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    NHNE News List Current Members: 985 Subscribe/unsubscribe/archive info at the bottom of this message. ... ECO-TRAITOR By Drake Bennett Wired Issue 12.03 -
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      By Drake Bennett
      Issue 12.03 - March 2004



      Three decades ago, Patrick Moore helped found Greenpeace. Today he promotes
      nuclear energy and genetically modified foods - and swears he's still
      fighting to save the planet.


      Patrick Moore has been called a sellout, traitor, parasite, and prostitute
      -- and that's by critics exercising self-restraint. It's not hard to see why
      they're angry. Moore helped found Greenpeace and devoted 15 years to waging
      the organization's flamboyant brand of environmental warfare. He campaigned
      against nuclear testing, whaling, seal hunting, pesticides, supertankers,
      uranium mining, and toxic waste dumping. As the nonprofit's scientific
      spokesperson, he was widely quoted and frequently photographed, often while
      being taken into custody.

      Then, in 1986, the PhD ecologist abruptly turned his back on the
      environmental movement. He didn't just retire; he joined the other side.
      Today, he's a mouthpiece for some of the very interests Greenpeace was
      founded to counter, notably the timber and plastics industries. He argues
      that the Amazon rain forest is doing fine, that the Three Gorges Dam is the
      smartest thing China could do for its energy supply, and that opposition to
      genetically modified foods is tantamount to mass murder.

      Moore's turnabout was the biggest change of heart since Harold "Kim" Philby
      left Her Majesty's secret service for the Soviet Union -- or was it? Moore
      insists that he hasn't changed a bit. His professional life, he says, has
      been a single-minded quest for true ecological sustainability. To his
      opponents, however, it adds up to little more than an ideologically bankrupt
      series of betrayals.

      Consider the public hearing held at Boston City Hall on October 23 last
      year. The matter at hand was a proposal to ban the purchase of polyvinyl
      chloride products using city funds. An impressive array of expert witnesses
      testified in favor of the resolution -- an Environmental Protection Agency
      toxicologist, a Tufts University economist, a Boston Public Health
      Commission official, the head of purchasing for a cancer research center.
      The production and incineration of PVC products, they argued, releases
      chemicals known as dioxins, exposure to which can lead to endocrine
      disorders, cancer, diabetes, infant mortality, and cognitive and
      developmental problems in children.

      Then Patrick Moore took the floor. "It's a good thing most of the people who
      got up here before me weren't under oath," he began. "There is not a public
      benefit to be derived from a ban on PVC." The whole issue is "based on bad
      science and misinformation."

      First of all, Moore argued, total dioxin emissions have dropped 90 percent
      since 1970, to levels safely below those that cause health problems.
      Furthermore, dioxins are not some newfangled product of the industrial age.
      They've been around as long as fire. If the council wanted to make a real
      difference, he said, it could ban backyard burning, which spews nearly 60
      times more dioxins than PVC manufacturing, or residential fireplaces, which
      emit 10 times more.

      Throughout his presentation, Moore made barbed references to the devious
      forces behind the legislation, the same pack of Luddites who "hijacked a
      considerable portion of the environmental movement back in the mid-'80s and
      who have become very clever at using green language to cloak campaigns that
      have more to do with anti-industrialism, antiglobalization, anticorporate,
      all of those things which are basically political campaigns."

      It was a bravura performance. When Moore returned to his seat, he was
      greeted with handshakes and backslaps from the folks who had paid his way:
      the Vinyl Institute.

      For Moore, the PVC showdown was part of a larger crusade to reform
      environmentalism. He derides today's activists as philosophically unmoored
      and blindly technophobic, and he offers an alternative philosophy that not
      only accepts but celebrates humankind's growing ability to alter the planet.
      With a tip of the hat to best-selling "skeptical environmentalist" Bjørn
      Lomborg (and perhaps Thomas Paine), he has anointed himself the sensible
      environmentalist and set out to win converts. There haven't been many. So
      far, Moore has succeeded mostly in making himself a pariah and a cautionary

      Greenpeace was born in 1971 when an aging fishing boat steamed out of
      Vancouver, British Columbia, to disrupt an American nuclear test at the far
      end of the Aleutian Islands. Halfway there, the boat was intercepted by the
      US Coast Guard and the crew arrested. But the mission proved successful: The
      subsequent global show of support for the band of plucky environauts caused
      President Nixon to cancel the remaining tests. When the crew returned to
      shore, it adopted the name of the boat, Greenpeace, and turned its
      mediagenic activism into a global institution. By the mid-1980s, the
      organization had offices in 21 countries and an annual income of more than
      $100 million in donations and grants.

      Patrick Moore was on board for that inaugural voyage, and he went on to
      serve as president of Greenpeace from 1977 to 1979 and as a member of the
      international board for seven years after that. He was a natural activist,
      impassioned and articulate, and his PhD from the University of British
      Columbia gave him a mantle of scientific legitimacy. Greenpeace veteran Rex
      Weyler recalls that "you could put Moore in front to talk to the media on
      scientific issues, and you could always rely on him. He'd get his facts
      straight, and he was tough as nails in any debate."

      In his study in the neat, airy Vancouver home he shares with his wife, Moore
      keeps scrapbooks of his activist days. News clippings show him, with a cloud
      of tawny hair and a bandit's mustache, poring over nautical charts and
      shielding baby seals. Today the mustache is gone. The mane has receded to a
      mat of gray.

      Moore won't have anything to do with Greenpeace these days, but he still
      gets a charge out of talking about the early campaigns. He shows me an
      aerial photo of a tiny raft floating in the way of a supertanker. The ship
      fills half the frame, like a snub-nosed sea monster. He and Weyler are on
      the raft, about to be arrested by the US Coast Guard. "Cool, eh?" he says
      with a hot-rodder's grin.

      Moore was made-to-order for Greenpeace. He was raised in Winter Harbour, a
      village on the far northwestern tip of Vancouver Island. "It was like
      growing up in a dreamworld," he says. "My most memorable moments were in my
      boat with the motor turned off, floating over the shallow tide flats and
      looking down at all the marine life, or in the forest with the moss and the
      ferns." It's easy to see how that little wood sprite went on to study
      ecology and fashioned himself into an environmental shock trooper. Even
      today, Moore can sound druidic when talking about the natural world. He's a
      firm believer in James Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis, which posits that Earth
      is a self-regulating superorganism. He hates the word weed, he says, because
      "it's a value judgment about plants."

      Moore's family made its living off the land. His father and grandfather were
      loggers, and his mother came from a clan of fishermen. Perhaps this explains
      why, despite his animist tendencies, his ecological attitudes are grounded
      in an obsessive rationalism. He's fascinated by nature's cycles, mechanisms,
      and systems, and he sees no reason to privilege natural systems over
      man-made ones.

      When he was 8, one of his toys was a one-cylinder engine that he would take
      apart and reassemble. For his dissertation research, he built a
      transmissometer, a device that measures water quality. He's as likely to wax
      didactic about the minutiae of paper pulping ("There's more computer power
      in a paper mill than there is in a 747!") as about the life cycle of the
      moths in the eaves of his porch. Moore is equal parts tinkerer and mystic,
      and his environmental thinking may be an attempt to reconcile those two

      Like many people who earn a living making speeches, Moore prefaces much of
      what he says with phrases like "my line on this is" and "as I like to put
      it." As he likes to put it, he left Greenpeace in 1986 because "I'd been
      against at least three or four things every day for 15 years, and I decided
      I'd like to be in favor of something for a change. Suddenly, presidents and
      prime ministers were talking about the environment. We had won society over
      to our way of looking at things. As I like to say, maybe it's time to figure
      out what the solutions are, rather than just focusing on problems."

      Moore got a glimpse of how an environmentally responsible society might
      function four years earlier, at the 1982 Nairobi Conference of the United
      Nations Environmental Program. In a presentation given by Tom Burke, then
      leader of Friends of the Earth UK, he first heard a phrase that was an
      oxymoron by Greenpeace standards: sustainable development. It was several
      years before the idea gained wide currency, but for Moore, "The light went

      "When I understood sustainable development," he recalls, "I realized that
      the challenge was to take these new environmental values that we had forged
      and incorporate them into the traditional social and economic values that
      drive public policy. In other words, it was a job of synthesis."

      Moore's new interest in sustainable development led him increasingly far
      afield of the rest of the environmental movement and estranged him from the
      organization he had helped found. Inspired by Elizabeth Mann Borgese's book
      Seafarm, he started a salmon farm and became head of the fledgling Salmon
      Farmer's Association -- only to find himself pitted against Greenpeace,
      which blamed saltwater aquaculture for polluting the ocean.

      In 1991, as his farm was going under due to a salmon glut, he joined the
      board of the Forest Alliance of British Columbia, a group created by the
      timber industry to address the accusations of environmentalists. There, he
      saw his role as a mediator. He proudly points to his stubborn -- and
      ultimately successful -- insistence that the industry soften its resistance
      to national parks and government regulation. At the same time, however, he
      was attacking the eco crowd, proclaiming that "clear-cuts are temporary

      Moore's enemies have a simpler explanation for his conversion: revenge.
      After all, he left Greenpeace amid complaints about an autocratic leadership
      style and abrasive personality. When it became obvious that he lacked enough
      votes to keep his seat on the board of directors, he went off to farm fish.
      When that didn't work out, he joined the loggers.

      And then there's money. Even 18 years after he left Greenpeace, Moore's
      business relationships with polluters and clear-cutters elicit disgust from
      his erstwhile comrades. "He'll whore himself to anything to make a buck,"
      says Paul George, founder of the Western Canada Wildlife Committee. In an
      email, former Greenpeace director Paul Watson charges, "You're a corporate
      whore, Pat, an eco-Judas, a lowlife bottom-sucking parasite who has grown
      rich from sacrificing environmentalist principles for plain old money."

      Moore admits he's well paid for his speaking and consulting services. He
      won't say how well, avowing only that his environmental consultancy,
      Greenspirit Strategies, has been "very successful because we know what we're
      talking about and give good advice." Nonetheless, he adds, he refuses to
      tailor his opinions to please a client. "People don't pay me to say things
      they've written down or made up. They pay me to tell them what I think."
      Furthermore, he maintains that his positions -- with the exception of his
      take on nuclear energy (which he now favors) -- have hardly changed since
      1971. The rest of the movement, he says, has shifted around him.

      It's possible that fat fees or wounded feelings give Moore's vehemence an
      edge. And it's not inconceivable that he's an out-and-out mercenary. But
      although his critique of latter-day environmentalism strains in a few
      places, it does have a larger coherence. The unifying principle is simple:
      "There's no getting around the fact that 6 billion people wake up every
      morning with a real need for food, energy, and material." It is this fact,
      he charges, that environmentalists fail to grasp. "Their idea is that all
      human activity is negative, while trees are by nature good," he says.
      "That's a religious interpretation, not a scientific or logical

      Moore's accusation may read like a caricature, but its outlines are readily
      apparent in environmentalist thinking. Bill McKibben, one of the movement's
      preeminent intellectuals, warned in his 1989 book The End of Nature that
      human beings, not through any particular action but simply by becoming the
      dominant force on the planet, were destroying nature, a "separate and wild
      province, the world apart from man to which he adapted." In effect,
      McKibben's argument blurs the line between man changing the planet and
      destroying it.

      Perhaps the best evidence of Moore's integrity is his enthusiasm for
      genetically modified foods. He's not on the payroll of any biotech
      companies, yet he has become an outspoken GM advocate.

      "This is where the environmental movement is dangerous," he says.
      "Environmentalists are against golden rice, which could prevent half a
      million kids from going blind every year. Taking a daffodil gene and putting
      it into a rice plant: Is this Armageddon?"

      Even if the benefits of golden rice have been oversold -- something Moore
      doubts -- the limitations of one particular and still-experimental crop
      shouldn't discredit the possibilities of the entire technology. For all GM's
      risks, he argues, there are greater risks in failing to develop it.

      For Moore, the stakes are higher, even, than a half-million blind children.
      "The Dark Ages are always just around the corner," he warns. "There will be
      future Dark Ages, and with this antiscience agenda we may be entering one
      right now."

      I'm reminded of this flourish later, when he mentions that he tries to use
      his experience as an activist against the activists themselves. It's obvious
      he hasn't forgotten the art of rhetorical one-upmanship: No matter what
      environmental catastrophe keeps you awake at night, Moore can always conjure
      a bigger bogeyman.

      While describing his childhood, Moore says something telling. His hometown
      was "a pristine environment, but it was an industrial environment. People
      were catching fish and cutting trees." This is what separates him from most
      environmentalists (and all linguists): the belief that there's no necessary
      contradiction between pristine and industrial, that development is not

      One of Moore's favorite metaphors is "gardening the earth." He's all for
      setting aside land as wilderness, but the rest we should not be afraid to

      "When you've got over 6 billion people, you can't just say we'll let nature
      do its thing," he says. "We have no choice but to garden - why don't we do
      it better? Why don't we do it more efficiently?"

      Moore's notion of gardening encompasses plenty of things that
      environmentalists wouldn't object to. He's full of uplifting stories about
      rice farmers in California who have turned their fallow fields into
      shorebird sanctuaries, and cattlemen in Montana who leave dead cows for
      grizzlies that might otherwise eat live ones. He's a passionate advocate for
      the geothermal heat pump, an unfortunately obscure device that uses solar
      energy trapped in the ground for residential heating and cooling. But
      gardening also means genetically engineered trees that grow faster, resist
      disease, and pulp better. It means large-scale fish farming to take the
      pressure off wild stocks. It means the widespread use of nuclear energy to
      replace fossil fuels. It means a willingness to distort nature's cycles to
      fit human needs.

      Shortly after we spoke, Moore emailed Paul Watson, a longstanding enemy of
      his with whom I had spoken a few weeks earlier, and reopened an old feud.
      Moore accused Watson of, among other things, lying to me about the details
      of a 1977 seal campaign involving Brigitte Bardot and falsely claiming
      authorship of Greenpeace's Declaration of Interdependence. The
      back-and-forth that followed was Vesuvian in its viciousness and stunningly
      petty, from Watson's end in particular. I was CC'd on the whole thing.
      Afterward Moore seemed a bit embarrassed.

      In what may have been an effort at damage control, he forwarded me some
      recent posts from visitors to Greenspirit.com, his Web site. One was from a
      German man disillusioned with his country's Green Party. Another was from a
      registered Republican who was "always interested in greener ideas if they
      make sense" and wanted Moore's opinion on the prospects of alcohol-burning
      engines. A third was from a former Sierra Club development officer feeling
      "a little disheartened, to tell you frankly, with the environmental movement
      as it is today." They were examples, Moore told me, "of the kind of response
      I get very regularly from people who go to my Web site cold. This is a big
      part of what keeps me sane in this very emotionally charged environment."

      The note was poignant, but its subtext was clear: Here was the prophet of
      moderation, cast out by his colleagues, tending a growing flock of
      ideological misfits. The legacy -- and the curse -- of Moore's Greenpeace
      days is that he knows how little it takes to ignite a movement. He lit that
      match once, more than 30 years ago. Now he's looking for a fresh spark.


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