Skip to comments.Environmentalist Laments Introduction of Electricity
Posted on 08/26/2002 5:02:28 AM PDT by kattracks
(CNSNews.com) - "There is a lot of quality to be had in poverty," and the introduction of electricity is "destroying" the cultures of the world's poor, according to a U.S. environmentalist, who commented on the eve of the United Nations Earth Summit in Johannesburg, South Africa.
But a pioneer of the environmental movement who left it because he viewed it as too radical, called the anti-electricity views an example of the "eco-imperialism" of the white upper-middle class who think it's "neat to have Africans with no electricity."
Gar Smith, editor of the Earth Island Institute's online magazine The Edge, spoke about what he considers the virtues of poverty during an interview with CNSNews.com.
Earth Island Institute, the San Francisco-based environmental group, once popular with millions of school children for its efforts to save Keiko, the killer whale that starred in the movie Free Willy, sent representatives to this week's Earth Summit.
"The idea that people are poor doesn't mean that they are not living good lives," Smith said.
Smith called the developing world's poverty "relative" and explained "you can't really have poverty unless you have wealthy people on the scene."
Smith decried the introduction of electricity to the poor residents of the developing world.
"I don't think a lot of electricity is a good thing. It is the fuel that powers a lot of multi-national imagery," Smith said.
According to Smith, electricity can wreak havoc on cultures. "I have seen villages in Africa that had vibrant culture and great communities that were disrupted and destroyed by the introduction of electricity," he said.
With the introduction of electricity, the African villagers spent too much time watching television and listening to the radio, allowing their more primitive traditional ways to fade away, according to Smith.
Smith lamented that "people who used to spend their days and evenings in the streets playing music on their own instruments and sewing clothing for their neighbors on foot peddle powered sewing machines" lost their culture with the advent of electricity.
"If there is going to be electricity, I would like it to be decentralized, small, solar-powered," Smith said.
Smith challenged Americans to give up their own modern conveniences.
"The real question is what personal conveniences and self indulgences are you willing to give up in order to stop destroying the planet?" he asked rhetorically.
The U.S. is not a model for the rest of the world to follow because "the level at which Americans consume is unsustainable," according to Smith. He projected that if the rest of the world consumed at rates similar to the U.S., the environmental degradation would require "three extra planets to exploit."
He called the notion that the U.S. needs to export the "American way" of life nothing more than "myth making" and revealed that many of his friends have already voluntarily given up automobiles in favor of bicycles and mass transit.
Smith used the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union as an example of how to solve ecological problems.
"There is a solution to climate change and pollution. We saw it happen to Russia when their economy collapsed. Their industrial plants closed down, the skies got clear. Their air is a lot cleaner now," Smith said.
'Eco-Imperialism at its Worst'
Patrick Moore, head of the environmental advocacy group Greenspirit, and a former founding member of Greenpeace, called Smith's views "eco-imperialism at its worst."
Moore left Greenpeace in the 1980s after becoming disillusioned with what he considered the group's radical approach to environmental concerns.
"It's that kind of arrogance that is coming from a movement that is basically white upper-middle class and is saying that it's neat to have Africans with no electricity," Moore told CNSNews.com.
"It is the same tendency that has caused Europeans to conquer the whole planet in the first place," explained Moore.
Moore said Smith's views represent a "naive vision of returning to some kind of Garden of Eden, which was actually not that great because the average life span was 35."
"What a terrible thing to say. It's just so obviously stupid -- this romanticization of poverty, where people can't afford to fix their teeth, can't afford decent nutrition, can't afford proper health care, can't afford education," stated Moore.
"What does he think -- that some illiterate with her teeth falling out in the mountains is a good thing?" asked Moore.
The dire poverty that exists in the developing countries, especially in Africa and Latin America are a "kind of poverty that no one would wish on anyone," according to Moore.
But Moore said many of the poverty stricken residents of the developing world do seem optimistic despite their conditions.
"It is amazing that hope springs eternal and people with their teeth falling out who are dying of malnutrition, still laugh during the day. But that doesn't mean it's good," Moore said.
Moore now views the environmental movement as having lost its original mission of ecological protection and is now occupied with encouraging class envy and anti-capitalist rhetoric.
"The environmentalists try to inject guilt into people for consuming, as if consuming by itself causes destruction to the environment. There is no truth to that. You have the wealthiest countries on earth with the best looked after environment" he explained.
Poverty, not wealth, is one of the biggest threats to the Earth's ecological health, according to Moore. "Look at the environmental destruction caused by poverty. They have no money left to reforest, they have no money left to prevent soil erosion, there is no money to clean their water after they make it dirty," he said.
Moore does not have much regard for the environmentalists attending the Earth Summit.
"They are mainly political activists with not very much actual science background who are using the rhetoric of environmentalism to push agendas that are more political than they are ecological," Moore said.
See Related Stories:
Earth Summit: 'Historic Milestone' or 'Big Circus'? (Aug. 23, 2002)
Environmentalists Link West Nile Virus to Global Warming (Aug. 19, 2002)
E-mail a news tip to Marc Morano.
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Give this one a look, people. Inside you'll find some enlightened folks who make Gar Smith look sensible.
They Hate Mankind but love feeling superior realtive to the rest of us. Leftists are like the 16 year old hoodlum raised by their Granny and dependent on her for their very life, but don't think twice about ridiculing her or swiping her retirement check.
There's nothing quite like a spoiled little rich White kid telling starving, diseased kids in Africa that they should be denied electricity in rural hospitals. It almost makes the subtle racism of liberalism appear to be overt for a fleeting moment...
He's right. Let's end all foreign aid. After all, the poor are probably perfectly happy without it.