Enter Stage Right
August 1, 2005


RPR COMMENT: Here we see the precautionary principle embedded within a
strongly anti-environmentalist essay.  Precaution is linked to phrases
like "radical activists" and is seen as part of a larger conspiracy to
demand "social responsibility" from corporations, thus undermining
western civilization and promoting the spread of malnutrition and
disease in the third world.

By Paul Driessen

All companies should be honest, ethical and devoted to the well- being
of the publics they serve: employees, investors, customers and
communities. It's good business, common sense and what's simply
expected of corporations today.

According to social and environmental activists, it's also the essence
of "corporate social responsibility" campaigns. CSR, they insist, is a
lighthouse - an ethical beacon - that corporations must follow if they
are to "earn their right to continue operating," underpin
"sustainable" economies, and make the world more "fair" and "just."
While this may be the idealized or sanitized version, reality is
somewhat different.

"Social responsibility" is now a movement, designed and defined to
promote narrow political agendas, silence critics, tarnish corporate
reputations, give companies leverage against competitors, and make up
for power lost at ballot boxes or in union halls. Liberal foundations
like Heinz, Pew and Soros help bankroll the movement - and labor
bosses use pension funds for campaigns that don't always serve their
members' best interests.

A number of companies actively promote CSR and "sustainable
development." Others have capitulated to pressure groups like
Rainforest Action Network, to buy "peace for our time" and garner
fleeting accolades for acceding to activists' ethical precepts.

The real danger, though, is that CSR's "ethical beacon" is actually
more like the bonfires pirates once lit along Ireland 's coast, to
lure unsuspecting ships onto the rocks, where they would be plundered
and destroyed. The verdict is still out on the movement's long-term
effects on corporate ethics and viability, but its suspect moralizing
has been amply demonstrated.

Campaign ExxonMobil employed street theater, shareholder resolutions,
kangaroo courts and myriad accusations, in an attempt to force the oil
giant to recant its skepticism about global warming and its continued
investments in petroleum, rather than "ethical" and "responsible"
technologies like solar power that impact vast acreage to produce
expensive, unreliable energy. Proponents included ethical icons like
the Anarchist Black Cross, Natural Resources Defense Council,
Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies Ralph Nader's
USPIRG, Monkeywrench Collective, Father Michael Crosby and UPROAR.

Next, the Foundation for National Progress and its Mother Jones
tabloid pilloried the company for supporting public policy think tanks
that dare to question catastrophic global climate change theories or
point out that there is no scientific consensus on the issue. Exxon
donated a total of $5 million to 18 such institutes, including several
for which this author works part time. (The Congress of Racial
Equality, for example, received $40,000 in 2003 - less than 2% of its
annual budget.) By contrast, liberal foundations gave $23 million to
just 11 major global warming advocacy groups in 2002.

The latest assault, ExxposeExxon.com, was launched recently by
moveon.org, NRDC, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Sierra Club, the
Pew Foundation's National Environmental Trust and others. They're
upset that ExxonMobil still doubts cataclysmic global warming
theories, supports development of huge potential oil reserves in
Alaska, and continues to focus on its core business: petroleum.

ExxonMobil amply serves the needs of its customers, shareholders and
employees. It invested $1 billion in renewable energy two decades ago,
before doing so was fashionable. Its energy efficiency and pollution
reduction programs have had "a greenhouse gas equivalent to removing
over 1 million cars from the road" since 1999, according to company
sources. It pours tens of millions of dollars annually into habitat
preservation, malaria control, climate research, minority education
and numerous other programs.

By any fair benchmark, that's solid corporate social responsibility.
But not by the skewed ethics of political activists, who seek to
dominate the political arena, stifle debate, and control personal and
societal choices on transportation, housing, heating, air
conditioning, medicine and manufacturing.

Over the past century, changes in these sectors have been mind-
numbing: from horses to automobiles and jet airplanes, from telegraphs
to televisions and computers, from wood and coal furnaces to natural
gas and nuclear, from typewriters to laptops and Blackberries, from
bone saws to heart transplants. Every advance brings new efficiencies
and requires new energy and mineral resources. Few would hazard a
guess as to where our talents for innovation (mankind's ultimate
resource) might take us next.

But radical activists claim this progress is not "sustainable," that
it violates the "precautionary principle." They routinely ignore the
very ethical precepts that ExxposeExxon.com claims its coalition
members revere: "protecting habitats," safeguarding consumers from
"rising gasoline prices," and fostering "a more healthy and just

The coalition and its allies demand that wind power replace petroleum,
even though a single 555-mW gas-fired power plant (20 acres) generates
more electricity annually than all 13,000 of California 's wind
turbines (106,000 acres). They battle wintertime drilling on Alaska's
frozen North Slope and drilling anytime in US coastal waters and
western states - preferring to see forests of 300-foot-tall wind
turbines ruining scenic vistas and killing birds and bats by the
tens of thousands. Their antipathy toward pipelines, refineries and
LNG ports further helps create artificial shortages and drive energy
prices skyward.

By obstructing hydroelectric, fossil fuel and nuclear power
development in Third World nations, they keep 2 billion people
permanently deprived of electricity - and of the safe food and water,
quality medical care, good schools, economic productivity and other
benefits that abundant, reliable, affordable electricity brings.
US$1,500 will buy photovoltaic panels, batteries and regulators
sufficient to power a small television, mini-refrigerator and dozen
20-Watt light bulbs, says Uganda-born Connie Miranda. However, such
systems are beyond the reach of most African families, whose total
annual income is a few thousand dollars - and they cannot possibly
electrify modern hospitals, offices or manufacturing centers.

The radicals' even more strident opposition to biotechnology and
pesticides helps perpetuate the rampant malnutrition and disease
that these modern marvels could help prevent - saving millions of
lives every year in developing countries.

The ExxposeExxon coalition's perverse ethics might in some way foster
"a more healthy and just world" for them - but only at a huge cost to
billions of the Earth's poorest people. That's why, as a former Sierra
Club member, I agree with Greenpeace co- founder Patrick Moore: "the
environmental movement has lost its objectivity, morality and

Perhaps the day will come when Sierra Club executive director Carl
Pope, Teresa Heinz Kerry, Barbra Streisand, Leonardo DeCaprio, Al
Gore, Cameron Diaz, Ted Turner and their compatriots will "go native"
and actually live, for even a week, in the squalid "indigenous"
conditions they extol and perpetuate: live in Africans' mud huts,
drink their contaminated water, breathe smoke from their wood and dung
fires, endure their swarms of tsetse flies and mosquitoes, with no bug
repellant - and walk 40 miles to the nearest clinic when they
inevitably start convulsing and vomiting with malaria, in hope that a
nurse can treat them with medicines that actually work.

Until then, they are simply in no position to lecture ExxonMobil or
anyone else about ethics or social responsibility.

[Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Center for the
Defense of Free Enterprise and The Congress of Racial Equality,
(and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power -- Black death.]