19 AUGUST 1989, Page 17


we may have had enough of environmentalist excess

IT MAY well be that the Green afflatus has reached its maximum point of expan- sion and is about to implode. It is one of those movements which depends almost entirely on sympathetic and abundant

treatment in the media. If that is no longer forthcoming, the party is over. Until re- cently, the Greens have had it all their own Way on television and in the press. Televi- sion, as it exists in Britain, is in many ways a natural Green medium. Pantheistic and pagan, worshipping Nature and Mother Earth, with a marked tendency to anthro- pomorphise and turn wild animals into heroic pets, anti-business, anti-profit (ex- cept for itself), it delights in vivid portrayal of the dangers of nuclear power, the Poisoning of rivers, the destruction of Whales and rainforests.

National newspapers are more hard- nosed but the tabloids have a deep streak of sentimentality and even the qualities have a healthy respect for vociferous animal-lovers. The Daily Mail, normally as dry as they come, went overboard on behalf of North Sea seals and their impend- ing destruction, a non-event as it turned out. The Daily Telegraph, which in the Colin Welch era would have treated the claims of the Greens with the scientific detachment and urbane scepticism they need, has become positively girlish in its environmental enthusiasm. According to the UK Press Gazette it was the first national to appoint a specialist Green Writer, is seeking to use 40 per cent recycled material for its paper needs and has now launched a national rubbish re- cycling campaign in conjunction with Friends of the Earth. Some of the down- market tabloids have been spectacularly silly in accepting 'poison' stories by the more extreme Green propagandists. Broadcasting networks have been even More lax about verifying environmentalist claims before putting them on the air. As a result, and for no other reason (other than boredom) the Greens are now scoring higher ratings in the polls than the SDP and SLDs put together. They are getting the Labour Party and even some ministers rattled.

But the Greens may have gone too far in

raising a successful clamour to get ships carrying PCB containers turned back from British ports. This was and is essentially a silly season story and probably could not have happened at any other time of the year. It was made possible, too, by by the nervous post-strike atmosphere at the quayside, with the port authorities being uncharacteristically anxious not to hurt the dockers' tender feelings. The trade unions, as always, showed themselves open to any superstitious nonsense going. As a result, Britain made a fool of itself, and some journalists at least revolted. The Observer, usually in the forefront of environmentalist clamour, devoted its main feature to attacking what it called the 'hysterical' response to the PCB shipments, under the heading 'The week the Greens went over- board'. The Sunday Times published a scornful piece by Simon Jenkins, 'Super- green gives way to Supernimby', accusing the Greens of 'breaking new heights of crass barminess'. Green issues, he argued, have been taken up 'as the birthright of an elitist intelligensia, now that nuclear dis- armament has become so frustratingly complex. So 'Jonathan and Samantha' justify 'disproportion and hypocrisy' in the pursuit of publicity and can be seen 'daub- ing freighters from daddy's rubber dinghy'. Equally savage was Auberon Waugh in the Sunday Telegraph: 'All the fools and half the villains in England are jumping on the Green bandwagon and the rest of us must take care.' He compared the Green 'phi- losophy' to 'socialism in Eastern Europe': if it were to prevail it 'would result in a cycle of oppression, incompetence, pover- ty and corruption'. The Daily Mail,

perhaps repenting its previous enthusiasm,

brought in David Bellamy to write 'Why I won't vote for the Green Party', labelling

his piece: 'From our foremost environmen- talist, an astonishing attack on the move- ment's new political wing'.

Some newspapers — perhaps the Inde- pendent might take up the challenge -

ought to appoint a new type of environ- ment correspondent whose prime job is to challenge the accuracy of the claims of the Greens and to point out the inconsistencies in much of the propaganda. After all, if the Friends of the Earth are so keen on recycling, they ought to favour the de- velopment of modern, efficient methods of rubbish disposal, because the two are inevitably connected. No one in the Green party seems to have discovered Rubbish Theory, a fascinating subject. It is an old axiom that the poor throw their rubbish away, the rich sell it (or hoard it to be sold later as antiques). In the present world, poor countries dump their rubbish, soph- isticated countries reprocess it or dispose of it at a profit. It is one of those new industries where Britain is in the forefront. As the world gets richer as well as more populated, and the amount of detritus it produces grows, we will all need to acquire rubbish disposal technology.

By leading in this field Britain can make a unique contribution to world sanitation. The fact that Greens cannot grasp this fairly obvious point illustrates their chil- dishness and contempt for truth. Bellamy points out in his Mail article that Green demonstrators had attacked McDonald's hamburger chain 'for destroying the Brazi- lian rainforests to clear the way for beef', whereas in fact their beef is all locally raised and their British hamburgers are stuffed from British-raised cattle. Most Green accusations turn out to be based on misunderstandings, exaggerated or down- right false. They also have a tendency to attack any large-scale development just for the hell of it. While deploring the destruc- tion of the Brazilian rainforest, on the one hand, they are also, characteristically opposing plans by a forestry company to plant conifers in the Cambrian Mountains of Wales. According to a report in the Independent, conservationists claim the trees will increase acidity in the rivers and hurt the salmon. Elsewhere, however, they encourage and protect seals and herons which gobble salmon in enormous quanti- ties.

There is a widespread media view that Greenery will replace Marxist collectivism, now obviously on its last legs, as the prime faith of the disaffected middle-class intel- ligensia. I don't believe it, but so long as there is any chance of its happening, the more enlightened elements in the media must keep a beady eye on its exponents. I welcome signs that they are beginning to do so.