Saturday, December 9, 2000

The Green Peril

My article titled "The Green Peril" was published on 9th December 200.

Deepak Lal sees the ecological movement as a new form of imperialism.

While the green movement claims to have the future of the planet in mind, economist Deepak Lal warned of the new imperialist threat posed by the ecological movement, particularly for the developing countries. Prof.. Lal, who is the James Coleman Professor of International Development Studies at the University of California, at Los Angeles, USA, was delivering the inaugural Julian L. Simon Memorial Lecture organised by Liberty Institute, in New Delhi, on Saturday.

The lecture attracted a wide audience, and was chaired by Dr. Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Member, Planning Commission. Dr. Ahluwalia introduced Prof. Lal as some one who never minces words. Prof. Lal lived up to that reputation.

Prof. Lal noted the parallels between utopian ideas of Marxism, Christianity and the present day environmental movements. He said, "The ecological movement is the latest manifestation of the various secular religions in the West once the Christian God died for so many with the Scientific and Darwinian revolution… … The spiritual and moral void created by the Death of God is, thus, increasingly being filled in the secular Western world by the worship of Nature." What was ironic is that "those haunted natural spirits which the medieval Church sought to exorcise so that the West could conquer its forests (see Southern), are now be-ing glorified and being placed above Man."

Prof. Lal warned that the Green movement is a modern secular religious movement engaged in a world-wide crusade to impose its "habits of the heart" on the world. He pointed out that their primary target was to prevent the economic development which alone offers the world's poor any chance of escaping their age-old poverty. This modern day secular Christian crusade has exchanged the saving of souls for saving Spaceship Earth. It needs to be fiercely resisted.

Having failed to promote their agenda through the normal political process even in developed countries, the greens are now seeking to push their agenda through various unelected and bureaucratic international agencies such as the UNEP. Their chief prize is the capture of the WTO to impose their anti-development, anti-trade platform on the rest of the world.

For instance, Prof. Lal wondered how could the developed world that consumes twenty times more energy per capita than India, expect India to slow down or even retard their energy needs in order to implement the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. He harshly criticised western environmental groups such as Greenpeace for advocating a ban on DDT in developing countries, where malarial mosquitoes continue to affect an estimated 500 million annually, when the western world itself had used it much more widely to fight the disease some decades earlier. Likewise Prof. Lal ridiculed the fear mongering over biotechnology, and argued that India should take a leaf out of the Chinese position which has made that country adopt the newer agricultural technology in a very big way.

Prof. Lal called on India and other developing countries to stand up to this insidious threat coming from the global greens. He called for India to consider withdrawing from a range of international environmental agreements and conventions, including the Basel Convention on Hazardous Waste, the Persistent Organic Pollutants Convention, the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change, the Biosafety Convention. He felt that many of the implications of these agreements are not clearly understood, and would impose a very heavy burden, particularly on the poor.

For India, which had been a leader against the colonial era, must once again take the lead and stand up against the latest attempt to resurrect a new form of western colonialism - ecological imperialism, concluded Prof. Lal. And in this fight, there would be allies in the west like the late Julian Simon.

Prof. Lal's lecture, "The New Cultural Imperialism: The greens and economic development", has been published by the Liberty Institute, and was released on this occasion.

Prof. Lal began by recounting his association with Prof. Julian Simon in the 1980s. Prof. Julian Simon, in whose memory this lecture series was inaugurated, was an economist and demographer at the University of Maryland in the US, and was singularly responsible for exposing the fallacy behind the Malthusian fear that growing human population would degrade the environment and the quality of life. Simon held, " The standard of living has risen along with the size of the world's population since the beginning of recorded time. There is no convincing economic reason why these trends toward a better life should not continue indefinitely… … … Minds matter economically, as much or more than, hands or mouths."

Prof. Simon was instrumental in helping to establish the Liberty Institute as an independent, economic policy research and educational organisation, in 1995. Prof. Lal has been on the board of advisors of the Institute since its inception. Since his untimely death in 1998, the Institute has rededicated its research centre in the name of Julian L. Simon to keep alive in the Institute his never-ending spirit of inquiry.

The Instituted hosted a lunch following the lecture and discussion. The participants had an opportunity to interact with each other informally. Deepak Lal signed copies of his lecture for some members of the audience.