Goodbye to Life as We Like it When the Greens Get in For Their Chop

Peter Walsh

[First published in The Australian, 6 August 2002]

Green politicians are a big force in Tasmania after the recent state election in which they polled one of the best results for a green party anywhere in the world. They hold the balance of power in the WA Legislative Council and might be involved in the New Zealand Labour Government. Last year they won a Senate seat from the Australian Democrats in NSW. And with the decline or demise of the Democrats, they may have a balance of power in the Senate.

This prospect is dangerous and could threaten our high living standards.

In the 20th century, especially the second half, nearly two billion people in the First World achieved a quality of life and standard of living beyond the expectation---beyond even the imagination---of any previous civilisation. The health, welfare and disposable incomes of the overwhelming majority of people is superior to that of the ruling class of any previous society.

Mass affluence is taken for granted, so much so that its origins, the things that made it possible, are not recognised by many people and denied by some.

Ignorance and delusion fostered by the affluent society may yet be the seeds of its destruction.

What are the preconditions from which 20th-century affluence evolved?

Firstly, item of faith though it may be to many people, unions contributed little and may even have had a negative impact. Unions can and have affected the distribution of income, but until the past century the margin above subsistence---what Marx called surplus value---was too slender to support mass affluence.

In the Third World it still is. In subsistence agricultural economies, where most labour is employed producing enough food to feed the people (and periodically failing to do so), mass affluence is not possible.

Huge growth in the productivity of agricultural labour (and land) releases labour for other industries. Affluence is a function of productivity. Factors that have boosted productivity include:

  • Growth of scientific knowledge and its application to production processes;
  • Technical progress and innovation;
  • Mechanisation;
  • Capital accumulation;
  • Market economies;
  • International trade; and
  • Fossil fuels producing cheap abundant energy.

All of those factors are condemned by green ideologues who, if they could, would wind them back. They prefer secular religious fundamentalism to scientific method. All technical innovation---unless it is likely to have negative economic effects---induces campaigns to ban it under the "precautionary principle".

Luckily for us our near or distant ancestors---though often a bit superstitious---did not follow that absolutist nonsense.

Greens stridently assert that modern agriculture---which feeds a vastly greater population much better than in any previous era and at much lower cost---is "unsustainable" and must be replaced by "organic" farming. They are oblivious to the fact that the countries which practice organic farming are the countries in which malnutrition and sporadic starvation are endemic.

Green extremism is a threat to actual and potential mass affluence. It seeks to deny affluence to the world's poor.

In countries which are already affluent, it poses a serious threat to social and political stability. It has yet to be demonstrated that liberal democracy can survive a sustained decline in per capita income and living standards.

Those who believe Greens will never get the political power to impose that outcome should look at their sabotage of the WA timber industry.

For forty years Greens asserted the timber industry was biologically unsustainable and destructive of biodiversity. Neither was true.

For 30 years more wood was grown than harvested. Despite repeated challenges, green activists have been failed to name a single species of flora or fauna destroyed by logging. In contrast. 30 to 40 species have disappeared from the Swan coastal plain on which Perth was built.

For more than 100 years high rainfall-zone karri and marri forests have been clear felled, burned and regenerated on the ash beds, which give delicate seedlings nutrients and access to sunlight. Clear felling and fire replicates the natural cycle of fire and regeneration. Many of the most beautiful forests scattered around the southwest have been regenerated in this way.

For 25 years governments from both sides have appeased strident green demands to "protect old growth" and "high conservation value"---the latter a term never objectively defined---forests by banning logging. As more forests were locked away, demands for all to be locked away become more strident. Fanatics cannot be appeased, especially if they are applauded by most of the media and, in this case, a sustained irresponsible and culpably dishonest campaign by The West Australian newspaper.

In 1999, the then Court Government repudiated the Regional Forest Agreement it had signed only six weeks before. The then Labor Opposition said it would ban all logging in old-growth forests. Last year, a renegade Labor Government did that, paving the way for sacking 1,000 vulnerable blue-collar workers and sabotaging timber communities. With the honourable exception of the Australian Workers Union, labour unions collaborated in selling out the people they purport to represent.

And the "old growth forest" will not, cannot, be saved. Indeed it is likely to be irreplaceable destroyed. One century's old growth forest is the next century's dying, degraded and dead forest.

The Marri Meander walking trail in Forest Park, one kilometre from Northcliffe townsite, is a window to that future. It is very old karri and marri forest with a dense understorey. The giant old trees are falling down and, as every forester knows, are not being replaced. They never will be unless fire destroys the understorey, leaving behind the ash bed in which seeds can germinate and grow. The present management plan designed by vain, selfish and ignorant secular religious zealots, and against advice from professional foresters, is to entirely exclude fire. Like US hawks in Vietnam, they will save the forest by destroying it.

If Greens have blackmailing political power, it will be used ruthlessly in pursuit of their twin objectives:

  • A much smaller private economy and consequential decline in income; and
  • A bigger public sector with much higher spending on the environment, education, public health and public sinecures for green activists.

The two aims are mutually exclusive.

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