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“The Curse of the Radical Environmental Community”

MAY 20, 2008

 

Note:  For readers not familiar with the concept of our “Melmania” section, this is where your editor can take any subject and develop arguments regarding some ultimate conclusions.  Since some of those conclusions might sound extremely radical, the name of “Melmania” seems appropriate.

 

One of the most powerful of all public opinion avalanches that we have observed in our two-thirds of a century lifespan is the domination of the news by the environmental community, specifically in relation to the question of "Global Warming." We doubt that there is any greater threat to the success of natural resource development on this earth, including metals mining, petroleum, coal mining, forestry and agriculture as the threat, as we see it, from their obsession with stopping virtually every new resource development project dead in its tracks.

We can only speculate on the reasons for such a course, but one direction of that speculation leads to the conclusion that the environmental community, as a whole, believes industrialization itself is bad, that the production of consumer goods from natural resources is bad, that the alteration of the earth to any extent is bad and that we should return to as primitive a lifestyle as possible. In support of this contention I have noted many times the admiration that environmental leaders have expressed for the tribes of Africa who live "close to the land", to the North American and Australian aboriginal populations which in their past years lived off the land and to various nomadic societies which leave virtually no imprint on the land.

The admiration of the environmental leadership for theses kind of societies appears to be absolutely unlimited and appears to reflect precisely the direction in which they are attempting to drive our society at large. I would hope they would open their eyes and reconsider exactly what it is they are trying to accomplish, if indeed that is their desired goal.

In past generations, people were limited to what they could learn from the verbal "passing-on" of knowledge from tribal elders, the religious priesthood or similar sources. There was a stringent limitation on the availability of books because books had to be inscribed by hand, rather than printed by mechanical means. Therefore, even the most popular works such as the Bible or transcriptions of Cicero's works were limited in number and available only to the intellectual elite. Since the invention of the metal-based printing press by Guttenberg, later combined with power from gasoline or electric sources, there has been a remarkable, even astonishing, advance in the ready availability of books, magazines, reproduced documents, etc. among the populations of the world.

Does the environmental community really want to go back to a world of ignorance? If our industrial society is to be reversed, as environmental leaders appear to desire, that is exactly the direction in which we would be headed.

In past historic generations, people had no efficient and effective means of storing food efficiently and in a healthy manner for use in a future period. There was no such thing as refrigeration. There was only a limited amount of curing of meat or canning of vegetables, until the introduction and production of the can - the vacuum-sealed can made of metal - and the refrigerator, likewise made of metal and powered by electricity, both of that revolutionized the world of food preservation. Suddenly, in the historic 'twinkling of an eye', the average individual could preserve food effectively for weeks and months of future usage. Also, through refrigerated transportation, peoples in one locale could enjoy the produce from another region in a healthy and invigorating manner.

Is it the wish of the environmental community that we should return to the days when food was buried in the ground to be kept cool? Without an adequate supply of essential metals for the manufacture and distribution of refrigeration units, billions in developing nations around the world could be facing exactly such a quandary.

In the eras of previous generations, up until just a century or two ago, people had astonishingly limited wardrobes. A man's entire inventory of garments might be limited to one or two pairs of trousers, one or two shirts, a jacket of some sort and, perhaps, in frigid climates, an over-garment for warmth. In addition, one was likely to have scratchy and rough undergarments as well and a pair of rudimentary shoes - and that was about it! Women's wardrobes were also similarly limited in scope and variety.

The great transformation occurred with the invention of the power-driven textile loom after which it became possible to produce huge numbers of garments quickly and at exceedingly low cost. Suddenly, with the arrival of the industrial revolution, the ability of mankind to clothe itself in a pleasing manner with excellent variety became possible. This was yet another important benefit of energy-driven, metallic devices.

Is it the desire of the environmental community to return to the era of limited, uncomfortable, and dreary personal wardrobes? Without adequate metal supplies and without adequate energy, that could easily be one of the results.

The same is true of washing those garments. Whereas in previous history, washing garments was a function of brute strength, using water of dubious clarity and employing chemical cleansers remarkable in their harshness. The procedure usually took place in either a tub of water or a natural source such as a stream, pond, lake or reliable spring. In our era, we simply take dirty clothes, place them in a washing machine made almost entirely of metal, add modern detergents and rely on the flow of water into the machine, then combined with electricity or other source of energy, and the job is done cleanly, quickly and reliably.

Does the environmental movement really want us to go back to the ages of limited, filthy and inefficient washing conditions? Without adequate metal production or energy supplies, that may indeed be what we would face.

In those same years of historic eras, it was quite common for the general ignorance of the population to be compounded by an absolute lack of opportunity for travel. It is no exaggeration to state that many people lived their entire lifetimes without traveling more than 30 or 40 km (20-25 miles) from the place of their birth. They had no ability to travel further, other than by walking or riding an animal - and few people could afford the cost of purchasing and maintaining a horse or team of oxen. It was the advent of the passenger railroad, powered by an energy-driven metallic engine pulling coaches of metal, driven on metal wheels and riding on metal rails that began to radically expand the horizons of the world’s populace. That era was followed up by the private automobile and the highway systems of today which have truly made far-flung travel available to the general public. It also goes without saying that the realm of the power-driven steamship and the entire spectrum of airplanes added to the availability of travel - and all of those modes owe their existence to the metals mined from the earth and the utilization of energy sources also taken from the earth. The world of travel is now open to billions around the world, even those earning low to moderate incomes.

Is it the intention of the environmental community to drive us right back to the era of deprivation of that knowledge and experience which could otherwise be gained by extensive travel?

How else can we interpret the actions of those environmentalists? Every one of the advances in life noted above, and their collective impact has been beneficial beyond belief, has been created by the abundant mankind-directed availability of metals, coupled with various forms of energy - and then acted on by the tremendous imagination of inventive humanity. And, added to all of this, is the marvelous array of entertainment, communication, medical and computerized devices that also have been made available through the combination of mined products and available sources of energy.

And yet, we find the environmental community in automatic and total opposition to any new project involving mining or energy creation. It is as if they live in a wishful wonderland where a few windmills will transform the world back to what they want where somehow sufficient energy will be created from solar panels or the oceans’ tides to power our great industrial plants and our homes.

They are living in a dreamland. There obviously may indeed be advances which occur, but, for the most part, they are like little toys compared to the great energy and metallic needs of society.

However ill-conceived and unaware as many of their efforts might be, because of their political popularity, they are truly becoming a crippling force against the development of those products which society needs if the standard of life on earth is to be advanced for billions now living a marginal existence.

As matters relate to the mining industry, the environmental community has helped to create environmental bureaucracies that are monumental. They have helped create expanding bodies of law that are complex and unending. They have helped erect a body of regulatory procedures that projects must now follow that is so complex and time-consuming, many otherwise valid projects cannot attain actual production. In short, they are working diligently to destroy the mining industry.

The same is true of energy. Through devices such as the recent declaration by America that the Polar Bear is now a "threatened species" they will undoubtedly gain the ability to write regulations affecting anything that leads to the creation of CO2, since that gas is being blamed for Global Warming which then presumably leads to a diminishment of polar ice, and thereby affects the polar bear - which by law is now a "threatened species" requiring protective laws. The laws relating to such a situation, therefore, have the potential to expand into infinity.

It is time that the world became aware of the powers which have now been vested in the various environmental bureaucracies and how the expansion of those powers threatens the very viability of our society. Not only is the environmental movement growing larger, but it has also developed a tremendous vested interest among bureaucrats, politicians, lawyers and regulators that is awesome to contemplate. They make a favorable living - and that is putting things mildly - from environmental matters and the levels of prestige and power environmentalists have attained is beyond their wildest imaginings just a couple of decades ago. They have become a block of influence that is getting more and more difficult to confront successfully. That is simple reality.

The body of environmental law has been combined with already-extant laws relating to mining at federal, provincial and sate levels. Not only is the number of laws exploding, but the complexity of them is also growing at a frightening rate.

What can the mining industry do about it, if the goal is to make the public aware of the ominous threats represented by unlimited environmental influences? One answer is to continue and expand the utilization of every possible avenue of bringing some balance and truth to the public debate, a debate that now become so very one-sided.

Looking forward on a brighter note, it is also important to prepare for the day when the environmental community itself might come to their senses and realize the ultimate end of the path upon which they have embarked. Perhaps some inner quantity of common sense, now hidden out of sight, will let them know it is the wrong path which they have chosen, and a world with sharply diminished quantities of metals and energy is a world they may not welcome when it arrives.

At least, we can all hope that day will arrive before massive shortages of essential metals occur and irreparable harm is done to the ability of mankind to satisfy some of its most essential and elementary requirements.
 



 

 
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