Censorship in Science: The Environment
“Man has lost the ability to foresee and forestall. He will end by destroying the Earth”
- Albert Schweitzer
Censorship in science can be traced back at least as far as the early 17th century, when the Catholic Church compelled Galileo to retract his support for the Copernican model of the solar system, as it contradicted the Church’s preferred Aristotelian model with the earth at the center of the universe. In time, the truth was determined, Galileo was vindicated, and science progressed with no lasting or catastrophic damage. In our time, however, the story is different.
To illustrate, we begin with the early days of the Soviet Union. In the 1920’s a heretofore obscure biologist, Trofim Lysenko, proposed that, at least in the plant kingdom, acquired characteristics could be inherited, which was a revival of the long-discredited Lamarck hypothesis. This time, the reception for the proposition was far different. When it came to the attention of the Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, he recognized an opportunity to advance his intention of altering human heredity by creating a “new Soviet man.” Consequently, Lysenkoism was adopted as scientific fact, and scientists who tried to critique it were silenced. There was a second, far less publicized motive behind Stalin’s actions. He sought to “liquidate the kulaks,” a class of peasants who owned their own plots of land, in order to fully collectivize agriculture, and here a golden opportunity presented itself. Implementing Lysenkoism in agriculture caused massive crop failures, which produced a catastrophic famine called the Holodomor that took the lives of an estimated three to seven million Ukrainians. Private farming was no more.
Then as now, the media collaborated with the government in concealing the truth. Walter Duranty, the New York Times’ Moscow correspondent, wrote glowing reports about the Soviet Union that dismissed any possibility of the famine having been caused by government policy, for which he was rewarded with a Pulitzer Prize. (Incidentally, this wasn’t the only time that the Times won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting what was essentially fiction; recent examples include Jayson Blair’s prize for writing about an invented child of the streets being victimized by drug trafficking (he was subsequently diagnosed with bipolar disorder), and Nicole Hannah-Jones’ award for the 1619 Project, which was roundly criticized by historians across much of the political spectrum for distorting the role of slavery in American history. But I digress.)
In the succeeding decades, the environmental movement has changed focus several times. Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring delineated human harm to nature through pollution, particularly the massive death of birds exposed to DDT. As a result, the use of DDT was banned in the US in 1972 and in many other countries as well, resulting in a sharp increase in the incidence of malaria in the Third World, since DDT was employed to eradicate disease-carrying mosquitoes. As we shall see, this is an example of a recurring pattern, that environmentalists often prioritize nature – animal, vegetable, and mineral – over human beings. One recent example is the island nation of Sri Lanka stopping the use of pesticides and artificial fertilizer, resulting in a near-disastrous famine and the overthrow of the government. In fact, environmental extremists call for reducing the Earth’s population in the wake of Dr. Paul Ehrlich’s book, The Population Bomb, whose predictions of widespread famine were averted by the Green Revolution in agriculture; the most extreme think planet Earth would be better off if our species, Homo sapiens, became extinct. Having shown movies of predatory animals cruelly preying on other animals when I was a high school substitute teacher, I disagree.
The environmental movement gained steam during the 1970’s and 1980’s, with the creation of the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA), the introduction of Earth Day as an international holiday, the anti-nuclear power movement spawned in the wake of accidental radiation emission from the Three Mile Island power plant in 1979, followed by the disastrous explosion at an outmoded Russian nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, and so on. Particularly noteworthy was the passage of the Endangered Species Act in 1973, which gave environmental groups the opportunity to block public projects such as constructing dams by finding some species of animal or plant life in the vicinity which possibly could be adversely affected. The classic case in that regard was the six-year fight over the TVA constructing the Tellico Dam on the Little Tennessee River arising because it threatened the habitat of an obscure endangered species of fish, the snail darter. Suffice it to say that after the Supreme Court and a Federal environmental commission ruled in favor of the fish, Congress overruled all other decisions by passing a rider exempting the Tellico Dam from the Endangered Species Act and attaching it to a continuing resolution to fund the Federal government after October 1, 1979, so that President Jimmy Carter, although he disagreed, felt he had no choice but to sign the bill. Nevertheless, a precedent had been set.
Notwithstanding the abovementioned scares, towering over all of them for the last few decades is the specter of climate change – in several different incarnations. I vividly remember a Newsweek cover story in the 1970’s that posed the question of whether the Earth was entering a new Ice Age, based on some record low temperatures. A decade later, when record high temperatures occurred, the mantra reversed to “global warming.” And in recent years, as evidence shows leveling off in global temperature, and a scientific controversy arose as to whether researchers promoting the “hockey stick” curve of rapidly rising global temperature caused by carbon dioxide emissions substituted their model predictions for actual temperature data, the new buzzword is “climate change,” a term sufficiently flexible to cover any phenomenon that the environmental lobby chooses to view with alarm.
Regarding climate change, the situation is not as clearcut as for COVID, because there are actually claims on both sides. Between 2007 and 2021, supporters of the climate change theory, including EPA scientists, allege that the administrations of George W. Bush and Donald Trump forced them to water down reports on climate change, i.e. to make it appear to be less of a problem than it is. On the other hand, so-called climate skeptics claim to have had their work suppressed. As justification, former CBS Evening News anchor and 60 Minutes correspondent Scott Pelley has equated climate skeptics with Holocaust deniers and advocates that they be excluded from public forums. So, the tech giants relentlessly censor the facts of climate change.
Regardless of who censors whom, the environmental movement has embarrassed itself on a number of occasions. For example, there is a tradition that every decade former Senator and Vice-President Al Gore has predicted disaster within ten years if we don’t change over to a renewable fuel economy, and when his prediction doesn’t come true, he moves the deadline out by ten more years. Moreover, both Gore and John Kerry, among others, insist that their environmental work is so urgent that they have to fly around the world on private jets rather than commercial flights, thereby adding to air pollution. And they have elevated a Swedish teenager, Greta Thunberg, to the status of the world’s greatest authority on the environment, while scholars such as Dr. Bjorn Lomborg are pushed aside. Although there are differences in wording between the sources, it appears that Ms. Thunberg retweeted in 2018 a tweet from gritpost.com quoting Harvard professor Dr. James Anderson as saying that humanity would become extinct by 2023 if we didn’t stop using fossil fuels. (In refuting the gritpost version cited by conservative commentators, Multiple sources asserted that Dr. Anderson was misquoted and actually advocated ending the use of fossil fuels within five years to protect the earth’s polar ice, though even that version conceded that a World War II-style crash program would be needed. In any event, Ms. Thunberg recently deleted the post. The latest word is that doomsday has been postponed to the year 2100, so no one alive today can possibly refute it.
Speaking of fossil fuels, New York State is outlawing the use of gas stoves and gas heating in new construction over the next few years, as well as tightening standards for all manner of appliances. With the environmentalists’ insistence on all-electric everything, coupled with restricting energy generation to the vagaries of renewables, solar and wind, one wonders where the electricity will come from. Indeed, FERC [Federal Energy Regulatory Commission] Chairman Willie Phillips and Commissioner Mark Christie testified before the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on May 4 that the precipitous rush to transition to “clean energy” risks catastrophic consequences for the electric grid in the near future. Exactly one week after that May 4 hearing, the Environmental Protection Agency announced a proposed rule that could force the closure of every coal-fired power plant in America as well as most of the natural gas plants if they cannot cut their emissions by 90%. Here’s how Politico reported on it: The new rule will require, “most fossil fuel power plants to slash their greenhouse gas pollution 90% between 2035 and 2040 — or shut down.”
Nevertheless, the demands of the environmental movement keep escalating to the point of absurdity. For example, the World Health Organization (WHO) is now promoting the idea that “saving the planet” requires that humans move to an insect-based diet, with another United Nations agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) seconding the motion, as well as numerous Leftist activists and, most important, the World Economic Forum, the bored billionaires of Davos who envision themselves as the World Controllers depicted in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. In response, the European Union has approved several insect-based foods, with more to come. This raises an interesting parochial point: how will environmentally-minded Jews justify the violation of dietary laws by consuming insects? Perhaps they can hide behind an ambiguous exception in the Torah. Leviticus/Vayikra 11:20ff proclaims that all flying teeming creatures are an abomination except for four species with jointed legs: the arbeh, the sal’am, the chargol, and the chagav. [footnote p. 601 Art Scroll Chumash] If we accept the premise that the survival of human life depends on our becoming insectivores, the principle that saving lives overrides all Torah laws except the prohibition of murder, idolatry, and adultery could be invoked. Since the translation of the foregoing Hebrew names to actual species is disputed, virtually any kind of insect can be identified as an exception to the rules.
At the same time, a movement is gaining traction around the world to grant “rights” to nature on the same level as human rights. (For example, the other day I happened to see a segment on a daytime TV talk show in which a celebrity activist talked about holding symposia around the country to culminate in presenting a Universal Declaration of Ocean Rights, analogous to the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights.) A recent article in Evolution News reported on the world’s oldest medical journal, Britain’s The Lancet, endorsing nature rights. The author asserts the proposition that “Laws that grant rights to nature do so for the purpose of handcuffing human thriving by inhibiting development, all in the name of saving the planet. They generally allow anyone to bring court action to prevent development activities — meaning that all human endeavors that impact the natural world are at the mercy of the sensibilities of the most radical environmentalist. And that includes essentials such as the generation of electricity with fossil fuels, as well as the mining of minerals such as lithium needed to make renewables functional.” (Parenthetically, speaking of lithium, the current obsession with phasing out fossil fuels in favor of unreliable renewables, sun and wind, will greatly strengthen the Chinese Communist Party’s drive for global domination, since that nation has the lion’s share of the minerals needed to generate solar energy. And while the West starves itself for energy, as exemplified by Germany’s total abandonment of nuclear power, China continues building coal-fired plants, thus increasing global pollution. Plans such as California’s determination to go to electric cars only and to change the cost structure for electricity by instituting income-based infrastructure charges on consumer electric bills will only exacerbate energy shortages – and by the way, the latter is pure Marxism, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,”– which raises the question of how the utility companies will obtain supposedly private IRS information about the family income of their customers.
Moreover, these proposals, which Wesley J. Smith refers to as “apparent insanity” and “radical environmental misanthropy,” are sure to be rendered invulnerable to criticism by demands for increased censorship by Big Tech of “misinformation and disinformation” about the need for “clean energy,” particularly by White House Climate Adviser and former EPA head Gina McCarthy. Further, a Washington Examiner investigation reveals that a shadowy organization based in England, the Disinformation Global Initiative, with left-wing American affiliates such as NewsGuard, has embarked on a program of systematically defunding and destroying conservative and even non-Leftist news sources so that the sole source of information will be the government and its “woke” acolytes. Similarly, the former prime minister of Zealand was quoted as saying, “Unless you hear it from us it is not the truth.”
As commentator Dennis Prager observes, “… you are allowed to lie on behalf of leftwing values because those values are higher than truth. ‘Climate change is killing the Great Barrier Reef …’
“So, what if you found out now that that turns out not to be true? Would it change one person’s mind who was hysterical about climate change? No, it wouldn’t change one. Because the issue isn’t climate change. The issue is changing the world and getting people out of cars and getting people into this fantasy world of wind and sun. That’ll do everything. Even if there’s no sun and no wind. Yes. You can rely on that.”
And who are the big losers in the environmental crusade pushed by the affluent? Working class Americans. “’Biden and the people in charge right now say it without saying it that clearly the pain that those folks are feeling all across America, the anxiety they feel, is a necessary price to pay for saving the planet from climate change,’ he [Buck Sexton] said.”
More explicitly, the World Economic Forum, the billionaires of Davos, Switzerland, has unveiled a vision of the future in which “You’ll own nothing and be happy.” One report estimates that in order to achieve 90% reduction in global emissions will require that Americans live in high rise apartments no larger than 640 square feet, give up driving private cars, and take airline trips once every three years. While this may sound extreme, judging from most Americans’ panicky response to the COVID fearmongers, accepting a year and a half of lockdowns that impeded children’s education and contributed to a rise in suicides, it is entirely possible that the nation will accept huge restrictions on their lifestyle – especially if governmental coercion is exerted once again.
So when, pray tell, will our cultural elites make sacrifices even remotely comparable to those they impose on the rest of us?