The Certainty

Happy Earth Day, everyone. Some thoughts were provoked by a timely piece by Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace. He writes about why he left the organization.

Moore is a scientist, trained in the scientific method. He doesn’t have what I call The Certainty. His colleagues did. They were more rigid, more ideological. More Certain.

The breaking point came when, over Moore’s objections, Greenpeace tried to ban chlorine, which is an element on the periodic table.

Moore laments, “the initial healthy skepticism hardened into a mindset that treats virtually all industrial use of chemicals with suspicion.”

That hardened mindset is The Certainty. It is environmentalism’s ugly side. It turns it into a religion.

We all know that religion can bring joy and comfort to people. But when The Certainty shows itself, religion becomes something darker.

The environmental movement is the same way. It is wonderful that activists have raised awareness. People prefer a clean environment to a dirty one, and sure enough, look at the data. Our environment is cleaner than it was fifty years ago. What a noble achievement.

Then The Certainty came in. Trying to ban this or that chemical without evidence of harm. Advocating technological regress. Attacking those with fact-based disagreements as corporate puppets, without ever touching the substance of their arguments.

There’s a reason why I think of (radical) environmentalism as the new religion. Like religion, environmentalism has done some good. But like religion, the more radical adherents have The Certainty. That can, quite literally, be bad for our health.