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Fear and inertia make bad policy

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My last article described some of the unintended consequences of the environmental movement and its negative impacts upon populations of lesser-developed countries. One letter writer suggested I was indulging in “conspiracy theories” by my assertion that the spread of AIDS in Africa was a result of the imposition of massive forced contraception and sterilization programs, not the sexual practices of an uneducated population.

Tragically, the explosive spread of AIDS in Africa was an unintended consequence of Western foreign aid programs imposing sometimes brutal, forced contraception and sterilization policies upon defenseless populations. Untrained or poorly trained indigenous medical staff—often acting upon the orders of corrupt government officials—administered contraceptive devices and injections without proper sterilization of syringes, repeatedly used under primitive medical conditions and unknowingly spreading the virus among patients.

The 25 countries of Sub-Saharan Africa contain 12 percent of the world’s population but host 68 percent of the world’s AIDS cases, including 90 percent of HIV infected children. The disease continues to grow exponentially with more than a million new cases annually. HIV infects between 13 to 25 percent of the adult population, depending upon the country. The UN obstinately insists HIV spread in Africa is a result of heterosexual promiscuity, as the infection disproportionately affects women. However, unlike other international long-term contraception programs, which predominantly used forced sterilization via tubal ligations and vasectomies, the preferred African method of contraception was the use of Depo-Provera (Megastron), a drug that had to be administered via hypodermic needle every three months. Over a period of 12 years, the American State Department via USAID shipped more than 140 million needles to Third World nations but predominantly to Africa. When you don’t have basic sterilization equipment (autoclaves) or thoroughly trained medical staff you court disaster, in this case the rapid spread of HIV.

These practices resulted from pressure from Western foreign aid programs and international development loans that predicated assistance upon the host nation implementing mandatory reductions in the population growth under UN Fund for Population Activities oversight. Malthusian population control theories once again victimized the poorest and least powerful underclasses of the Third World.

Most of the rural communities “benefitting” from these programs don’t have electricity and live under subsistence conditions. Literacy is low, medical training marginal, and the reuse of unsterilized or improperly sterilized syringes commonplace. Regardless of the need for policy change, the programs continue unaltered despite the evidence staring bureaucracies in the face. Unintended consequences (making an epidemic worse) are not the desired outcome, but bureaucratic inertia makes it difficult to correct entrenched policy.

At home, “fearmongering”—be it against “bomb trains” or of a radioactive accident involving nuclear power—has left America’s energy policy dysfunctional. Nuclear technology is forbidden due to associated risks regardless of benefits. The technology has advanced light years since its inception 60 years ago. Current and prospective designs resolve the issues of public safety and waste disposal, if only given the chance. However, public perception is continuously fed worst-case scenarios, which overwhelm any logical arguments made to allay those fears and incorporate the “fuel of the stars” as a major component of a clean, reliable energy source. It’s a politically dead issue.

We face a similar dilemma whenever the issue of climate change/anthropogenic global warming is the subject for discussion. Bret Stephens, correspondent for The Wall Street Journal (newly hired as a columnist by The New York Times), recently experienced the wrath of the climate lobby for daring to suggest that the “science of global warming” might not be as firmly established as the public is led to believe. He was pilloried by media peers as savagely as if he had stated that “the world really is flat” and the moon landings were fake. His experience was so strident that it became a topic on the Sunday talk shows with inappropriate snickers emanating from his interviewing host.

For the record, climates change naturally without any help from humanity and have done so throughout Earth’s history. Earth is currently undergoing some warming, not unexpected as it experienced a mini-Ice Age until about 1850. Official temperature records go back to about 1880 but are of varying degrees of certainty due to disputes among scientists on what the data means. The science isn’t mature enough to formulate public policy, but that’s no deterrent to those determined to have a crisis.

It’s heresy to challenge the fallacy that the “science is settled” or that there is a “scientific consensus,” neither assertion being factually correct. There’s quite a bit of dissension among scientists on what the data portends, despite the certainty expressed by the 79 climate scientists fervently cited by the climate lobby to represent “97 percent of all scientists being in agreement” about the extent and speed of the earth’s warming, portending dire consequences for humanity.

The 146 climate scientists of the Climate Science Register disagree as do the 31,478 members of the Global Warming Petition Project (which includes 9,021 Ph.D.s) who protested to the International Panel on Climate Change that their work is being misrepresented for political purposes. The Climate Lobby has persuaded governments to commit billions to resolve the “crisis of global warming” and are aggressively promoting expenditure of trillions more; that’s a lot of bureaucratic inertia to overcome.

Al Fonzi is an Army lieutenant colonel of military intelligence who had a 35-year military career, serving in both the Vietnam and Iraq wars. Send comments through the editor at clanham@newtimesslo.com. Write a letter to the editor at letters@newtimesslo.com.

-- Al Fonzi - Atascadero

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