What the green movement got wrong

Mark Lynas was a contributor to the captioned UK Channel 4 documentary aired in November 2010. Here are some of Mark’s comments on the associated controversy:

Does the environmental movement still speak for the environment? Or are the greens in danger of being left behind, trapped in their own ideological fortress, as the world outside changes rapidly?

These are the questions asked by What the Green Movement Got Wrong. Before the programme even airs, it is mired in controversy, with environmentalists in the major campaign groups already crying foul before most of them have even seen what the documentary contains.

My view, as one of the contributors to the film, is simple: the greens can dish it out, but they can’t take it. This is a real debate and the environment movement needs to tackle it head-on rather than asserting that all challenges must be part of some imagined evil conspiracy. Unless we can have a constructive debate about what environmentalism is seeking to achieve, its potency as a force for good in the world is in danger of being diluted by a religious-style adherence to the campaigns of the past.

Take nuclear power. The origins of the modern environmental movement are intimately bound up with its anti-nuclear campaigning – but it is by no means clear that this has been beneficial to the environment. Nuclear power has not caused a single species to go extinct. Instead it is of enormous benefit in helping industrialised, densely-populated, power-hungry societies to generate much-needed electricity without emitting carbon.

Green anti-nuclear campaigning has already added to the atmospheric stock of carbon dioxide, probably to the tune of more than a billion tonnes. Why? Because nuclear plants which were opposed by greens in the 1970s and 1980s were instead replaced by coal plants.

In hindsight that was obviously a mistake, but it is one that today’s environmental lobby groups seem determined to repeat.(…)

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