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Entry 2014, on 2019-11-22 at 22:04:54 (Rating 3, Politics)
Many people who support environmentalism, social justice, and other broadly "leftist" issues think that green parties and environmental organisations are primarily concerned with the best outcomes for the majority of people and the planet as a whole. Even those who oppose these groups tend to think they are just misguided loonies, or poorly informed or motivated, and that they just need a bit of common sense. But there are ways that pro-environment parties and organisations could be seen as destructive, and even cruel and barbaric.
Is this just mindless rhetoric from a right-wing nutter? Well, no, because I am a center-left voter myself and am broadly in favour of many pro-environment initiatives. So what am I talking about then? Let me explain...
Basically, the problem is that the green movement needs a bit of balance. They lack this because they tend to form their arguments based on ideology rather than evidence. Of course, they are definitely not the only group guilty of this error, but a case might be made to say they are the worst. Also, like all groups, they claim that their biased opinions are based on facts, but those facts are very selective and they decide what the conclusion is before looking for supporting facts, again a process shared by most other groups.
So let's cut to the chase. What particular beliefs do environmental organisations have which I particularly object to?
Three significant problems (and I'm sure there are more) are their rejection of nuclear power, inorganic farming (by that I man "normal" farming as opposed to organic farming), and genetic modification,.
Many environmentalist would claim the biggest challenge today comes from climate change. Whether this is the biggest problem or not is a matter of opinion, but it is definitely significant and shouldn't be ignored. But when looking at ways to reduce carbon emissions one of the best options is rejected out of hand by most green groups (by that I mean green political parties, organisations like GreenPeace, etc).
That option, of course, is to replace coal fired power plants with nuclear power. Obviously truly renewable plants, like solar and wind, are an even better option, but those cannot fill all the required capacity, so nuclear should be considered a viable option. But it isn't. Why? Because nuclear is seen as unnatural and scary, and it doesn't fit in with green ideology.
But while they are right to be cautious about nuclear power, totally rejecting it is a very harmful attitude. Sure, that might stop potential nuclear accidents but at what cost? Probably more deaths by orders of magnitude because of all those coal plants still operating (see my blog post "Give Nuclear Respect" from 2019-07-02 for details about how safe nuclear really is).
What about organic farming? A recent report showed that if England and Wales converted all their conventional (inorganic, chemical based, or whatever you want to describe it as) food production to organic they would get 40% less yield. So to feed the same number of people a lot more land would be needed. Organics really has very few practical advantages at all (against properly done conventional production) apart from the sometimes significant marketing advantage when selling to naive consumers who believe organic production has major benefits when it clearly doesn't.
Yet green organisations are strongly behind organics. Why? For the same reason I mentioned above: pure ideology getting in the way of facts.
Finally, what about genetic modification? That is possibly the worst mistake these people make, and one which arguably has lead to millions of deaths. GM is a subject many people feel strongly about because it has that sort of "Frankenstein" aspect to it. But most new technologies have significant potential problems, and picking out this one as being worse than others is really the result of an emotional reaction rather than a rational one.
Maybe the most significant example of the rejection of an almost certainly revolutionary and very positive application of GM is golden rice. This is a new variety of rice (actually first introduced about 20 years ago) genetically engineered to have a high vitamin A content. Many people in third world countries suffer from blindness and death as a result of having insufficient vitamin A in their diets, and because rice is already a staple food in these countries adding the vitamin to rice was a very clever and sensible move.
But the introduction of golden rice has been slow or non-existent. To be fair, that is partly because the initial version had lower levels of the vitamin than would be ideal, but that has since been fixed. The primary reason for it not being used is opposition from various groups, especially those with a green agenda.
Do they object because the rice is dangerous? No, because it is just normal rice with more vitamin A. There is no reason to suspect anything negative, and even if there were issues, would they be greater than all those people suffering from the deficiency?
So maybe they object because they don't want big corporations controlling and profiting from the use of this product in the third world. Again, no, because the whole project is being managed by the "International Rice Research Institute" and the project is non-commercial, meaning no company involved would receive a royalty or payment from the marketing or selling of any golden rice varieties.
So what is it? Why do organisations like GreenPeace not want to try to save lives in the third world? Because of mindless ideology, apparently. They say that if golden rice is allowed to be used, and turns out to be successful, it will make it easier for other GM products to be introduced in future. So they are worried about GM working really well, and that would expose the errors in their organisation's dogma. It seems that ideology is more important than saving the sight and lives of hundreds of thousands of children. How corrupt and evil is that?
So, while I support a lot of green policy, I refuse to give any sort of blanket support for organisations like GreenPeace, and I tell them that when they ask for donations. Interestingly, most of their people don't know a lot about these issues, and those who do have no answers.
Fanaticism and unthinking commitment to ideological beliefs exists in many organisations, but I doubt whether there are many others which lead to so much suffering and death as these anti-science beliefs of the greens.
Comment 4 (5108) by OJB on 2019-11-23 at 21:57:58: (view earlier comments)
Iím going to answer this quantitatively, but I fully admit Iím just making up the numbers! However, I think they are roughly right, and just using numbers at all clarifies the situation, in my opinion.
OK, so I think there is a 99% chance that climate change is happening and is significant. I think there is a 90% chance that is is primarily caused by humans. I think it will cause about 80% bad things and 20% good. I think the solutions proposed by most western countries will make about a 10% improvement.
So I think climate change deniers probably should stop their denial, and just admit itís happening. Those who think climate change is the result of natural fluctuations should also probably admit that isnít true, although that isnít as certain. The question really is what, if anything, to do about it. I personally think we might as well give up trying to stop it and work on ways to minimise the bad effects.
Comment 5 (5115) by Anonymous on 2019-11-26 at 10:22:37:
Fukushima, Chernobyl. Despite your points, they still happened. You can't talk about the use of technology without accepting that economic and social factors will allow this type of misuse again. So what if the plants were beyond their useful life, they were still operating and they were allowed to still operate.
Comment 6 (5118) by OJB on 2019-11-26 at 11:08:56:
Sure, we need to look at how the technology works in the real world rather than in an ideal situation. I'm not pretending nuclear is perfect at all, just that it's unthinking rejection by some groups - especially those with an extreme green agenda - is not valid.
Comment 7 (5123) by Derek Ramsey on 2019-11-29 at 10:58:42:
In reply to: I'm going to answer this quantitatively..."
"I fully admit I'm just making up the numbers! [..] Those who think climate change is the result of natural fluctuations should also probably admit that isn't true, although that isn't as certain."
Under climate change hysteria is a paper thin layer of evidential support. All we have to do is examine the list of pros and cons and see for ourselves. It isn't pretty. The science is so thorough settled that proponents show by their personal actions that they don't believe what they are saying.
"The question really is what, if anything, to do about it. I personally think we might as well give up trying to stop it and work on ways to minimise the bad effects."
I completely agree with you that this is the outcome that will actually happen, but it's not why anyone wants changes. You are in denial. We all know that climate change hysteria isn't actually about the environment. It's about economic changes, government power and control, and social changes. Even if I fully, 100% agreed that climate change is real and human-caused, it would still be irrelevant. The question you pose is pointless from an environmental standpoint.
The lack of real numbers is indicative, as is the failure of predictive models. What you say sounds plausible and may even be true, but I have almost no confidence in the evidence due to the biased presentation and the numerous lies. If academia wouldn't suppress research that draws contrary conclusions and would stop lying about it, I might be more prone to accepting these claims. It's rational to reject a one-sided presentation from liars.
"I think it will cause about 80% bad things and 20% good."
I disagree. Colder climates lead to increased stress, crop failures, and even political despotism. Zhang et al. (2011) p. 17297 showed that from 1500 to 1800, temperature and war fatalities were correlated at -0.470. This date range corresponds to the conclusion of the Little Ice Age. This was echoed in "The Rhythm of the West", Woodley, Michael A. et al (2017), broadening the research to include more correlated factors.
Beyond this, a number of negative effects allegedly caused by climate change are actually caused by other factors. Take, for example, the extinction of animals. Every time the plight of some animal is studied, climate change is always cited as a reason for its demise, even though land use changes and habitat destruction are, by far, the most significant factors. Case in point: the Monarch Butterfly.
It's so obvious that small climate changes would only have a minor impact on huge human-caused ecological changes stretching back decades. Perhaps they play a role in pushing a species over the line, but the major work was done by humans in other areas. So why even bring it up? Because nobody really cares about climate, they just want to use its hysteria for political, social, and economic ends.
Lastly, in a materialist world we are supposed to accept Darwinian survival of the fittest. Should we not cheer on the extinction of the unfit species?
Comment 8 (5126) by OJB on 2019-12-04 at 11:36:01:
Actually, while I agree that there is a lot of hysteria out there, some of it even from scientists, the real evidence is actually pretty good. And I don't think personal actions, public comments, social media posts, or political activism matters. I form my opinions based on the science only (well, at least I try).
I don't quite understand your point: how could the decision between trying to stop climate change and planning for its consequences be irrelevant (once we accept climate change is real)?
From what I understand, the economic and social consequences of whole areas of the world becoming almost uninhabitable will be very serious. The smaller areas of the world which might benefit don't overcome the huge negative consequences. Of course, this is partly an economic and social science argument, so it is far less certain.
I think we need to disconnect the science of climate change from the politics. I totally agree that a lot of the political activity around it is ridiculous, but don't let that affect how you interpret the science.
As far as survival of the fittest is concerned, evolution hasn't really been interpreted that simply for years now, but it is still a fair approximation to the facts. But humans have tried to move on from that and control our own future, through social and technological means, so that's what we should be doing.
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