Plastic Strawmen and Noble Cause Corruption
  • As a bartender, the latest wave of environmental misinformation and exaggeration struck particularly close to home. I’m referring, of course, to the environmental push to outlaw plastic straws in bars, with, additionally, the threat of steep fines.

    Have you ever heard of “noble cause corruption”?

    It’s when you’re so convinced that your argument is on the side of right and good and just and true that you believe there’s nothing wrong with lying or exaggerating in order to prove your case:

    The ends justify the means, in other words.

    The term “noble cause corruption” was originally coined by the American police force. It referred to those cops who “know” that a suspect is guilty and so feel totally justified in breaking the rules by, for instance, planting evidence or forcing confessions.

    Of course, if you had to force a confession or plant evidence, how then did you “know” guilt in the first place?

    The “noble-cause-corruption” principle is illustrated perfectly, over and over again, and is perfectly analogous with any number of environmental claims — and when people ask me, as they often do, why I’m critical of environmentalism as a worldview and (Neo-Marxist) philosophy, this is among the first reasons I give:

    Because if you must lie to the public about the urgent problem of climate, or deforestation, or plastic waste, or acid rain, or rising oceans, or the ozone layer, or pollution, or species extinction, or CO2, or recycling, et cetera ad infinitum, then how do you know you’re not also lying to yourself about how big the problem is and how certain you are about it?

    Have you heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, for instance?

    Did you know that it doesn’t actually exist?

    Quoting Tom Hartsfield at RealClearScience:

    Have you heard of the giant plastic island in the Pacific Ocean? Several times in casual conversation, I’ve been told that mankind is ruining the oceans to such an extent that there are now entire islands of plastic waste. Daily Kos tells us that this “island” is twice the size of Texas!

    First, we can do a quick feasibility calculation. The mass of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the plastic from which most water bottles are made, required to create a two-Texas-sized island just one foot thick is 9 trillion pounds. That’s 15 times more than the world’s annual production of plastic. Even if a year’s worth of the world’s spent plastic bottles could be airlifted out over the ocean and directly dropped in one spot, this island could not be made.

    So, here are the facts. Much of the ocean contains little to no plastic at all. In the smaller ocean gyres, there is roughly one bottle cap of plastic per 50 Olympic swimming pools’ worth of water. In the worst spot on earth, there is about two plastic caps’ worth of plastic per swimming pool of ocean. The majority of the plastic is ground into tiny grains or small thin films, interspersed with occasional fishing debris such as monofilament line or netting. Nothing remotely like a large island exists. Clearly, the scale and magnitude of this problem is vastly exaggerated by environmental groups and media reports.

    (I recommend you read the full article — especially if you belong to the Party of Science.)

    And from the left-leaning US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):

    “While ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ is a term often used by the media, it does not paint an accurate picture of the marine debris problem in the North Pacific Ocean. The name ‘Pacific Garbage Patch’ has led many to believe that this area is a large and continuous patch of easily visible marine debris items such as bottles and other litter — akin to a literal island of trash that should be visible with satellite or aerial photographs. This is not the case.”

    — Ocean Facts, National Ocean Service

    The following, from Slate Magazine, was written Daniel Engber — a journalist and environmentalist who, in a rare moment of candor wrote:

    “There Is No Island of Trash in the Pacific. But the cause of clean oceans needed a good story. Our warming planet could use another one.”

    The actual Pacific-Garbage-Patch story couldn’t haven been scripted any better.

    It begins with an oil-heir on his way back from a yacht race(!) This oil-heir, in the picture at the top of my article here, is the poster child of the so-called limousine liberal: the person seeking to atone for his father’s money (while not actually having to part with it) by creating a cause and rallying cry for the environmentalist philosophy.

    Daniel Engber, of Slate, makes explicit that the garbage patch was indeed just a rallying cry — and declares furthermore that this is completely acceptable [emphasis mine] because the cause is so very necessary that truth is irrelevant.

    “In early August 1997, Charles Moore found himself floating through the North Pacific in his Tasmanian-built catamaran. Moore, an oil heir, activist, and yachting captain, had just finished up a two-week race and was heading back from Honolulu to Santa Barbara, California, through what’s called a “gyre”—an area of the ocean like the Sargasso Sea, wrapped inside a giant weather spiral, that serves as a reservoir for flotsam. As he described it in a 2003 article for Natural History, the thousand-mile journey took him through an endless field of plastic—3 million tons of it in all, he guessed, in an area about the size of Texas. Everywhere he looked he saw debris: bottles, bottle caps, wrappers, fragments. And when he returned to this “Garbage Patch” a year later, he found a vast “plastic-plankton soup” and a litany of bigger objects: a volleyball, a cathode-ray tube for a 19-inch TV, a truck tire mounted on a steel rim, and a gallon bleach bottle so brittle that it crumbled in his hands. Moore’s Garbage Patch would grow in size and fame in the years that followed.

    “It was this false appraisal—this projection of collective guilt as a trash archipelago—that brought the problem of marine debris back into the public eye. It gave us all a way to comprehend, or at least hallucinate, what was otherwise a widespread, microscopic devastation.”


    Comprehension, hallucination … it’s all the same.

    None of this is to say that we shouldn’t be concerned about litter and pollution. It is, however, to say that lying is always an unacceptable method — no matter the “cause” — and that if at this point you still put wholesale trust in the environmental movement, you’re putting your trust in dangerous hands: the hands of proven prevaricators, with a specific agenda that is not as benign as you’ve been led to believe.

    Here’s climatologist Stephen Schneider admitting in no uncertain terms that it’s okay to lie to the public:

    “On the one hand, as scientists, we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but — which means we must include all the doubts, caveats, and ifs, ands and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to off up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical blind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide the right balance between being effective and being honest.”

    – Stephen Schneider, quoted in Jonathan Schell, “Our Fragile Earth,” Discover Magazine.

    And the man who kicked it all off, James Hansen of NASA, apparently feeling some compunction:

    “Emphasis on extreme scenarios may have been appropriate at one time, when the public and decision-makers were relatively unaware of the global warming issue…. Now, however, the need is for demonstrably objective climate forcing scenarios consistent with what is realistic under current conditions.”

    – James Hansen, “Can We Defuse the Global Warming Time Bomb?”

    Yet here he was before:

    “We have at most ten years—not ten years to decide upon action, but ten years to alter fundamentally the trajectory of global greenhouse emissions.”

    – Jim Hansen, “The Threat to the Planet,” The New York Review of Books, July 13, 2006, 12–16, at 16.

    “In the United States of America, unfortunately we still live in a bubble of unreality. And the Category 5 denial is an enormous obstacle to any discussion of solutions. Nobody is interested in solutions if they don’t think there’s a problem. Given that starting point, I believe it is appropriate to have an over-representation of factual presentations on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience to listen to what the solutions are” — Albert Gore, Grist Magazine.

    These quotes go on and on and on (and on).

    Here’s the real point, however:

    Waste is an inescapable by-product of all living things — humans included.

    Externalities and pollution are inescapable.

    The actual question, then, is this:

    What’s the most efficient way to clean-up and to solve waste and pollution problems?

    More and ever-more laws, regulations, red-tape, bureaus, bureaucrats, blind dogma, and the crony capitalists that this system fosters in full — cronies who aren’t held accountable for polluting?

    Or human progress and technology, which has done more for the environment in a shorter span of time than 50,000 pages of legislation, over the span of 40 years, in the Federal Register?

    What’s more effective?

    Private property and holding people fully accountable, via tort laws, for polluting?

    Or crony capitalism and lobbyists and so-called public property for which no one is fully accountable?

    The shocking, propagandistic photos the enviros never tire of showing us — whether of garbage, glaciers, drowning islands or anything else — are EXACTLY the left-wing equivalent of religious right-to-lifers showing us on street corners gruesome abortion photos as if it’s some kind of argument.

    It’s a non-argument.

    A picture is not an argument.

    On top of it all, there’s nothing that will make a person want to get behind a cause more than being lectured about one’s use of petroleum and plastic by an oil-heir in his plastic sunglasses and plastic bike helmet on a bike or boat made largely of plastic and petroleum.

    Now leave me and my straws alone.

    April 19th, 2018 | journalpulp | 2 Comments |

About The Author

Ray Harvey

I was born and raised in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado. I've worked as a short-order cook, construction laborer, crab fisherman, janitor, bartender, pedi-cab driver, copyeditor, and more. I've written and ghostwritten several published books and articles, but no matter where I've gone or what I've done to earn my living, there's always been literature and learning at the core of my life.

2 Responses and Counting...

  • Dyane 04.19.2018

    I’ve been following this issue and appreciate your comments. In my opinion, nothing in excess is usually good for the planet. There are too many straws on the restaurant tables and then in the landfill that nobody ever uses!

    No, I am not a robot.

  • Hiya robot.

    I don’t disagree that excess isn’t good — nor that a lot of straws go to waste — but the proposed solutions (i.e. outlawing, banning, and fining) are a total joke. They’re also coercive. They’re also unnecessary. They’re also a power-play.

    Thank you for dropping by!

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