Environmentalists respond to Channel 4
C4's What the green movement got wrong: environmentalists respond
The Guardian, 5 November 2010 [order of contributions altered]
George Monbiot, Tim Flannery, Adam Werbach and other leading green figures respond to Channel 4's documentary last night about GM food and nuclear power.
George Monbiot, Guardian columnist and author of Heat
Stewart Brand ends the documentary by demanding that we set aside the joys of ideology and romanticism. But this is one of the most romantic and ideological films I've ever seen. It expresses the profoundly romantic belief that technology alone can solve political and economic problems, and suggests that we needn't make hard choices, such as restraining consumer demand. The idea that wealth and power don't have to be confronted to protect the environment and to ensure that everyone is fed is deeply ideological. It's a convenient ideology - if you're trying to rub along well with corporations and governments. Brand's approach, which the film is based on, is not so much a new form of environmentalism as a new form of corporate consultancy: he appears to be seeking to shape the environmental debate to suit the businesses he works for.
Andrew Simms, founder of the New Economics Foundation
If you suggest that it is better to mend a bicycle with a spanner than a fish, does that make you anti fish? Brand and Lynas try to label environmentalists as anti-science and anti-progress. But both they, and the corporate lobbies promoting GM food and nuclear power, fail to acknowledge that the green movement is merely in favour of different applications of science, ones they conclude are more likely to deliver better progress. The question should be, which tool is best for the job? Who holds the fish, and who the spanner? Brand and Lynas are waving fish. A wide range of agro-ecological farming methods coupled with land reform and economic support to small farmers are more proven, more productive and more likely to reliably feed the poor than GM.
And, numerous, quicker, cheaper, safer and more efficient climate friendly energy strategies and technologies than nuclear are available.
The programme had an oddly emotive pitch. Whilst shrouding itself in science, it displayed a very unscientific faith in particular technologies. Considering the multiple other solutions on offer for human hunger and climate change, the curious, unsettling question, left unanswered, is why do GM food and nuclear power get such disproportionate attention?
Craig Bennett, Friends of the Earth's director of policy and campaigns
The documentary promises to reveal a radical new approach to solving the planetary crisis we all face. But it pushes the same tired myths about GM crops and nuclear energy being miracle cures. We're always up for having a debate - but this is just misinformation based largely on the views of lobbyists and journalists with books to sell. [More from Friends of the Earth]
Zachary Makanya of PELUM-Kenya and chair of African Biodiversity Network
"What the Green Movement Got Wrong" was an insult to the very people it purports to care about. The programme did not include Southern farmers' voices, and implied that Africans do not have the intelligence to think for themselves. The ABN is here to dispel that myth and to tell the film's producers that it is they who have failed to understand the real issues.
Adam Werbach, former Sierra Club president
Let me be clear. The environmental movement needs to change. The world is radically different than it was in the 1960's and 1970's when the modern movement was formed. The environmental movement needs to mature its view of the role of people, technology and corporations. People are the solution not the problem. Technology and innovation allows us to survive on a resource-limited planet. Big corporations are not always the enemy.
But the filmmakers of "What the Green Movement Got Wrong", in their exuberance to make their point, blamed environmentalists for starvation in Africa and energy scarcity throughout the world. That blame is misplaced. Of all those at fault for drought and food shortage in Zambia, environmentalists rank low on the list. The environmental community has been too short on solutions, but to view the environmental movement as a shadow government is to badly misread reality. Indeed, environmental groups have raised the alarm about food and energy scarcity. To blame environmentalists for the problems they identify is like blaming women for misogyny. My mentor David Brower, a legendary American environmentalist, liked to say that "politicians are like weather veins and our job is to make the wind blow." Environmentalists attempt to move public opinion, they don't set public policy. The environmental community can hardly be blamed for the lack of transparency in the nuclear and biotech industry
that has been at the heart of public concern.
That I and other lifelong greens have critiques of the environmental movement is no secret; in 2004 I gave a widely-circulated speech entitled "Is Environmentalism Dead?" But as I shared with the filmmakers in footage not selected for broadcast, I am and have always been a passionate supporter of the very groups I criticize. They have been the thin green line that has blocked short-sighted politicians and corporations from turning our last wild forests into toilet paper, our last whales into sushi, our atmosphere into an open sewer. While I have disagreements with Stewart Brand, I have always respected him and I'm the first in line to say that the environmental movement needs to review its most sacred beliefs. But this film misses the mark.
Tim Flannery, author of The Weather-Makers and chairman of the Copenhagen Climate Council
What the Green Movement Got Wrong' posits that the anti-nuclear and anti-GM crops stance taken by some environmentalists has been counter-productive. This is, in my view, very much a debate the environment movement needs to have.
Far less positive it its inference that environmentalists have dealt with climate change in a counter-productive way. This assertion is poorly
based, and moreover lets the climate sceptics, who are really to blame for our slowness to action, off scott-free.
One of the program's greatest weaknesses is that it uses the terms 'greens' and 'environmentalists' so as to smear the entire movement with the perceived sins of a few. While regrettable and lazy, it would be a pity to toss the baby out with the bathwater. I hope that all concerned with the environment use the issues raised in the program to think more
deeply about what a sustainable future might look like.
”¢ Stewart Brand and Mark Lynas were contacted for this article but were unable to respond in time for publication.