Monday, May 29, 2006

Sickening: Dutch told to return land they won from the sea

A photograph of a grinning boy, riding a toy tractor, has pride of place in the kitchen of Aarnout and Magda de Feijter, the owners of a 148-acre farm in the Dutch province of Zeeland. The picture is of their first grandson, Louis, and the de Feijters have always dreamed that he will one day take over the expanse of wind-rippled flax fields that has been in their family since 1835.

But there are other plans. In the name of European Union environmental directives, their farm is earmarked for flooding - the first time in Holland's centuries-long battle against water that a substantial piece of land is to be deliberately returned to the sea. Some 230 years after its flat pastures were wrested from the waters, the de Feijters' farm - their home for 33 years - is to be re-flooded to reverse the disappearance of Zeeland's mudflats and salt marshes.

For the family - raised in a province that owes its very existence to dyke systems dating from the Middle Ages - the plan is "un-Dutch". Breaching dykes is behaviour associated with invading armies, noted Mr de Feijter. Flooding a "polder", as land enclosed by a dyke is known, "has always been an act of war", he said. The couple have planted chestnut trees and apple orchards and resent hearing that it is ecologically less important than salt marshes. "Isn't this landscape beautiful?" said Mrs de Feijter. "There are birds, there are flowers. It's green."

The final decision must be ratified by parliament next year, but chances of a reprieve look slim. Dutch officials support the project, part of a scheme to re-flood 1,500 acres of land on the banks of the Western Schelde estuary. The re-flooding has been imposed by the EU Habitats directive, and the EU Birds directive. The end will be quick. Engineers will build a new dyke behind the de Feijters' land and demolish their 150-year-old farmhouse. Then they will breach the high, grass-sided dyke at the bottom of their drive and the sea will rush in.

Mrs de Feijter was eight during the flood of February 1953, when almost 2,000 people died across Holland. Now, their farm is serene. There is no feel of the coast about their polder. You could imagine yourself a hundred miles inland - until you notice the top decks of a container ship slowly slide past.

Anton van Haperen, a wetlands expert with the Dutch national forestry service, is blunt. Since 1960, Zeeland has lost two thirds of its wetlands, he said. "Farmland has less value, ecologically." Yet he has no doubt that, without EU laws, politicians would not dare to flood farmers' fields.

The de Feijters will be given compensation, worth 2 million pounds. They talk of buying a new farm and starting again, though they are in their 60s. They do not rail against the EU, instead blaming "environmental extremists". Arguably, their foes are the shoppers of Holland and Belgium, with their appetite for cheap goods from the Far East. In order to allow ever bigger container ships into Antwerp harbour, a deeper channel is to be dredged that will speed up erosion of the banks. It is that loss of habitat that must be compensated for. Gerard van Overloop, the government official who will oversee the flooding, said: "For hundreds of years, Zeeland was built by taking land from the sea. Now we are doing the opposite and it goes against our nature."



The Green/Left always pretend to find great wisdom in primitive people but that idea vanishes instantly if they see an opportunity to disrupt the fulfilment of basic human instincts. Attacking people is what environmental extremists are all about. And the fact that they have to lie about polar bears dying out does not faze them either. Even the NYT article below admits that there are more bears than ever these days

Bob Hudson says he has played in the Rose Bowl, jumped out of airplanes, scuba dived off Fiji and stalked bighorn sheep in the Rockies. But for all the excitement of his 67 years, there was one thrill he still craved: hunting polar bear in the high Canadian Arctic. He sold his beloved Jaguar XKE on eBay for $26,000 to do it. After heavy wind and snow ruined his hunt in April, he took another $14,000 out of his retirement account for a return trip. "Life is short," Mr. Hudson joked. "The last check you write should be to the undertaker, and it should bounce." Mr. Hudson, a McDonald's franchise owner from Oxford, Miss., got his trophy: a nine-foot bear bagged with a single shot from 30 yards. But the future of the hunt is far less certain for those who may want to follow his tracks.

Polar bear hunting has gotten caught up in the larger debate over global warming. Scientists and environmentalists are pushing for measures to protect the animal, whose most immediate threat, they say, is not hunters, but loss of habitat. As its icy environs shrink, the polar bear has, improbably perhaps, become the new poster face of Arctic vulnerability. Move over, baby seal. "People care about polar bears - they're iconic," noted Kassie Siegel, a lawyer at the Center for Biological Diversity. "The reality of the threat to polar bears is helping to get the word out," she said, about the effects of climate change. Her group, along with Greenpeace and the Natural Resources Defense Council, filed a petition with the United States government to list the polar bear as threatened as a way to push the American authorities to control greenhouse gas emissions, like carbon dioxide from cars.

The message has alarmed American polar bear hunters, who could be barred from bringing their trophies home from Canada, the only country from which they can legally do so. It has also run up against unbending opposition from local communities of Inuit, also known as Eskimos, and the Nunavut territorial government, which has expanded sport hunting in recent years. For polar bear hunters, who are typically wealthy Americans past 50, the trip in a caribou-skin suit on a dog sled is an age-defying passage in a land of disorienting beauty, where the sun does not set for months and nothing but a dreamy blue strip of sky distinguishes ice from cloud.

For their Inuit guides, the sport hunt is a preserver of tradition and a welcome source of income in snowbound settlements where jobs are almost as scarce as trees. "The environmentalists can say no more hunting of polar bears, but we'll keep killing them," said David Kalluk, 65, a Resolute village elder. "That's the way it has been for generations and generations."

But while the hunt may be unchanging, the globe's climate is not. Global warming and over-hunting could diminish [And pigs could fly one day] the polar bear population by at least 30 percent in coming decades, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, a network of 10,000 scientists, predicted in May. "Given what the climate models predict for continuing warming and melting of sea ice, the whole thing leads to an extinction curve," said Peter Ewins, director of the World Wildlife Fund Canada's Arctic Conservation Program. "And it's not a question of if, it's a clear question of when." Hunting, when insufficiently controlled, he added, "has the potential to really compound the problem."

Nunavut increased its annual hunting quotas by 29 percent last year - to 518 kills, an increase of 115 - saying that Inuit hunters were actually seeing an increase in polar bear populations. That impression, some scientists and environmentalists say, is simply a matter of the bear's greater visibility, as shrinking ice pushes them closer to Inuit communities. Those experts tick off a list of stresses on the polar bear: Global warming is melting the bear's icy migration routes, critical for breeding and catching seals for food, around Hudson Bay and Alaska. Poaching is threatening populations in Russia. Pollution is causing deformities and reproductive failures in Norway.

Other experts see a healthier population. They note that there are more than 20,000 polar bears roaming the Arctic, compared to as few as 5,000 40 years ago, before Canada, Denmark, Norway, the Soviet Union and the United States agreed to strong restrictions on trophy hunting in the 1970's. Some scientists say northern polar bear populations are safe from global warming, and those farther south might well find ways to adapt or simply migrate north.

Mitchell Taylor, manager of wildlife research for the Nunavut government, said warming trends had so far seriously affected only western Hudson Bay, just one of 20 areas where polar bears live. He acknowledged that over-hunting could be a problem in Baffin Bay, between Canada and Greenland. "In other areas, polar bears appear to be overabundant," he added. "People have to quit thinking of polar bears as one big continuous mass of animals that are all doing the same thing."

In Canada, a committee of scientists recommended in 2003 that the government list the polar bear as a species of "special concern," which would require federal monitoring. But the environment minister sent the recommendation back, under pressure from Nunavut officials, who complained that traditional Inuit knowledge had been ignored. "The bears are getting smaller, their reproduction is getting less effective, and I have heard about data that show their survival is in decline," said Marco Festa-Bianchet, a biology professor at the University of Sherbrooke in Quebec who recently stepped down as chairman of the committee. He said the panel would complete a new report in 2008. In the meantime, he said, "the fact that the hunting quota has been increased clearly increases the level of concern."

Meanwhile, officials at the United States Fish and Wildlife Service expect to rule in December on whether the polar bear should be designated as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. That designation is a real possibility, they said, at least for several of the 13 areas where Canadian bears now roam.

The possibility that wealthy American hunters may stop coming north has raised concern among Inuit people and politicians, even those who also decry global warming as a threat to their way of life. Nancy Karetak-Lindell, an Inuit member of the House of Commons, called the effort by American environmentalists "a little intrusive and very disrespectful." In an interview, she added that the bear hunt "is more than a way of life, it's a way of survival." In Resolute, a snow-swept hamlet of shacks hugging a salty ice-packed Arctic channel, Inuit villagers hold an annual lottery to see who will get the permits to kill the local quota of 35 bears a year. Fifteen of those bears will be consumed locally, as food and to make rugs, mattresses, wind pants and mittens. The 20 other permits are sold to American hunters. With each permit, or tag, worth nearly $2,500, that means a fast infusion of nearly $50,000 a year into the community, on Cornwallis Island some 500 miles above the Arctic Circle. On top of that, the guides earn almost $8,000, and their assistants another $4,500, per hunt.

If the Americans stop coming, the guides say, they will seek other foreign hunters or kill the entire quota for themselves. Demand is already pent up. Outfitters who organize the hunting trips say there is a three-year waiting list for Americans who want to go. Hunters say few experiences can compare with the sensation of sighting a bear, then watching the Inuit guides release their huskies to surround and confuse the prey long enough for the hunters to shoot it. "This is my Disney World," said Manuel Camacho, a 60-year-old urologist from Miami, before he set out on his hunt in May.

More here


`We are fighting the same battle, for the liberation of black people. In the past that meant taking on old racists and colonialists - now it means challenging environmentalists too.' Roy Innis doesn't mince words. As national chairman of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), the New York-based black civil rights group founded in the Forties, he has caused a mighty stink with his attacks on greens. Innis thinks that environmentalist thinking is helping to `strangle Africa'. He argues that European Union restrictions on the use of the pesticide DDT to combat malaria are `killing black babies'; that Western liberals' handwringing over genetically modified crops and food is `holding Africa back'; and that ideas of sustainable development are causing a `stagnation in African development'.

As you can imagine, he hasn't made himself especially popular in the process - he's even earned the tag `Uncle Tom', a stooge for Big (White) Business, from some of the more intemperate greens. `Yeah, I've heard that one', he says. `I'd like to know where these people were in the Fifties and Sixties when my organisation provided the shock troops on the civil rights battlefield. Look at my work on civil rights and you'll see I'm the opposite of an Uncle Tom.'

How has the chairman of an organisation whose members confronted the racist cops and KKK members of the American Deep South in the heady summer of '64 ended up eye-balling greens, those usually well-meaning young trendies, in 2006? CORE was founded in 1942, as the Commission of Racial Equality, by a group of interracial students in Chicago. It grew through the Fifties and Sixties to become one of the main groups involved in the protests against segregation in the South in 1963 and 1964. It organised the `Freedom Rides', when both black and white activists rode on public buses through Birmingham and Montgomery in Alabama in a naked challenge to that state's segregation of public transport, and sponsored the 1963 March on Washington at which Martin Luther King delivered his `I Have A Dream' speech. CORE also opposed imperialism and colonialism in Africa and other parts of the Third World.

Yet now Innis, chairman of CORE since 1968, speaks passionately about challenging greens. That's one hell of a turnaround, isn't it, from taking on the racist authorities to attacking people who care about nature? `We're being consistent', he says. `Our aim has always been to raise up black people, at home and in Africa. Some of the old barriers to doing that are still around but there are new ones as well.' And one of the biggest new barriers, he reckons, is the politics of environmentalism. He's particularly disturbed by the global restrictions on the use of DDT to fight malaria. His wife is a Ugandan, some of whose friends and family members have been killed by the disease. Innis has been on numerous fact-finding trips to African countries to uncover the impact of malaria on people's lives and livelihoods. `What hits me every time - every time - is that this is a disease we can control', he says. `We eradicated it in America and Europe with DDT, so why not in Africa?'

DDT - or dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane, to give it its full, if rarely used, name - is a flashpoint issue in the debate about environmentalism. The pesticide kills mosquitoes, the blood-sucking pests that spread malaria. It was one of the main weapons in the Western authorities' war on malaria in the mid-twentieth century. Malaria once killed thousands of Americans and Europeans every year. It did in Oliver Cromwell, among others. As Innis has written, `From Italy and Romania to Poland to the English Channel.malarial mosquitoes ruled over Europe for centuries'. The development of DDT in the twentieth century helped to put an end to that. After the Second World War governments in Europe and the US intervened aggressively against malaria, including with DDT, and consigned the disease to the dustbin of history - at least in the West - where it belonged.

But in the Sixties and Seventies, green activists raised concerns about the impact of DDT on wildlife and the environment. Rachel Carson's 1962 book Silent Spring, widely described as the `bible of environmentalism', claimed that DDT harmed birds of prey and their eggs. Following intense lobbying and campaigning, DDT was banned in America in 1972 by the Environment Protection Agency and its use was severely restricted in Europe, which impacted on its use in countries in Latin America and Africa where malaria is still a big problem. And all of this happened despite the fact that, as a member of the organisation Africa Fighting Malaria points out, where heavy use of DDT in agricultural settings did occasionally cause harm to birds of prey that harm subsequently `proved reversible', and `after 50 years of study there is not one replicated study that shows any harm to humans at all'.

Yet African states are still put under pressure to avoid using DDT. This year the EU warned of possible agricultural sanctions against Uganda, Kenya and other countries that defiantly use DDT and vow to continue doing so. An EU official warned the Ugandan authorities that if indoor spraying of DDT meant there was `a risk of contamination of the food chain', then while `[it] would not automatically lead to a ban of food will mean that that particular consignment cannot be sent to Europe'. `The EU should be saying that DDT is safe and poses no threat to EU consumers', says Innis. `Instead they make either direct or oblique threats about possible trade sanctions. What they're really saying is, "We've benefited from DDT and gotten rid of malaria but you people in Africa cannot do the same".'

Innis has seen for himself the devastation caused by malaria. At Christmas his nephew, also a CORE activist, returned to a school in Uganda that he sponsors and found that 50 of the 500 children had died from malaria in a 12-month period. `What a waste of human life', says Innis. `What an avoidable tragedy.' He says the reason the malaria thing makes him so angry is that even in the poorest parts of Africa this disease can be stopped by a simple application of DDT. `You just spray a small amount, twice a year, on the walls of homes and it keeps 90 per cent of mosquitoes from coming in. It irritates those that do come in, which means they rarely bite. Every African home that needs it should have DDT sprayed on the walls.'

It isn't only the restrictions on DDT that anger Innis. He also champions the development of genetically modified crops, arguing that they could massively benefit African farmers. `Lots of people in America and Europe panic about GM, but I've spoken to Africans who want it', he says. `We don't want Africa to be left behind again and to lose out on this scientific revolution. GM could increase yields and ensure a good quality of nutrition.' And he isn't very impressed by arguments for sustainable development, claiming that it `stagnates real development, which is what Africa needs'.

Innis recognises that most green activists mean well. `They want to do right, but they are so wrong on some things', he says. His main concern is that environmentalist thinking has been elevated into an official dogma, taking centre stage in numerous debates about the developing world at the UN and the EU. He goes so far as to claim that green thinking about the Third World is `like a new form of colonialism'; he talks of `eco-imperialism'. `It is a colonialist mentality', he says. `Making decisions for other people from one's own perspective rather than from the perspective of the people being affected - that is my definition of a colonialist mentality and that is the approach taken by some officials and green activists to the Third World.'

The attitude of green groups (and other aid organisations) towards Africa and its problems are certainly deeply patronising and even dangerous. But I wonder if perhaps Innis, and other commentators and activists who try to challenge environmentalist orthodoxies, focus too much on the individual greens themselves - as if Greenpeace or Friends of the Earth were single-handedly, as part of some dastardly plot, subjugating the Third World to their political whims and storming the UN and the EU to force officials to spread environmentalism around the world. I would argue that these groups merely express, if in a more explicit form, the narrow outlook and low horizons of Western politics more broadly today. From the top down in the West - and especially in that creaking and slothful institution, the EU - meaningful development and industrialisation are seen as too risky and potentially damaging. Greens add a radical gloss to what is in fact a mainstream orthodoxy.

And by focusing on flashpoint issues such as DDT or GM, anti-green critics could also be said to be avoiding the hard arguments about what the Third World really needs. No doubt easy access to DDT would help to combat malaria and make life more pleasant for hundreds of thousands of Africans. But there are more fundamental reasons - to do with lack of development and widespread poverty - that means diseases can take hold in Africa in a way that they don't in most of the West. I'm sure introducing GM to Africa would be beneficial to farmers, but it would be no substitute for industrialisation and urbanisation, for liberating people from being reliant on farming in the first place, whether it be of the GM or non-GM variety.

Yet Innis is raising important - and controversial - questions. He's received a lot of flak for his arguments. Some greens seem especially irritated that a black man with a track record of fighting for civil rights is daring to criticise their aims and agenda. They claim that he has taken CORE from its civil rights roots to `the far right'. One commentator has awarded CORE the `Uncle Tom award', and the organisation has been accused of accepting `Black Gold' (geddit?) from oil companies and from Monsanto, the multinational biotech company developing GM technologies. Innis denies it. `I wish it was true. Where is the money at? I haven't seen it. I wish government and industry were giving more support to our programmes, but it's just not true.' Anyway, what does it matter where he gets his funds from if his arguments are on the money? Too often in these kinds of debates there is a tendency to look endlessly for some hidden pay packet or agenda instead of addressing the arguments being put forward. Forget about CORE's bank balance: what do greens make of CORE's arguments about the impact of environmentalism's low horizons on progress and development in Africa?

`If you criticise these things, you get a rough ride', says Innis. `Environmentalism is seen as the gospel truth, but it's far from that. We should be free to debate these things. For some people, it will be a life-and-death debate.'


Strange Bedfellows: Evangelicals learn to love big government.

When Al Gore's film on global warming, "An Inconvenient Truth," arrived in theaters on Wednesday, it had the usual endorsements from Hollywood stars, left-leaning politicians and radical professors. But it also had a blurb from a more surprising figure: Richard Cizik, the vice president of government affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals. Mr. Cizik has been hobnobbing with an unlikely crowd lately. One day he is in a Newsweek photo spread, clutching a Bible in front of the nation's Capitol. The next he is posing barefoot in Vanity Fair, looking suspiciously as if he is walking on water. The following week he is chatting up Berkeley professors and joining political powwows with Bono.

With Mr. Cizik's help, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE)--representing 52 member denominations and about 30 million evangelicals--has become one of the most talked-about lobbying groups in the nation. But what are evangelicals lobbying for these days?

Take the Evangelical Climate Initiative, endorsed by Mr. Cizik, which has "put global warming on the evangelical agenda," according to the NAE's Washington Insight newsletter. The initiative pushes the government to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions. It has been supported by Christian leaders from across the spectrum, including Rick Warren, the author of "The Purpose Driven Life"; Peter Borgdorff, the executive director of the conservative Christian Reformed Church; and Jim Wallis, the editor of the liberal Sojourners magazine.

While alliances like these may raise the eyebrows of a few purists, many evangelical leaders are too busy plotting policy to be bothered--and the environment is just the beginning. "We have a realist strategy," Mr. Cizik told me. "You go to the gays to pass the AIDS bill. You go to the ACLU to pass the prison-rights bill. You work with your erstwhile opponents to achieve the common good."

You also, it turns out, expand your notion of what the "common good" is all about. Just ask Ronald Sider. In its April 2000 issue, Christianity Today named Mr. Sider's "Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger" (1977) one of the most influential books of the 20th century. Recently rereleased and touted at pulpits across the country--the Presbyterian Church USA encourages its 11,000 congregations to use it--the book rails against the "ghastly injustice" of the free market.

Such cliches are music to the ears of NAE members. The group recently recruited Mr. Sider to co-chair the committee drafting its latest public-policy statement: "For the Health of the Nation: An Evangelical Call to Civic Responsibility." It's an ambitious document, proposing more government regulation of health care, an expansion of welfare benefits, more protections for the environment and various efforts to correct "unfair socioeconomic systems." It also rests on one central assumption: the government can solve all of our problems.

This sweeping agenda stands in stark contrast to earlier evangelical views. During the early part of the 20th century, evangelicals shied away from politics altogether, viewing it as a dirty business. It was only after the social upheaval of the late '60s that they finally emerged on the Beltway radar screen. Then, evangelicals tended to embrace small-government reforms like tax cuts and the Contract With America.

But the past few years have brought a new liberal breed of evangelical. "Why are these people punting to the federal government?" asks Jay Richards, an evangelical and a research fellow at the Michigan-based Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. "You can't be compassionate with other people's money. Even worse, they're not thinking about the consequences of these policies. They're too busy feeling warm and fuzzy and absorbing liberal ideas."

And now, these ideas are trickling out of the Beltway. In bulletins from four different Chicago-area churches, parishioners are being asked to write their senators, not a personal check. Groups representing more than 40 denominations have signed on to the public declaration of the so-called ONE campaign, whose mission is to dedicate 1% of the U.S. budget to foreign aid each year. ONE boasts the support of George Clooney, Naomi Watts and, of course, Bono. It's all very hip, and very vague. "ONE isn't asking for your money," the Web site declares. "We're asking for your voice." Well, actually, ONE is asking for your money, but the checks go to the IRS rather than directly to charity

Are evangelicals concerned that they're putting too much faith in government? "You know," Mr. Cizik told me, "I don't hear that very often. I don't think that's a huge concern among most people. I think they're enthusiastic about the progress we're making." In the past, evangelicals managed to progress without Uncle Sam. And today, there are still thousands of Christian charities around the world that use only private funds. That they are generally more effective than government-run programs seems now to be an inconvenient truth.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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1 comment:

Royco said...

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