What The Green Movement Got Wrong

Category: News Release

"Being an environmentalist was part of my identity and most of my friends were environmentalists. We were involved in the whole movement together. It took me years to actually begin to question those core, cherished beliefs. It was so challenging it was almost like going over to the dark side. It was a like a horrible dark secret you couldn't share with anyone." Mark Lynas, author and environmentalist

A group of environmentalists across the world are challenging the movement they helped to create. They believe that in order to save the planet, humanity must embrace the very science and technology they once so stridently opposed. In this 75-minute film, these life-long diehard greens advocate radical solutions to climate change which include GM crops and nuclear energy. They argue that by clinging to an ideology formed more than 40 years ago - the traditional green lobby has failed in its aims and is ultimately harming its own environmental cause.

This film will be followed by a live studio debate at 10.20pm, chaired by Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow.

Environmentalist and critically-acclaimed author Stewart Brand was once a pioneer of the original green lobby, but is now at the vanguard of this new movement which argues for a pragmatic, realistic approach to solving environmental problems. Brand explains how an overly romanticised vision of nature is stifling constructive debate and experimentation that could save the planet.

British environmentalist and author, Mark Lynas was part of a direct action group in the 1990s that raided GM research facilities and cream-pied climate sceptics. He has become frustrated with the lack of impact the environmental lobby has had on climate change despite decades of campaigning and blames its apocalyptic prophecies for losing the battle for public opinion. The green lobby, he says, ‘cried wolf' too often.

Lynas explains how the increasingly apparent necessity for a constant supply of clean energy led him to think the unthinkable and ‘come out' as a supporter of nuclear technology. When it was first founded, one of the guiding principles of the conservationist movement was to oppose the testing of nuclear weapons. Lynas describes how this deep-seated fear of their destructive power continued with the development of nuclear energy - and was seemingly vindicated by the explosion at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the USSR. He travels to Chernobyl, ground zero for the anti-nuclear movement, to find out the real impact of this disaster.

Climate change has manifested in its most destructive form in parts of the developing world where poverty increases its impact. Dr Florence Wambugu is a leading African scientist seeking to find practical solutions to hunger and malnutrition.  She has spent twenty years developing GM staple crops which are nutritionally enhanced carrying traits for vitamins, iron and zinc. Dr Wambugu wants these crops to help reduce the high levels of child blindness and dramatically cut malnutrition in her home, Kenya, and other African countries, yet strong opposition, demonstrations and lobbying from the European anti-GM lobby have hindered their use. 

Dr Wambugu criticises what she believes to be a misguided anti-science ideology that has left tens of thousands of Africans starving: "They have no moral responsibility to tell us you cannot eat GM.  The attitude is we can't even talk for ourselves, we need someone to talk for us....They don't offer you any alternative, they just tell you to stay out of it."

Indian environmentalist Sunita Narain believes development is as important as protecting the environment. She wants to bring electricity to the 400 million people in India who currently live without it. She questions the fairness of asking the developing world to halt their use of energy by Western nations built on it: "Can you live without electricity? Can I live without electricity? So why do you expect anyone else to?"

For these pioneering thinkers, the reality is that no western lobby will be able to act the gate-keeper of new technologies. The leading edge of the science is now in the developing world and it is moving at break-neck speed. China is already planting genetically engineered corn and tobacco.. Dr Shantaram, a GM scientist and lobbyist says: "The genie is out of the bottle, environmentalists will not win this war in the end. They will throw a lot of obstacles, they will delay, they will obfuscate but it is not stoppable, this technology has arrived and it is here to stay."

These new environmentalists accept that our world is changing, that we cannot reverse progress and should not wish to if we seek to raise millions out of poverty and hardship. The future of the planet is dependent on our ability to adapt, be flexible, creative and ingenious through embracing science and technology.