Glum greens vs eco-optimists in global mudfight

Paul Mobbs mobbsey at
Mon Mar 11 13:25:36 GMT 2002

Hash: SHA1,6903,664918,00.html

Glum greens vs eco-optimists in global mudfight 
Anthony Browne, environment correspondent
The Observer, Sunday March 10, 2002
 In one corner is a Danish statistician and a Canadian co-founder of 
Greenpeace; in the other, one of the world's most respected scientific 
journals, Scientific American - backed by most of the world's green groups. 
An extraordinarily bitter row between environmentalists over whether or not 
the world is really coming to an end has escalated from pie-throwing and hate 
mail to threats of legal action and accusations of censorship. 

The furious argument is about whether or not the world's environment is 
deteriorating or improving. At heart is the very nature of belief and the way 
we perceive the world around us. An Observer article kicked off the worldwide 
debate last summer when it released details of a book by Bjorn Lomborg, a 
former Greenpeace member and professor of statistics at Aarhus University in 
Denmark, in which he insisted that the doom and gloom predictions of most 
environmental campaigners are misleading and exaggerated. With a barrage of 
statistics, he claimed that the amount of forest on Earth was increasing, 
there was no mass extinction of species, the oceans and air were getting less 
polluted and the world's resources weren't running out. 

His attack on the core beliefs of many in the environment movement was met 
with hostile denunciations, accusing him of being a liar and a fraud, and 
earning the nickname of 'Antichrist'. Websites were set up to denounce him, 
and when he came to sign books in Oxford an environmental campaigner threw a 
baked Alaska in his face. 

The science magazine Nature - which said that Lomborg 'employs the strategy 
of those who argue that... Jews weren't singled out by the Nazis' - was only 
outshone in its hostility by Scientific American, which dedicated 11 pages of 
comment and review to thoroughly trashing Lomborg's work. The editor-in-chief 
of the magazine, John Rennie, introduced the denunciation with a comment in 
which he declared Lomborg's book 'a failure'. 

Lomborg, who has been backed by many leading scientists and the Economist 
magazine, demanded a right to reply and was offered only one page to be 
published many months later. When Lomborg then sought to defend his book on 
the internet with a blow-by-blow rebuttal, the magazine forced him to take it 
down by threatening to sue him for copyright infringement. 

Last week Patrick Moore, the founder of Greenpeace International - who has 
since turned against the extremists in the environmental movement - has 
launched a vigorous campaign to defend Lomborg and his views, putting up 
Lomborg's defence on his own website and persuading other sympathisers to do 
the same. 

Moore said: 'This is a blatant attempt by Scientific American to stifle free 
debate. It is completely ridiculous for Scientific American to claim that 
publishing the text of their editorial as part of a response interferes with 
selling the article. 

'The January edition has been off the news-stands for over a month. It is 
obvious that their motivation is political, to stifle debate and to defend 
their support for environmental extremists who preach that the world is 
coming to an end, even though the facts do not support such a pessimistic 

anthony.browne at 

- -- 
- -------------------

"We are not for names, nor men, nor titles of Government, nor are we for
this party nor against the other but we are for justice and mercy and
truth and peace and true freedom, that these may be exalted in our nation,
and that goodness, righteousness, meekness, temperance, peace and unity
with God, and with one another, that these things may abound."
(Edward Burroughs, 1659 - from 'Quaker Faith and Practice')

Paul Mobbs, Mobbs' Environmental Investigations,
3 Grosvenor Road, Banbury OX16 5HN, England
tel./fax (+44/0)1295 261864

email - mobbsey at
website -
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