Greenpeace is becoming a thorn in the side of the Plastics Industry Association (PLASTICS; Washington, DC), pushing its members to leave the trade group because of its affiliation with the most hated material on the planet. Yet, it’s interesting that a group with so much power to influence so many to follow its direction is derelict when it comes to science, which should be the basis for materials and the environment.
While cleaning out some old files last week, I came across this interesting editorial penned by Patrick Moore in the April 22, 2008, edition of the Wall Street Journal, “Why I Left Greenpeace.” Moore was one of the people who started Greenpeace in 1971. With a PhD in ecology, Moore said that he combined his science background with the “strong media skills” of his colleagues to promote the “pacifist” views of that time.
According to Moore, Greenpeace International’s intentions were noble at the outset, as it fought such activities as nuclear testing and the protection of whales that “stemmed from our scientific knowledge of nuclear physics and marine biology.” As time went on, however, Moore, who became a director of the organization, began noticing something taking shape within it: “I observed that none of my fellow directors had any formal science education. They were either political activists or environmental entrepreneurs. Ultimately, a trend toward abandoning scientific objectivity in favor of political agendas forced me to leave Greenpeace in 1986.”
And that, my fellow plastics industry colleagues, is basically how Greenpeace went from a science-based organization to one in which political agendas are of prime importance, science be damned!
That was the first crack in his relationship with the organization, Moore explained. The “breaking point” came when Greenpeace made a decision to support a worldwide ban on chlorine, in spite of scientific evidence that “adding chlorine to drinking water was the biggest advance in the history of public health, virtually eradicating water-borne diseases such as cholera. . . . Simply put, chlorine is essential for our health.”
The fight against chlorine was just the beginning of Greenpeace’s activist efforts against the use of nearly all industrial chemicals. “Sadly, Greenpeace has evolved into an organization of extremism and politically motivated agendas,” wrote Moore in his editorial. “Its anti-chlorination campaign failed, only to be followed by a campaign against polyvinyl chloride (PVC).”
Greenpeace’s new target, Moore noted in his 2008 editorial, became phthalates, the chemical compound that makes plastics flexible and that are found in many types of products from children’s toys to medical equipment and more. “Phthalates are the new bogeyman,” wrote Moore, noting that diisononyl phthalates (DINP) “have been used in everyday products for decades with no evidence of human harm.”
Despite the scientific evidence that phthalates do not cause harm to humans, Greenpeace began a concentrated political campaign that pressured companies to reject any plastic product containing phthalates.
Here we are 11 years after Moore’s editorial and the plastics industry continues to fight the political agendas of groups such as Greenpeace, As You Sow, Healthy Families Safer Chemicals, and more. They demand that safer products and chemicals be used to make those products, and yet, as Moore points out, none of the “potential replacement chemicals have been tested and found to be safe to the degree that DINP has.” You can put BPA into this same category!
It’s the same story with plastics versus all the alternative materials. If anyone is looking for eco-friendliness; reduced resource usage such as water and energy to produce the products; and safety benefits, including food safety, recyclability and reusability, there is nothing better than plastics. But to believe you have to look at the science, and that’s something these advocacy groups refuse to do.
After all, why do the hard job of scientific research when you can throw out your own agenda through myth and hype and make money doing it? Does anyone really believe that the people behind all of these advocacy groups actually care about the rest of us? Follow the money!
Moore concluded his editorial by saying, “We all have a responsibility to be environmental stewards. But that stewardship requires that science, not political agendas, drive our public policy.”
I have to believe that science is on the side of the plastics industry. We must keep promoting the science to overcome both hype and greenwashing, and keep plastics the amazing material that it is. There’s no better alternative.
Moore was recently appointed Chairman of the Board of Directors of CO2 Coalition.org, a group dedicated to educating the public about the benefits of CO2 (a very weak greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere, including increased crop and forest growth. He is the author of the book Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout, released earlier this month.