Eco-activist Patrick Moore on how environmentalism lost its way
by Greg Klein
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What does it signify when Greenpeace founder Patrick Moore joins the board of a mineral exploration company—the final break with his former principles? Or the continuation of “sensible environmentalism,” a lifelong vocation that eventually severed him from mainstream activists? Moore discussed his background, beliefs and work with ResourceClips on March 19, the day Astur Gold TSXV:AST announced his appointment as an independent director.
Astur hopes to begin underground gold production at its Salave project in northern Spain by late 2014. At first this company might seem an odd fit for Moore, who came to prominence in the early 1970s while protesting U.S. hydrogen bomb tests in Alaska. That was when he and his fellow protestors harried the American military from a boat they called Greenpeace. In those early days of environmentalism, that boat lent its name to their scrappy little group. It grew tremendously, along with the movement. Moore continued to play a prominent role, serving nine years as president of Greenpeace Canada and seven as a director of Greenpeace International. But by 1986 he left—both Greenpeace and the wider mainstream movement.
Since then he’s scandalized more conventional activists with his support for a number of supposedly unenvironmental causes including forestry, genetically modified food and nuclear energy. And mining, which is “how I cut my teeth on environmental research.”
As a doctoral candidate from 1969 to 1974, he studied the environmental impact of British Columbia’s Island Copper Mine, which was eventually taken over by BHP Billiton. “It became a very political thesis because the mining industry didn’t like what I was doing,” Moore says. “They stacked my thesis committee with pro-mining people—not that I was anti-mining, I just wanted to get at the truth.”
He adds, “I’ve been close to the mining issue all through my time as an environmental activist. Recently in my consulting career I’ve worked with Newmont Mining [NEM] on their environmental and social programs in Indonesia, Peru, Africa, Nevada, so I’ve seen a fair bit of mining all my life.”
His work focuses on sustainable mining. “What I mean by sustainable mining is that you leave the environment in a condition that is going to heal itself. The second thing is leaving the community better than it was when you came, in terms of education, health care, industry training, capacity of all sorts. That’s why I’m involved in the mining industry.”
Since leaving Greenpeace he’s found more fulfilling work through endeavours like Greenspirit Strategies Ltd, a company that encourages corporate social responsibility and sustainability, and his current work as an independent scientist and consultant. He’s written extensively for a number of journals, in his Greenspirit Website and books like Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout. But to accentuate the positive, he finds it necessary to expose the negative. As the rise of Greenpeace mirrored that of the wider movement, Moore uses the organization to explain how environmentalism lost its way.
“In Confessions I describe the insanity of Greenpeace today,” he says. “Basically they’re against mining. If you ask them to show you a mining operation that is being done in a way that they consider acceptable, you’ll get no reply because they will not tell you that there is one. And yet they at the very least ride bicycles and use cellphones and laptops and ride in trains and perhaps an airplane or two when they go to their international meetings. Those are all made of metal. Where else can you get it?” he asks.
“They say, ‘Well maybe mining in general is needed, but not here—or here, or here, or there or anywhere.’”
Greenpeace began by opposing nuclear weapons, “which seemed an obvious target because nuclear war would have been a terrible disaster for humanity and the environment,” he says. Next was the save-the-whales campaign which protected a species from needless extinction.
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