They sit in economy class occasionally wiping their clammy hands. Their eyes dart furtively about. They wonder whether the stewardess or passenger next to them might have become suspicious. Some even grow moustaches or beards - to cover the 'giveaway' sweating top lip.
But they are not terrorists. At least not in the modern sense of wanting to blow up the airplanes they travel in. Far from it, for they love nothing more the sense of self-importance international jetsetting offers. Travelling that delivers them in far-flung destinations where they can evangelize their ascetic ordinances to thousands of fellow worshippers. But while travelling their chief fear is that they will be found out. Who they are, what they preach - and expose their moralistic hypocritical behaviour.
They are the Green Bigots, leading environmentalists, those at the vanguard of the fight to change our lifestyles, restrict our foreign flights, who insist we do our 'bit' to cut greenhouse gas emissions while they rack up thousands of airmiles on business and pleasure trips."
As the UK's The Sunday Times has recently revealed, "In the past year the directors and chief executives of groups such as WWF, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the Soil Association have crisscrossed the globe, visiting the Falklands, Japan, Africa and Brazil." The ST's environment editor points out, "All are running high-profile campaigns to persuade people to change their lifestyles and cut emissions of carbon dioxide."
The article identifies a number of well known examples. They included Bob Napier, chief executive of WWF, who through jetting to various destinations in Asia, the Americas and Europe helped generate more than 11 tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) last year. As the ST points out, aviation generates around 5% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions "but their warming effect is up to four times greater at high altitudes." To get this in perspective, a typical British household generates about six tons of CO2 over a whole year.
Tony Juniper, director of Friends of the Earth, is another who has had to admit to having flown business trips across three continents - in addition to flying his family on holiday to Slovakia. "This weekend he is on a business trip to Nigeria, " reports the ST, which goes on to claim Juniper's trips contributed to around 8 tons of CO2 emissions. Graham Wynne, chief executive of the Royal Society for the Protection of Bird (RSPB), has this year completed business trips to Indonesia, Washington and Scotland - as well as taking his family on holiday to New Zealand.
Only one person in an organization, you might think? But then the RSPB will next month be burning large amounts of carbon emitting fuels by importing its supporters to the centre of London to protest against how much others are contributing to global warming. The piece quotes a sheepish RSPB boss: "There are a lot of contradictions like these which organisations like ours have to solve." I'll say. Like asking themselves why, in the age of Internet conferencing, such international jetsetting is even necessary. And let's be kind and not enquire what 'moral dilemma' led to Wynne flying his family halfway around the world on holiday. And, given the burgeoning culture of international environmental conferencing, this is just the tip of a fast-advancing iceberg.
Commenting on the ST exposé, Guardian columnist George Monbiot - a regular moralist on climate change, told the ST he was "very disappointed - especially if they were flying on holiday." Monbiot has demanded that Western countries cut carbon emissions by 90% by 2030. As the ST writer cryptically observes, "meaning a virtual end to flying". Monbiot's airmile-accruing environmentalist friends would plainly not be pleased. We do not know if Monbiot is tarred with the same global roaming proclivities of some of his Green friends, so we must assume he sticks to travelling locally and as far as his plug-in car battery allows.
In 'Green Bigots International', Thomas Sowell, the Rose and Milton Friedman Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institute, has written:
"They call themselves environmentalists but a more accurate term would be green bigots. What makes someone a bigot is that he wishes to deny other people the same rights he has. That is the hallmark of the environmental bigot. Green bigots operate internationally, just like the more famous fanatics"
In a similar vein, Sowell notes, "Like others who seek special privileges, the green bigots claim to be speaking for others - 'future generations', for example." But Sowell gets to the crux of the matter when he observes, "Nature worship is fine for those who want it. I have nothing against faith-based organizations. But a theocracy imposing its will on others is something else, even when it is a theocracy of nature-worshippers."
Now here I must declare an 'faith' interest. I am a writer who happens to be a committed Christian. While my belief system is, I would argue, rooted in fact and historical events, ultimately, I frankly acknowledge, it is, like all worldviews, a belief system held by faith. Though I am always very happy to talk about faith and articulate a well-reasoned case for my own, I eschew seeking to impose my moral code on others. It appears some leading Green activists have no such compunction.
If the essence of sanctimonious pharisaism is the art of publicly advocating one belief while privately practising another, then it seems quite a few leading environmentalists are reaching new heights of hypocrisy. At around 30,000 feet, I would say.Peter C Glover is a regular TCS Daily contributor & writer who blogs at www.petercglover.com