Blogger James Delingpole has got me mad. He wrote a post on the Daily Telegraph blog claiming that environmentalists are “ditching climate change” as a cause. Instead, he says, they are taking up biodiversity as “the new big lie.”
One big lie is that environmentalists are ditching climate change in favor of biodiversity. Anyone who follows the field knows that climate change is one cause of biodiversity. It’s hardly likely to be “shamelessly” shoved aside in favor of the “newer, younger, sexier model” — biodiversity.
The other big lie is that biodiversity is indeed a “lie” or a “scam.” Here are four points of rebuttal to this preposterous assertion.
1. Sensationalist headline designed to drive traffic
First, such a simplistic provocative headline (‘Biodiversity’: the new Big Lie) seems crafted to get hits for a blog page on the Daily Telegraph site. There’s no attempt at accuracy. Biodiversity in of itself is not a “lie.” It’s an observation. Biodiversity is the variety of life on Earth. It exists. It’s there, and it begs our understanding and appreciation. So to say “biodiversity is a lie” is a sensationalist semantic diversion. Is the motive for calling biodiversity a scam more to do with lust for controversy and website visitors than with valid science or economics? It’s rather mercenary to use a topic of genuine importance and great concern just to drive traffic.
2. Author has no science background
Second, Delingpole has no background in science. He read English at Oxford. In the absence of meaningful science, his arguments cannot be given any credence. There’s more than enough science that supports the importance of biodiversity and its frighteningly precipitous attrition. Thousands of scientists, including many in the Pimm Group and colleagues, have dedicated their lives to unraveling the mysteries of biodiversity. And thousands more have dedicated decades of research to showing how intricately human well-being depends on high levels of biodiversity. High biodiversity is vital to society for ecological, economic and aesthetic reasons. How can someone with no background in science meaningfully argue against the weight of such academic gravitas?
3. Biodiversity provides services to humanity that are impossible to replace
Third, we cannot afford to lose significant biodiversity. According to a 1997 paper in Nature , for the entire biosphere, the value of ecosystem services “is estimated to be in the range of US$16–54 trillion per year, with an average of US$33 trillion per year.” Do those for whom biodiversity is a “lie” have a sound plan to provide such services once nature is no longer able to? Why are calls to preserve biodiversity, and legislation and regulation to limit biodiversity loss a “scam”? How can reasoning informed people believe the bizarre myth that preserving biodiversity is a conspiracy by governments and institutions to control the populace?
4. Human actions are causing biodiversity to disappear in a mass extinction of life
Fourth, the overwhelming consensus of scientists is that biodiversity is indeed undergoing a crisis, ranking with the great mass extinctions of geologic history. If we do care about the variety of life on Earth, and about its demise, then how is it a “scam” simply to want to do something about it — to right a wrong? It’s human nature to protect something that’s precious and beautiful. It’s the human instinct for justice and to do what is right. That’s a simple truth. Those who cannot see that truth deserve our pity. They can’t see what we stand to lose… what future generations will never experience. What of those who do see such truth but don’t care or, worse, exploit that vulnerability for their own material or social gain? What will their children and grandchildren thank them for?
So shame on those who use their talents to promulgate such nonsense, and shame on the Daily Telegraph for providing a platform to spread such misconceptions any wider than they deserve. If anyone is scamming, it’s someone who tells “big lies” to boost their Internet traffic and to cultivate their reputation as a perfidious mudslinger.