03/22/2013 05:29 EDT | Updated 05/22/2013 05:12 EDT

How Left-Wing Fundamentalists Slow Down Progress

We think of the religious right as fundamentalists, viewing the world through a narrow prism of religious doctrine. We think of people who refer to themselves as Conservatives as fundamentalists -- Stephen Harper and his party. But we rarely, if ever, consider the left-wing progressives as fundamentalists.

What is fundamentalism? "A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism."

We think of the religious right as fundamentalists, viewing the world through a narrow prism of religious doctrine. We think of people who refer to themselves as Conservatives as fundamentalists -- Stephen Harper and his party.

But we rarely, if ever, consider the left-wing progressives as fundamentalists. That's because they tend to be secularists as if secularism is the antithesis of fundamentalism. Leonard Sawatsky, in a response to one of my articles said that a left-wing fundamentalist is "sort of like military intelligence, or more accurately, cognitive dissonance."

Yet the left wing has a concretized mantra: they are anti-capitalism, anti-globalization, anti-colonialism. And they provide the same solutions year in and year out. And they have their own messiahs: Naomi Klein, Judy Rebick, Noam Chomsky.

The denial of fundamentalism on the left does not alter the fact that many opinions held on the left are unshakeable, unmovable, and closed to other opinions even those based on fact because those facts don't confirm their beliefs. Sound familiar?

I am left with the feeling that environmentalists, the left-wing progressives, won't be happy unless we return to the life we led before the industrial revolution. That would certainly reduce our carbon footprint.

The developed world has become accustomed to electricity. Yet environmentalists are against developing the vast energy sources with which this continent has been blessed. The Tar Sands Blockade group insists "For downstream indigenous communities in Alberta, Canada, for fence-line refinery communities along the Gulf coast, and for all of us hoping for a livable climate, Keystone XL heralds death and destruction." How, exactly?

The reports from the State department in the US said that there is "No significant environmental impact." This at a time when the Democrats, the party associated with green energy, are in power. Even they are having trouble finding reasons to put an end to the pipeline.

How does building the Keystone pipeline to transport our own oil to our own markets impact the climate more than importing oil from overseas? There is this fundamentalist, almost religious belief, that closing the pipeline will reduce our need for oil and therefore our carbon footprint. That makes as much sense as Mike Harris when he reduced the number of physicians in Ontario to lower our health costs. The market demand for power will just access other natural resources, and right now those resources are in the Middle East.

We our putting ourselves in debt to countries like Saudi Arabia, paying them billions of dollars for their oil that they then invest in terrorism through the spread of Wahhabism. The Saudi government has conferred dangerous legitimacy on the Wahhabi sect. As Princeton University scholar Bernard Lewis noted: "Without oil and the creation of the Saudi kingdom, Wahhabism would have remained a lunatic fringe."

We now have the opportunity to take those billions of dollars and invest them in cleaning up our sources of energy: oil, gas, coal, and then develop cheaper, better, greener energy while providing jobs for our citizens. The industrial revolution taught us that we can find solutions to problems that come from new technology.

The tar sands and the keystone pipeline ought to be our choice, economically, morally and ethically. The original development of them scarred the land and the air. But lessons were learned, improvements continue to be made. We are capable of change.

With enough financing we can make our natural resources the cleanest anywhere. Let the environmentalists work on finding ways to improve on what we have instead of continually preventing the development of our natural resources. Then we can wean off our sick dependence on Saudi Arabia and other oil producing Middle East countries.

Environmentalists, for the sake of the planet, pushed us to burn food for fuel because of risks associated with pollution, global warming and environmental degradation from fossil fuel.

That's easy for us in the West to propose. We live in a country of bounty, but the vast majority of the world population does not. Should environmental protections exclude the basic needs of others? It seems fundamentally wrong; morally and ethically, to burn food for cleaner fuel when so many go hungry.

Oxfam reports that 40 per cent of the corn grown in the United States in 2012 went to fuel instead of feeding about 127 million people for a year. The price of food has gone up as corn has been burned. Forbes reports that ethanol has "already raised prices for livestock, dairy, poultry, eggs and other food industries that are passing cost hikes on to food consumers."

According to a 2008 report published in Science magazine, "widespread use of corn ethanol could result in nearly twice the amount of greenhouse gas emissions of the gasoline it replaces due to uprooting of land where carbon is being absorbed by trees and other plants."

And we are faced with the fight against genetically modified foods. Research in GM foods is 30 years old. Environmentalists refuse to look at the positive side of genetically modified food. It is anathema to them. Better to promote eating locally, small farms. Great again in the West, but not for the rest.

Professor Jonathan Jones of the John Innes Centre points out. "When I started making GM plants 30 years ago I did wonder if there might be unknown unknowns. But the evidence now is clear. GM food and crops are as safe as non-GM food and crops."

Why should environmental fundamentalist rhetoric deny the millions of people in the developing world access to better crops, more food, and better nutrition? Environmentalists (like all good fundamentalists), frighten us with words like "frankenfood". They attacked golden rice.

"Golden rice was first developed in 1999, but its development and cultivation has been opposed vehemently by campaigners who have flatly refused to accept that it could deliver enough vitamin A, and who have also argued that the crop's introduction in the developing world would make farmers increasingly dependent on western industry."

Environmentalists say the ones who will reap the benefits will be large corporations. "We have developed this in conjunction with organisations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as a way of alleviating a real health problem in the developing world," says Adrian Dubock. "No one is going to make money out of it. The companies involved in developing some of the technologies have waived their licences just to get this off the ground."

This view is shared by Mark Lynas, an environmental campaigner and one of the founders of the anti-GM crop movement: "The first generation of GM crops were suspect, I believed then, but the case for continued opposition to new generations -- which provide life-saving vitamins for starving people -- is no longer justifiable. You cannot call yourself a humanitarian and be opposed to GM crops today."

And what of our own citizens, especially those "North of 60"? Let's invest in more science and less rhetoric. Let's invest in crops that can grow in a short season and stay fresh longer, provide greater nutrition. Let's find ways to reduce the cost of food and at the same time reduce the carbon footprint made flying and driving food in for most of the year.

We need to have patience and faith-in our scientists when the risk/benefit warrants it. Feeding the world warrants the risk.

Some progressives seem to have lost their connection to science. Any new product goes through growing pains. All scientific research has unforeseen consequences. Researchers hope for the best and prepare for the worst. I suspect if environmentalists had been around in the industrial revolution, we would still be using horse and carriage. I admit there are times I yearn for the days of the rotary phone, but those days are long gone, too.

What do we call people who are fixated on their ideology, their dogma, who see the world in black and white, will not open their minds to other ideas; will not tolerate the possibility of a different perspective? Fundamentalists. People with "[a] point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views." Whether on the religious right or the secular left, fundamentalism has found a place at the table.

Martin Luther King wrote:" But life at its best is a creative synthesis of opposites in fruitful harmony."