Greenpeace, the radical international environmentalist group, recently
came under attack from an unusual source.
The organisation that has spent decades attacking corporate interests and
the institutions of capitalism wasn‚t attacked by the oil or chemicals
industry, but by the New York based-Congress of Racial Equality (Core).
In what is increasingly a black and white issue, Core charges Greenpeace
with being racist and keeping Africa poor, sick and underdeveloped. Last
week, Greenpeace organised a run in at Liberty State Park, New York, to
campaign against chemicals that it considers to be a danger to human
health. Core arranged a rival event at the same venue to highlight
Greenpeace‚s policies and their damaging and sometimes deadly effects on
Core's spokesman, Niger Innis lambasted Greenpeace for being a "powerful
elite of First World activists whose hardcore agenda puts people last."
Greenpeace has been at the head of campaigns to ban the use of the
insecticide DDT. Green groups were successful in banning DDT use in
agriculture in most countries during the 1970s. The insecticide is still
permitted for use in public health programmes where it saves lives from
mosquito borne diseases such as malaria.
Despite the fact that it saves lives every day, Greenpeace still campaigns
against its production, trade and use. Greenpeace and others campaign
against most pesticide use, but most Greens are particularly fond of
attacking DDT; many environmentalists cut their teeth on the DDT issue.
Their influence stretches far beyond disaffected anti-globalisation
students from rich countries who are desperate to be angry. The World
Health Organisation, World Bank and United Nations Environment Programme
are all against the use of DDT and are encouraging African governments to
reduce its use.
The upshot of this pressure is that lives are lost. In 1996 South Africa
submitted to Green pressure and removed DDT from its malaria control
programme. The result was one of the worst malaria epidemics in the
country‚s history a 1000 per cent in just a few years and hundreds upon
hundreds of lives were lost. South Africa thankfully did the right thing
and reintroduced DDT in 2000.
In one year, the number of cases fell by 80 per cent in the worst hit
province, KwaZulu Natal. Despite the clear evidence in favour of DDT,
Green groups continue to insist that DDT is dangerous to the environment
and to human health. In reality DDT is sprayed in tiny quantities on the
inside walls of houses and simply does not escape into the wider
environment. Even if it did, the environmental impacts of DDT have always
been grossly exaggerated.
As to the human health impacts of DDT use, in the 60 years of its use, not
one scientific study has been able to replicate a case of actual human
harm from the chemical.
In all that time and with widespread use, one would think that someone
somewhere would have had some ill effect from DDT if it was so dangerous,
yet apparently not. In any event, the human health dangers from malaria
far outweigh those of DDT. Perhaps it isn‚t surprising that groups like
Greenpeace campaign against something that could save lives.
Charles Würster, a leading environmentalist with the Environmental Defence
Fund captured Green thinking succinctly in 1972 when the US Environmental
Protection Agency was in the process of banning DDT. When someone pointed
out to him that banning DDT would cost lives in poor countries he is
reported to have said "So what? People are the cause of all the problems.
We have too many of them. We need to get rid of some of them and this is
as good a way as any."
Modern greens may be more subtle now, but their misanthropic philosophy
still runs deep. If Greenpeace really cared about people, as it likes to
portray, why would it campaign against GM technology in agriculture? GM
food, which has been consumed in the US for many years, has been shown to
be safe for human consumption and to improve agricultural yields.
If Africa were free to adopt GM technology, not only could we feed more
people and reduce starvation, but we could increase incomes. Campaigns
against the burning of fossil fuels to provide energy ignore some basic
realities and highlight the outrageous naivety of Greenpeace.
In almost any African or Indian city, young children suffer from terrible
and life threatening respiratory diseases as a result of burning biomass
like wood and dung indoors to provide heat.
Even the dirtiest coal-fired power plant providing cheap electricity would
be a technological advance that would reduce illness. Yet Greenpeace
prefers to promote expensive, renewable energy such as solar or wind
power, even though this would keep electricity well out of reach of poor
people in Africa. Greenpeace's run in New York was organised by white,
wealthy and healthy New Yorkers that were seemingly amazed that anyone
would be opposed to their views. Their quizzical looks at the sight of 70
black Core activists chanting "Africa Yes, Greenpeace NO" betrayed their
ignorance of the policies for which their organisation stands.
Liberty State Park is a million miles from the poverty and disease in
Africa that Greenpeace is helping to perpetuate. But the rally was held in
the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, that beacon of hope and freedom that
so many oppressed people around the globe look up to. If the Greenpeace
activists were capable of looking beyond the ends of their noses, they
might have recognised the importance of the statue towering above them.
Africa needs the liberty that the US enjoys.
We need the liberty and freedom to use whatever technology we require
without interference and restrictions from organisations like Greenpeace
that have little interest in human life. We need free trade and individual
liberties that made the US the wealthiest and most powerful nation on
earth. We don't need the racist, misguided and life-threatening
anti-growth campaigns run by eco-imperialist Greenpeace.
by Richard Tren, reprinted from East African Standard http://www.eastandard.net
(via http://www.ahbfi.org/newspaper/newsletters.htm )
The author is a director of the health advocacy group 'Africa Fighting Malaria.
An anonymous correspondent writes 30 march 2006
Hi, the first thing that I would like to make clear is that
I am not a member of any organisations (such as Greenpeace) and that any
comments I make are my own opinions, and not those that I have poached from
I was extremely disturbed to read your article relating to
the Greenpeace movement and Africa. You obviously care deeply for the people of
Africa and would like to help remove their suffering. However I feel that your
arguments are extremely one sided, and leave little or no room for the views of
Climate change, and our effect on the environment are
extremely important issues that are about to effect people on a global basis.
I’m fully behind any movements that help prevent human suffering, but a larger
picture must always be considered. If we try a help Africa with our own dirty
technologies then we are only setting the path for further and increased climate
damage. In time this will become a global problem and cause the suffering of
more people! Would it not be more justifiable to promote the use of
renewable energy sources, and the development of alternatives to the use of DDT?
Is it not also worth considering that when people think of
helping the so called "third world countries", they are thinking of
helping them become what is effectively a mirror image of the western
civilisations? Does this not bring is own inherent dangers to the people of
Africa? In the western world we rely on our ever-increasing rights, financial
positions, and democratic life styles. These are only made possible by our
capitalist economies, which by their very nature rely on constant growth and
We live in a finite world and there is always going to be a
point when it is not possible to continue the growth. When this occurs can you
imagine the reactions of people in this world as they scramble for the depleting
resources. The biggest resource that we rely on is oil! This should be an
important consideration considering the recent predictions concerning a theory
that is known as peak oil that has been accepted by just about every major
organisation, government, and county throughout the world. (if you are
unfamiliar with peak oil that further information can be found on websites such
I hope that you can at least find the time to give these issues just the
We are delighted to consider these opinions but, I'm afraid only long enough
to reject them. Your implication that Africa can never be allowed to reap
the benefits of capitalism because of resource lack is not only patronising but
based on a misconception about resource depletion. The only resource
that is depleting is human beings. We know that because humans are the
only thing that, over the long run, and after adjusting for inflation is rising
in price. The price of a human is the wages you need to pay to
persuade them to work for you. These are rising. Despite short
term peaks the price of energy, minerals, wood, clean water, and anything else
you care to mention is steadily falling. The reason is human ingenuity and
the capitalist system that permits people acting ingeniously in their own self
interest to benefit everyone else as well.