Another environmentalist threat

By Steven Martinovich
web posted May 1, 2000

Sudbury, located in northern Ontario, Canada, is widely known for three things: its nickel mining industry, the Big Nickel (a 30-foot tall replica of a 5 cent piece), and that Apollo astronauts came here for training before the moon shot.

The history of Sudbury is inextricably tied to the shiny element and it continues to show today even as the city's economy continues to diversify. Even after an extensive ten year re-greening effort with millions of trees planted, the city still bares some scars from decades of pollution related to the smelting of nickel -- first out in the open in large fields and later in modern smelters. That's why the astronauts came here. Denuded of trees, the city's landscape resembled that found on the moon.

That began to change in the 1980s thanks to the mainstreaming of concern over acid rain. Inco Ltd. and Falconbridge Ltd., two of the world's biggest players in the nickel industry, were forced to clean up their acts by public outcry and government edict, and Sudbury began to look less like the moon and more like another scenic city in Canada.

Despite the success of the mining industry to improve its environmental performance, environmentalists continue to target it for sins both real and imagined. Many, if not most, mining operations around the world conform to environmental standards and progress never ceases in developing new and cleaner techniques. That, however, isn't good enough for some European environmental groups who argue that nickel is toxic to humans and should be banned. Though few expect their campaign to enjoy any success, it doesn't have to be to have an effect on us all.

For years the myth that power lines could cause some types of cancers prevented their installation in many neighborhoods, the banning of DDT has caused the deaths of millions due to malaria and hundreds of millions of poor in developing nations may never be able to feed themselves because of a possible ban on genetically modified foods. Those kind of things don't bother environmentalists, however, since it is their avowed goal to stop what some of them refer to as a parasitical threat to Earth: human progress. Nickel is merely their latest target.

At the core of every environmentalist's belief system is something referred to as Intrinsicism. Nature -- whether the Earth itself or all animals (with the exception of human beings) -- have an intrinsic value. These things should be valued for their own sakes irrespective of any criteria. Any use of animal or mineral outside of worshipping it is morally wrong and even inherently evil, depending on the level of supposed transgression.

Man becomes a target of environmentalists because it is a creature that must adapt its environment and use nature for its own ends: survival. That means that man is evil and an aberration in the scheme of things. Their philosophy holds that the more successful that man is, the more evil he is.

The theory of intrinsic value relies on removing the concept of a moral value from purpose or good from its beneficiaries. An attempt to ban nickel is anti-man because his inclination towards good means that he must adapt nature to create value, something that is evil to the environmentalists. For an intrinsicist, man is evil because he seeks his good, a clanging contradiction if there ever was one.

The end result of this philosophy was aptly summed up by biologist David Graber who wrote in a review of Bill McKibben's The End of Nature, "Human happiness, and certainly human fecundity, are not as important as a wild and healthy planet...[The ecosystem has] intrinsic value, more value to me than another human body or a billion of them... Until such time as Homo Sapiens should decide to rejoin nature, some of us can only hope for the right virus to come along."

As someone who lives only a half-hour walk from the site of one of the world's largest polluters I can speak from personal experience that pollution does have an effect on the environment and human beings. I've seen accidental gas releases that sent hundreds to hospital only a few years ago. Every year I see the finishes on hundreds of motor vehicles pitted because of fallout from the smog that Inco Ltd. produces while smelting its nickel ore. I remember when parts of Sudbury looked like something from a science fiction movie.

While I see the problems -- and the room for improvement -- I won't give up the benefits that the nickel industry has given to Sudbury. Those who would ban nickel are those who have declared themselves the sworn enemies of humanity and ultimately the human mind. Their ultimate goal is promoting nihilism over the production of value, death over life.

Rather than listening to the mavens of death, we should listen to those who create value and therefore celebrate life. If the media gives them a chance, it's a group worth listening to.

Steve Martinovich is a freelance writer and the editor of Enter Stage Right.

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