By Patrick Meagher
In an elaborate plan, two desperate murderers escaped from a New York state prison last month. With power tools smuggled into their cell, they cut a hole in the wall and into a large steam pipe and out they went.
They were at large two weeks later. Police warned that they could be as far north as your Eastern Ontario corn field. Eluding the border check at the St. Lawrence River would be easy. I’ve done it. When I was much younger, a friend and I paddled across to the American side in a canoe after dark because a waterfront tavern was still serving late into the night. Then we paddled back. The longest border in the world is far from controlled.
Anyway, this jailbreak fascinated me. I admired the ingenious brains behind the plan and caught myself cheering them on. But on sober second thought I excused my emotions to consider the gravity of the situation. These thugs are cold-blooded murderers. They cut short the lives of two people who have families. One was a police officer, the other, the murderer’s boss. These murderers were very dangerous. They needed to be back behind bars. One was killed in a shoot-out, the other caught 2.4 kilometres from the Canadian border.
It occurred to me that my first reaction captures much of what motivates today’s environmentalist movement: Emotional wishful thinking without sober second thought.
Environmentalists nostalgically long to live before the industrial revolution in a quaint cabin in the woods. But if you really considered it, sober second thought would remind you it comes at great cost. For starters, life expectancy would be 36. Common diseases would go uncured. A medical operation would be without anesthesia and nothing would be anti-septic. You would never travel farther than the nearest town and you’d be shovelling horse manure more often than snow.
Nature is beautiful. Sober second thought tells you that she can be cruel. The Canadian wild can kill you if it catches up with you. Think of animals not in cages.
Emotional wishful thinking gets you nirvana. Sober second thought gets you reality. Environmentalism often seems to verge on totalitarianism. One Ottawa group recently walked into local “green” restaurants and chastised an owner for not composting enough. Another restaurant manager was publicly humiliated for not having enough local food on the menu.
Wishful-thinking environmentalists tend only to care about the science that agrees with them. The methodology is unimportant, according to former leading British environmentalist Mark Lynas, who went into farmers’ fields to destroy genetically-modified crops. Lynas never thought of himself as anti-science.
“It’s called motivational reasoning,” he told me. “You start off with a conclusion and you find bits of evidence to try and support it… I never knowingly told a lie and I think that’s true for most (environmentalists).”
No argument will dissuade environmentalists because the issue is never really about the technology, Lynas said. Environmentalists “oppose modern agriculture in general.”
It’s a battle over philosophy of life that often trumps science because emotion is more powerful than reason. Global warming proponent and Stanford University scientist Stephen Schneider told Discover magazine years ago: “As scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth… On the other hand, we are not just scientists, but human beings. And like most people we’d like the world to be a better place… To do that we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have… Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.”
Worse, the environmentalist movement hijacked a generation of journalists to believe in doomsday scenarios that never materialize. Time magazine science editor Charles Alexander said at a conference in 1989: “I would freely admit that on (environmentalism) we have crossed the boundary from news reporting to advocacy.”
Not all reporting is deliberately biased but environmentalists know that scaremongering creates headlines. Farm lobby groups are not immune to the emotionalism. The National Farmers Union was embarrassed into dropping its frankenfood campaign years ago when it became clear that science had won the war on GM food.
There is good news or, rather, amusing news. A two-year-old study by researchers at the Universities of Toronto and Waterloo found that generally people don’t like to be associated with certain activists. Or as Salon.com asserted: “Everyone hates environmentalists.”