Monday, December 11, 2006

When The “Environmentalists” Are Simply All Wet

It’s been like watching somebody drown, slowly. It’s been that way ever since last Thursday, when the Sierra Club of Canada’s British Columbia chapter convened a press conference with a bunch of fancy charts, and claimed that global warming is threatening a rise in sea levels sufficient to put Victoria, British Columbia’s capital city, under water.

The whole thing has been excruciating to watch. The newspapers have been filled with ridicule. The really embarassing stuff is here, where you can read the club’s executive director Kathryn Molloy claim: “We are almost certain to see a six-metre sea level rise if we cannot keep the global average temperature rise below two degrees. This could happen within the lifetime of my grandchildren if we do not take significant global action immediately to curb global carbon emissions.”

And that's the "best case scenario," Molloy said.


"This is alarmist scaremongering at its worst," Andrew Weaver, professor at the University of Victoria's School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, told the Province newspaper on Sunday. "If world temperatures rise another 2.7 C this century, we could reach a tipping point that would see Greenland melt. Sea levels could then rise six to seven metres over several millennia. That's thousands of years. I repeat: Thousands of years. Plural."

The Province story isn't online, but Weaver also wrote a letter to the Victoria Times-Colonist to distance himself from Sierra’s B.C. chapter and its “silly and counter-productive” flood fright. “Climate change is a serious issue and it is alarming that an organization such as the Sierra Club would so overstate the case as to make it ridiculous,” Weaver wrote.

I wouldn't be paying such attention to this except that until recently, I was a conservation adviser to the Sierra Club here on the West coast, and I don't want anybody associating me with this embarassing carry-on.

I haven't had anything to do with the Sierra Club's B.C. chapter since last summer, when the chapter had what is euphemistically described as a "parting of ways" with the club's long-serving conservation chair, Vicky Husband - Order of Canada recipient, Order of B.C. recipient, UN Global 500 award-winner and founding mother of the conservationist movement around these parts.

With Vicky gone, there was no way I was going to stick around with that crowd.

In today's Times-Colonist, columnist Iain Hunter [whose column is also regrettably not online] drew the obvious connections between Vicky's departure from the B.C. chapter last summer and the club's current water-logged condition. The official story, when Vicky left, was that Vicky's approach was overly emphatic about proper science, whereas Kathryn Molloy wanted a more "communications-based and people-focused" approach to such questions as global warming. Hunter wrote: "As it happens, we saw this week where communications-based technology and focusing on people has taken the Sierra Club."

I'll say.

What's especially embarassing about it all is that not only did Victoria Mayor Allan Lowe get dragged into this, but so did several New Democratic Party MLAs, including Maurine Karagianis (Esquimalt-Metchosin), Ron Fleming (Victoria Hillside), David Cubberley (Saanich South), and Corky Evans (Nelson-Creston). They were all at the press conference. They all bought the scare story. They were all made to look stupid. Which isn't fair.

The whole thing was a cock-up, so don't blame the mayor and those other politicians. They were counting on Sierra's B.C. chapter to be right because of its reputation - which Vicky Husband built, almost singlehandedly. And don't blame the Sierra Club of Canada, either.

And don't blame Vicky Husband. She had nothing to do with this. Neither did I.


Blogger keefer said...

Someone in my family sent me a black Sierra Club backpack last year. Since I make a point of not joining basically any organization or political entity, even if I agree with most or some of what they stand for, I scratched out the "S", "I" and "A" from the white lettering. What I had left of course was "Err club". Which is perhaps more fitting, bearing TG's points in mind.
Coincidentally, someone I know must have also signed me onto their e-newsletters, sometime in the past year. They've done some really good work, it would be a shame if they were to lose some of that credibility.

12:06 AM  
Blogger SnoopyTheGoon said...

Err club - fantastic. It is much better and makes my job easier. I was going to add a few rude words, but this simply disarmed me.

People like that shrill lady undermine the good work some Greens do and certainly help the opponents. Double jeopardy time.

4:54 AM  
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2:47 PM  
Blogger Stephen said...

This has been very difficult for me, as someone who used to be involved with the Serria Club, to watch. The factual science-based case for climate change is so strong and this kind of unecessary crap just makes it even harder to put down the deniers.

I wonder if any of the other enviornmental groups such as the Suzuki Foundation have spoken up to distance themselves from this.

7:31 PM  
Blogger Jonathon Narvey said...

I'm glad you posted on this. When I saw the claim about the rise in sea levels, I just knew someone had gotten their press release out before checking it with the scientific community - or someone who had taken science courses up to the grade 10 level.

As usual, you beat me to it. Keep up the good work. Enjoying your column in the Tyee, by the way.

8:06 PM  
Blogger tglavin said...

Thanks, Jonathon. Hope you're doing well, by the way.

And Steve: I guess this is one issue where we're both of exactly the same view. I spent several years working in an advisory capacity with Sierra, and doing a lot of research and consultations for the B.C. chapter - which has now gone and wrecked its reputation because of this. Instead of issuing a groveling apology and a retraction, they're going into defense and attack mode, which is just making things worse. As far as I can see, if they're not stopped, they'll bring the reputation of the Sierra Club down with them, nationally, which would be tragic.

4:49 PM  
Blogger IceClass said...

Ever since Robert Hunter signed on to a cruise with Greenpeace and filed fantastical stories of whales cavorting and fighting in moonlit swells the clash between the science and "communications" wings of the environmental protest industry has defined their output more often than not in critically stifled ways.

"If you can't achieve your aims through facts, then baffle your opposition with bullshit. Deceive with dazzling dramatics, fabricate fantasies fired forth with flair and shower your targets with flamboyance and firery rhetoric."

- Paul Watson

Now, you'll excuse me while I go buy a few sealskins to support my local neighborhood harvester and attempt to fix some of the mess created when "communications" needs (or is that limitations?) overpowered the science.

12:56 PM  

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