TCS Daily

Sinners in the Hands
Of an Angry Gaia

By David Mastio - January 11, 2002 12:00 AM

Delusional. That's the only word that fits.

Christopher Flavin, president of the Worldwatch Institute, one of Washington's most influential environmental activist groups, has gone completely off the deep end. While holding odd and often discredited beliefs is not unusual for the leaders of many national environmental groups like Worldwatch, in this case we are talking a whole new level of insanity. Think Walter Mitty and Don Quixote.

Flavin's latest take on the world around him appears in his introductory essay to the new "State of the World 2002," Worldwatch's flagship publication of ecological prophecy released today (Thursday).

Like every other essayist in the U.S., Flavin was touched by the events at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. He writes:

"As my Worldwatch colleagues and I recovered from the initial shock and confusion, we began to consider the deeper implications of September's tragedies. At their core, these disturbing events are powerful reminders that the ecological instability of today's world is matched by an instability in human affairs that must be urgently addressed. Meeting basic human needs, slowing the unprecedented growth in human numbers, and protecting vital natural resources such as fresh water, forest and fisheries are all prerequisites to healthy, stable societies."

For a minute there you think he's going to say "Wow, it dawned on me and my compatriots that there's stuff just as important as my ecological crusade." Alas, no. His argument is that September 11th proves we need more population control and environmental regulation. Exactly what he thought before September 11th. Exactly as if September 11th never happened.

That's bad enough. Sort of creepy and pathetic, along the lines of fellow green Lester Brown's assertion the day after the attack that global warming is creating "a potential for disaster that could make what happened in New York yesterday look small." Climate change, mass murder. No big diff.

But Flavin's not through. Later in the essay he takes the argument to the next level of lunacy (albeit ponderously):

"It is now clear in a way that it never was before that the world of the early twenty-first century is far from stable. At a time when we are still adding a billion people to the human population every 15 years, many societies are struggling with the difficult transition from traditional rural societies to modern, urban, middle-class ones. In many of these societies, basic human needs for food, water, health care, and education are not being met, with over a billion people living on less than a dollar a day. Moreover, the lack of democratic political representation and the concentration of economic and political power in a few hands has created a fundamental instability in many nations - an instability that echoes around the world in the form of large-scale human migration, illegal drug exports, and, increasingly, terrorism. If the lofty social and ecological goals of the Rio Earth Summit had been achieved, it is possible that the crisis of the last year would not have occurred" [emphasis added].

You remember the Earth Summit, a global gathering of government leaders and the self-proclaimed defenders of the environment, which produced a voluntary global warming treaty, a biodiversity treaty, some goals for environmentally sound development and the "Rio Declaration," an environmentalist wish list untethered to reality. So according to Flavin, if the world's governments had capitulated to the environmental movement's demands at the 1992 Earth Summit, Osama bin Laden wouldn't have killed 3,000 people in New York nine years later.

In a way, he sounds similar to Jerry Falwell, though Falwell's take on the Sept. 11th attacks was more direct: "I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way - all of them who have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'"

In other words, thousands are dead because America isn't run exactly the way Falwell thinks it should be. Flavin's claim is even grander. Thousands are dead because the entire world isn't run the way Flavin thinks it should be.

While it's hard to tell whose comments are worse, it's easy telling which one will get everything that's coming to him. In the days after Falwell revealed the full extent of his dementia, right-wingers of all stripes rushed to denounce him. He was lambasted by the triumvirate of conservative opinion leaders - National Review, The Weekly Standard and the Wall Street Journal. It's doubtful he'll ever recover any credibility.

But Flavin won't need to recover his credibility, because he'll never lose any. His goofy comments will be largely ignored in the major media and by next week, he'll be back to being quoted as a serious environmental leader.

If we lived in a just world, Flavin and Falwell would be sent out to sea on an ice floe where they could argue whether it was a vengeful God or an angry Gaia that guided bin Laden's hand. Until, that is, the ice melted and they sank leaving the rest of us with a little silence.

David Mastio is an editorial writer for USA Today.

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