One of the lovely things about being a Green preacher is that the media usually lets you get away with being a sanctimonious hypocrite.
The Australian media recently reported the righteous anger of one David Risstrom -- a candidate for the Green party in Australia's national elections expected later this year -- who recently criticized Australia's premier national scientific research organization, CSIRO, for hiring a former spokesman for Big Tobacco. Risstrom thundered that someone capable of telling such untruths for tobacco companies is "wholly unsuited to represent CSIRO and the high standards of evidence-based scientific research it represents'."
This is a very reasonable point to make, but the question is: was Risstrom quite the man to make it? It's odd to hear him now defend "evidence-based scientific research'', when this is the same man who only last month praised the Government of the State of Victoria for its wholly unscientific ban on commercial crops of genetically modified canola -- a ban that Nobel prize laureate Peter Doherty and former CSIRO chief Adrienne Clarke both condemn as anti-reason and against all the evidence that such crops are safe and useful.
Risstrom's Australian Greens party has itself proved again
that "evidence-based scientific research'' is actually something it
ignores as desperately as Big Tobacco ever does when its vital interests are
threatened, and facts trump its faith. The Australian public broadcaster, the
ABC, reported that the Greens were marking the 18th anniversary of the
explosion at Ukraine's
Chernobyl nuclear reactor by
demanding the Ranger uranium mine in Australia
be shut down.
The ABC went on: "The Greens claim thousands of people have died and are still dying as a result of radioactive poisoning after a nuclear meltdown at the plant."
Of course, this is far from the first time journalists of Australia's elite media have repeated green falsehoods as fact, never thinking to check the truth for themselves. How often have wide-eyed reporters echoed that, yes indeed, the world has never been hotter, Tuvalu is drowning in rising seas, genetically modified food is dangerous, wind farms really will stop global warming, children's plastic dummies are toxic, we're losing thousands of species each year and on and scarily on.
All false, naturally, but there's something about Chernobyl that makes greens glow with untruths that are even bigger and more shameless still. "Thousands'' have died at Chernobyl, say Risstrom's Greens. Try 2500, says Greenpeace. Or more.
Yes, more, says Peter Garrett singer for pop group Midnight Oil and President of the Australian Conservation Foundation: "The accident caused the deaths of more than 30,000 people.''
Wait, it was actually predicted to cause "75,000 deaths from radiation'' by 2001, insisted an excited reporter from another ABC program a few years ago.
Keep going, says Britain's Green Party: "We know that 15,000 people were killed in the immediate aftermath'' and "the total number of deaths is now 12 times that."
Still too few, says the Green Left Weekly, a mini
circulation newspaper published by the neo-communist Socialist Alliance party
In fact, "97,000 clean-up workers have died from radiation poisoning'',
and "between 1986 and 1993, 12,000 children died.''
Any advance on 109,000?
Why, yes, I do believe there is. It's the Australian Conservation Foundation again, this time claiming in its publication "Australia at the Nuclear Crossroads" that "250,000 people have died as a result of the Chernobyl tragedy." Gosh, see how numbers mutate when they're exposed to satanic radiation.
But what does the "evidence-based scientific research''
that Risstrom praises actually tell us about Chernobyl?
In 1996, a United Nation's body, the International Atomic Energy Agency, wrote
a definitive summary of the scientific evidence of the effects of the Chernobyl
explosion, and concluded that just 28 workers at the plant died from radiation
exposure, two from the blast, one from a heart attack. Another 14 people later
died of suspicious illnesses that in fact "may not be directly
attributable to the radiation exposure."
The IAEA added: "The only evidence to date of a public health impact of radiation exposure'' since then has been an "increase in thyroid cancer in those exposed as children'.' Three of those children, tragically, died, after not getting the right medical treatment.
No reputable study has challenged those conclusions, which were presented to a Vienna conference called by various UN and European Union agencies to learn from this disaster.
So that's the best evidence of the toll of Chernobyl -- fewer than 50 dead.
Not 250,000, or 109,000, or 75,000, or 30,000 or even 2500.
But fewer than 50, or a tiny fraction of the number of workers killed each year
Actually, that's not quite right. We should add to the toll the 200,000 abortions the IAEA estimates were performed on European mothers who were so terrified by green fear-mongering over Chernobyl that they feared they'd give birth to mutants.
No wonder that a disillusioned founder of Greenpeace, Patrick Moore, says many green activists now are anti-science, with "too many of the hallmarks of the Hitler youth or the religious Right."
So I'm glad to hear a prominent Green such as Risstrom now defending, however opportunistically, "evidence-based scientific research." But I suspect the day will come when being a former mouthpiece for the green religion will seem every bit as shameful as having spruiked for smokes.
Andrew Bolt is a columnist for the Herald Sun Newspaper in Melbourne, Australia.