Trees Don’t Lie, But Their Lovers Do · 08 February 2004


By Alec Mouhibian--02/09/04

On January 15, a column along the following lines appeared in The Daily Nexus, UC-Santa Barbara's college newspaper. The column was titled "Campus Littered With CalPIRG Representatives," and it was written by me:

"Walking on campus recently, I was interrupted from an intense conversation with myself by a little man who asked, "Have you pledged for the environment yet?" The voice belonged to a representative of CalPIRG, the state branch of the national U.S. PIRG. I asked him what the nature of the group was. "Oh, we're not political," he said. "The money goes to fund lobbyists in Washington who try to get legislation passed."

"Actually, U.S. PIRG is run and headed by Green Party radical Ralph Nader. Apparently, alliance to a party doesn't qualify as partisanship when the party is on the political fringe.

"The first issue CalPIRG boasts about in its brochure is preventing oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which it describes as "protect[ing] one of the nation's most important wilderness areas." In fact, the tiny section plotted for drilling is a completely barren land only 0.01 percent the size of the reserve, hospitable to nothing but the caribou who would be completely unaffected. And it may contain 30 years worth of Saudi Arabian oil imports.

"On similarly spurious claims about the state of the environment-all of which are refuted by leftist Bjorn Lomborg in The Skeptical Environmentalist-CalPIRG lobbies to pass regulations that are not only totalitarian and anti-human rights, but also deadly for mankind. Especially the kind who are students and poor.

"Regulations on business and industrial advancement stifle technological progress that improves the quality of all our lives, not to mention the environment. (The air in England today is the cleanest it's been since 1200.) Limiting production also means limiting the jobs and opportunities available to you in the future-unless you plan to be a professional advocate, like Nader, who gets paid to push such limits.

"As for the poor, laws restricting logging and development have caused shortages leading to massively overpriced housing throughout the state. Cities most infected by such laws, like San Francisco, have seen lewd thrusts in homelessness and commute lengths for workers.

"Usually when an SB student is approached from behind and asked for five bucks-lunch money, blackmail and the word "statutory" are somehow involved. It may thus be out of relief that some of you sign away your freedoms when CalPIRG hydro-gears into its winter drive. Truth is, you'd do more for the environment by buying stock in a major corporation. And if you really care about the poor, learn something about the only C-word in history under which they've been able to rise from that level: capitalism."

As I expected, my article provoked rebuttals from members of the CalPIRG chapter on campus, two of which were published in the Nexus, column-length, the following week. I was not allowed a reply:

"Oh Alec, just because it irritates you when an organization asks you for your pledge money to help them remain an active student group on this campus doesn't mean that you have the right to make false accusations like: 'Truth is, you'd do more for the environment by buying stock in a major corporation;' or use inaccurate sources of information, as Bjorn Lomborg's The Skeptical Environmentalist was officially discredited by the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty in January 2003."

Of course, the author neglected to mention that as recently as December 17, 2003, the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation-which heads the DCSD-remitted that ruling! It released an assessment calling the verdict "completely devoid of argumentation," "condescending," "emotional," and "dissatisfactory."

In other words, that the "discrediting" was an ideological and dishonest attack on a book that had challenged environmentalist dogma from within-and has now been shamefully repudiated. I wrote a letter to the Nexus pointing out this Orwellian moment. They refused to print it, saying it was their policy not to publish rejoinders, and that no author could write on the same topic twice.

A mere four days later, the radicals struck again. Apparently, the first rebuttal was not considered enough by the CalPIRG leadership, so two people were assigned to the job this time. Co-written by their Internal Chapter Chair and External Chair, this effort also side-stepped the arguments I had presented. The column did, however, include two particularly mendacious and personal attacks.
First was the claim that "we have had no affiliation with Nader since 1980." To quote elementary school teacher Edna Krabappel, "Hah!" This is exactly the denial that Radley Balko is talking about in a Fox News report on the subject. As he puts it, the PIRGS are "sponsored, endorsed and overseen by Ralph Nader….You probably didn't know that, did you? And that's just the way Nader and his nationwide network of [PIRGS] would like to keep it."

Second was the following sentence: "Mouhibian was in support of oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, referring to the 19 million-plus acre plot as destitute barren land 'hospitable to nothing but the caribou.'" This was followed by two paragraphs of smoking the straw, explaining how ANWR is really much more, the verbal equivalent of that common bumper sticker with the koalas which seems to be widely syndicated on 1980s Volvos in suburbia.

Of course, this is an outright lie. I specifically said that the "the tiny section plotted for drilling is a completely barren land only 0.01 percent the size of the reserve"-which is 2,000 acres - the size of the Dallas airport in an area the size of Texas.