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Conflict to Consensus

Greenpeace Founder: Environment Requires Consensus

By John McPhaul of Caribbean Business

Friday, August 27th, 2004

Negotiations mediated by a professional facilitator are the best way to resolve contentious environmental conflicts, such as the controversy over resort development in Luquillo, said noted environmentalist Dr. Patrick Moore, a Greenpeace founder.

“Multistakeholder negotiations aimed at consensus over a long period is the best way to get all issues out in the open so problems can be resolved,” said Moore, who last week addressed the Puerto Rico Home Builders Association at the Hyatt Dorado.

At the end of the process, a consensus document is produced that outlines areas of agreement and disagreement, which provides clarity for decision-makers, said Moore, who has a doctorate in ecology.

Moore suggested such a process could be applied to the controversy over the proposed Dos Mares / Marriott and San Miguel / Four Seasons resorts in Luquillo, which are being fiercely disputed by environmentalists.

They want to protect the area as part of the Northeastern Biological Corridor habitat for a number of endangered species.

Moore said construction methods friendly to the environment, which the developers say are the kind they want to employ, need not spell doom for the area, nor should the fact that the coastline is currently a pristine, untouched beach, rule out the development.

“Development actually can result in protection,” Moore said. However, he said proof the coastline was a unique coastal ecosystem worthy of preservation would be a strong argument against the development.

Once a self-confessed “radical environmentalist,” Moore now bills himself as a “sensible environmentalist” who recognizes the need to balance development requirements for civilization’s advancement with protecting the environment and setting aside wildlands for preservation.

“There are six billion people on this planet who wake every day and have to meet their material needs,” he said.

As such, he has taken stands downplaying the dangers of global warming and in favor of genetically modified foods and managed logging in national forests.

To many in the environmental community, he is an “eco-traitor” who has gone over to the other side.

However, Moore insists he hasn’t changed from being the young man who earned headlines around the world by campaigning against nuclear arms testing, the hunting of whales, and the killing of baby seals for their fur. He denied he has turned against the methods he used as a younger man.

Moore said civil disobedience is still justified if the cause is just. “It isn’t a matter of methods; it’s a matter of policies,” he said.

Moore says the environmental movement has changed, hijacked by extremists who have brought different agendas to the fore, which are unrelated to the environment.

He said many environmental activists have trouble being consistent. “How much sense does it make to use a laptop computer and cellphones and be antiglobalization?” Moore said.

By pursing these agendas, he said environmental extremists have abandoned science and logic in their arguments.

Introducing Moore, Puerto Rico Home Builders Association President Ivar Pietri said organization members face their own group of activists on the island, who are “politically motivated left-wingers, and want to stop economic growth and attack capitalism.”

At the same time, Pietri also acknowledged environmental concerns are increasingly obvious. “We’re also aware that we need to do better,” he said.

On Moore’s list of six measures essential for environmentalism for the 21st century was the need to control urban sprawl.

“If people want to stop urban sprawl, you have to zone land,” he said.

“Dense urban-area development is more energy-efficient and utilizes materials better. The key is to have a balanced land-use plan.”

Moore also advocates increased planting and use of trees as a renewable resource to replace steel, concrete, and plastic, another position that alienates him from the environmental community.

Policies that have global implications must not be logically inconsistent,” he argues.

“For example, if we use less wood, we automatically use more steel, concrete, and plastic. This, in turn, results in higher fossil-fuel consumption to produce these nonrenewable resources.”

Caribbean Business is the leading business and financial newspaper in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean; published weekly in English

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