TCS Daily

Give the Gift of Life

By Paul Driessen - January 7, 2004 12:00 AM

During the recent holiday season, many of us were focused even more than usual on helping people and making the world a better place. Seemingly endless solicitations bid us to support causes that seem eminently worthy. Well-fed, safe in our modern homes, minutes away from good jobs, hospitals and every modern convenience, we responded warmly to them.

Unfortunately, however, good intentions sometimes go awry. Clever appeals often mask a hidden agenda that actually makes life infinitely worse for people on the ultimate "receiving end" of our kind-hearted donations.

Environmental groups like Friends of the Earth importune us for funds to help them battle proposed hydroelectric, coal, gas and nuclear power plants in India and Africa. Put solar panels on huts instead, preserve indigenous lifestyles, they plead. And the money rolls in -- from people, companies and foundations -- to the tune of over $4 billion a year to U.S. eco-groups alone.

The donors get warm fuzzies. The activist groups ramp up another campaign. And 2 billion people in Africa, Asia and Latin America continue to live without electricity -- and without lights, refrigeration, hospitals, water purification or better jobs.

Mothers and girls spend hours each day gathering wood or cow dung -- and more hours breathing acrid, polluted smoke from their cooking and heating fires. Four million infants, children and mothers die every year from readily preventable lung infections -- millions more from dysentery and other diseases caused by unsafe water and spoiled food. A huge brown cloud of pollution hangs over much of southern Asia, as a result of all these fires.

Opposition to these electrical energy projects is "a crime against humanity," a man in Gujarat, India says angrily. "People cut down our trees, because they don't have electricity," Uganda's Gordon Mwesigye points out, "and our country loses its wildlife habitats and the health and economic benefits that abundant electricity brings."

We used DDT to eliminate malaria in the United States. Now environmental activists can afford to rail against pesticide use in Africa, while they enjoy all the comforts that our high-tech, malaria-free society bestows upon them. Meanwhile, 2 million Africans die every year from this dreaded disease. Over 200 million get so sick each year they can't work, go to school, care for their families or tend their fields for weeks or months on end. Millions are so weakened from malaria that they succumb to AIDS and other serial killers that stalk these impoverished lands.

Why? Because Greenpeace, the Pesticide Action Network, Sierra Club, World Health Organization, and even the US Agency for International Development do all they can to prevent this miracle pesticide's use. Instead, they promote drugs and insecticide-treated bed nets. Hollywood elites and big donor groups like the Ford, Pew, MacArthur and Schumann foundations support these callous groups with tens of millions of dollars a year.

Drugs and bed nets help. But they are expensive, hard to get and often don't work. They mean hundreds of thousands of children and parents die every year who would live, if their countries could also use DDT -- spraying it in tiny quantities on the inside walls of homes, just once or twice a year, to repel, incapacitate and exterminate mosquitoes.

Fifi Kobusingye ran into one of these activists in the Kampala, Uganda airport this past November. "You don't have malaria," she told the woman, "because you used DDT." The woman replied, "But we lost our birds" -- referring to erroneous claims by Rachel Carson and others that DDT had killed birds and thinned eggshells.

"Well, I lost my son and nephew, and my friend lost her daughter," Ms. Kobusingye responded. "Don't talk to me about birds."

Biotechnology could fortify plants with vitamins, to reduce malnutrition and blindness, replace crops devastated by disease and drought, and reduce the need to cultivate so much wildlife habitat and use so many pesticides. It could also help developing countries compete with European and American farmers who get over $300 billion a year in subsidies. But eco radicals oppose this technology too -- and piously call themselves ethical and socially responsible.

"I appreciate ethical concerns," comments Kenyan plant biologist Florence Wambugu, "but anything that doesn't feed our children is unethical." We wouldn't stop using penicillin just because it causes allergic reactions in a few people, she notes, and we shouldn't ban genetically engineered crops, just because noisy activists raise speculative safety concerns.

Well-orchestrated campaigns against so-called sweatshops a few years ago generated so much adverse publicity that Nike, Reebok and other companies closed their plants in Pakistan. Thousands of men, women and children lost their jobs, causing average family incomes in the country to fall dramatically. Most of the children ended up, not in school, but in the streets -- as beggars, thieves and prostitutes -- and many starved to death.

Activists claim this wasn't their intent. However, it was the result -- and the result was certainly predictable. The likely consequences were simply ignored, and the radicals have done nothing to alter their anti-business campaigns in the aftermath.

"Telling destitute people they must never aspire to living standards much better than they have now -- because it wouldn't be 'sustainable' -- is just one example of the hypocrisy we have had thrust in our faces, in an era when we can and should grow fast enough to become fully developed in a single generation," says South African Leon Louw. "We're fed up with it."

"Indigenous customs aren't so charming when they make up one's day-to-day existence," observes Kenya's June Arunga. "Then they mean indigenous huts, and indigenous poverty, malnutrition and childhood death. I don't wish this on my worst enemy, and I wish our so-called friends would stop imposing it on us."

"The environmental movement has lost its objectivity, morality and humanity," says Greenpeace co-founder Patrick Moore. He's absolutely right. Environmental activists who've never known starvation, never had to live without electricity, never had to watch their children die of malaria or dysentery, must no longer be allowed to put their anxieties, priorities and agendas ahead of the desperate pleas, the most basic needs, of destitute people who wish only to improve their lives, and save their children's lives. It's eco-imperialism. It's hypocritical and immoral. It's lethal. And it has to stop.

Too many social and environmental policies today reflect the concerns, preferences and gloomy worldview of a small cadre of politicians, bureaucrats, multinational activist groups and wealthy foundations in affluent developed countries. These self-appointed "guardians of the public interest" have been allowed to define and impose the criteria by which business ethics are determined, decide which of society's goals are important, and insist that countervailing priorities be ignored.

Even worse, says Niger Innis, national spokesman for the Congress of Racial Equality, "they are helped every step of the way by people who ought to know better, and ought to be the first to challenge their assumptions, claims and demands: corporate executives, human rights groups, U.S. civil rights leaders, journalists, college professors and even clergy. By their silence, they accept and encourage the human rights violations, and the brutalizing of entire nations and continents."

So as we move into this new year, resolve to give something special. Give the gift of life. Learn more about these issues. Investigate and challenge the claims and policies of radical environmentalists. Contact legislators, clergy, newspapers, talk show hosts, corporate executives and foundation directors. Demand change. And give your money to groups that help, instead of hurt, the most destitute and deserving people on earth.

Millions of parents and children will be alive to thank you.

Paul Driessen is a senior fellow with the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (Washington, DC) and the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise (Seattle, WA), public policy think tanks. Readers can learn more from his new book, Eco-Imperialism: Green Power · Black Death, and its website:

These topics will be discuss in depth at a symposium on January 20, 2004, in New York City, held in conjunction with the Congress of Racial Equality's annual Martin Luther King tribute. For more information, visit CORE's website at


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