Patrick Moore – The Sensible Environmentalist

At a TEDx gathering in Vancouver in November 2009, Patrick Moore was one of the speakers. If you have clicked the link on his name, or looked at the picture below, you will know that we are dealing here not with the late, English, wonderfully eccentric, amateur astronomer and xylophone player, but with the Canadian environmentalist, the co-founder of Greenpeace who left that organisation in disgust when it conspicuously lost its way a few years ago. He now calls himself The Sensible Environmentalist, and spends much of his time campaigning on behalf of Golden Rice.

I am not an environmentalist but I have read a few books on the subject, been around the block a few times, and watched enough speakers to have developed a nose for, and allergy to, bullshit. The field of environmental activism tends to be so deep in the steaming stuff that in order to critique most speeches I’d need to be equipped with a JCB. So I usually don’t. Let’s see whether I was justified in hoping that Moore would be worth my making an exception in his case.

There’s something that bothers me about his voice and the manner of his speaking. The urgency he conveys is not a problem for me because it indicates a willingness to get into the driving seat. It’s not exactly the speed with which he speaks, because it doesn’t feel like undue nervousness. It is as if he were driving in too low a gear: the voice is working too hard. I bet he gets sore throats after big presentations. If so, it’s absurdly easy to prevent it.

At 2:35 there’s a lovely catalogue of names. If you don’t understand why I like it, you have neither had a course with me nor read The Face & Tripod.

There are a few occasions when he stumbles and momentarily loses his place. Some might blame this on his shooting the speech from the hip, but a couple of small stumbles are a tiny price to pay for the audience engagement that goes with being paper-free. The stumbles don’t bother me, and I’d lay money that they don’t bother his audience; but if they trouble him, there are a few improvements that could be made to his structure to make the mind-mapping easier.

I enjoy his summary dismissal of fallacy after fallacy connected to the global warming scam. At the time of writing we have just been treated (if that’s the word) to mounds of garbage in a recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  Proper scientists having over the years deserted the IPCC in disgust over being misquoted, it is now mainly a nest of political activists still trying to masquerade as scientists. The main-stream media, either too idle to check or in politico/economic thrall to the alarmist nonsense, make up an eager team of cheer-leaders. I’m old enough to remember when the BBC, for instance, was a respectable organisation employing proper journalists. Others of a similar age who seem to swallow this tripe show themselves too trusting or too busy to check any details. At least I hope that’s the case: the alternative is too depressing.

The most depressing thing is when people start clamouring for ‘deniers’ to be silenced, sectioned, or imprisoned. They might as well burn books like they did in Berlin in 1933. People behave like this only when they know their own argument to be weak. It is weak because its scientific basis is flimsy, and was always actually political rather than scientific.

If you want one reason why I believe this, just go and see how many attempts by sceptical scientists to join in public debate with warmists have had the warmists scurrying for cover. Christopher Monckton has repeatedly challenged Al Gore. Gore has made increasingly pathetic excuses; and who’s to blame him? He’d be slaughtered.

Watching this speech, I find myself wanting to endorse Patrick Moore’s description of himself as The Sensible Environmentalist. He could easily be a better speaker, but meanwhile he’s quite good enough for most markets. And what he says is suitably coloured with doubt as to persuade me that he is a genuine seeker after truth.

Charity begins at David Miliband

This posting has nothing whatever to do with making speeches. I’ve begun a new category. I call it ‘rant’. It’s for weekends and occasions when I feel like writing, but not about my work.

About forty years ago I found myself one Sunday noon in a small town in Co. Kilkenny, Ireland, propping up a bar and drinking Guinness in the genial company of the local Roman Catholic priest and the local Church of Ireland minister. I learnt that this was a weekly routine for them a few minutes after their respective Sunday services. Because it was at the height of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, I commented on how more of the world should see the two of them supping so amiably. At that point the conversation became a little more serious, as we discussed the horrors being perpetrated. One revelation in particular appalled me.  They told me that all over the republic there were good and worthy charities – orphanages, women’s sanctuaries, etc. – feeling a financial draught because people had become reluctant to put money in collection boxes lest it end up buying arms for either of the warring factions over the border.

I reminded myself of that when I became aware of my knee-jerk reaction to the news that David Miliband was to leave the British Parliament to take up a post as President of an international charity. It was as if I’d read that he’d been appointed to a senior post in the Mafia. Charities in general – at least, big international charities – have sunk so far in my estimation that I find I never put money in their collection boxes these days. Small local charities, yes, but the big boys (with one exception) never. In fact there is a point that they cease to be a charity at all and become instead an NGO – funded involuntarily by the taxpayer. And that alone is a very dubious status, as it raises all sorts of questions concerning their motivation.

I call them big boys advisedly.  The salaries paid to the senior executives of, and the budgets commanded by, the likes of WWF or Greenpeace are comparable with FTSE 100 companies or huge global corporations – in fact they are huge global corporations. The only difference is their tax status.

They scarcely have a tax status except as beneficiaries. Recently the press, twittering classes, and even the British Parliament became mightily exercised over a few international corporations arranging their tax affairs in such a way as quite legally to massage their accounts towards low-tax countries to minimise their tax bill. What about the huge, international charities that pay no tax at all – anywhere?

In theory this is because of the wonderful work they do on behalf of humanity at large. How do you spell a hollow laugh? They seem in many cases to have become a cuddly front for questionable political movements.

Greenpeace’s own founder has gone on the record to the effect that the organisation has completely lost its way. I have not seen a collection box for Greenpeace in ages! How do they fund Rainbow Warrior? It must take a shipload of widows’ mites.

WWF seems more concerned with making gazillions out of carbon credits than conserving wildlife. I have no doubt that they actually do also sponsor conservation projects, but then so does tax-paying BP. When WWF conspicuously jumps into bed with Coca Cola to raise money to ‘save polar bears’ whose world population is five times what it was when WWF was founded, you find yourself wondering what they plan to do with the money.

Somewhere I read, with alarming lack of surprise, that when RSPB reversed their opposition to wind farms, it coincided closely with a huge donation from the renewable energy industry.

The RSPCA‘s administration was apparently hijacked a few years ago, and now they seem closely to resemble some of the less reputable animal activist organisations.

And so it goes on: mainly rumour, and possibly erroneous. You may notice that I have not cited sources nor included wads of statistics. This is partly because I am too lazy but more because my point is not fact-based, but rumour-fed. You may call it tittle-tattle if you like. I consider myself one who keeps himself tolerably well-informed, and here I am merely stating an impression that has crept up on me. What if all the implications concerning these charities are wrong? Then their massively remunerated chief executives should be summarily sacked for piss-poor public relations and allowing their brand to be contaminated. 

David Miliband is going to run International Rescue Committee in New York. I’ve looked at IRC’s website and on the face of it they do wonderful work. I hope that is true, and at this moment certainly I have no reason to doubt it.

But though their website invites me to do so, I shall not become a donor. I prefer to support the hospice and other local causes, The only famous charity that I continue to support, indeed I dropped money into a collection box in the market place of my local town this very morning, is one that does wonderful work and I’ve never heard a whisper against them.

Step forward the Salvation Army.