EurActiv - Letters to the Editor

Sir,

Regarding ‘Risk consultant: EU R&D hostage of ‘eco-religious fundamentalism’‘:

Recycling is no more ritualistic than washing your hands after you go to the bathroom or making sure your smoke alarm has a battery – i.e. it has a clear purpose. If the language on climate change is apocalyptic, it is because the situation is grave and there is an urgent need for action.

To claim that this makes the environmental movement a religion is nonsense, and shows a fundamental misunderstanding of religion and science. Indeed, for someone who wishes to promote science, he should realise that the point of the environmental movement is that it is continually reshaped and defined according to the evidence. The same cannot be said for religion.

While it is true that Europe badly needs to invest and engage with science and technology, there are many reasons for this, including historical class bias against the sciences, an ill-informed media, lack of financial investment, low salaries for most academics and research scientists (particularly compared to the USA) and the rise of religion and relativism (all kinds of religion, including new age ones – perhaps this is where the confusion with environmentalism comes from).

If business is suffering from increased probing and use of the precautionary principle, this is in part because society has learned that politicians and businesses cannot be trusted to tell the truth on these issues, and are now demanding greater scrutiny. Time and again, business has sought to hide and obfuscate the negative impacts of its actions.

Furthermore, the precautionary principle is not a maxim applied to life: it is something used when the risk of failure (i.e. the loss of a valuable ecosystem or mass poisoning) is too great to ignore. This is not to say it is sensible in all cases, but to blame this on environmentalists as a whole, who are often at the forefront of demands for a science-based approach to policy, and not merely a utilitarian approach (conservation, renewable energy, fisheries, atmospheric pollution, climate change etc), is misleading.

Alasdair Cameron

Private citizen

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