Frontpage Interview has the pleasure to have Paul Driessen as its guest today. Mr. Driessen is a senior fellow with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise and Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow -- and the director of the new Economic Human Rights Project, a joint initiative of the CDFE and CORE. He is also the author of the new book, Eco-Imperialism: Green Power, Black Death (www.Eco-Imperialism.com), which addresses the hidden agendas and fatal repercussions of the radical environmental movement.
Frontpage Interview: Mr. Driessen, welcome to Frontpage Interview. In your book, you show that the green agenda actually fuels the impoverishment of many poor people in developing nations. Could you tell our readers briefly how the environmentalists do this in the name of “corporate social responsibility” and “saving the planet”?
Driessen: Radical greens are masters at devising exaggerated, imaginary and bogus eco-catastrophes – then imposing policies that give them unprecedented power, deprive other people of their freedoms and opportunities, impoverish entire nations, and cause not just impoverishment, but incalculable misery, disease and death. Of course, they claim their actions are motivated by concern for people, animals and the planet. However, the ecological benefits are often minimal to non-existent, the human toll is profound, and the absence of real compassion, ethics or social responsibility is glaring.
Two billion people still don’t have electricity. In Uganda and many other countries, less than 3 percent of the population has regular access to electricity. Abundant, reliable, affordable electricity is a precondition for health, economic and environmental progress. Without it, people cannot have light and refrigeration in their homes; modern hospitals, schools, factories or water purification plants for their communities; economic opportunity or hope for the future.
And yet, radical environmentalists adamantly oppose fossil fuel, nuclear and hydroelectric power projects – and insist on inadequate wind turbines, or little solar panels on huts, instead. This means millions of mothers and girls must continue spending hours each day cutting down forests for firewood, or gathering, drying and storing cow dung to burn. Then they are forced to spend more hours carrying water from lakes and rivers that are often tainted with bacteria – and still more hours breathing acrid, polluted smoke from their cooking and heating fires. The results are easily foreseeable.
Wildlife habitats are destroyed. Vast areas are blanketed with dense air pollution. And over 4 million infants, children and mothers die every year from lung infections we never even hear about anymore in the USA – millions more from dysentery and other diseases caused by unsafe water and spoiled food.
Malaria is another scourge made infinitely worse by green extremists. We used DDT to eliminate this mosquito-borne disease in the United States and Europe. Now well-off environmental activists can afford to rail against pesticide use in Africa, while they enjoy all the comforts that our high-tech, malaria-free society bestows upon them.
Meanwhile, 2 million Africans die every year from this dreaded disease. Hundreds of millions get so sick each year they can’t work, attend school, care for their families or tend their fields for weeks or months on end. Millions are so weakened from malaria that they succumb to AIDS, dysentery, tuberculosis and other serial killers that stalk these impoverished lands – diseases that many of them would survive if they weren’t so weakened by malaria and malnutrition. It’s no wonder sub-Saharan Africa is one of the most destitute regions on Earth.
But Greenpeace, the Pesticide Action Network, Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, Physicians for Social Responsibility and other ideological pressure groups still do all they can to prevent this miracle pesticide’s use. Instead, they promote drugs and insecticide-treated bed nets, which help – but are expensive, hard to get and often don’t work. Hollywood elites and big donors like the Ford, Pew, MacArthur and Schumann foundations support these groups with tens of millions of dollars a year. In my opinion, they all have blood on their hands.
So do the World Health Organization, which seems to have been taken over by anti-pesticide zealots, and US Agency for International Development, which claims it can’t support or fund DDT use, because WHO opposes it and the US no longer permits its use. (Of course, our government banned it in 1972 primarily for political reasons, because we had already eradicated malaria and could afford to do without DDT.) perhaps even worse, as the British medical journal Lancet forcefully pointed out in January 2004, both of these “aid” agencies have continued to recommend, fund and provide supposedly anti-malarial drugs that they have known for years are no longer effective in preventing or treating this disease. Heaven knows how many people died using chloroquine or SP, believing the drugs were effective because WHO or USAID had recommended them and provided them to sick and dying patients.
The unsurprising result is that hundreds of thousands of children and parents die every year who would live, if their countries could also use DDT – spraying it in tiny quantities on the inside walls of homes, just once or twice a year, to repel, incapacitate and exterminate mosquitoes.
Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton was right on target when he told San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club: “Banning DDT is one of the most disgraceful episodes in the twentieth century history of America. We knew better, and we did it anyway, and we let people around the world die, and we didn’t give a damn.”
Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. These same groups actively promote harmful, even lethal policies on biotechnology, sweatshops and AIDS medications. That’s why Niger Innis, national spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), says these policies are not merely eco-imperialism – they’re eco-manslaughter.
“The Green movement violates the developing world’s most basic human rights,” Innis stresses. “It’s time to put humanity back into the environmental debate. We all want to protect our planet. But we must stop trying to protect it from bogus or illusory threats – and on the backs, and the graves, of the world’s most powerless and impoverished people. This is the civil rights and human rights challenge for the coming decades.”
FP: The Left is often very proud of the environmental standards it forces on the world, but, as you demonstrate in your book, these standards often exacerbate the hunger and suffering of the world’s poor. Please briefly illuminate how and why.
Driessen: Many of these standards reflect the Environmental Left’s pessimistic world view, its unceasing quest for greater power and control, and a callous, ideological belief that “destitute people in developing countries must never aspire to living standards much better than they have now – because it wouldn’t be sustainable” (as South Africa’s Leon Louw puts it). More prosperous countries can withstand their negative impacts, within limits. However, when imposed on less developed countries, the standards are a disaster.
Radical greens are fond of claiming they are committed to preserving “indigenous lifestyles” from the encroachment of western civilization. Of course, they would never give up their own comfortable western lifestyle, or all the wondrous medicines, foods and technologies it provides. Nor would they survive long actually living like natives in a desert or rain forest.
Moreover, as Kenya’s Akinyi Arunga so eloquently put it, “Cute, indigenous customs aren’t so charming when they make up one’s day-to-day existence. Then they mean indigenous poverty, indigenous malnutrition, indigenous disease and childhood death. I don’t wish this on my worst enemy, and I wish our so-called friends would stop imposing it on us.”
Depriving the world’s poor of electricity and pesticides is just the beginning. Biotechnology could fortify plants with vitamins, to reduce malnutrition and blindness, replace crops devastated by disease and drought, and reduce the need to cultivate so much wildlife habitat and use so many pesticides. It could also help developing countries increase their agricultural incomes and compete with European and American farmers who get over $300 billion a year in subsidies.
But eco radicals oppose genetic engineering, too. So a half million children go blind every year because of vitamin A deficiencies, and 2 million die from diseases they would survive if they simply received adequate vitamin A in their diets, by eating just 1.5 ounces of “golden rice” a day, another miracle of biotechnology.
The inescapable fact is that eco-imperialism perpetuates poverty and misery – allowing its proponents to live in splendor, while their victims continue to live in squalor. It’s hypocritical, immoral and lethal. We need to start holding these groups accountable, and compelling organizations, foundations, courts and policy makers to understand the consequences of the policies they are imposing on our Earth’s poorest citizens.
My book and a recent CORE teach-in on eco-imperialism are a beginning. But much more needs to be done. Decent, compassionate people everywhere need to become involved. Thankfully, judging by the response we are getting, that’s exactly what’s happening.
FP: Your book demonstrates how organizations such as Greenpeace and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals demand certain ethical standards from corporations that they themselves do not even live up to – and consistently violate. They pretend they are acting out of “social responsibility,” yet are really only pursuing their own selfish agendas. Could you give us a highlight or two of this reality?
Driessen: Everything we’ve been discussing exemplifies selfish agendas masquerading as lofty examples of social responsibility. Every one of them involves results that are clearly foreseeable, but have been callously or recklessly ignored. Which brings us to the matter of accountability.
If you or I or a business breaks a law, or engages in negligent or reckless conduct that injures someone, the consequences are real, immediate and often severe. The pressure groups, lawyers, media and public demand it, and the legislators, regulators, courts and juries deliver.
But when it comes to eco-radicals, accountability is rarely in the cards – even for felonies, much less for the misery and death we just discussed. When an Earth Liberation Front terrorist actually got caught, convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison for torching a car dealership, University of Oregon professor Michael Dreiling ranted that the sentence “clearly reflects a no-tolerance attitude for political dissent.” That’s the kind of attitude we have to change.
Environmentalists and their allies also demand “transparency” with regard to possible corporate donations to free-market think tanks. But when someone asks them to open their books, and divulge corporate, foundation or government grants, their silence is deafening – even when the topic is liberal foundations and organic food companies that since 1995 have given more than $500 million to activist attack groups that target agricultural biotechnology and cause so much malnutrition and death in developing countries.
In another egregious case, a federal court ordered former EPA Administrator Carol Browner to safeguard computer files, detailing her agency’s grants to radical environmental organizations. She deleted them anyway – and got away with it. So much for transparency, accountability, and a single system of laws, ethical standards and justice for everyone.
Speaking of which, where do we go to ensure accountability for the directors of the WHO, USAID, green pressure groups and foundations that fund them – for the gross medical malpractice, obstinate opposition to life-saving pesticides, and countless deaths from malaria that could easily have been prevented, if green ideologies hadn’t stood in the way?
Bear in mind – What many of these groups engage in is nothing less than rampant, criminal law breaking, ranging from trespass to assaults on people wearing furs, and the malicious destruction of biotech crops, laboratories and millions of dollars in scientific research. Greenpeace has been indicted on criminal charges for illegally boarding a ship, and many of its members have been prosecuted for trespass and willful destruction of GM crops and other property.
PETA regularly engages in assaults, intimidation and property destruction as a standard tactic and basic policy. It’s also used its tax-exempt funds to pay the legal expenses of eco-terrorists like Rodney Coronado. PETA president Ingrid Newkirk has applauded the sending of threatening letters booby-trapped with razor blades and sent to biomedical researchers – and the posting of researchers’ names, addresses, photographs and home telephone numbers on the Internet, so that they can be targeted by eco-fanatics. Meanwhile, the ELF website offers detailed instructions for building firebombs and destroying buildings.
This goes way beyond civil disobedience, as practiced by Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King. These are the actions of a vigilante group or lynch mob – acting as legislature, judge, jury, prosecutor and hangman. And yet, these organizations still insist that they should not be prosecuted or have their tax-exempt status revoked, because they are “saving the animal planet.” Not only do they not want to pay the price for their criminal activity; they demand continued government, foundation and corporate subsidies to further their misdemeanors and felonies.
It’s simply outrageous, and it has to end.
FP: When you look at what these radical environmentalists are doing, it becomes clear that they couldn’t really care less about the environment, or the people for whom they purport to speak. They exploit environmental concerns to camouflage their hatred of their own society and their ferocious war to destroy capitalism and civil society. That’s what this is really all about isn’t it?
Driessen: I think that’s a pretty fair summation. Michael Crichton calls environmentalism “one of the most powerful religions in the world today.” What it espouses has little to do with science or reality. It’s all a matter of blind faith, part of a quest for an eco-utopia, a return to some mythical Garden of Eden.
Greenpeace co-founder Dr. Patrick Moore argues that the movement really became radicalized after the fall of the Berlin Wall and USSR. That’s when hordes of activists left their Communist Party jobs and joined the environmental movement – bringing their anti-business, anti-American, anti-science, anti-trade, anti-civilization extremism with them.
“When I helped create Greenpeace in 1971,” Dr. Moore reflects, “I had no idea it would evolve into a band of scientific illiterates who use Gestapo tactics to silence people who wish to express their views in a civilized forum. I had no idea the movement would oppose genetic engineering and other programs that could benefit mankind – and adopt zero-tolerance policies that so clearly expose its intellectual and moral bankruptcy.”
He likewise had no idea it would become so hypocritical. Eco-radicals say they want to save habitats, but then they oppose biotechnology and promote organic farming, which would require that we plow under most of our remaining rainforests and other wildlife habitats to feed people, Dr. Moore points out. They say they want to preserve US forests, but viscerally oppose any thinning that could prevent the catastrophic wildfires that immolate trees, wildlife, streams and soils. They claim to oppose over-fishing, but do all they can to stop aquaculture.
In short, says Dr. Moore, “The environmental movement has lost its objectivity, morality and humanity. The pain and suffering it is imposing on families in developing countries must no longer be tolerated.”
Environmental activists who’ve never known starvation, never had to live without electricity, never had to watch their children die of malaria or dysentery, must no longer be allowed to put their anxieties, priorities and agendas ahead of the desperate pleas, the most basic needs, of destitute people who wish only to improve their lives, and save their children’s lives.
That’s why the battle against Eco-Imperialism must become the civil and human rights campaign of this century. With the help of CORE, the Center, Frontpagemag.com and other caring organizations, we will do exactly that.