Green States: Hall of blame
The eco-villains: Meet eight guys who have worked hard to make the Earth a lousier place to live.
Fri, May 08 2009 at 5:51 AM
MAN ON A MISSION: Ron Arnold is the king of environmental backlash. (Photo: YouTube)
Related on MNN: Meet the eco-heroes chosen by Peter Dykstra.
The potent allure or either money or ideology, or both, leads a lot of people to devote their lives to either impeding environmental progress, or enabling environmental destruction. This is by no means a complete list, but here are eight men who have a special place in this realm.
1) Bruce Harrison: He is the father of Greenwashing. As a young public relations executive in 1962, he was assigned to launch a counterattack to the publication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. And attack he did, unleashing a mountain of criticism, negative book reviews and more. While it was never traced directly to Harrison, Rachel Carson also endured a torrent of personal attacks, questioning everything from her patriotism to her personal life. Carson died in 1964, eight years too soon to see her work vindicated by the banning of DDT. Harrison went on to bigger and better greenwashing fame (he calls it “sustainable communications,”) writing a book called Going Green about corporate environmental measures. Or half-measures.
2) Frederick Seitz: He had the kind of resume that many distinguished scientists would kill for: A physicist who did pioneering work on developing transistors, he served seven years as president of the National Academy of Sciences, then 11 more at the helm of the lushly funded, respected research machine at Rockefeller University. You can’t buy that kind of prestige. Or maybe you can. As his stint at Rockefeller wound down, Seitz took a job consulting on behalf of the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, dispensing more than $45 million in “research” grants, according to journalist Mark Hertsgaard. And just what does a tobacco company research? “They didn’t want us looking at the health effects of cigarette smoking,” Seitz said. Oh.
What RJR and its tobacco cronies did do is cast doubt on the harmful effects of cigarette smoke. Sort of like what global warming deniers do. And that was Seitz’s next step. He founded the George C. Marshall Institute, a Washington think tank devoted to the smoke and mirrors of denial; and he drew an unprecedented rebuke from the National Academy of Sciences over his involvement in the Oregon Petition Project, the discredited list of “scientists” who dispute global warming. Seitz passed away last year.
3) Frank Luntz: He is a world-class Republican consultant who penned a now-infamous memo in 2002, when President Bush enjoyed record-high approval ratings. Luntz’s mission was to stake out a strategy to ensure that Bush would set more approval-rating records throughout his presidency (umm, Mission Accomplished). He identified the environment as the one domestic issue where the GOP was most vulnerable: The public had developed the notion that Republicans didn’t care about the environment. Luntz’s solution? Talk a better game, and pretend to care a whole lot about the environment. The memo, and its astoundingly cynical advice, is here.
4) Patrick Moore: He joined Greenpeace a year after its founding, rose to be one of the group’s leaders, and for the past 23 years, has been cashing in on it. Moore left the group in 1986 (others recall that he was pushed out) and launched a salmon-farming operation in his native British Columbia. The business failed, and he soon found work as an apologist for British Columbia’s timber industry, attacking many of the same activists he used to lead. In defending indefensibly destructive logging practices, Pat uttered astounding phrases like “a clearcut is a temporary meadow.” That and many other gems are available at a thoroughly entertaining website called “Patrick Moore Is a Big Fat Liar”. Moore sued the site’s operators, the Forest Action Network, to have the site shut down. He lost the suit, but found a calling as an environmental apologist for all seasons. Through his Toronto-based consultancy, Greenspirit Strategies, Pat has defended the nuclear industry, fire retardant manufacturers, polyvinyl chloride makers, and more. Greenspirit does not disclose its financial dealings with any of its image-challenged clients, but a spokeswoman for Moore’s lecture agency told me last year that his going rate is $19,000 for a 90-minute speech. (Full Disclosure: I worked at Greenpeace for most of the 1980s, and knew Moore. $19,000 was two years’ pay for me. And if you see Moore, tell him I didn’t say hello.)
5) Pat Michaels: He is one of the highest-profile climate change deniers. A Ph.D. climatologist, Michaels hangs his shingle in a number of places, from the libertarian Cato Institute to a publication called the World Climate Report to his consulting firm, New Hope Environmental Services. The World Climate Report has received longtime bankrolling from the Western Fuels Association, a trade group of coal producers, and Michaels’s New Hope offers the Orwellian concept of “advocacy science.” In 2006, Associated Press reporter Seth Borenstein gave an account of a utility industry fundraising drive for Michaels that resembled Pledge Week at NPR.
6) Ron Arnold: He runs the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise in Washington State, and is considered the Father of the Wise Use Movement, the anti-environmental backlash of Western ranchers and miners who saw many of their fondest dreams fulfilled during the Bush administration. Though not as active or prominent today as he was in the 1980s and 1990s, Arnold’s favored tactic is to suggest, without evidence, that all environmentalists are in league with eco-terrorists like the Unabomber or the Animal Liberation Front. But in a CNN interview in the 1990s, Arnold described his methods as a “two-edged sword” that would “reshape American law in [our] image, and kill the bastards.” Easy now, Ron.
7) Bob Murray: He was finally getting some traction from the liberal media in 2007 when some very bad things happened. Murray had testified before Congress, been featured on the Wall Street Journal’s Op-Ed page, and appeared on CNN to aver that owners of many coal mines like him do not believe we should try to stop global warming. And then, the roof fell in. Unfortunately, the roof in question fell on top of several of Murray’s employees in the Crandall Canyon Mine in Utah. Others were killed in the rescue attempt. But Murray kept the heat on: The collapse, he insisted, was the result of an earthquake, even though seismologists said he was dead wrong. And coal is the world’s savior, even though climatologists said he was dead wrong. He didn’t stop at blaming the non-existent earthquake; he also blamed the media, who after Murray’s rise to fame, also started paying attention to the legacy of mine safety violations at his facilities.
8) George Deutsch: He would not have a difficult time hiding behind the Nuremberg Defense: He was only following orders. His offense certainly doesn’t merit comparison to the defendants at Nuremberg, but as a politically-appointed PR flack for NASA during the Bush administration, Deutsch found himself clearing, and altering, press releases to ensure that NASA’s science didn’t go off-message from the administration’s politics. It would have been asking a lot of Deutsch, a 24-year-old whose resume only featured a Bachelors’ degree from Texas A&M, to effectively peer-review the work of James Hansen and other NASA Ph.D. scientists.
But Deutsch resigned when it was revealed that he had never even gotten the Bachelors’ degree, leaving school to work for the Bush-Cheney campaign in 2004. What was really on Deutsch’s resume during his brief NASA career? He repeatedly ordered the inclusion of the word “theory” when NASA discussed the Big Bang -- a nod to the baseless realm of Creation Science. Deutsch also barred Hansen from an interview with NPR on the grounds that the public radio network was “the most liberal” national news organization. But to get to George’s roots, and to why a fairly low-level political hack makes this list of eight, we’ll need to go back to George’s college days, when he was busy not earning the degree he falsely bragged about on his resume. And in the process, I get to go bring you another tobacco-to-climate apologist.
In 2003, Deutsch penned a piece for Texas A&M’s campus newspaper that was a broad defense of the tobacco industry, from denying the damage from secondhand smoke to a defense that “tobacco companies aren't trying to mislead anybody.” Contrast that with a piece from the May 4th edition of that pinko publication Business Week, detailing the unapologetic efforts from Phillip Morris to shed liability from more than 100 pending tobacco/health lawsuits while they’re marketing their addictive product to teenagers in the developing world. Like the late Frederick Seitz, Deutsch can’t tell the difference between defending tobacco pushers and defending global warmers. Keep in touch, George, let us know what your next career stop is.
Related on MNN: Meet the eco-heroes chosen by Peter Dykstra.