"When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean," said Humpty Dumpty – "neither more nor less."
Lewis Carroll's "Looking Glass" logic often seems to be a guiding principle for environmental and corporate social responsibility (CSR) activists. They claim to be committed to people and planet, not just profits – and to honesty, transparency, accountability and human health. One would expect that such basic ethical standards would apply equally to for-profit companies and nonprofit advocacy corporations.
However, the activists who defined them routinely exempt themselves. For them, CSR standards are primarily another weapon for bludgeoning opponents, raising money and advancing political agendas. Their DDT and global warming campaigns are illustrative.
Forty years ago, Environmental Defense (ED) was launched to secure a ban on DDT and, in the words of co-founder Charles Wurster, "achieve a level of authority" that environmentalists never had before. Its high-pressure campaign persuaded EPA Administrator William Ruckelshaus to ignore the findings of his own scientific panel and ban DDT in the US in 1972.
Those findings and research by other scientists showed that DDT is not harmful to people, birds or the environment, especially when small quantities are sprayed on walls to repel mosquitoes and prevent malaria. But ED and allied groups continued their misinformation campaign, until the chemical (and other insecticides) were banished even from global healthcare programs.
Thankfully, DDT had already helped eradicate malaria in the United States and Europe. But the disease still sickens 500 million people a year and kills 2 million, mostly African women and children. Since 1972, tens of millions have died who would likely have lived if their countries had been able to keep DDT in their disease control arsenals.
A year ago, the USAID and World Health Organization finally began supporting DDT use once again. But ED, Pesticide Action Network and other agitators still promote ridiculous anti-DDT themes on their websites, claiming for instance that it is "associated with" low birth weights in babies and shortened lactation in nursing mothers.
Even if true, notes Uganda's Fiona Kobusingye, these risks "are nothing compared to the constant danger of losing more babies and mothers to malaria." She speaks from bitter experience. She’s had malaria at least 20 times and lost her son and two sisters to the disease, which also claimed a fifth nephew just last week.
"How can US environmentalists tell us we should be more worried about insecticides than about malaria?" she asks. "Their attitudes are immoral eco-imperialism – a crime against humanity."
None of these pressure groups has ever apologized for their disingenuous campaigns or atoned in any way for the misery and death they helped perpetuate –much less been held accountable. They won’t even promise to be more honest in future campaigns and fund-raising appeals.
Two billion people – a third of the world’s population – still don’t have electricity, for lights, cooking and refrigeration, water treatment plants, hospitals, schools, offices, shops and factories. Women and children are plagued with lung infections caused by wood and dung fires, and by acute intestinal diseases caused by tainted water and spoiled food. Some ten million die from these causes every year.
But instead of helping destitute families get abundant, reliable, affordable electricity, Rainforest Action Network, Environmental Defense and other pressure groups want banks to withhold funding from coal and gas generating plants, because they would release greenhouse gases. They block hydroelectric and nuclear projects on equally questionable grounds – and then praise Citigroup, JP Morgan and Bank of America for being "socially responsible." Up to 95% of people in Sub-Saharan countries have no electricity, and these activists and banks are telling them the biggest threat they face is hypothetical climate change. Al Gore personally uses more electricity in a week than 25 million Ugandans do in a year, and Hollywood gives him an Oscar for his devotion to "saving the planet."
Environmental Defense is poised to rake in millions from emissions trading credits, through its new alliance with Morgan Stanley, and an axis of anti-developers is telling the Third World: You can't have electricity. You can't have refrigeration or a modern, industrialized society. Your future is renewable, sustainable energy – expensive, intermittent and insufficient: a couple of wind turbines near your villages and little solar panels on your huts, to power a light bulb, radio, hot plate and maybe tiny refrigerator. Even if Al Gore and ED are right about catastrophic climate change, their prescription – reducing global carbon dioxide emissions by 60-80% over the next few decades – would be disastrous. The ensuing poverty, misery, disease and death would likely dwarf even their malaria records.
Talk about an Inconvenient Truth! It completely destroys the central premise of climate catastrophe – that CO2 is responsible for climate change. Climatologists featured in the new British documentary, "The Great Global Warming Swindle," explain that warm ocean water can't hold as much CO2 as cold water. As changing solar forces warm the planet, the oceans release their stores of carbon dioxide. Even Al Gore’s own temperature-and-CO2 graph shows this. (View the film and Mr. Gore’s graph at a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XttV2C6B8pU)"
Developed countries are being told they must spend hundreds of billions of dollars a year on symbolic gestures that will do nothing to stop climate change. Countless workers are at risk of losing their jobs. American and European families face 10-15% increases in energy, food and consumer prices. And Third World families are being forced to abandon their dreams, and endure continued deprivation and disease.
Whatever happened to the "people" part of CSR's commitment to profits, planet and people? To Humpty Dumpty, the central question in defining words is "who is to be master." Granting environmentalists an even higher "level of authority" may be good for them. But it's not necessarily good for other folks.
Instead of CSR, we need global social responsibility – for all corporations, including nonprofit multinational environmental corporations … for all people, not just First World activists … and for all concerns, health and economic, as well as environmental. The world would be a far better place.