Rex Murphy is Stupid
Perhaps the most disheartening part of being an “environmentalist” are times when otherwise intelligent and insightful people take contrary positions that can only be summed up by such dowdy words as “stupid”. Such garish vernacular could only enrage the likes of Rex Murphy, but he has it coming.
His piece of April 24th (“Praise the green god from whom all blessings flow”) is sadly typical of many that seem to hold to view that environmentalists are some kind of doomsday cult holed up in sanctimonious intellectual bunkers awaiting the end-times.
The view from our side of the fence is somewhat more mundane. Imagine yourself doing dishes at a loud but rather uninteresting party. Occasionally drunken revelers will stumble into the kitchen with more dishes, tell you how grateful they are you are doing righteous work on behalf of us all, get another beer from the fridge and head back to the dance floor.
Most of us so-called environmentalists are over worked, burned out, underpaid (if at all) and occasionally wondering why the hell we bother. What keeps us going is not some irrational religious belief that we are right and everyone else is wrong. It is the very rational and not particularly happy knowledge that to do nothing would be irresponsible, if not suicidal.
This is not opportunistic hyperbole; it is based on our best emerging knowledge to date. For instance, a study published last year in the prominent journal Science showed that global commercial fish stocks have declined 90% in the last 50 years. Another study published this January in Nature predicted that by 2050, we may lose 25% of all land plants and animals due to climate change. The list goes on. These are not well-compensated pseudo scientists shilling on behalf of industry, but leading researchers publishing in world’s most prestigious scientific journals.
It is clearly in our own best interests to show our one and only planet more respect. Yet we seem to continue to sass off to Mother Nature even as we are led by the hand towards the woodshed. The global ecosystem is already beginning to paddle our collective bottoms yet the response from our national governments is neither visionary nor courageous.
The Canadian government still indiscriminately licences destructive and wasteful fishing technology in spite of mounting scientific evidence that such gear-types are contributing to global fisheries collapse. The US government has chosen to opt out of the Kyoto Agreement and seems fully committed to an oil and gas-based economy. Consumers continue to purchase some of the most fuel inefficient vehicles ever made while hybrid cars are both available and affordable.
As for the seal hunt, this has been a favorite straw-man of anti-environmentalists for years. The seal hunt is an animal rights issue, not an environmental issue. Population estimates vary but harp seals are certainly in no immediate danger of extinction. It is much more illustrative to consider another high-profile issue from Mr. Murphy’s homeland: the tragic destruction of the once legendary cod stocks.
Cod were the backbone of the Newfoundland economy for generations and supported a 400 year-old sustainable fishery. In the short span of about 40 years, this almost unimaginably abundant resource was decimated by destructive new fishing technology and incompetent management by our federal government. Incredibly, Newfoundland cod stocks were quietly listed as an endangered species last year.
This ecological catastrophe was an economic and social disaster as well. Over 40,000 jobs were permanently lost, $4 billion dollars of federal aid money was spent, and thousands of Newfoundlanders were forced to leave their communities in search of work elsewhere - impoverishing a rich and unique culture.
When we kill the golden goose, it is ultimately ourselves we harm. We ignore such plain and tragic lessons at our peril.
Most environmentalists would dearly love to be doing something else. Being the harbingers of bad news is not particularly fun, nor rewarding. But rather than assail the messenger, consider instead that we might be trying to say something very important. Bad news can be an opportunity and perhaps we should see the increasing imperatives to change our lifestyle as an opportunity to increase our happiness, not just our affluence.
Rex, you are an otherwise insightful and intelligent commentator. But on this particular issue, it must be stated plainly: you are being stupid.
Mitchell Anderson is a freelance writer living in Vancouver. This piece ran nowhere.