Eco-Traitor - Patrick Moore, a new profile (1/3/2004)

Wired News has done a long profile of GM-supporter Patrick Moore, who's been garnering a lot of publicity recently. The first part of the article is below, for the rest see the url.

More on Patrick Moore here:
and in the profiles directory at www.gmwatch.org

By Drake Bennett
Wired News, 1 March 2004

Three decades ago, Patrick Moore helped found Greenpeace. Today he promotes nuclear energy and genetically modified foods - and swears he's still fighting to save the planet.  

Patrick Moore has been called a sellout, traitor, parasite, and prostitute - and that's by critics exercising self-restraint. It's not hard to see why they're angry. Moore helped found Greenpeace and devoted 15 years to waging the organization's flamboyant brand of environmental warfare. He campaigned against nuclear testing, whaling, seal hunting, pesticides, supertankers, uranium mining, and toxic waste dumping. As the nonprofit's scientific spokesperson, he was widely quoted and frequently photographed, often while being taken into custody.

Then, in 1986, the PhD ecologist abruptly turned his back on the environmental movement. He didn't just retire; he joined the other side. Today, he's a mouthpiece for some of the very interests Greenpeace was founded to counter, notably the timber and plastics industries. He argues that the Amazon rain forest is doing fine, that the Three Gorges Dam is the smartest thing China could do for its energy supply, and that opposition to genetically modified foods is tantamount to mass murder.

Moore's turnabout was the biggest change of heart since Harold "Kim" Philby left Her Majesty's secret service for the Soviet Union  - or was it? Moore insists that he hasn't changed a bit. His professional life, he says, has been a single-minded quest for true ecological sustainability. To his opponents, however, it adds up to little more than an ideologically bankrupt series of betrayals.

Consider the public hearing held at Boston City Hall on October 23 last year. The matter at hand was a proposal to ban the purchase of polyvinyl chloride products using city funds. An impressive array of expert witnesses testified in favor of the resolution - an Environmental Protection Agency toxicologist, a Tufts University economist, a Boston Public Health Commission official, the head of purchasing for a cancer research center. The production and incineration of PVC products, they argued, releases chemicals known as dioxins, exposure to which can lead to endocrine disorders, cancer, diabetes, infant mortality, and cognitive and developmental problems in children.

Then Patrick Moore took the floor. "It's a good thing most of the people who got up here before me weren't under oath," he began. "There is not a public benefit to be derived from a ban on PVC." The whole issue is "based on bad science and misinformation."

First of all, Moore argued, total dioxin emissions have dropped 90 percent since 1970, to levels safely below those that cause health problems. Furthermore, dioxins are not some newfangled product of the industrial age. They've been around as long as fire. If the council wanted to make a real difference, he said, it could ban backyard burning, which spews nearly 60 times more dioxins than PVC manufacturing, or residential fireplaces, which emit 10 times more.

Throughout his presentation, Moore made barbed references to the devious forces behind the legislation, the same pack of Luddites who "hijacked a considerable portion of the environmental movement back in the mid-'80s and who have become very clever at using green language to cloak campaigns that have more to do with anti-industrialism, antiglobalization, anticorporate, all of those things which are basically political campaigns."

It was a bravura performance. When Moore returned to his seat, he was greeted with handshakes and backslaps from the folks who had paid his way: the Vinyl Institute.

For Moore, the PVC showdown was part of a larger crusade to reform environmentalism. He derides today's activists as  philosophically unmoored and blindly technophobic, and he offers an alternative philosophy that not only accepts but celebrates humankind's growing ability to alter the planet. With a tip of the hat to best-selling "skeptical environmentalist" Bjørn Lomborg (and perhaps Thomas Paine), he has anointed himself the sensible environmentalist and set out to win converts. There haven't  been many. So far, Moore has succeeded mostly in making himself a pariah and a cautionary tale.  

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