'Not Evil, Just Wrong': The Human Cost of Environmentalism

Last Friday, America was introduced to documentary filmmaker Phelim McAleer when he asked an inconvenient question of former vice-president and multi-millionaire climate-change spokesperson Al Gore. The terse exchange has become a hit on YouTube, and has afforded Phelim several appearances this week on cable news shows. In it, Phelim asks Mr. Gore to weigh in on a British judge’s ruling that nine facts cited in the vice-president’s film, “An Inconvenient Truth”, were in fact not true. After struggling to remember the exact details of the case (it was so long ago…), Mr. Gore and Mr. McAleer wrangle briefly over whether or not polar bears are actually endangered. Mr. Gore remarks that if they are not, “the polar bears didn’t get the message.” Cute.

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Of course, this answer is really at the very heart of the current debate over global climate change (formerly global warming, formerly global cooling), because whatever the polar bears might think about their own species’ global population, it is obviously far more than most every human environmentalists seem to care about theirs.

“Their is an anti-human element to many environmentalists.” That was what Phelim told me the day I first met him and his lovely wife Ann McElhinney early last year. The two had just spoken, quite passionately I might add (everything the two of them do is quite passionate), at a private gathering of conservatives in Sherman Oaks, California.

Like so many documentary film-makers, they needed a ride. (Unlike so many documentary film-makers, the ride was to a fairly nice hotel in Santa Monica…) In exchange, they offered to screen an early cut of their film, “Not Evil, Just Wrong,” for me and a few friends. It was a bargain I was happy to take. “Only an environmentalist could look at thirty million dead from malaria and think that the biggest threat to the world is the pesticide that would stop it,” Ann told me on the ride over the hill. “You really should watch our movie.”

In a world where so much of the debate (if you could argue that there is any real debate…) over climate change is focused on the science, it is the human story that most interests and appalls Phelim and Ann. More aptly, it is an anti-human story, and they have seen it first hand.

In 2005, the couple traveled to Romania with a mission. It was being reported in the European press that a greedy western mining corporation was invading the quaint, idyllic Romanian village of Rosia Montana to extract the regions’ gold deposits and exploit its people. For Phelim and Ann, both experienced documentarians, this seemed like a story worth telling. The problem, as they soon learned, was that the story was a lie. Far from quaint and idyllic, Rosia Montana was a badly impoverished village that modernity had largely passed by. “These people weren’t making a lifestyle choice. They were in deep, deep poverty. They couldn’t wait for the mine to open and inject fresh money and jobs into the local economy. But stopping that were activists from Switzerland and Belgium. These rich western environmentalists didn’t care. They were content to watch people live in misery and view it as a “culture” that needed to be preserved, but if you talked to the local people they viewed poverty as a curse that was killing their children early and needed to be eradicated as soon as possible.”

What Phelim and Ann discovered was a far bigger story – one that would give their film, and their lives, a whole new shape. It was the largely untold tale of western activists advancing Marxist ideology under the guise of environmental protection. “This romantic notion that starving people are ‘poor but happy’ has to stop. Someone needs to tell these environmentalists that humans are actually part of the environment.”

In 2006, Phelim and Ann did just that, releasing their film, “Mine Your Own Business,” as a stern rebuke of what they see as a criminally disingenuous movement to destroy the west and the progress that modernity has brought. The film is a brutally honest look at how much damage is done to actual humans by those claiming to save the world. “Rosia Montana never got their mine, but the Romanian villagers facing another winter of extreme poverty can shiver to sleep secure in the knowledge that the greedy capitalists were defeated.” Environmentalists called the movie “Nazi propaganda…”

“Not Evil, Just Wrong” picks up on the same theme, and carries it much farther. If free-markets, trade, and employment are the only tools ever used to effectively end poverty, then what would it mean to take those tools off of the table, as the modern environmental movement seems bent on doing? Who will suffer and who will gain? According to Phelim and Ann, who will suffer is everyone, especially the poor. Who will gain is Al Gore and the rest of the multi-billion dollar Big Environmental Businesses. And of course, America loses the most. Says Ann, “China produces more genuine pollution than any other nation on Earth, but none of the international regulations on the table do anything to curb them.China’s cities are badly polluted with dirty fumes. If Greenpeace wanted to stop global pollution they should move all their offices to China. And I’m talking about genuine pollution – not CO2 which is essential for life and one of the elements that keep our crops growing and our children healthy. But Greenpeace is not in China because there is a strong anti-business, anti-capitalist and above all anti-American element to the environmental movement. If the world is really ending, why wouldn’t they want to stop everyone polluting and not just single out the American economy for destruction?.” Or, as Phelim puts it, “They say America should lead by example, but what example is that? Suicide?”

“Not Evil, Just Wrong” is the anti-“Inconvenient Truth,” not only because it exposes and rebukes the foundational premises of that film, but because it advocates humanity first, and nothing serves humanity better than morally checked, free-market capitalism. As it turns out, that’s another topic Phelim and Ann know rather well.

“We’re trying to do something innovative,” Phelim told me on a recent call. “We figure that lots of really interesting and intelligent ideas have come out of the American home and almost nothing interesting or intelligent comes out of the current American cinema.” Phelim and Ann’s innovative answer? They are going to launch their films in the former, not the latter. The idea is as profound as it is simple. In a world of flat-screen televisions, high-speed Internet, streaming media, and cell-phone movie rentals, “Not Evil, Just Wrong” is leading the way in direct-to-consumer marketing.

On Sunday, October 18th, the largest, simultaneous film-premiere in history will take place. “Not Evil, Just Wrong” will be screened in well over 4000 private locations in America, and more than a thousand more worldwide. People from all walks of life are hosting screenings in their homes and churches, they are renting small theaters and community centers and school auditoriums. It is a grassroots movie premiere.

You can visit their website for a map of screening locations. It is impressive. Better yet, you can tune in to Big Hollywood and be a part of this historic premiere event yourself tomorrow night at 5PM PST, just like thousands of other venues around the nation and world. It is a very human model for getting a very human movie out into the culture, and as Phelim and Ann are always quick to remind, humans are what this story is really about. As Phelim told me recently in Texas, “The vast majority of human history has been spent in darkness and hunger and tyranny. That’s what these environmentalists, by their actions, seem to want to bring back, only not for themselves, of course. They just want everyone else living in huts and starving to death but with a “quaint” centrally approved lifestyle while the environmental elite run the show. America’s existence and success is the only thing stopping them, and it’s the proof that they’re wrong, which is why they have to destroy it.”

Or, put more simply, “These people don’t give a damn about polar bears.”

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