the US Geological Survey estimated that the top one kilometre of the earth's crust contained enough gold to last for 57,000,000 years at the current rate of consumption, for molybdenum it is 400 thousand years, for aluminium at least 38 million years, enough copper for 242,000,000 years, for aluminium it is 38,500,000,000 years and 1,855,000,000 years for uranium, etc. Then there are the vast and untapped resources of methane hydrate and free methane gases, of which reserves are virtually in inexhaustible.
The Commodities Research Unit, London, also calculated that the top mile of the earth's crust held a million times more than the estimated reserves of most metals. Yet the average thickness of the Earth's crust under the oceans is 5 kilometres while under the continents it is 31 kilometres. One can only imagine the amount of resources that lie buried in the whole of the earth's crust. Unless, of course, one is the Herald Sun's science 'journalist'. Furthermore, doomsayers make a habit of ignoring man's ability to create new resources while extending the use of existing resources. A remarkable example of this has been the use of silicon.
This now brings us to food and population. As I pointed out in my last article (Food myths, green lies and 'journalists') the planet is heading for a food explosion and not mass famine. Nevertheless, when dealing with greens and their media mates it is always necessary to ram one's point home with the force of repetition. One point in particular needs to be stressed and that is the astonishing increase in agricultural productivity. In 1960 it took 1500 million acres to grow the world's supply of grain; today it still only takes 1500 million acres. Without the 134 per cent increase in productivity that made this achievement possible we would now need to allocate 3.5 billion acres to grain production.
The Greens and their media allies make great play of the earth's population without ever trying to put it in perspective. But then that would spoil their disaster scenario. The world's population is 5.8 billion. Forget that and raise it to 10 billion and see how we can cope, so long as the Maurice Strong's are not allowed to sabotage economic growth. J. H. Ausbel (American Scientist March-April 1996) calculated that if world average agricultural productivity in grain rose by 5 tons per hectare (2 tons per acre) 10 billion people could enjoy an American diet on 75 per cent of the world's current farming land. This is not pie-in-the-sky thinking. His calculations are not only based on passed trends but on what is happening now. This miracle is being wrought by advances in science and technology which are being applied through decentralised investment.
As we have seen, there need be no shortages of energy, natural resources, food or agricultural land. And even a population of 10 billion would not make for a crowded planet. W. Arthur Lewis once used the state of Texas to put the so-called population 'issue' in perspective. I shall do the same. With a population of 10 billion Texas could give each person 70 square metres. This would provide a family of four with a 280 square metre house (3080 square feet). Three story homes on half the area would occupy half of Texas and give each family 420 square metres of living space (about 4620 square feet). The total area would amount to about 3.7 per cent of the United States land mass (0.22 per cent of the planet's land mass). Put them in cities and it would drop to about 1.5 per cent or less. America's food machine could easily feed this population. To make it even better, it has been estimated that increasing amounts of carbon dioxide will double the planet's animal and plant life during the next century thus raising agricultural output -- something else 'journalists' do not tell their readers.
What readers should ask is why Kristin Owen wrote this drivel? That she apparently only sought out the opinions of Green ideologues clearly suggests that she herself is an ideologue whose only interest is in pushing the Greens' anti-growth anti-people agenda. Fortunately, the days when 'journalists' could do this with impunity are, thanks to the Net, rapidly fading.
Received by TYSK via C-News Digest.