Artillery Row

We need to talk about Greenpeace

Malthusian extremists oppose GM crops that could save millions

Lockdown extension. If there are two words that strike fear into the hearts of your average citizen more than those it’s likely to be Extinction Rebellion. Utter these words to your average working-class Londoner and don’t be surprised if they start grinding their teeth or begin to show signs of a florid complexion. 

Since the group re-emerged after a long hiatus in the wilderness — probably busy making hair shirts or shouting at petrol — they have tried every means at their disposal to raise awareness that we are living in a supposed climate emergency. Their hapless Dad’s Army approach to environmental activism managed to enrage and frustrate just about every sector of British society. From a blockade that obstructed newspaper printing presses to disrupting the travel plans of millions of fed up commuters, the group managed to alienate just about anyone who may have been receptive to their cause. Hyperbolic statements didn’t help either. Founding member Roger Hallam claimedbillions” will die if we fail to take immediate action. Rather than bring people with them, these ridiculous stunts and statements have had the opposite effect.

Although Extinction Rebellion are the current torch bearers of performative activism, the progenitors of contemporary environmental virtue signalling are Greenpeace but  it wasn’t always this way. Originally called “Don’t Make a Wave Committee” the group was formed fifty years ago in Vancouver, Canada with two clear goals — the protection of whales and the wholesale elimination of all nuclear testing. In order to draw attention to the United States’ testing of nuclear weapons in the North Pacific, the group, headed by co-founder Bob Hunter, chartered a vessel and headed towards the test site. Although bad weather caused the ship to turn back, the stunt drew a lot of attention. In 1971 they decided to rebrand, taking the name from the fishing boat used in the protest  — “The Greenpeace”. 

They adopt a Malthusian mindset which falsely attributes over-population as the primary cause of climate change

It didn’t take long for the group to be subverted. The long march through the green institution was more of a sprint. Greenpeace was being hijacked by radicals as early as the mid 80’s. Just ask Patrick Moore. Moore, an original member of Greenpeace left the organisation in 1986 saying “ [they] took a sharp turn to the political left,” arguing that it had “evolved into an organisation of extremism and politically motivated agendas.” 

They are now active in over 50 countries. Boasting a worldwide annual revenue of $368 million dollars, they have become one of the most powerful environmental organisations in the world. They quickly evolved from a relatively obscure tranche of concerned environmentalists into a monolithic ecological organisation advocating more and more dangerous and ill-conceived forms of direct action. One infamous stunt involved draping a banner over the 1,500 year old Nazca lines in Peru — damaging the earth around the U.N World Heritage site — an act of cultural desecration. 

Greenpeace’s current campaign takes aim at the growing problem of plastic pollution. In a recently released video piles of plastic detritus can be seen raining down on a computer generated Boris Johnson. The amount of plastic seen in the clip is supposed to represent what we export on an average day to developing countries. Whilst certainly a problem — exports of plastic waste reached 537,000 tonnes last year  — Greenpeace are at least in part responsible for this voluminous amount of rubbish.

The group has spent twenty years opposed to the building of waste plants, otherwise known as incinerators. These plants dispose of rubbish by burning waste material. Citing the potentially lethal by-products of this industrial process — dioxins — Greenpeace Toxics campaigner Mark Strutt has labelled the building of incinerators “dangerous and irresponsible.”

Whilst Strutt is correct — incinerators do indeed produce dioxins — they are relatively small compared to other emission sources. In 2017 the annual dioxin emissions from waste plants was ten times lower than that emitted from a single night of Bonfire celebrations on or around November 5th.

An activist organisation taking a stand against something likely to improve our lives is hardly news. But when this opposition has potentially life-threatening ramifications, it needs to be addressed. 

Golden Rice is the result of nine years of research. It is a form of rice that has been genetically modified. It’s an example of bio-fortification — a process whereby a crop is modified in order to improve its nutritional value. The gold colour comes from beta carotene — a substance that converts into vitamin A in the body. Whilst relatively unknown in the west, vitamin A deficiency is a life or death issue in the developing world. According to Johns Hopkins, a lack of this essential vitamin is responsible for an annual worldwide death toll of as many as 3 million children. Those that don’t suffer a slow painful death through chronic malnutrition are left permanently blind. Golden rice could help eradicate this deficiency in countries where the condition is endemic. 

The organisation is well known for its hostility to genetically modified organisms (GMOs). So much so that 100 Nobel laureates signed an open letter to the group calling for them to end their anti GMO campaign. Their opposition has been persistent and strident. Falsely calling the rice a “hoax” -claiming the funding for its scientific research has diverted money away from the real problem — global poverty. According to Ed Regis, author of Golden Rice, “The rice [had] been subjected to safety studies -toxicity and allergenicity studies — and studies on human consumption, including among American adults and Chinese children. These have found it to be more effective in providing vitamin A than spinach and almost as effective as pure beta carotene oil itself.”

Both Extinction Rebellion and Greenpeace share an anti-humanist vision of progress

Greenpeace’s opposition to GMOs brought condemnation from one Harvard professor of genetics, George Church. In an interview with Edge he said: “A million lives are at stake every year due to vitamin A deficiency, and Golden Rice was basically ready for use in 2002…every year you delay it, that’s another million people dead. That’s mass murder on a high scale. In fact, as I understand it there is an effort to bring them to trial at The Hague for crimes against humanity. Maybe that’s justified, maybe it isn’t.

Both Extinction Rebellion and Greenpeace share an anti-humanist vision of progress. They adopt a Malthusian mindset which falsely attributes over-population as the primary cause of climate change. It is us and our apparent insatiable desire for capital that is the problem. But human beings — far from being what David Attenborough calls a “plague” — are a creative and intelligent species. We are living in a period of great scientific achievement. Whilst we have not quite reached the environmental nirvana many of these groups push for, we have made great progress. On a national level, we have decarbonised our economy faster than any other major economy in the last twenty years. Whilst globally, deaths from climate-related disasters have decreased by 90 per cent over the past hundred years. With this in context do we really need to have our consciousness “raised” as so many activists claim?

Rather than advocating genuine environmental reform, Greenpeace have regularly pursued dangerous campaigns that stand in direct opposition to progress. Their stubborn refusal to accept scientific consensus and embrace technological innovation means they are harming far more than they are helping.

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