Excerpts from a 2003 address by the Australian Institute of Public Affairs

to a Farmers Federation meeting in Melbourne


The Green Movement: Time to Get Serious


History is replete with examples of societies allowing narrowly based interest groups to latch onto a valid issue, to present a distorted prognosis that eventually becomes mainstream and, in the process, do great harm not only to society at large but to the initial issue as well. This process has unfolded in the Western world over the last thirty years with respect to the environment. Activists, often with a hatred of commerce and modernity, have captured the institutions, the prognosis and the communication of environmental issues. Despite the validity of earlier environmental actions and the fact that environmentalism has become a mainstream value, too many Green groups remain radical, seeking to exploit environmental concerns as a means of revolutionizing society and controlling commerce. They have become watermelons, red on the inside, green on the outside.


Society, having failed to impose accepted standards of representation, has given government and media standing to “deep” Green groups as “representatives of the environment” on a false basis.  Institutions and individuals that bring specialized knowledge and skills to bear on an issue should certainly be recognized and respected. But most Green organizations have no such expertise other than political advocacy. For example, recent employment of three biotechnology campaigners depended not on proven knowledge of science but rather on proven experience in campaigning. A lead campaigner to protect the Great Barrier Reef against sugarcane farmers has a degree in opera. A safe water campaigner has an arts degree. And we regularly see a rock singer with a law degree lecturing against biotechnology. Yet we have allowed these “spin” merchants to present themselves as experts and to accept their views as revealed science.


The “Greens” have developed a “victim versus villain” scenario where they play the role of saviour. In the latest version of this drama, agriculture is the villain and Mother Nature the victim. Thus they now claim farming is the country’s most environmentally destructive industry. Their representatives hold well -paid positions of influence in government bureaucracies, research institutes advisory bodies and regulatory agencies. An increasing proportion of their funding comes from government, corporations, international agencies (i.e. the United Nations) and private foundations. This means they are becoming even more independent of local community needs. Worse, they have seduced the media and our children into believing that they alone are the true champions of the environment.