Day 884: A Greenpeace of My Mind

03.06.11:

There’s a movie that I implore you all to watch: Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man. It tells the story of an incredibly stupid guy called Timothy Treadwell who thought that the Grizzly Bears of Alaska were his friends. He treated them like pets, like members of his family… and they ate him.

A true, cautionary tale that we should all draw some important lessons from. One is that wild carnivorous animals are not our friends; they deserve our respect and awe, but to them we are nothing but walking slabs of meat. The other is so self evident that it hardly needs to be said, but I’ll say it anyway: don’t f–k with nature, because nature will f–k with you. And you don’t need Dr Frankenstein to explain that you don’t stand a chance.

I’m in Australia at the moment watching with horror as the so-called ‘Liberal’ party (something they are anything but) openly questions the scientific FACT of climate change. Yep, these elderly selfish cretins are so moronic that they honestly think they can change the amount of CO­2 in the atmosphere, the temperature of the sea and, yes, THE WEATHER by voting against it. Shocking, yes. In the UK, there is a cross-party consensus concerning the science of climate change: there may be disagreements on the methods that should be employed to tackle this future ill, but at least they all agree that it’s actually happening and that it’s all our fault.

It’s time to stop asking what Planet Earth can do for us and instead focus on what we can do for Planet Earth. ‘Stop needlessly filling the atmosphere with carbon’ would be a good start.

There are stark parallels between the Australian Liberal party and Timothy Treadwell. Both think they can trump the laws of nature, both believe that they shoo reality away with a bizarre gust of optimism (it’ll be right, mate) and both think that the scientific consensus of the world is wrong and that they are right – with no evidence, no expertise and no scientific understanding or endeavour.

But there ARE crocodiles, and if you swim in the river, chances are they’ll eat you. Misunderstanding the evidence will not save your life.

But this issue is bigger than crocodiles and grizzly bears, it’s an epic tragedy that will affect the lives of everyone and everything on our lovely little planet. Such high drama is worthy of one fella: the Bard of Avon. So I hope you don’t mind me stretching a metaphor like so much Lycra over a massive pair of buttocks, and I also hope you recall a little Shakespeare from high school…

The Liberal party of Australia have nailed their colours to the mast: they and their gormless supporters have proven themselves to be greedy, easy-manipulated, cowardly, unimaginative villains in the grand tradition of epic tragedies of yore. They are the Macbeths of the political landscape, constantly screaming ‘yeah, but what’s in it for ME?’: grand, obnoxious, selfish and guaranteed to come a cropper by the end of Act V.

Then there are villains equally as hopeless, but not necessarily driven by inherent greed or selfishness: they are the Hamlets of the world, caught short by their inaction, indecisiveness and procrastination. They are the politicians and representatives that have seen the evidence, know something must be done, but don’t have the grit necessary to take the bull by the horns and kick it in the bollocks.

The Hamlets’ monumental inability to deal decisively with the ‘something’ that was rotten in the state of Denmark (The Copenhagen Climate Change Summit of 2009, anyone?) has lead them on a merry path to damnation. They could have done something, anything, but they didn’t – they just put off the decision for another few years. Nice one, guys – it’s not like every day it’s getting worse or nuthin’!

Like their namesake, it’s not just the Hamlets that will pay the consequences of their inaction: it’s everyone around them. Instead of seizing the opportunity to cut out the rot before it spreads, they went fishing. Unchecked, that rot will ooze like black tar all over our otherwise groovy planet, until there isn’t a single human, animal, plant or insect that isn’t affected.

But what I find most concerning are the Othellos of this global Shakespearean tragedy: those that have seen the evidence, burn with a desire to do something about it, can do something about it, but go about it in entirely the wrong way. While not the obvious villains of the piece, they turn out to do just as much damage, moreso perhaps. Greenpeace, I’m looking at YOU.

Greenpeace is the poster boy for the environmental movement, but, sadly, it singularly fails in its task of – there is no other way to put this – saving the world. By that I mean the world as we know it, of course the good ship Earth will outlive all of its present life-forms (including us), but (given the choice) I would prefer that ‘our world’ lasted another 100,000 years rather than a mere 100.

How should Greenpeace go about saving the world? By focussing all of its efforts towards stopping the damage we are doing to the atmosphere and encouraging people to have fewer kids. That’s it. Simple, but by no means easy. A noble goal that anyone in their right mind would support.

But what’s this? GM crops? Nuclear power stations? DDT? Whaling?? No offence guys, but who given the scale of the rather monumental task ahead, don’t you think that you should be, you know, concentrating your efforts? If we allow the Macbeths of the world to continue to wreak havoc on a global scale, there won’t be enough crops, genetically modified or otherwise, to feed the unsustainably-increasing population of the world.

Then again, I may find it an unnecessary distraction, but it’s not the division of Greenpeace’s labour that I have a real issue with. I guess pushing for sustainable farming and preserving virgin rainforests have their benefits to the overall scheme of avoiding all things Armageddon.

My real issue is Greenpeace’s inability to push the Hamlets into action and whip the Macbeths into submission. Note I used the word ‘inability’ there: it’s not like I think they don’t want to, it’s that I believe they can’t. Why? Because they keep kicking away the one weapon that they desperately need to slay the Tony Abbots of the world. That weapon, ladies and gentleman, is SCIENCE.

Greenpeace has an uneasy relationship with science. They seem to see it as an enemy, possibly because Greenpeace activists are, by-and-large, drawn from the Storms of the world rather than the Tim Minchins.

While Greenpeace continues to battle scientific consensus and the very foundations of scientific reasoning, the impasse will remain, while the impasse remains the atmosphere ain’t getting any cleaner.

Greenpeace’s quixotic battle against Genetically-Modified crops is one of their more bizarre and counter-productive crusades. Joining forces with the likes of The Sun newspaper and David Icke, they denounce GM crops as ‘Frankenstein Food’ and make claims (utterly refuted by all scientific studies) that it causes cancer.

Newsflash, people: you know dogs? Yeah, dogs: those annoying yappy shit-machines that bring love and support to the olfactorily challenged?

Genetically. Modified. Wolves.

Over thousands of years of selective breeding we now have a magical cornucopia of doggie breeds, from the Chihuahua to the Doberman. We did that! Humans! Meddling with nature! Woohahahaha!

You know Brussels sprouts? Those nasty little orbs of solidified fart that your auntie forces you to eat at Christmas?

Genetically. Modified. Cabbage.

As is cauliflower. And broccoli for that matter.

If it wasn’t for humans meddling with the forces of nature, Chihuahuas and Brussels Sprouts would not exist. And neither would Friesian cows, Clydesdale horses, Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs, garden strawberries, Granny Smith apples or King Edward potatoes. We made ’em all, through years of selective breeding, modifying the genetic code like crazed Dr. Frankensteins intent on world domination. But with CABBAGE!

Have these marvellous inventions increased the amount of suffering in the world? Have they caused untold damage to the delicate global eco-system? Have they wiped out civilisations, pulled apart communities or given people cancer? No. No, they haven’t. Is Greenpeace’s objection to GM crops based on any scientific reasoning whatsoever? No. But what they are saying is this: scientists are not to be trusted, go with how you feel about something, not the actual evidence.

Nice one, Greenpeace! So let’s ignore the research carried out by NASA, Universities all around the world, the Met Office and the Royal Society in favour of our gut instincts. You can see where this is going…

And then there is the spectre of nuclear power. Now while I agree that the world would be a much more lovelier place if it wasn’t for nuclear weapons, I cannot say the same about nuclear power. 75% of France’s power is nuclear. If they upped their ante on renewable power and got everyone to convert to electric cars, they could be the first carbon-neutral country in the world in just five years. Not bad for a country of 63 million people.

And why should we not be using nuclear power? Because it is perceived to be dangerous. But how dangerous? As unhealthy as making men dig in South American coal mines? As dangerous as a Qatari gas tanker filled to the brim with ultra-flammable fuel sailing through Somali pirate waters? As bad for the environment as deep-sea oil drilling? As bad for the economy as relying on the tyrannical regimes of the Middle East for our electricity? According to all the available data, no. According to Greenpeace, yes.

Again after Fukushima (as after Chernobyl) there was much pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth from the environmental brigade, and (as after Chernobyl) their apocalyptic fantasies failed to come true. More coal miners died in the Pike River mine disaster in New Zealand last year than died tackling the partial meltdown in Fukushima. Let’s put this into context: this plant was hit by one of the five biggest earthquakes in recorded history. It was then hit by a 14 metre wall of water: an unprecedented attack in the history of nuclear power.

And what is the reported death toll from the clean-up operation? One. Yup. One person shuffled off this mortal coil – and that was from a heart attack. There is a leakage of radioactive isotopes around the immediate area, but can we please put this into context? 25,000 people died on that awful day in March, and so far not a single person has been killed by radiation poisoning. The Fukushima exclusion zone (at its height) was 20km around the plant. Compare that to the 80-square-mile (210 km²) “kill zone” surrounding the blown Deepwater Horizon oil well in the Gulf of Mexico. So far two people have been hospitalised by radiation poisoning in Fukushima. 500 people have been hospitalised in Europe from eating ORGANIC CUCUMBERS.

I can’t stress this enough: just because nuclear power is complicated, it doesn’t mean it is inherently more dangerous than coal, oil, gas or even – yes – ORGANIC CUCUMBERS. Fossil fuel – even when NOTHING GOES WRONG – is substantially worse for the miners, transporters, the global economy, local environment and, of course, the whole bloody planet.

Nuclear power could save us, save the whole goddamn world, but is Greenpeace pushing for investment, research, safety procedures, more plants? No. They’re pushing to have no plants whatsoever. Why? Because scientists ain’t to be trusted.

Isn’t that EXACTLY what batshit crazies like Tony Abbot, Sarah Palin and THE ENTIRE FOSSIL FUEL INDUSTRY are saying? Don’t trust the hard science, don’t peruse the facts, just come up with your own judgement based on how you feel.

This makes me furious – and I’m not even a scientist. I haven’t spent my life drilling ice cores in the Antarctic, corralling weather balloons, studying glacier retreat in the Himalayas, analysing meta-data from temperature monitoring satellites all over the world… I haven’t done anything to make you live longer, invented anything to make your days more entertaining nor perfected a formula that will make you more comfortable. Scientists have, and despite the fact that we’re an ungrateful bunch of bastards, science is not going to give up on us – it’s going to keep on searching for a cure for cancer, working out new and wonderful ways for us to communicate, it’s going to keep the internet running smoothly, our planes in the air, food on our shelves, power in the grid and our air-bags ready to spring from nowhere and save our lives.

This isn’t Lord of the Flies. If we burn down This Island Earth, a helpful ship isn’t going to come and rescue us. There isn’t going to be a Deus Ex Machina ending to all this, since if there ever was a Deum (which I doubt) he packed his bags and left this place a long time ago my friend.

The environmental movement, if it is to drown out the non-committal drone of the Hamlets and the ignorant bluster of the Macbeths, must begin to use scientific data more honestly. Stop cherry-picking, stop ignoring pertinent and demonstrable facts just because they don’t suit your world-view; and for heaven’s sake, stop appeasing these c—s in the oil industry by giving them ANY room to manoeuvre.

At the moment Greenpeace, like Othello, is its own worst enemy. They are playing right into the hands of the oil barons, by believing half-understood rumour over demonstrable fact. If only Othello, instead of slaying Desdemona, just listened to her – trusted her – they could have teamed up, destroyed Iago together and exploded his nefarious scheme.

But Othello, like Hamlet and Macbeth, ends in tragedy. He doesn’t listen to reason, he doesn’t even bother to independently examine the evidence, he just acts on impulse, emotion and a twisted sense of personal justice. We don’t have time for such games. The stakes are too high. The anti-science bias of the environmental movement has to end, and it has to end now, for all our sakes – even those who are too pig-ignorant or pig-headed to see what’s coming.