Crichton on the Environment

posted Dec 18, 2003

Disclaimer: I'm not really a fan of Crichton. He was a tolerably good science fiction writer, though not in danger of being called a "Grand Master", which may be why he mostly got out of it. His latest efforts aren't really science fiction so much as Hollywood "sci-fi", where you read a couple of newspaper reports on a new technology, read a couple of summarizations from wild-eyed advocates and equally wild-eyed naysayers, and start writing without particularly caring if you even stay true to those sources. No need for real science. (Contrast this to the Jurassic Park book, which had a reasonably coherent use of chaos theory, for instance.) I went into this speech expecting to dislike it.

Instead, his speech matches almost exactly how I feel about environmentalism, except it's written by a good professional writer so it's better then anything I could have hoped to write. I would say the most important point of the speech was:

...the unhappy truth of the environment is that we are dealing with incredibly complex, evolving systems, and we usually are not certain how best to proceed. Those who are certain are demonstrating their personality type, or their belief system, not the state of their knowledge.... We need to be humble, deeply humble, in the face of what we are trying to accomplish. We need to be trying various methods of accomplishing things. We need to be open-minded about assessing results of our efforts, and we need to be flexible about balancing needs.... we must institute far more stringent requirements for what constitutes knowledge in the environmental realm. I am thoroughly sick of politicized so-called facts that simply aren't true. It isn't that these "facts" are exaggerations of an underlying truth. Nor is it that certain organizations are spinning their case to present it in the strongest way. Not at all---what more and more groups are doing is putting out is lies, pure and simple. Falsehoods that they know to be false.

When the environmental movement finally embraces this, then I can safely call myself an "environmentalist" without feeling dirty. In the meantime, I will continue to be frustrated that the loudest "enviromentalist" voices are doing more harm then those they oppose.


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