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Book Review

State of Fear

A review of the novel by Michael Crichton

Originally published in The Break Out Report - Feb. 20, 2005

Michael Crichton’s new novel takes a departure from your standard sci-fi fare and is truly one of the few sci-fi novels of ideas that I can recall.  By ideas, I don’t mean projections of future civilizations, hypothetical what ifs or your usual sci-fi plot-theme. By ideas I mean a philosophical theme of import about our way of thinking about the world. Crichton challenges the very fabric of contemporary environmentalism and, like the late Ayn Rand, does it through the medium of a gripping novel.

The Kyoto Accord came into effect on Wednesday, Feb. 16th and many predict the commitments made by signatories will be hugely expensive and unenforceable. Crichton challenges the very basis of the global warming controversy, arguing that it is unprovable and based on pseudo-science and the suppression of contrary information by what he calls the politico-legal-media complex. This cabal of powerful forces has replaced the dominance of what Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex. He argues that since the end of the Cold war, governments and their sycophants in law offices and the media have maneuvered to replace the old fear of communism and militarism by fear of, well, you name it – they’ll try and make you afraid of it. And the consequences, he argues, have been horrendous. It has made us so afraid of “possible” dangers that we promote so-called safe solutions at terrible expense.

Take, for instance, the case of DDT. In a conversation between his chief protagonist John Kenner and naive environmentalist Ted Bradley (an actor who stars as the president in a TV series), Crichton points out that the banning of DDT has killed more people than Hitler. DDT had all but eradicated malaria by its use as an agent to kill mosquitoes. Since the ban, “two million people a year have died unnecessarily from malaria, mostly children. All together, the ban has caused more than fifty million needless deaths.”

The plot of the book pits Kenner and his associates against a secretive radical enviro terrorist group planning to create extreme weather conditions including a tsunami that they can then blame on global warming. Sort of tree spikers writ large. The book is not too far off the mark. Indeed, some environmentalists actually tried to blame the tsunami that hit Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand on global warming. This link between tsunamis and climate change was made by Sir David King, chief scientific advisor to the British government, Friends of the Earth spokesman Farah Sofa and even in an article posted at the Discovery Channel.

Critics of the Kyoto Accord point out it will have devastating effects on the Canadian economy if implemented. What proponents of Kyoto have conveniently neglected to point out is what the expected net effect of implementation is designed to achieve. Crichton spells it out for us. The goal is to “reduce warming by 0.04 degrees Celsius in the year 2100.” If it seems ludicrous to spend billions of dollars to make the world four one hundredths of a degree warmer 95 years from now, you’re right. It is.  But try telling that to an enviro freak.

Crichton’s novel is chock full of fascinating little facts that run completely contrary to the established thesis of global warming. And in typical Crichton fashion, he documents them all with references, including a 21 page bibliography.

Ironically, Saturday’s Vancouver Sun featured an op-ed piece by Dr. Patrick Moore, one of the founders of Greenpeace. He left the movement in the 80s because it had “made a sharp turn to the political left and began adopting extreme measures that abandoned science and logic in favour of emotion and sensationalism.” Exactly the point made by Crichton.  Today Moore heads up  Greenspirit Strategies Ltd., a company that aims to promote win-win strategies for the environment and the economy based on sound science.

Crichton’s book is an action-packed thriller and an insightful look at the environmental movement in one compelling package.  Visit www.michaelcrichton.com for more.

Postscript - Jan. 27, 2013: Michael Crichton passed away since I wrote this review. There has also beena lot more evidence presented on global warming. While I am no longer skeptical that global warming is an actual phenomenon, I do believe the reaction to it is alarmist and overblown. The earth as a whole and the human race as a species is very adaptable. The earth in its long history has gone through many periods of extreme climate change, most of it natural. Change in climate, whether natural or man-made, is not, in my opinion, of great concern. In any event, the solution to climate change (if a solution is needed) will be found in changing technology and new inventions, not through government action. 


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