Posted by: pascoesabido | February 16, 2009

Talking sense to Leo Hickman

The following is a  response to the Comment is Free article by Leo Hickman: ‘Welcome to Planet Earth’ – telling environmentalists to compromise and stop being so obstinate on important issues… Come on Leo, you should know better than that…


I see where you’re coming from. It’s like reigning in the left or right of your cause to form a stable centrist coalition… but what then happens? Allende? instability? a lost agenda? or Respect aka the lost left.

Or New Labour… The left get ignored through hollow promises and great soundbites whereas those inheriting the world – my generation, post-university, attempting to forge a future from a society that is being stretched at the seams – are the first to endure a worse standard of living than our parents. And this is after ten years of a supposedly left-wing Labour government!

Apply this to the environment: who will have the greatest say? honestly speaking, it will be those who can afford it, those with the greatest lobbying power, those who can offer the government something elsewhere (dare I say it), which basically means big business.

Some environmentalists have brought a negative image upon all – what is an environmentalist anyway? Do we all have to be tree-hugging hippies or can we simply be normal people concerned about the world we are in charge of? But perhaps what needs to change – now that environmentalists have the ears of those who can really do something – is how it is said. Don’t be obstinate, self-righteous or simply ignore what others are saying, but instead address what is being put forward, fully acknowledge it, then try and show why it may not be so. Re: the debates raging with nuclear, coal, and even the Severn estuary, show a viable alternative plan and show why the original plan was adopted: who’s interests are really being served – ours?

There is am unfortunate tendency towards assumption among environmentalists, but as this comment feed shows, not everyone is equipped with the same information, not everyone believes the same arguments and not everyone trusts the same data. Big business and counter-environmental interests – without sounding too subversive – still hold considerable clout, through government and in their powers of persuasion.

Let us not forget, green issues are as important as human rights – more so, if not intrinsically bound up in the same – but yet we do not call on Amnesty International to curb their opposition to human rights abuses. “Do something about Algeria and we’ll keep quite about the torture and dissapearances in the Phillipines.” You can’t see it happening, and it shouldn’t happen, so don’t expect the same from environmentalists or the green cause.

It has taken an amazing amount of dedication and effort to drag mainstream politics and big business into the green debate – and we’ve finally got them here, kicking and screaming. But if we let up now, do not kid yourself, Leo, into thinking that they will voluntarilly continue to act in the interest of the environment out of the goodness of their own hearts – they will weasel their way out at the first opportunity, replacing any positive progress with green wash and more spin. We cannot let all the good work be for nothing. We need to keep the energy, keep the zeal and the determination. Instead of compromise, less hostility: lets present a happier more understanding image that will bring even more people to the cause. Lets not allow big business and vested interests to squash a future we have all invested in, and that our children deserve to be able to enjoy,



After a bit of reviewing, I accept that I haven’t even followed my own advice! I haven’t addressed the two environmental claims in the article, instead losing myself in emotional defence…. GM crops: all but one strain of GM has been banned across the EU; last year France, one of the few countries to actually grow the lone legal strand, banned it, citing uncertainties of environmental impacts. In South America, where it is used extensively, it has led to a decrease in yield and a pesticide tolerance to surrounding weeds, as they’ve adopted the GM gene. Therefore more pesticides are now having to be used. The ‘magical qualities’ that are being claimed by the biotech industry have been rejected as unsafe, and are years from being introduced if they ever are. What has happened in places where the GM seed distributors have not got involved (in much of East Africa), organic methods have been adopted using traditional methods of working the land… Loe and behold, these methods have seen up to a 150% increase in yields, details of which are available from the UN, who funded the project.

Nuclear: it’s going to take 20 years to build them, in which time funding for renewables was being sliced. Perhaps they do provide part of a solution, but they are not the miracle cure.



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