1. The “evil corporation” is a theme that is used by several organization:
    Monsanto – That evil GMO company which provides us with food we eat
    350.ord – Those evil oil companies which provide the gas we use for our cars
    Rod Adams – Those evil nat gas and coal companies which provide us with electricity

    I’m struggling to understand whether the “evil corporation” is a useful tactic adopted by organizers or whether I should believe corporations are evil.

    If I learn to hate corporations (normally called “they”) does that mean I am any less responsible for my carbon footprint.

    I am debating whether to join 350.org, but am having trouble with the “evil corporation” theme.

    1. @Martin

      You misunderstand my position. I have nothing against coal and natural gas. I do not even have that much against coal and natural gas corporations; they are full of good people doing important and difficult jobs. My beef is with coal and natural gas MARKETERS that sell a message that implies they are cleaner and more abundant than they really are. My beef is when coal and natural gas INTERESTS (which often includes speculators and financial backs) work to limit the viability of nuclear energy because allowing it to prosper would reduce their market share and the market price for their supply-demand dependent products.

      1. Indeed. 350.org’s founder, Bill McKibben, has criticized George Monbiot for his “road to Damascus” moment, realizing that “dangers of radioactive pollution” had been “wildly exaggerated” by his fellow greens.

        Thus, 350.org remains staunchly anti-nuclear, but hey … what do you expect from a cult that worships a number?

        Martin – If hard labor on a collective farm sounds like a fun time to you (and it worked so well for the Soviet Union, don’t you know), then by all means join 350.org. Personally, I think that there’s nothing wrong with its members that a good deprogrammer couldn’t fix. 😉

  2. Martin, corporation are not evil, they only act that way, sometimes, in pursuit of profits. See BP. Most people dont’ have a problem with their wanting profits and then act surprised when the do so “by any means necessary”. I am not surprised, but then I look at business in larger paradigm of political economy. Most don’t.

    To wit: when corporation act “evilly” then they should get call to the mat on it.

    I’m not against GMO either, but I see the problems that companies, like AMD and Monsanto, have done truly “evil things” like suicide seeds and patenting already public-domain hybridized seeds and their active campaign to destroy heirloom seeds developed informally for hundreds of years by farmers. So, yeah, “evil”, the benefits of GMO notwithstanding.

    David Walters

  3. I don’t believe that (in general) corporations are evil. But I firmly believe that those who run them are just as much subject to human weaknesses as are the rest of us.
    If I see see someone else who threatens to take away my livelihood and way of life, I will react. And I may well react in ways that do not uphold the highest ethical standards.
    Corporations are run by people. Since much of what these people do in running corporations is in the public eye, they are limited in their reactions to existential threats. But react they will and do. A good part of the reaction will be to present what they do in the most favorable light (“Clean and safe natural gas.”) They will push to make regulation of their industry the least burdensome. I can understand this, though in the case of “clean and safe natural gas”, I question the honesty because the cleanliness and safety of nuclear energy is clearly superior.
    People running corporations will also react in ways that are ethically more questionable. Here we are talking about subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) support of groups who oppose their competitors, i.e., the support provide by the fossil fuel industry for “environmentalist” who oppose nuclear power. Or they will support supposed competitors who really are not a threat (fossil energy providers have little problem with wind and solar energy providers).
    Lest the rest of us think ourselves morally superior, we need to keep in mind that these corporations provide commodities that are necessary for modern life as it is constituted today, and thus provide a great good. Given this “force for good” factor, it is quite natural to think that the tactics discussed above are justifiable. After all, it would be a material evil if the use of these fossil fuels abruptly stopped. Thus the corporation must continue to do what it does, even it that means playing hardball at times.
    Perhaps the greatest failing of the people running to corporations is that they see role as providing fossil fuels, rather than providing energy. The next greatest failing is believing that increasing profits is superior to providing abundant energy inexpensively.

  4. “Bob” Geldof, an Irish singer whom I never heard of before, has taken a stance today on nuclear power. He is an anti poverty activist, an anti renewables and anti Mickey Mouse solutions to global warming.

    Now, this is an interesting angle for promotion of nuclear. I have always said that nuclear energy was the ultimate equalizer for energy stricken countries.

    The Dalai Lama and Robert Stone Pandora’s Promise also take this angle.

    Hey. What if the United Nations would stop sitting on their hands and setup funds/programs to specifically build nuclear applications to address poverty, water desalination, confort in third world countries ?

    Well just a thought.

    1. It may not be so easy.  Fossil fuel is big business, and coal mining is a big employer.  Lots of money changes hands, and a nuclear replacement for the mining, transporting and burning breaks a lot of rice bowls.  Last, a nuclear system for wide-scale use in the third world has to be robust against supreme leaders who are also utter technical idiots (think Robert Mugabe).  That’s a tall order.

  5. GMO’s and Nuclear energy seem to exhibit the greatest number of parallels in terms of their cultural opposition. They are both fairly complex technologies that are difficult to explain in lay person terms in a 30 second spot. Their benefits are not obvious to the average person. The opposition uses FUD tactics and relies upon the public ignorance to further their cause. And so on.

    The parallels of the market dynamics are a little similar too. Who stands to loose if there is widespread acceptance of GMO foods? Answer: the small organic farmer who no longer has any perceived value in his product, why then would people pay more for food that was not seen as any better than “traditional” farming products? They have a strong cultural backing to their cause so it’s not seen as just a small farmer making all the noise. The larger food companies have gotten in on the parade as well since the word ‘organic’ brings more sales at higher margins. Indeed the term is becoming more dilute with phrases like “40% organic” or “contains organic ingredients” appearing on food packages. So the market share dynamics are a bit different but it’s still a struggle for market share but this time based on perceived value instead a commodity stronghold as with fossil fuels.

    I must admit I’m an equal opportunity consumer when it comes to organic vs. traditional foods. If the quality looks good and the price is good, I don’t care if it’s organic or GMO or just ‘traditionally’ farmed. The taste and quality vary depending on the product. Sometimes the ‘organic’ tastes better, sometimes not.

  6. If corporations made of individuals seeking profit are evil, then what are governments made of individuals seeking power? Perhaps the title of Lynas’ book, “The God Species”, implies something that the author may not have intended: having been created in His likeness and image, we should behave like it – with an overwhelming sense of responsibility and accountability. That means of course using reason, logic, science, engineering and technology for humanity’s prosperity, whether that be genetically engineered crops to feed billions or widespread development and use of nuclear energy to provide safe, low cost, environmentally friendly electricity to billions. We don’t have a crisis of lack of food resources or lack of energy resources. We have a moral crisis of greed for money and hunger for power. I hope that as the truth gets out to the people here in our country and elsewhere, they will come to see how duped they have been by certain greedy, selfish persons – whether in corporations or in government – who evade any responsibility and abdicate any accountability to “love their neighbor as themselves.”

    1. @Paul

      We’ve had our disagreements over the years, but that is a terrific comment that is close to my own philosophy.

      1. Thank you, Rod & David.

        Rod, I am sorry for the manner in which I conducted my disagreements. Why I believe what I believe about the critical problems of our time – including what I believe about nuclear energy – is because of moral issues like these. But I did not behave consistent with my Faith and I apologize. I shall leave it at that.

        The Truth matters, not my opinions, not my feelings, not anything else. If genetically engineered crops can feed hungry children (and they can), then we must plant and harvest them. If nuclear energy can keep senior citizens warm on a winter’s night (and it can), then we must develop and use it. Letting children starve and the elderly choke on coal dust fumes is simply immoral. But I preach to the choir.

          1. I defer to your judgement in the matter, Rod. Being that this is your blog, you don’t need my permission, but such as it is you have it. I will reserve anything else for the Confessional w/ my priest. I may be a difficult person sometimes (ok, most of the time), but I know what I have to do.

  7. Quote: “In addition to his recent conversion from an anti GMO activist, Mark Lynas has also altered his position on nuclear energy from opposition to support.”

    Completely and totally false see http://www.spinwatch.org/index.php/issues/science/item/5450.

    Mark Lynas was never a serious anti-GMO activist and is a part of an organized PR campaign by the biotech industry to save a failed technology which is going nowhere unless they continue to get government protections like the unconstitutional Monsanto rider.

    I don’t have a problem people being promoting certain technologies but I have a problem with promoting by lying ( like the 2 trillion GM meals myth) and making false claims about your history.

    The opposition to GM is very different than opposition to Nuclear. Nuclear is about increasing power density and decreasing land impact.

    GM is about increasing monoculture and herbicide use and therefore increasing land impact.

    Nuclear is going modular and thus increases resilience and independence away from centralized grids system. GM increases dependence on centralized seed banks, large factory farms, and high impact global food distribution rather than local production.

    Nuclear promotes national self sufficiently but GM promotes food dependency on importation from transnationals.

    GM is promotes a inefficient biofuels system for transit power, Nuclear promotes highly efficient electrification and hydrogen based transit.

    GM is closer to the primitive logic of Solar partisans rather than Nukes with the idiotic focus on yield density which is the agricultural equivalent of reporting only installed capacity rather total cost per KWH per installed KW.

    Nukes should favor automated vertical farming which is much more natural fit for increasing electric power. Vertical Farming unlike GM is like nukes. Ahead of the curve, high power, low land impact, high density, highly controlled environments with little chances for leaks i.e. gene transfers and uncontrolled crossbreed, it reduces the number one cost i.e. labor and water inputs.

    GM is solar based thinking low tech based high labor systems. Polyculture and vertical farming are Nukes are high tech based automated systems. The future is indoor and vertical for the same reason that it is nuclear.

    GM like Solar only has the power to harm if we try to scale them beyond specialized uses. The laws of physics show us that a advanced space based civilization must be nuclear and with minimum area and water use therefore solar and GM are dead ends.

    The debate is over. GM has failed every time to deliver it’s promises just like solar because it is physically impossible to make a high waste monoculture system work like the low waste polyculture system which is needed. Stop wasting your time with idiots green like Lynas, Brand, and Moore. They are environmentalists from the Arthur Tansley’s school of “balanced ecosystems” which is total nonsense from the British Malthusians.

    Go back to the engineering basics. High Density, Low Waste, modularity, robust, precision control, etc… Ecologist and Environment know nothing. Ask engineers how to build for efficiency not so-called “scientists” or “environmentalists.”

    1. @Septeus7

      Many of Lynas’s former mates in the anti-GMO movement have been working hard to discredit him and have seized on several stories, including the one in which he has been falsely accused of being part of a PR campaign sponsored by large agribusiness. I hope you will take the time to read his own explanation of that.


      I also hope that you understand that there are “big bad” corporations that are misusing biotechnology just like there are big bad corporations that have screwed up nuclear technology by pushing the limits to ever larger and more difficult to build plants.

      Neither of those statements alters the facts about the technologies – both can be used to great benefit for mankind and both offer the opportunity for small scale innovations that can improve the lives of the least empowered people on the planet.

      Lynas, Brand and Moore are all knowledgeable environmentalists who fully understand the value of human innovation for increasing both resources that enrich us all and reducing our collective footprint on the natural environment. I highly recommend recent works by all of them, including Lynas’s “The God Species”, and Brand’s “Whole Earth Discipline” as excellent primers for doing well by doing things right.

      1. I’ve read his response and the response to that article by his and I believe his critics are correct mostly because his critics are actual farmers and scientists who have documented his connection to Neoliberal think tanks. I disagree that Lynas, Brand, and Moore, know what they are talking about,

        They simply “converted” from the the old 70s “limits to growth” enivronmentalism to 90s Californian Ideology see Adam Curtis’ “All Watched Over by Machines of Ever Loving Grace” which explains the regardless of being supposed political opposites they are rooted in the same ideology which isn’t scientific at all.

        If you want competent science you going to have mostly leave the environmental movement entirely and look at the stuff the engineer around where planning for NASA before Nixon fired everybody and science became all pessimistic.

  8. I recommend reading Lynas’ relatively long address slowly and carefully. He gives many examples of misguided environmental fanaticism, and he also give good examples of positive role models, such as the Gates Foundation. He is rightly critical of the thoughtless agendas of the Union of Concerned Scientists and Greenpeace.

  9. From Canadian billionaire Stephen Jarislowsky,

    We’re living in just about the most dishonest time in the history of mankind. It’s theft from A to Z

  10. Mark Lynas’ presents himself here as a reformed activist that has “seen the light” and now is connected to the REAL truth. Unfortunately, his reformation is only into a masterful propagandist, as he leverages his ‘prodigal son’ story to give him immediate (and unearned, it turns out) credibility.

    Here’s a sampling of Mark Lynas’ unsubstantiated assertions, assumptions and premises, which he is presenting as objective facts:

    1) He starts out declaring that the controversy over GMOs is a “communications failure”, which has led to unfortunate conspiracy theories based on fear and misunderstanding.

    Comment: What reasonable, thinking person wants to be seen rejecting “science”, and instead identifying with reactionary, ignorant flat-earthers? Not me certainly, and probably not any of us reading this. There’s just one problem with the way he framed this opening remark: the GMO controversy is not due to a “communications failure”. It’s due to the fact that a relentless drumbeat of real science, and real observations being made on the ground in real time, worldwide, are telling us that GMOs are a) a house of cards that are not sustainable in the natural world, and b) even if they were, they are making us, and everything in the food chain below us, sick;

    2) His next statement: these technologies – in particular the various uses of molecular biology to enhance plant breeding potential – are clearly some of our most important tools for addressing food security and future environmental change.

    Comment: This assertion is simply not supported by the facts. It’s true that Monsanto’s self-serving “tobacco science” is coming up with these conclusions, but independent and objective science, looking at what is actually happening in the plants and around the fields where this stuff is grown, and in the animal and human bodies that consume these “foods”, over many years, is drawing the opposite conclusion – that GMOs will ultimately contribute to an increase in food costs, food insecurity and environmental damage.

    3) He equates resistance to GMO’s with witch trials and eugenics, irrational policy making, and great damage being done to peoples’ lives.

    Comment: Nice touch, for a propagandist. No science to see here – just keep moving.

    4) He asserts that allowing anti-GMO activists to dictate policy making on biotechnology is like putting homeopaths in charge of the health service, or asking anti-vaccine campaigners to take the lead in eradicating polio.

    Comment: Heh-heh. Yeah, those stupid homeopaths and anti-vaccine campaigners!

    No time to give this the comment it deserves, but suffice it to say that there has been a lot of water under the bridge since the polio vaccine. The vaccination landscape today is unrecognizable from what it was in the 50’s when we were vaccinating for polio. Today, there is no affliction, real or imagined, that doesn’t have a vaccine to “fix it”, regardless of whether or not a vaccine is even the most appropriate way to “heal” a disease or illness. That question doesn’t even get asked by the vaccine manufacturers.

    Vaccine manufacturers have been given not only a green light by the FDA and CDC to “go to town” making whatever they think they can sell, but they have also been given complete (that is, COMPLETE) legal protection against any damages – no matter what.

    I don’t know about you, but if I was completely insulated from the consequences of my actions, I might act and do differently. Jus’ sayin.

    5) He explains that he has been subject to a lot of hate mail since he “saw the light” and began to see GMO’s for the wonderful servants that they are, and that scientists on the payroll of Monsanto and similar organizations are regularly subject to this anger.

    Comment: It’s unfortunate that people resort to hate mail, of course. But fu**ing with our food and water supply is a dicey business. It touches a primal place in all of us, and for those that can see the damage being done by these “scientists”, restraint is difficult. I say, if you can’t stand the heat, then get out of the kitchen. Actually, just get out of this f**king kitchen, no matter what. GMO’s are a solution looking for problem, and they are only still here due to blind hubris, boatloads of money changing hands at high places, and huge tax subsidies.

    6) He brings in that he has a “moral” obligation to put “these myths” to rest.

    Comment: Now he plays the moral superiority card, and that old canard: “it’s a dirty job, but someone’s got to do it”. Nice touch!

    7) More equating resistance to GMO’s with irrational conspiracy theories. He even names a few real stinkers in the catalog of conspiracy theories, so we can know just how stupid and irrational it is to object to GMO’s.

    Comment: Just one quote…”Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean that they are not out to get me.” -Andrew Grove, former Chairman and CEO of Intel

    The facts are indisputable: Monsanto, in it’s own words, has made worldwide domination of the food supply it’s goal, and they have been acting consistent with that goal. Corrupting governments and regulatory agencies, stomping on competitors, entire industries, and anyone in the way of their stated goal is only good business.

    And let’s not forget, Monsanto brought us DDT, PCB’s, Agent Orange, Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rGBH) and Round Up. Each time, they assured us that they were perfectly safe. When Monsanto says “Trust us”, keep your hands on your wallet and an eye on the door.

    He (finally!) gives us his first example of a benefit to GMO’s, which he implies only wild-eyed fanatics that don’t care about feeding starving people could possible object to: Golden Rice. This wonderful invention will purportedly give the starving people that eat it more vitamin A, which will (obviously!) compensate for their inadequate diet, making them whole again!

    Comment: I’m tearing up just thinking about how wonderful life will be for these millions of people, if only Monsanto can be allowed to sell them Golden Rice. BTW, he is quoting from a self-serving Monsanto “study” (is there any other kind?), which, as always, excludes the inconvenient truths and larger complexities that inevitably surround this (and all) silver bullet solutions to hugely complex social and economic problems.

    9) More equating GMO-objectors to climate change deniers and creationists. And yet more assertions that GMO-objectors are incapable of data-driven empiricism and looking at evidence as the basis for identifying and solving problems. He further accuses GMO-objectors of vacuous ideology and self-referential myth-making.

    Comment: Ok, enough with the empty, evidence-free analogies. It’s getting boring. Please stop.

    The irony here is that the GMO apologists (and due to the evidence rolling in against them, apologist is an appropriate term) are the real victims of vacuous ideology and self-referential myth-making. Truly the pot is calling the kettle black here.

    10) He asserts that ‘organic’ agriculture is less efficient in terms of land use, and therefore not justifiable.

    Comment: OMG. This is so myopic and absurd and wrong, on so many levels, that I don’t know where to begin. He is cherry-picking a narrow range of data over a relatively short time window – and he is completely ignoring the chemical and financial inputs, and the massive tax subsidies, necessary to make conventional farming viable.

    He is ALSO ignoring the critical importance of a vibrant and diverse soil ecosystem. Conventional farming destroys the bugs and micro-organisms in the soil, making the crops weak, disease-prone, and nutritionally depleted. Continued application of chemicals and ever stronger doses of Round Up and other weed killers quickly becomes essential to grow ANYTHING. We are creating massive deserts of dead soil, unable to produce crops without equally massive, and expensive, chemical inputs. But, I forgot, that’s good for Monsanto. So what’s not to like?

    You know, he goes on like this for a while longer, but it’s more of the same old sh**. I’m done.

    I hope Mark Lynas got paid handsomely by Monsanto, because he really earned it here.

    Again, everything Monsanto does is about making money worldwide domination of the food supply and creating a dependence on their products – these are their words, not mine. Their entire premise and reason for being is to profitably bend Nature to their will.

    Mankind’s infamous for his God-complex. There are many cautionary tales throughout history that suggest a modicum of humility and working WITH nature, as opposed to against it, is wise.

    Based on the evidence rolling in, GMO’s are a half-cocked brainstorm that emerged from unchecked hubris, and no sense of the breathtaking complexity, intricacy and beauty of the natural world & the organisms that evolved to live here over millions of years. We would all do better if these “tobacco scientists” would either get another job, or go back to school and learn the rest of the story.

    There’s no question about it, the ending to this story will be different than these arrogant, self-important high priests of “tobacco science” imagine.

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