Environmental Anarchy: The Insidious Destruction of Social Order; A Legacy of the Sixties

Description

206 pages
$9.95
ISBN 0-919763-08-1

Publisher

Year

1984

Contributor

Reviewed by Greg Turko

Greg Turko is a policy analyst at the Ontario Ministry of Colleges and
Universities.

Review

The issue of environmentalism continues to be one of the most controversial social debates. The discussion goes far beyond what should be built or what should be preserved. The issue is often starkly ideological, pitting right against left in ways that are paralleled only in such charged topics as nuclear weapons and abortion.

This book focuses on B.C., which, in the Canadian context, is probably the most fervently involved in the environmental debate. Charles Keenan, a B.C. engineer, a former civil servant, and, we soon learn, a dedicated foe of the “environmental lobby,” is determined to set the record straight using actual cases as examples. His premise is simple and deserving of consideration — let professionals (e.g., engineers, etc.) make environmental decisions, since they are best equipped to do so. In Keenan’s view the current preoccupation with environmental issues is nothing more than a make-work project for the environmental clique supported by morally weak governments. These circumstances will, Keenan feels, eventually lead to economic ruin.

Unfortunately, he does not use this book to convince his readers that the experts should make our environmental decisions — a premise that many, except for the most ardent environmentalists, would probably be inclined to accept or at least consider. Instead, Keenan launches into violent, exaggerated, and unfocussed attacks on the media, “ecology freaks,” and opportunistic politicians pandering to whatever public sentiment is likely to generate votes. He also indulges in a good deal of socialist bashing, argues for “provincial rights,” and invokes that doctrine of “common sense” much favoured by the right wing.

A balanced, more informed, and less emotional (as well as less amateur) stance is often desperately lacking in environmental debates. Also, experts in the field, such as engineers, need and deserve to have their position defended, as, rightly or wrongly, much of the public distrusts their statements and frequently holds them responsible for environmental disasters that do occur, even though the blame may lie elsewhere.

Instead of providing this defense, Keenan has wandered outside his area of expertise and into social, political, and media criticism. He has also fallen victim to the logical fallacy of believing that one’s case automatically becomes stronger if one denigrates and ridicules that of one’s opponent.

By dealing more analytically with specific scientific issues and public perceptions, Keenan could have contributed substantially to an important debate. It is very unlikely, however, that anyone who did not trust expert opinion unquestioningly would do so after reading this book. In fact, it is even quite conceivable that some of those who did may now find cause to reconsider.

Citation

Keenan, Charles J., “Environmental Anarchy: The Insidious Destruction of Social Order; A Legacy of the Sixties,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/36617.