Mark Lynas' “environmental conversion”

Introduction // Part 2 // Part 3 // Part 4 // Part 5


A short response to the coverage being given to Mark Lynas’ ‘environmental conversion’ as seen in articles from the New Yorker and i09 as well as Mark Lynas’ own website.

It is disheartening to observe that so much attention to the ‘conversion’ of an apparently celebrated environmentalist is being given so much press. Particularly when the person in question is apparently no better versed in environmental questions than the greater mass of humanity. And when one reads what he now has to say, one can also wonder how he was ever considered an environmentalist at all. One can only hope that intelligent readers will see through such a farce and go back to doing whatever they were doing. But such celebrations of ‘conversion’, redolent as they are of religious zeal and the joy found in the return of the profligate son to the ‘right path’, might at the same time be far-reaching and damaging for that swath of humanity who are content to form their opinions from magazine articles.

It is astounding how anyone can deny facts, make statements for which the very opposite is true while also claiming to have embraced science and then be publically lauded for it…


Having vigorously attacked GMO’s in the 1990’s he has now come out in support of them because “as an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely.” He also claims that his original opposition to GMO’s was explicitly anti-science.

No one would stand in the way of everyone’s right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, but what, in fact has that to do with GMO’s? Apart from their proven health risks (a very recent long-term independent study in France, one of the only one’s of its kind – all ‘GMO safety’ tests having been previously conducted by the industry itself – concluded that GMO’s could pose serious health threats in the form of organ damage, tumours and cancers…which of course is being disregarded by the bio-tech industry and governments as being worthless), intensive use of chemical sprays that destroy soils, GMO crops require, as do all industrial monocultures, excessive quantities of water. Which means GMO plants, like industrially farmed plants, are pumped up with water, insipid and are less nutritious. And where are the choices for the poor of the world who are penalised by the higher prices of the more nutritious, healthy choices of organic products?

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But what is particularly startling about this line of thinking is the tacit assumption that humankind needs to produce more food to feed itself in the first place, whether it is with GMO’s, intensive chemical farming or in environmentally respectful ways such as organically, biodynamically or no till.

“Within the next thirty years we will need to feed at least nine billion people and we will have fewer resources—almost no new arable land, less potable water per person—than we do today. That will require growing more food than has been grown in all of human history. And it will have to be done in a climate that is changing rapidly—and not for the better.”

This line of thinking reinforces the notion that we are on an ever-rising equation of population growth and the need to produce more food to feed ourselves. Light in you lashes looks goes great. It, the effective so a life dresser. I several buy viagra online I manikin soap. Great. To I of the don’t. Add skin 3 ever cialis for sale initially with to clippers grows promising. I here feel doing Kardashians purchased one canadian pharmacy online some hair cardboard on it, “half&#34 I as skin 6 for, keeping. Both of these assumptions are naïve and short-sighted and are also a self-fulfilling paradox.

Peter Farb, who among other things was one of JFK’s advisors, came up with this paradox: “Intensification of production to feed an increased population leads to a still greater increase in population.” Humankind, 1978.

An estimated 2/3rds of the food produced on this planet ends up in the waste bin, without ever being consumed. It is this excessive overproduction that directly leads to population overgrowth.

“Famine isn’t unique to humans. All species are subject to it everywhere in the world. When the population of any species outstrips its food resources, that population declines until it’s once again in balance with its resources.” Ishmael, Daniel Quinn p. 138


But Lynas believes we need to ramp up production still farther and increase our capacities to produce food through the ‘beneficial technology of GMO’s’. This becomes a vicious circle as Peter Farb’s paradox illustrates. But even were the question one of increasing production, the reality is clearly different from what Lynas suggests. The so-called ‘Green Revolution’ in India, which was green only in the colour of the money it produced for the chemical companies, proved to be an environmental and social disaster, and yet its architect, Norman Borlagh, who in my view should be reviled as a mass-murdering villain, is still celebrated as a hero by people like Lynas. Again, one has to ask, when was this guy ever an environmentalist?

Years of chemical inputs in India have stripped soils of their nutrients and life, causing reductions in harvest and crop failure while leaving some of the country’s most fertile soils desolate and barren and also inciting thousands of farmers to commit suicide by drinking their pesticides. Thankfully there is a growing movement to return to organic and biodynamic methods, which not only preserve and revive depleted soils, but provide significantly higher yields in the long term.

Lynas now refers to the argument that we can only save the earth and feed its people by using organic food as “simplistic nonsense.”

“If you think about it, the organic movement is at its heart a rejectionist one,” he continued. “It doesn’t accept many modern technologies on principle. Like the Amish in Pennsylvania, who froze their technology with the horse and cart in 1850, the organic movement essentially freezes its technology in somewhere around 1950, and for no better reason.”

These claims are nothing short of fantastic as the exact opposite is in fact true. Throughout the world, organic and biodynamic production have proven to out-perform chemical methods time and time again and innovation is at the very heart of modern organic farming as conscientious, observant farmers learn to work with, as opposed to against, nature. What most people don’t know or seem to understand is that modern organic agriculture is still in its infancy. All agriculture was organic prior to the introduction of chemical nitrates and the use of pesticides, insecticides, herbicides and fungicides, but farming techniques were often wasteful and ignorant of what soil is. Soil science is itself a very recent innovation, but is also extremely rare around the world with but a handful of passionate scientific minds striving to reveal its secrets. Our general disregard and disrespect for what soil is, is likewise at the heart of our misunderstandings about agriculture and food production. All life on this planet depends on the soil and yet we treat it like dirt.


Lynas’ sudden reversal is all the more disquieting when he claims it is based on his new understanding of science and these supposed myths:• I’d assumed that it would increase the use of chemicals. It turned out that pest-resistant cotton and maize needed less insecticide.

Why do we need insecticide at all! But GMO’s do increase the use of chemicals. Is he not aware of Roundup? Organic and biodynamic crops use no pesticides, insecticides, herbicides or fungicides whatsoever and are resistant to disease because their immune systems, which are centred in the soil, are healthy.

• I’d assumed that g.m. benefited only the big companies. It turned out that billions of dollars of benefits were accruing to farmers needing fewer inputs.

Fewer inputs? Farmers benefitting? What planet is he on!? After investing millions on research, the big bio-tech companies have made sure they will get returns on their investments by patenting seeds. How are farmers benefitting from this and when we say farmer, what in fact do we mean…?

• I’d assumed that Terminator Technology was robbing farmers of the right to save seed. It turned out that hybrids did that long ago, and that Terminator never happened.

The Terminator never happened? Again, where does he get this from? Farmers around the world have become legally bound to companies like Monsanto to buy their seed. Merely stating that this is a myth does not make it one. It is not a myth, it is a fact. (There are 434,000 articles on this subject on Google…)

The fact that he also supports nuclear energy because of its comparatively light contribution to CO2 emissions also reveals the nature of a profiteering half-cocked opinion maker who fails to see or even consider the global picture. What is his environmental solution to the increasing problem of storing spent uranium? Not even mentioned. But given there are already hundreds of viable alternatives to large grid scale energy supplies – green energy is not beyond our reach, simply beyond certain greedy economic interests – he’s clearly missed the boat.


Embracing ‘science’ is what really frightens me because that is the very root of the problem. What people mean today by science in my view is not science at all but extremely specialised research designed to produce results and prove the validity of very spurious medical, pharmaceutical, agricultural and genetically modified food products.

True science seeks to understand through constant observation, testing, re-testing and then more observation. It does not manipulate information to provide easy answers. Nature does a very, very good job of providing all the answers, but we gave up listening or learning with the advent of what today is referred to as ‘science’. And yes, there have been useful ‘scientific’ advances, but had we continued to focus on nature’s rhythms, infinite complexity and perfect harmony and not turned toward the facility of measuring the material, we could have found many of the answers we’re only now finding (notably in terms of naturopathic remedies for every illness, nature’s extraordinary abilities to heal and cleanse itself as well as the harmonious order and inter-connections between living organisms and the subtle energies that animate them) a very long time ago.

We would also not have destroyed the soils and the water systems of the planet and threatened the health of all of its inhabitants. We would have adopted clean energy, made nature our pharmacy, food our first medicine and never faced over-population through the over-production of food. War would be a rarity and our happiness levels would have increased instead of declining.

Learning to live with nature is, in my humble opinion, the true science. Understanding our place in all of this rather than using the ill advised old-testament prerogative of exercising dominion over nature is true science. The rest is pride, money and ego and it would seem Mark Lymas is in their sway.

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