SOC/BIO: Lovelock on the greens

Date: Mon Oct 16 2000 - 17:04:55 MDT


'Ignorance' of Greens berated by scientist
By Roger Highfield, Science Editor

AN independent scientist revered by Green groups attacks them today for their
stance on nuclear power and GM food.

James Lovelock, 81, who is best known for his Gaia theory and the many
environmental prizes he has won, said: "Too many Greens are not just ignorant
of science, they hate science."

Named after the Greek goddess of Earth by the novelist William Golding, Gaia
theory says that creatures, rocks, air and water interact in subtle ways to
ensure the environment remains stable. Gaia has exerted great influence on
the Green movement, but in Homage to Gaia: The Life of an Independent
Scientist, published today, Lovelock says that he has "never been wholly on
the side of environmentalism".

He likens Greens to "some global over-anxious mother figure who is so
concerned about small risks that she ignores the real dangers". He wished
they "would grow up" and focus on the real problem: "How can we feed, house
and clothe the abundant human race without destroying the habitats of other

Unlike most Greens, Lovelock backs nuclear energy. "Some time in the next
century, when the adverse effects of climate change begin to bite, people
will look back in anger at those who now so foolishly continue to pollute by
burning fossil fuel instead of accepting the beneficence of nuclear power.

"Is our distrust of nuclear power and genetically modified food soundly
based?" he asks, saying that his disenchantment with the Green movement is
similar to that of Patrick Moore, the veteran environmentalist who accused it
of abandoning science. "He was a founder of Greenpeace, but like me has an
Orwellian view of the environmental lobbies as they are today."

One reason why Lovelock regards the Green movement "with mixed vexation and
affection" is its obsession with the chemical industry. "To many Greens, if a
chemical like methyl iodide or carbon disulphide comes from some dark satanic
mill, it is by nature evil, but if it comes from organically grown or natural
seaweed, it must be good and healthy. To me, as a scientist, it does not
matter where it comes from. I am poisoned if I eat too much of it."

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