Fables about toxic chemicals?

In this, the last chapter of Betrayal of Science and Reason (1996) dealing with “brownlash fables” (i.e. denialist misinformation), Paul and Anne Ehrlich return to their first love – biology: In so doing, they start by reminding us that humans are “sight-animals” (i.e. our vision is the strongest and most dominant of our five senses). Whereas, for many animals the dominant sense is smell or hearing (depending on their ecological niche). However, the Ehrlichs extend this argument much further by pointing out that, just as our global ecosystem is dependent upon the unseen work of innumerable numbers of bacteria, fungi, and invertebrates; the smooth working of the circle of life is dependent on innumerable chemical processes. The Ehrlichs therefore suggest that, because we cannot always see it (until fish start dying in large numbers, etc.), we are often completely unaware of the disruptive (if not catastrophic) nature of the damage done by toxic substances we release into the environment. Even when our activities damage our own health, the effects are not always immediately obvious – and/or we take a very long time to realise (in some cases because vested interests do not want us to) – that what we are doing is dangerous. For example, our lungs seem to be particularly susceptible to damage from airborne pollutants such as asbestos, coal and silica dust. Then of course, there is the whole debacle over smoking – what an absolutely insane idea that was – about as sensible as poking yourself in the eyes with a needle, or chewing poisonous mushrooms (just for fun)! However, the main target of the Ehrlich’s anger was the petro-chemical industry that, in their view, seemed to be on a quest to see who could produce the most toxic substance. Of course it was Rachel Carson who was the first person to highlight the fact that synthetic insecticides and herbicides were often much more expensive and much less-effective (in the long-term at least) than natural predators. Furthermore, both these and fertilisers disrupted ecosystems and had unintended consequences – such as giving rise to acquired immunity in the undesirable species over which control was being sought: Pests have often behaved like the Borg – they have adapted! Despite all this, the brownlash have sought to re-write history and blame the environmental hysteria caused by Carson’s Silent Spring for the banning of DDT (etc); and the supposedly-consequential death of millions of people from Malaria. This is nothing short of reality inversion. The brownlash were doing it in 1996; and they are still doing it today. Since the early 1990s at least, the brownlash has attacked the National Resource Defence Council (NRDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for all sorts of supposedly-alarmist scare stories. However, if you bother to investigate the motives (or financiers) of those making these attacks, it always turns out that, far from being concerned about people’s mental well-being, they are concerned about restrictions being placed upon their potential to make a profit at nature’s expense: They are not concerned about people; they are only concerned about money. The Bible says that “…the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” (I Timothy 6:10). Nearly 2000 years later, are we still failing to heed this warning? Yes, I think so… The only thing that is stopping humanity from taking effective action to mitigate avoidable climate change – apart from the absurd arrogance of assuming that we are not capable of adversely affecting our environment – is the love of money. It really is that simple and, unless or until the vast majority of people on this planet wake up to the fact that a greedy minority is selfishly encouraging them to continue with “business as usual“, we will destroy the Goldilocks planet that made our existence possible. Environmental alarmism or Biological reality – you decide (quickly please)!


About Rick Altman

Possibly just another 'Climate Cassandra' crying 'Wolf' in cyberspace. However, the moral of the old children's story is that the Wolf eventually turned up!
This entry was posted in Anthropocene, Betrayal of Science and Reason, Climate Science, Environment, Ethics, Growthmania, Intergenerational Injustice, Mass Extinctions, Money Fetishism, Politics, Scepticism and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Fables about toxic chemicals?

  1. pendantry says:

    “They are not concerned about people; they are only concerned about money.” While this is true of a great many individuals, the real culprits are the corporations, at whom* the same accusation can be levelled, in spades, since corporations must by law prioritise the accumulation of money. * yep, corporations are ‘people’ too, again by law. And there’s our real problem. Have you seen The Corporation, Rick? PS I’ve only skimmed your recent posts; an observation: you’ve made much reference to ‘brownlash’ and it has only been in this post that I’ve seen this term defined in any way (which is not to say that it’s not defined elsewhere, it’s only to say that this is the only place I’ve ever noticed it). I think you do your readers a disservice by using such a term, given that it’s not a common word. One can even posit a reality in which the denialists intentionally introduce such a meme so as to muddy the waters still further…


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