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“We branched out into other issues including the toxic issues: acid rain, toxic dumping, pollution. You didn’t really need a PhD in nuclear physics to be against nuclear weapons. Nor did you really need a marine biology degree to want to save the whales. But when it came to chemistry and biology, and issues of toxins and pollution, it really is necessary to have some grounding in science.”
Some opportunists didn’t see it that way.
“I was the only international director with any formal science education. I have a bachelor of science, honours, in biology and forestry and a PhD in ecology. My fellow directors didn’t actually think that had any particular merit. They said they were ecologists. Well they actually weren’t ecologists. They were political activists, social activists, entrepreneurial types looking for a career in the now environmental industry, because you could take home a decent pay packet.”
The environmental movement has gone so seriously astray that it has become an impediment to the improvement of both human welfare and the environment.—Patrick Moore, Greenpeace
founder and Astur Gold director
The final clash came in early 1986, over a component of table salt. “My fellow directors decided that Greenpeace should adopt a policy to ban chlorine worldwide. As much as I tried to explain to them that, yes, chlorine is toxic and many of the compounds are toxic if they’re in the wrong place, there are many useful compounds of chlorine, such as putting it in drinking water and swimming pools. About 75% to 80% of our synthetic pharmaceuticals are made with chlorine chemistry. It turns out that chlorine is the most important element for public health and medicine. It seemed to me that the public health of the human population was important enough not to ban chlorine. Yet I couldn’t get it through their heads that they should have a slightly more nuanced policy towards the eleventh most common element in the earth’s crust.”
He walked out. Now describing himself as a “sensible environmentalist,” he emphasized opinions based “on science and logic rather than sensationalism, misinformation and fear.”
Nevertheless, he remains outspoken. “The environmental movement has gone so seriously astray that it has become an impediment to the improvement of both human welfare and the environment.”
Having said that, he doesn’t denigrate all environmentalists. “I assume most of them are sincere in their beliefs. Therefore I believe they’re misguided. I believe some environmental leaders are simply playing the game. It’s not that difficult of a formula. You cause fear in the public, they give you money so you can take the fear away. Guilt works too. If you can combine guilt and fear, you’ve got a winning formula.”
As for his work with Astur Gold, “I’ll be visiting their site in Spain in a month or so to meet the local people, to speak with them about my role and what I hope to accomplish as a director in influencing the company in environmental and social programs. I know that [company president/CEO Cary Pinkowski] and his directors have already thoroughly bought into the corporate responsibility model, and they will carry out those kinds of programs,” Moore says.
Okay, so sustainable and socially responsible mining can give us useful commodities like uranium, which creates energy. Potash creates food and base metals create consumer goods, many of which are considered necessities. But Moore is joining a company that wants to mine gold. What use is that?
“This whole thing about gold being unnecessary is really weird,” he responds. “If you take the position that jewellery is unnecessary, I suppose we should all just get into sack cloth and ashes…. It seems that throughout the history of the human species, there’s been a necessity to have cosmetics and jewellery. Then there’s the fact that gold is really valuable. If it wasn’t, no one would dig it. But the bloody stuff is worth sixteen hundred bucks an ounce. And why is that? Because there’s demand for it. So if there’s demand for it, it must be needed for something.
“The difference between want and need is a huge grey area. We could survive quite well on a diet of gruel, the same thing every day, breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’d also say gold is beautiful. It doesn’t tarnish. It stays shiny. It’s gorgeous, a wonderful, beautiful thing.”
Astur granted Moore 200,000 options exercisable for five years at $0.80. The company’s stock closed March 19 at $0.68, three cents above its opening price.
More on Moore …
Moore on nuclear energy: “An important and statistically safe industry. If you look at all the other energy technologies that we employ, nuclear ends up being about the safest.” Unlike hydro, solar and wind-generated electricity, nuclear energy can be installed almost anywhere.
Moore on genetically modified food: Thirteen years of opposition to golden rice “has caused eight million kids to go blind and die at an early age” from a preventable vitamin A deficiency. “That is a crime against humanity.”
Moore on climate change: “It’s quickly becoming clear that the climate has not been getting any warmer for the last 16 years … very few earth scientists and geophysical types would subscribe to this fad about humans being the main cause of climate change.”
Moore on forestry: “I believe trees are the answer, that we should be growing more trees and using more wood because wood is the most important renewable resource both for material and for energy that we have in this world.”
Moore on wealth: “I believe wealth is a good thing for the environment because people who are in poverty can’t afford to replant trees after they’ve cut them down for firewood, they can’t afford to clean water after they’ve made it dirty.”
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