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Published: Saturday, 9/7/2002

Environmentalists snow the poor

They've got rhythm. They've got watermelon. They've got quaint folk customs. So what need have they for jobs, for education, for civil rights? So went the “Happy Darky” myth, prevalent among well-off whites in the segregated South of half a century or so ago.

The Happy Darky myth is being resurrected in more pernicious form by environmentalists. The introduction of electricity is “destroying” the cultures of the world's poor, said Gar Smith, who edits The Edge, the online magazine of the San Francisco-based Earth Island Institute.

With the introduction of electricity, African villagers spend too much time watching television and listening to the radio, Mr. Smith said.

George Monbiot, a columnist for the trendy leftist British newspaper the Guardian, said poor people are happier people: “In southern Ethiopia, the poorest half of the poorest nation on Earth, the streets and fields crackle with laughter,” Mr. Monbiot wrote. “In homes constructed from packing cases and palm leaves, people engage more freely, smile more often, express more affection than we do.”

At a taping of a PBS special on the Earth Summit in Johannesburg, a female panelist decried “the pernicious introduction of the flush toilet.”

The World Health Organization estimates that famine in southern Africa will take the lives of 300,000 people in the next six months. But delegates and journalists in Johannesburg applauded the dictators of Zambia and Zimbabwe for refusing to let their starving people eat genetically modified American corn.

About 17,000 tons of corn donated by the U.S. Agency for International Development is sitting in storage in Zambia. Greenpeace and Friends of Earth have been lobbying the governments in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique not to accept it. Americans eat this corn every day. But environmentalists describe it as “toxic.”

The starving people it was sent to feed have a different opinion: “About all Josephine Namangolwa has in her hungry, weary body is anger, and in an instant it all comes surging out,” wrote New York Times correspondent Henri Cauvin on Aug. 31. “It has been days since she had a nourishing meal to feed her eight children.”

“`We are dying here!' she shouts as aid workers arrive in her village of Chipapa to check on their warehouse and the nearly 500 tons of cornmeal inside. ... She and the rest of the 2.4 million facing starvation in Zambia will not be eating any of this food, or any of the thousands of tons of additional food being shipped from the U.S.,” Mr. Cauvin wrote.

“Please give us the food,” pleaded an elderly blind man in the village of Shimbala, quoted in a Los Angeles Times dispatch Aug. 28. “We don't care if it's poisonous, because we are dying anyway.”

There were no empty bellies at the Earth Summit. Dennis Morgan, head chef of the five star Michelango Hotel in the posh Johannesburg suburb of Sandton, told the London Sun he had ordered 5,000 oysters, a half ton of lobster and other shellfish, two tons of steak and chicken breasts, buckets of caviar and foie gras, and gallons of champagne and cognac for the environmentalists to eat and drink.

Southern Africa is drought stricken. But each of the environmentalists was using, on average, 53 gallons of water a day. The 45,000 delegates also generated hundreds of tons of trash. Environmentalists think other people must sacrifice to protect the environment. But not, of course, the environmentalists themselves.

The Happy Darkies who environmentalists think can do without electricity, flush toilets, and food are not happy with the fate Greenpeace and other environmental organizations would consign them to.

Seven organizations representing small farmers in Africa, India, and the Philippines presented to Greenpeace and to two other environmental organizations at the Johannesburg summit a “trophy” consisting of a piece of wood upon which two heaps of dried cow dung had been mounted.

Barun Mitra, who presented the trophy, called the environmentalists parasites who “prey on the blood of the poor.”

“They are not interested in famine or poverty,” he said. “This lot is concerned only about their own interests.”



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