Last week, Bjørn Lomborg, the widely published Danish professor and director of one of the world’s leading environmental think tanks, the Copenhagen Consensus Center, published an article about the Philippines’ decision, after twelve years, to allow genetically modified (GM) rice — “golden rice” — to be grown and consumed in that country.
The reason for the delay was environmentalist opposition to GM rice; and the reason for the change in Philippine policy was that 4.4 million Filipino children suffer from Vitamin-A deficiency, and golden rice contains Vitamin A.
Vitamin-A deficiency, Lomborg writes, “according to the World Health Organization, causes 250,000 to 500,000 children to go blind each year. Of these, half die within a year.” During the twelve-year delay, Lomborg continues, “about 8 million children worldwide died from Vitamin-A deficiency.”
Using golden rice is by far the most effective and cheapest way to get Vitamin A into Third World children.
So who would oppose something that could save millions of children’s lives and millions of other children from blindness?
The answer is people who are more devoted to nature than to human life.
And who might such people be?
They are called environmentalists.
These are the people who coerced nations worldwide into banning DDT. It is generally estimated that this ban has led to the deaths of about 50 million human beings, overwhelmingly African children, from malaria. DDT kills the mosquito that spreads malaria to human beings.
U.S. News writer Carrie Lukas reported in 2010, “Fortunately, in September 2006, the World Health Organization announced a change in policy: It now recommends DDT for indoor use to fight malaria. The organization’s Dr. Anarfi Asamoa-Baah explained, ‘The scientific and programmatic evidence clearly supports this reassessment. Indoor residual spraying (IRS) is useful to quickly reduce the number of infections caused by malaria-carrying mosquitoes. IRS has proven to be just as cost effective as other malaria prevention measures and DDT presents no health risk when used properly.’”
Though Lukas blames environmentalists for tens of millions of deaths, she nevertheless describes environmentalists as “undoubtedly well-intentioned.”
I offer two assessments of this judgment.
First, in life it is almost always irrelevant whether or not an individual or a movement is well-intentioned. It is difficult to name a movement that has committed great evil whose members woke up each day asking, “What evil can I commit today?” Nearly all of them think they’re well-intentioned. Good intentions don’t mean a thing.
Second, while environmentalists believe they have good intentions, I do not believe their intentions are good.
Concern for the natural environment is certainly laudatory, and every normal person shares it. But the organized environmentalist movement — in writing about golden rice, Lomborg specifically cites Greenpeace, Naomi Klein, and The New York Times Magazine — is led by fanatics. The movement’s value system is morally askew. It places a pristine natural world above the well-being of human beings.
The environmentalist movement’s responsibility for the deaths of tens of millions of poor children in the Third World is the most egregious example. But there are less egregious examples of the movement’s lack of concern for people.
Take the Keystone XL pipeline, the pipeline the Canadian government wants built in the U.S. in order to send Canadian crude to American refineries. It would be a 1,179-mile, 36-inch-diameter crude-oil pipeline, beginning in Alberta and ending in Nebraska. The pipeline would will be able to transport about 830,000 barrels of oil per day to Midwest and Gulf Coast refineries, reducing American dependence on oil from Venezuela — Iran’s base in the Western Hemisphere — and the Middle East by up to 40 percent. It would also provide Americans with many thousands of well-paying jobs.
Approving this pipeline is a moral and economic necessity.
The American economy needs the pipeline — even Big Labor wants it. It would vastly reduce American dependency on countries that wish to hurt us; it would help our ally and biggest trading partner, Canada; and if America doesn’t use that oil, China will.
But the Obama administration may (again) veto the Keystone XL pipeline — for one reason: environmentalist fanaticism.
The employment of thousands of Americans, the well-being of the American economy, and American national security — all of these concerns are secondary to the environmentalist movement’s view of nature über alles.
There are many fine people who are concerned with the environment. Indeed, we should all be. But the movement known as environmentalism is not only a false religion, it is one that allows human sacrifice.
— Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His most recent book is Still the Best Hope: Why the World Needs American Values to Triumph. He is the founder of Prager University and may be contacted at dennisprager.com.