A Really Convenient Book About the Environment

The Really Inconvenient Truths by Iain MurrayAnyone concerned about the environment and seeking the best solutions for how to protect it will find The Really Inconvenient Truths, by Iain Murray, to be a valuable, fact-filled resource that is both informative and entertaining.

By Alex Newman

A man named Benjamin Cone from North Carolina bought land with no trees and allowed the forest to grow back on it. Once the forest returned, a protected woodpecker moved in, prompting the government, under rules of the Endangered Species Act, to prohibit any meaningful use of a large portion of his land — he was denied the right to any logging, driving the value of his property down from $1.7 million to about $260,000. The new feathered resident and the accompanying plunge in his land’s value caused a reasonable response: the owner decided to clear-cut the rest of the forest to avoid losing it to the woodpeckers and their bureaucratic allies.

Throughout the United States, landowners have become so fearful of losing the right to manage or sell their land if a protected species decides to make its home on the land that the Endangered Species Act has been sarcastically termed the “Shoot, Shovel, and Shut Up Act.” Instead of doing everything possible to attract and safeguard endangered species, landowners often manage their properties to avoid inhabitation — and secretly kill the species if they do show up.

One inescapable conclusion that a logical person would reach after reading The Really Inconvenient Truths by Iain Murray is that the quasi-religious, big-government, environmentalist movement creates disincentives for people to take care of the planet — and actually prevents proper care of the planet.

The book makes a compelling case against the liberal approach to preserving the Earth and its resources, arguing that government controls usually have unintended consequences that prove far worse than the problems they were originally intended to fix. To make his case, Murray explains some of the tragic effects that liberal policies have produced.

Murray starts by debunking myths about the pesticide known as DDT, which became the newly burgeoning environmentalist movement’s target after the publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring in 1962. He calls it “one of the founding texts of liberal environmentalism.” Then he writes: “It is also a shoddy bit of scholarship that may be responsible for millions of deaths.” After thoroughly disproving Carson’s “science,” Murray provides ample evidence that the ill-conceived war waged against this chemical really did contribute to millions of deaths in Africa by depriving the continent of the ability to control and eliminate malaria-carrying mosquitoes. There are over 500 million cases of the disease each year, and it is the primary cause of death among pregnant women and children under five in countries like Zambia. He also contends that they don’t admit their mistake because going back and acknowledging it now would devastate the global movement Carson helped spawn.

Murray goes on to highlight the array of problems that have resulted from “ethanol mandates” in a chapter subtitled “Save the Planet, Starve the World.” Government subsidies that were provided for ethanol — brought about by political pressure from the environmental lobby — made this dubious fuel economically viable despite evidence that shows its inefficiency. Even worse, now that so much corn is being used in its production, food prices are soaring, negatively affecting the poor above all. Murray also draws a link between the mandates and further destruction of the environment caused by the increasing demand for corn which requires more acres to be planted. And to make a long story short, ethanol will not save the Earth from the dreaded greenhouse gases even under the best circumstances. In addition to creating a similar level of the gases to traditional fuels, the clear-cutting of land resulting from the increased demand means fewer trees to process carbon dioxide into oxygen.

In another disaster caused by governments subsidizing certain sectors of the economy, Murray discusses the overfishing that has almost wiped out certain fish stocks. He claims that without the massive government subsidies, the overfishing wouldn’t have even been economically viable. There are so few fish left among certain species that it wouldn’t have been profitable to fish for them, allowing the fish time to recover if fishing fleets were not subsidized.

Murray also delves into the causes of the historic fire at Yellowstone National Park in 1988. Apparently environmentalists were determined to prevent any harm to forests, so at their behest, government managers suppressed fires for decades, and the forest developed into a sort of tinder box, growing thick underbrush that normally would have been kept in check by natural fires or private interests. When the policy was suddenly changed, again at the behest of environmentalists, to allow “natural” fires, over a million acres were burned and smoke reached as far as the East Coast. He then shows how and why loggers and other private owners with a vested interest in the property manage forests far better than government.

“Just about everywhere one looks, the principles of collectivization and green environmentalism stand in the way of sound management of the resource,” he contends, before explaining the “Tragedy of the Commons” — that is, the lands or resources that supposedly belong to everyone, but where no one has property rights and therefore no one has the authority and responsibility for protecting those environmental assets.

Increased government control and regulation of the environment leads almost inevitably to tragedy of the commons. One of the most tragic examples of government-caused environmental destruction discussed in the book is the death of the Aral Sea. Al Gore claimed that the sea dried up because of global warming, but “in truth, it’s the bitter fruit of central planning and totalitarianism.” According to Murray and his sources, the Soviet bureaucracy decided to grow massive amounts of cotton in the region, irrigating the land around the Aral Sea until its feeder rivers ran dry and eventually destroyed the sea and the industries and populations that depended on it. The problem continues to this day, with the dictator of Uzbekistan imposing target production rates for cotton on his subjects, primarily to enrich himself and his cronies. The people of the region are told that it’s for the benefit of “the state.” It is an environmental catastrophe that has led to the death of the sea and is also causing the destruction of the farmland and the poverty of the people.

Murray acknowledges that not all environmental catastrophes are caused by liberal environmentalists, even conceding that some are caused by short-sighted businesses. But, short-sighted businesses can be held accountable in court when they, for example, pollute another’s property.

The book also hits hard at the motivations and character of the leaders of the environmental movement and its followers. “It is my contention that, just as environmentalism has replaced Marxism as the central economic theory of the Far Left, so too has environmentalism begun to replace liberal Christianity as the Left’s motivating religious force,” Murray writes. In what would be humorous if it weren’t so serious, he claims that with Al Gore, “The Goracle,” at the top of the hierarchy, many of his “flock” follow him on faith and defend outrageous claims without even so much as questioning what is said, with some going as far as worshipping nature or the Earth while maintaining an “anti-human” crusade.

Murray provides so much documented proof of Gore’s lies that the idea of somebody taking him seriously almost seems ludicrous. But according to the book, Gore is still the “undisputed global head of the environmental movement,” which speaks volumes about the movement itself. And while many of his followers may be genuinely concerned about the planet, Murray states: “As with Marxist economics, the new environment-centered economics is a mere justification for a rejection of the free enterprise system.”

Read the rest of this review at The New American.

14 Responses to A Really Convenient Book About the Environment

  1. Derek Wall October 30, 2008 at 7:21 am #


    well this seems to say that Gore is Marx and environmental concern is an excuse, even the market based Economist mag acknowledges that environmental problems are real.

    Marxism does not in turn simply mean big state

  2. People Power Granny October 30, 2008 at 8:17 am #

    You may want to check the facts of the book better. There is only one woodpecker in NC that is in protected status, and it only nests in 70-year-old pines and older. The guy who wanted to log his land sure must have been an old guy, since he was the one who let the forest grow up. Let me know the official name of the woodpecker, if you can.

  3. Neil F. November 2, 2008 at 12:15 am #

    Unfortunately, the environmental Left will not take heed to the message of this book. If they did, they would have to admit that they, and their beliefs, are wrong. This will never happen because, in my opinion, they are incapable of questioning their own beliefs, and that requires some thought. And admitting that they’re wrong would cause them to have cognative dissonance. That would be counter to their entire philosiphy, which is: do whatever makes you feel good. Admitting you are wrong does not make you feel good.

  4. Rob N. Hood November 4, 2008 at 3:38 pm #

    Right back atcha Neil ! U seem to be describing every conservative/libertarian/whatever-you-want-to-call-people-like-yourself who only want to use and abuse the earth, I’ve ever met. This just off the news wire:

    A meeting of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) has concluded that a devastating “mud volcano” in Indonesia was caused by the drilling of a gas exploration well, and not by a distant earthquake as the company responsible for the well has claimed. The meeting of 74 geologists reached the conclusion by vote after debating the matter at the associations annual meeting, held in Cape Town, South Africa, the BBC reported. The mudflow has destroyed thousands of homes, destroying factories, fields and displacing entire villages.
    tags: oil industry, environment, death

  5. Kurt November 6, 2008 at 9:34 am #

    42 of the 74 concluded that drilling caused the disaster. The rest aren’t so sure. There was an earthquake. Hmmm… Moving, shaking, rumbling earth, plates shiftinig and colliding or a little hole being drilled in the ground – What seems more likely? This looks like another case of blame man first, despite the circumstances. The nice thing about blaming the oil company, of course, is there’s somebody to sue! Hard to file a lawsuit against Mother Earth. Even harder to collect a settlement.

  6. Neil F. November 7, 2008 at 1:29 am #

    The Earth is fine! http://www.jibjab.com/view/122257

  7. Neil F. November 7, 2008 at 2:24 am #

    Hey Mr. wall: The book is about the unintended consequences of things that have been done to “fix” evironmental problems. It does not deny that environmental problems exist.
    Are you in love with Marx? I never read any Marx, except for what I just skimmed over in the link you provided. This caught my attention:

    A worker produces ten mopeds or DVD players in a day and the capitalist takes seven of these. We have, according to simplify a little, a system of economic theft. Workers can go on strike and use various means to achieve a ‘fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work’, but will always be exploited in a capitalist system because the capitalist will take some of what they produce and control how they work:

    I just want to point out that a worker can produce mopeds, or DVD’s. But where can they produce them, in their basement? Is a worker going to have the means to produce the raw materials needed to produce anything? Can a worker afford the machinery and tools necessary to assemble mopeds, or provide an environment (clean rooms) to manufacture DVD’s? Does your everyday average worker come up with inventions like mopeds or DVD’s? NO!!!!!
    My point is that a Capitalist is not necessarily some guy that is just in it to make money. The owner of a moped factory did not just say one day ” I’m going to make mopeds now” and have a funtional, profitable factory the next. It more than likely took many years and a lot of blood, sweat, and tears just to get the buiseness off the ground, and more to make a profit.
    And its not as though workers have no rights either. I have been a worker my entire adult life. I have had jobs that were awful, like making oak pallets. I agreed to do that job for the wage offered. I absolutely hated that job, but did not complain about it. I simply found a different job and left that one.
    Your communist manifesto may sound good, but it has no basis in reality.

  8. Rob N. Hood November 10, 2008 at 10:00 am #

    I’m not a marxist. You guys jump to that conclusion every time someone questions your”free market” capitalism. Have you seen the news lately? That’s the “free market” at work my friend. No- what I am talking about is Socialism, which every first world country utilizes to a certain extent for the benefit of all, especially corporations in this country. Pull your head out and look around.

    I’m not saying capitalism is all bad. But look what unregulated capitalism has done to this country in 8 short years. It will take another 8 to clean it up and make it presentable again, probably just so your rich friends (the ones you unknowingly support at your own expense) will steal us all blind once more. That, my friend, is the American way!

  9. Rob N. Hood November 10, 2008 at 10:03 am #

    As energy prices soared these last years — a perfect moment to have put real human energy (and funds) into the development of renewable alternatives — an all-oil-all-the-time, drill-baby-drill administration launched its oil wars while simply ignoring long-term solutions to our energy problems (except for a disastrous sally into corn-based biofuel). Now, amid global economic devastation, the price of oil has dropped precipitously, more than halving its 2007 top price of $147 a barrel. As last week ended, the price of a barrel of crude oil briefly dipped below $60, once again making investment in alternative, renewable energy systems look unprofitable and — global warming aside — beside the point.

    But don’t believe it for a second. Consider present global energy prices the equivalent of a mirage. Just this week, the International Energy Agency released the findings from its upcoming annual report, warning that, in the coming years, oil will once again break the $100 a barrel barrier and — they target 2030, but it could be far sooner — the $200 barrier as well. Whether six months or six years from now, a new spike in energy prices, if we are unprepared, could rock an already staggering planet.

    No time, it’s clear, will be the right time to invest our scientific prowess, technological skill, and funds in the genuine, safe energy future that we need, which is why it must simply be done — and soon. For a nation that once had a can-do reputation, but has lived through its share of can’t-do administrations, the real challenge that faces us should be sobering indeed.

  10. Neil F. November 13, 2008 at 12:53 pm #

    Rob: Unregulated Capitalism? Where? Believe nothing you hear and only half of what you see.

  11. Neil F. November 16, 2008 at 9:36 am #

    Rob I was not addressing you in my remarks about Marxism…But if the shoe fits!
    Anyway, as far as alternative energy goes. Read this. It might just give you a better perspective on what wer’e talking about. http://web.archive.org/web/20060421065750/www.envirotruth.org/myth9.cfm

  12. Rob N Hood November 27, 2008 at 6:36 am #

    Thanks for educating goobers like me. You’re too kind.

    WASHINGTON – The 2008 Atlantic hurricane season, which ends Sunday, appears to have attained Olympian heights, setting at least five weather records in the United States and Cuba.

    “It was pretty relentless in a large number of big strikes,” said Georgia Tech atmospheric sciences professor Judith Curry. “We just didn’t have the huge monster where a lot of people lost their lives, but we had a lot of damage, a lot of damage.”

  13. Kol Nidre November 29, 2008 at 9:13 pm #


    What we’re seeing now is not the inevitable consequence of “free market capitalism,” but rather massive deregulation, rampant speculation, unmitigated greed, and shameful corporate welfare. Where has all the 8.5 trillion (see http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601068&sid=abP7tXlIB..4&refer=home) gone so far? The bankers are not lending it back out, but using it to buy healthy financial firms and real assets like water and waste management systems (recession-proof fields that, when monopolized, can start gouging people for several times what they pay currently).

    The truth is there has never been a real free market. If there were, there’d be no such thing as “too big to fail,” and Fanny, Freddie, AIG, and all the other shucksters who treated the economy as a casino would be dead and buried, and their executives jailed.

  14. Rob N. Hood June 9, 2009 at 1:32 pm #

    I agree with you 100%. Thanks- it’s nice to hear some sanity here for a change.

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