Philip Stott

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Philip Stott is professor emeritus of biogeography at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London and a leading climate change sceptic. He also edits the Journal of Biogeography.

Climate change denial and pro-GM blogs

Stott edits his own campaigning website, AntiEcohype,[1] which contains a number of his articles on topics such as climate, sustainability, biotechnology and forests. This website was superseded by a blog, EnviroSpin Watch[2]. This blog was in turn superseded as of October 2007 by a new blog, Global Warming Politics [3]. At one time Stott also ran a separate 'Pro-Biotech' website. He is a regular panelist on a 'critical environmental programme' (his description)[4] - BBC Radio 4's Home Planet.[5]

Climate activities

Although he presents himself as an expert debunker of environmental myths, Stott does not appear to have had a single paper published in a scientific journal in the fields in which he most frequently applies this 'expertise', eg climate change or tropical ecology. His views are also generally at odds with the scientific consensus on such issues. [6]

In a letter to The Guardian[7] on climate change, Stott attacked the scientific consensus as the problem, saying, 'It is surely time in the UK for a more adult scientific openness about the limitations of our current knowledge.' Yet in the case of biotechnology he seems unwilling to acknowledge any limitations or uncertainties. In fact, according to Stott, genetic engineering can already be confidently declared 'an advance vital for human development' and indeed, 'essential for human survival', being the 'finest of all human adaptations'. These quotations come from an article which he describes as 'one of my more balanced pieces' (personal communication).

Prof Stott also claims to use the tools of post-modernism to expose the 'religious' zeal underlying environmental concerns. Despite this anxiety to 'deconstruct' the language of what he terms 'eco-hype', he shows no comparable interest in unpacking the language of 'techno-utopianism' or of 'sound science' myth making. On the contrary, his own writings on biotechnology are full of religious zeal and what can only be termed 'bio-hype'. Here's Prof Stott on the human genome project, 'Today, we shall truly eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 1.17), for two teams of scientists... have come together to announce the decoding of the alphabet of human life. And we shall be as gods".' In another essay Stott talks of 'that Holy Grail of the human genome, our very own alphabet of life' and continues, 'We are truly standing on a great peak and a new country lies at our feet.'[8]

Pro-GM

Prof Stott displays an extreme antipathy towards those with concerns about genetic engineering and presents them as extremists with semi-clandestine political agendas. Asked in an interview to account for the resistance to GM foods in Europe, he claimed:

the real reason for the hysteria is indeed the exploitation of the fears... by extreme environmental groups, who often have little interest in the 'science', but who have social agendas of their own. These groups want to 'stop-the-world-and-get-off' and they will abuse and misuse 'science' to achieve their ends. They are avowedly anti-capitalist, anti-development, anti-science, sometimes even anti-farming, and most certainly anti-American, and they want to position America, and its biotech companies, as the 'Great Satan.' Many were at Seattle and Washington DC for the WTO and World Bank protests, and they regularly visit St Louis in small numbers to attack Monsanto, DuPont, etc.[9]

Affiliations and networks

Ironically, Stott's vision of extremists with underlying agendas exploiting the GM debate fits many of those with whom Philip Stott aligns himself. He serves on the Advisory Forum of the Scientific Alliance, whose founder describes himself as 'a businessman who is totally fed up with all this environmental stuff' and has suggested Tony Blair introduces martial law. He has also founded a People's Alliance - aka The New Party (the name of Oswald Mosley's first political party), which is so far to the right it has been labelled 'fascist'.

Stott contributes articles to Spiked, an online 'magazine' to which he has a link from his EnviroSpin Watch blog.[10] Spiked is part of a semi-clandestine network of political extremists (the LM Network).

Stott also regularly collaborates with a small coterie of right wing contrarians, including Matt Ridley and Julian Morris, centered principally on the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) and the related European Science and Environment Forum (ESEF). The latter was set up with funding from Philip Morris as part of the tobacco giant's covert PR campaign to undermine industry-critical research .

Stott likes to emphasise that he is 'a totally independent academic' and that he does not take corporate money, but he appears perfectly happy to closely collaborate with those who do. He also authors material for Tech Central Station, founded by the conservative journo/corporate lobbyist, James Glassman.

Stott appeared as a key contributor in the Counterblast TV programme attacking organic farming, presented by Roger Bate as director of ESEF. According to Stott, "The idea that [organic] can replace other forms of agriculture is a dangerous lie."[11]

Even though his anti-environmental conclusions correspond precisely with those of the pro-corporate right, Stott claims to be a 'Guardian reader' and that he 'comes from the left'. It is hard to marry such claims with someone who refers disparagingly to the Society Section of The Guardian as 'tear-stained'; labels subject areas like Development Studies 'dubious'; and implies environmentalism is socialism with a green face: 'Environmentalism has become the main vehicle for the resurgence of command-and-control ideas after the collapse of the socialist model in the wake of the Cold War. Discuss...'[12]

At the end of May 2001 the U.S. Embassy and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), where Stott worked at the time, hosted a Conference entitled: Seeds of Opportunity: The role of Biotechnology in Agriculture. Stott was the conference chairman. According to the conference blurb, 'Participation will be broad-based, including ... representatives from... environmental groups'. In reality, however, not a single representative from any environmental group spoke at the conference which was heavily weighted in favour of GM.

Indeed, the only environmental group known to have been invited to contribute, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), withdrew because of doubts about the accuracy of the information it had been given. According to Graham Wynne, Chief Executive of the RSPB: 'When we received the details, the balance of the conference content was different to that which had been understood at the time of the invitation to speak.'[13]

Although he constantly deprecates 'ad personam abuse', Stott dismisses the RSPB as the ' "Our feathered friends are more important than anything else in the world!" brigade', labelling the million-member organisation 'nerds with binoculars'! (The 'Real' Green Dictionary - Philip Stott 2001) He also dismissed Dr Arpad Pusztai as a 'maverick' during a BBC Radio 4 programme, The Moral Maze. This piece of 'ad personam abuse' is particularly ironic given that Stott's views are seriously at odds with the scientific consensus on a number of issues.[14]

The environment correspondent of the Guardian, John Vidal, has described Prof Stott - in Stott-like vein - as 'an alarming academic' who pushes George Bush's agenda (The Guardian, June 6, 2001). The director of the Environmental Research Foundation, Peter Montague, is equally blunt: 'It is evident that Professor Stott has abandoned his role as a serious scholar and has become a cheerleader for the biotech industry.'[15]

Stott has been an Advisory Committee member of the Global Warming Policy Foundation since 2009.

Notes

  1. Forests, AntiEcohype website, accessed 3 Oct 2009
  2. Home page, EnviroSpin Watch website, accessed 3 Oct 2009
  3. Home page, Global Warming Politics blog, accessed 3 Oct 2009
  4. Philip Stott, It's time to visit the 'Home Planet' again..., EnviroSpin Watch blog, Tuesday, February 01, 2005, accessed 3 Oct 2009
  5. Home page, Home Planet website, accessed 3 Oct 2009
  6. see Jeff Harvey's comments on Prof Stott's lack of relevant scientific credentials
  7. http://www.guardian.co.uk/letters/story/0,3604,458853,00.html
  8. (Biotechnology: Mary Shelley or Galileo?)
  9. Johan Bakker, Some Straight Talk About GMOs - Interview With Professor Philip Stott, Agriculture Online, 3 July 2000, archived on Monsanto website, accessed 3 Oct 2009
  10. http://greenspin.blogspot.com/
  11. Philip Stott, The ‘Organic Myth’, AgAir Update ("an international agricultural aviation publication"), undated, accessed 3 Oct 2009; the same quote is available as a headline and within the article at The Organic Myth: The Idea that it can replace other forms of agriculture is a dangerous lie, BBC Online, 31 Jan 2000, accessed Oct 3 2009
  12. (These comments were all taken from just one page of Stott's blog)
  13. Ref needed
  14. see Jeff Harvey's comments http://mitosyfraudes.8k.com/INGLES/Disgrace.html
  15. [http://www.tompaine.com/feature2.cfm/ID/3187