Magazine article The Spectator

Green Was Good

Magazine article The Spectator

Green Was Good

Article excerpt

Quite the most important programme on TV last week - possibly all year - was Bjorn Lomborg on Environmentalism, part of Channel 5's excellent Big Ideas series. It was well-argued, punchy, intelligent and persuasive, and it ought to become compulsory viewing in every school in Britain. But, of course, it won't be for reasons that Lomborg outlined in his programme: the environmental movement has transformed itself into an all-powerful religion which sees any criticism, however well-justified, as heresy punishable by ostracism, calumny and vicious assault by custard pie.

Lomborg is the Danish professor of statistics who is reviled by eco fascists everywhere because of his landmark 2001 book, The Skeptical Environmentalist. In it he argued that over the last few decades environmental pressure groups have consistently exaggerated the ecological threat to the planet; that it's time we stopped throwing money at chimeras and paused to think a little harder about what the planet's most pressing needs are, and directed our limited resources towards those instead.

Really, the programme was just a very simplified version of the book but what it did do was reposition Lomborg as the caring, eco-type he actually is rather than the ignorant, Gaia-raping, Bushite stooge his critics like to pretend he is. The Green movement, Lomborg argued, was at first a wondrous and necessary thing. It has just lost its way, that's all.

Back in the days of John Muir - the backwoodsman who in 1892 founded the Sierra Club, a campaign group which successfully lobbied to have Yosemite preserved as wilderness, and which led to the creation of America's national parks Green activism served a real purpose. And it continued to do so in the first few years after that other great eco landmark Rachel Carson's 1962 book Silent Spring, which drew public attention to the ravages being inflicted on the eco-system through indiscriminate use of pesticides.

What has happened now, unfortunately, is that Green politics has succumbed to the Malthus-like tendency towards predicting Doomsday scenarios. For one thing, imaginary crises lend an urgency to fundraising. For another, it appeals to our instinctive post-lapsarian guilt that the world's problems must be All Our Fault.

Lomborg's greatest heresy, in the eyes of the eco-faithful, is to claim that the Kyoto Agreement is a massive waste of time and money. But the point they miss is that he is not denying the existence of global warming; he is merely observing that even if, at great expense, Kyoto were implemented it would still only delay the effects of global warming by six years. …

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