Many people are aware that the world’s poor desperately need economic development. Few realize, however, that a major obstacle to overcoming global poverty is the anti-development and anti-human environmental movement that camouflages itself under ubiquitous “Earth-friendly” shades of green.
This lack of awareness is no accident. It's come about through a “See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil” syndrome, where “evil” refers to the many ills of the modern environmental movement.
The syndrome is borne out by recent events related to the eye-opening documentary, "Mine Your Own Business: The Dark Side of Environmentalism," a film about environmentalist efforts to stop economic development in poverty-stricken regions around the world.
The syndrome’s “see no evil” aspect is exemplified by the efforts of Greenpeace and 80 other environmental organizations to block the movie from being shown in Romania (where much of the film was shot) and Washington, D.C.
A Greenpeace official was invited to be a special guest at the film's Washington, D.C., premiere at the National Geographic Society headquarters.
Instead of accepting the invitation, which included the opportunity to participate in a post-screening discussion panel, Greenpeace sent a letter to the Society expressing outrage at the decision to permit the film’s screening.
A Greenpeace-friendly newsletter demonstrated absurdly warped logic by asking a National Geographic spokesman whether the organization would rent out its facilities for the showing of a pro-Nazi propaganda film or a pornographic movie.
“I’m appalled by their demand to shut down the film,” said Frayda Levy, president of the screening’s co-sponsor, the Moving Picture Institute.
“We invited [Greenpeace], but instead of joining us for a discussion, they display breathtaking narrow-mindedness. Regardless of whether you love or hate 'Mine Your Own Business,' it deserves to be seen. What makes them so afraid of this film?” Levy wondered in a media release.
The “hear no evil” aspect of the syndrome is demonstrated by the recent experiences of "MYOB" filmmakers at the International Finance Corp., the private finance arm of the World Bank.
Though filmmakers Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney declined comment, the IFC apparently had contacted them about hosting a screening of "MYOB" in the bank. The IFC finances a lot of large infrastructure projects and has had to wrestle with anti-development environmental groups that try to block those development efforts.
Not only did the IFC invite the filmmakers to screen the documentary, it also offered as a form of payment to do what it did with Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” that is, purchase 200 DVDs and distribute them to local schools. McAleer and McElhinney jumped at the offer.
But a rather sheepish IFC official subsequently contacted the filmmakers and said that the bank had rethought its offer. The bank could only find the funds to buy 10 copies of "MYOB" and it had decided it would not distribute them to local schools.
Instead, the bank would lend them internally to bank employees. A final condition was that the filmmakers were not allowed to tell anyone or announce to anyone that the IFC showed the film.
After the screening, World Bank employees, on a one-by-one basis, reportedly commented to McAleer and McElhinney about how true "MYOB" was, but that they were not allowed to say so within the bank.
The syndrome’s “speak no evil” aspect is exemplified by my recent personal experience with consumer products giant Procter & Gamble, which touts its support for “sustainable development” on its Web site.
Concerned that the company was promoting a concept that has become an Orwellian eco-activist term for blocking all development opportunities no matter what the humanitarian costs, a shareholder group with which I am affiliated filed a related shareholder proposal with the company.
In negotiations concerning the proposal, we asked Procter & Gamble to consider distributing copies of "MYOB" to its employees as a way of providing them an alternative viewpoint on “sustainable development” and to make a public statement to the effect that the company thought it was important to hear alternative viewpoints on environmental topics.
But while the company agreed to distribute copies of "MYOB" to its employees, it refused to make the public statement. Procter & Gamble’s position was that it didn’t want to be seen as endorsing a particular organization’s point-of-view — an ostensibly reasonable position except that the company has previously publicly endorsed the viewpoints and mission of the Rainforest Alliance, an anti-development environmental group.
Without the public acknowledgment, we doubted that the company was serious about the need for balanced views on sustainable development. Since negotiations collapsed, we’ll be raising the issue with Procter & Gamble’s CEO, Alan G. Lafley, at its annual shareholder meeting this fall.
The combination of intimidating environmentalists and intimidated organizations has resulted in a tragic absence of debate about the environmental monkey on the backs of the world’s poor.
Until we can at least talk about what environmental policies may be doing to developing nations — let alone debate these policies — we will have little hope of changing the lamentable state of affairs that has blocked life-saving economic development.
Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and CSRWatch.com. He is a junk science expert, and advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.