'Expertise' in anti-environmental film
The following were some of the main on-camera "experts" in Against Nature:
- Professor Wilfred Beckerman, identified as "a former member of the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution" (in 1970-73).
Nowhere was it indicated that Beckerman's professorial expertise is in national accounting economics, not the physical sciences. ("What exactly is the value of all this biodiversity?", Beckerman asked rhetorically: it seems there's no entry for biodiversity in the national accounts.)
- Fred Singer was identified as "former Chief Scientist with the US Weather Program". There is no government body by that name in the United States, and a search by the US Information Service Library in Sydney failed to turn up any private body by that name.
Singer is better known as the executive director of a US think-tank called Science and Environment Policy Project, which was originally funded by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church. Singer's academic career was distinguished by lots of funding from energy companies; he hasn't published original research on climate change in more than two decades.
- Piers Corbyn was identified as a "meteorologist" from South Bank University. Corbyn's university degree is in astrophysics. In the 1980s, he publicly claimed to have discovered a way of making long-term weather forecasts by observing sun spots. Instead of presenting his discovery in a scientific journal, Corbyn started placing bets on the weather with a bookmaker, and claimed to be successful.
Last November, he floated on the London stock exchange a company, Weather Action, which provides weather forecasting to business for a fee. Although the company had a turnover of only £144,000 in the year to March 1997 and had lost £68,000 in the period immediately before the float (London Daily Telegraph, November 15), the market capitalised Weather Action at £5.3 million.
- Steven Hayward was identified as director of the "Pacific Research Centre". The body Hayward really heads, the Pacific Research Institute, is a well-known Californian right-wing "think-tank" that sponsors "an annual competition on privatising local and state government services". Its "research" is conducted in accordance with it self-described "mission of applying market solutions to public policy problems". It is a prominent opponent of affirmative action for African-Americans.
- Senator Larry Craig was brought in to testify to environmentalists' great political influence. "It's said they control the Clinton administration", he said with a straight face. Craig is prominent in the ultra-right anti-environmental "Wise Use" movement and its Alliance for America, whose funders include the Moonies, the American Mining Congress, American Petroleum Institute and National Rifle Association.
- Gregg Easterbrook, a former journalist, is the author of A Moment on the Earth, a book of environmental pollyanna-ism, including such statements as: dioxin is nothing to worry about because it's in the same chemical family as table salt; there is no ozone hole over the North Pole; a radioactive waste dump in New Mexico will cease to be dangerous in 300 years (it contains 900 kilograms of plutonium-239, which has a half-life of 24,400 years).
Jack C. Schultz, professor of entomology at Pennsylvania State University, wrote in Natural History magazine that A Moment on the Earth "contains some of the most egregious cases of misunderstood, misstated, misinterpreted, and plainly incorrect 'science' writing I've ever encountered".