The recent controversy over The Skeptical Environmentalist by Danish author, Bjorn Lomborg, has highlighted yet again just how much green politicians have in common with the Prime Minister, John Howard.

Wendy has already remarked on how the Greens use forests as a wedge issue with all the élan and enthusiasm of Howard.

But what is also clear is that greens are also a match for Howard when it comes to a refusal to say sorry and an astonishing capacity to “just move on” when they are caught in deception or error.

The Prime Minister is probably the most brilliant deceiver in politics anywhere in the world in the past half century. Rarely is he caught with an outright whopper (ethanol perhaps withstanding) but instead combines the precision of Wittgenstein and Bill Clinton is being able to define away anything – even the meaning of the word “is”. Now in Clinton’s defence Bertrand Russell did ponder what “is” meant and how it can have different meanings in different contexts but we all know that Bill was not wondering about philosophic niceties when he had his go at the problem.

But the greens give him and Howard a fair run for the money. To recap – Mr Lomborg’s book assembled a significant amount of data suggesting that in many respects the environment was actually improving. While this is counter-intuitive to many it is, nevertheless, factual. Port Phillip Bay, the Harbour and the Yarra and Hawkesbury Rivers are all less polluted than they were pre-1972. Moreover, as Lomborg points out, there is a strong correlation between increased prosperity and environmental improvement.

Naturally environmentalists everywhere reacted in horror. Like Bush, Howard, Ashcroft et al environmentalists survive on the constant creation of fear. Indeed, even that bete noir of conservatives, Philip Adams, remarked some years ago of his surprise in witnessing a sigh of despondency in an audience of greens listening to someone explain how things weren’t that bad after all.

Anyway, Lomborg was vilified by greens around the world and environmentalists and the media in Australia. See David Tribe’s Harsh Blow for Green Luddites in The Australian December 26 2003, for details.

The central charge was that Lomborg had been found guilty of “scientific dishonesty” by a Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty. This was regaled ad nauseam by the usual suspects – although sadly it wasn’t true. Indeed, as the Danish Ministry of Science has found, the dishonesty was in the reporting of the original finding and the exaggerations of environmentalists and the media.

Now waiting for the culprits to say sorry is a bit like waiting for John Howard to say sorry, I was wrong, I may have mislead you or any other variation on belated contrition or correction.

They just don’t do it do they?

Indeed, they never have. Some years ago when the Tasmanian forest fights were just warming up the greens (including the redoubtable and saintly Senator Brown) got caught out with the odd exaggeration here and there. Indeed, some of them were whoppers like claiming areas had been clear-felled when they hadn’t and putting misleading captions on photographs. The naïve forest feller fellows responded to this by putting together a dossier on all the errors and calling said dossier, a “misinformation kit”.

Such a title failed to reckon with the Orwellian genius of greens and Brown who just promptly claimed that the forest industry was putting out misinformation. Needless to say the ABC and the broadsheet media reported the claims and just kept on reporting them despite being given the dossier and having it explained in detail.

Did they say sorry, we were wrong that time? Well what do you think?

Indeed, it would be a close run thing to work out just who is better at creating fear, giving wrong impressions and “just moving on” when they get caught.

In a purely technical sense – and for sheer chutzpah – Wendy would tend to come down in favour of Howard. But then whenever she reads about the Greens she is always reminded of Orwell’s comment about Gandhi – “saints should be presumed guilty until proven innocent”.

Your feedback to Wendy

I’m not sure if Wendy Wedge is being a bit ingenuous or disingenuous in her spray on Green tactics. Does she really think that “Port Phillip Bay, the Harbour and the Yarra and Hawkesbury Rivers” (and she can include the Parramatta River if she likes) and other environmental improvements would
have occurred if it weren’t for the effects of Green consciousness and activism?

Sewers they were, and still are, but better managed sewers. ‘Sfunny, but her given date seems to correlate nicely with the rise of Green politics. And in the face being ignored by vested interests, what’s wrong with a little wedgie here and there to spice up interest.

Isn’t it time that some people realised that production produces a waste output that, if not controlled properly by us so-called sapient beings, will degrade the environment, and that broad-scale the degradation is increasing, despite the local little victories.

I think I’d rather be accused of “wedge politics” – is it so wrong? As for Howard, the only thing green about him is the peas in his “meat and two veg” mentality. Lomborg? Dangerous, if believed.

Greetings from the watermelon patch, Olfaht

Greens caught in catch-22

While agreeing that there are people out there that prefer to be proved right than to hear good news, WW’s analysis is lacking on a number of points. Firstly there’s the catch-22 the Greens find themselves in – whatever they do they’re either too idealistic or just like all the others.

Not being across all the claims and counter-claims regarding Bjorn Lomborg I’ll leave the specifics to one side and pick up on the legitimacy of the environment as a “wedge” issue. Surely there is a difference between appealing to the worst in our nature (WE will decide who comes to this country, etc…), and appealing to a desire to conserve the natural environment for future generations.

Also, it may indeed be true that the environment is improving in certain areas, though this is almost exclusively due to the efforts of the various environmental organisations. While this isn’t the appropriate forum to debate the particulars of humanity’s impact on the planet, how is it getting better and how it is getting worse, I find the “correlation” of increased prosperity to environmental improvement fascinating.

I guess it follows that all we need do is get the third world to start driving 4WDs, install air conditioning and use more plastic bags and we’ll transform the entire planet into a veritable Garden of Eden. Or it could just mean that the third world picks up the environmental tab for the first world’s excesses.

Richowski, Melbourne

Howard has often been caught lying

Hi Wendy,

The Greens are like Howard in another respect too. Both use gophers to put forward idealogically extreme positions on target issues. Public perception, which always assumes that the answer lies “somewhere in the middle”, is therefore skewed closer to the desired position. This is the main reason Howard’s politics are not seen for what they are: An extreme-right agenda (coupled with a sensational amount of middle class welfare to keep the swinging voters happy).

On an unrelated note, I disagree that Howard is rarely caught in a lie. It happens all the time. Kids overboard, ethanol, WMD, the asylum seekers who got to Australia and then forgot(!) to ask for asylum. Lies just don’t bring politicians down anymore. Compared to the other accusations thrown around, telling a few fibs is hardly a big deal.


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