"Ignore for a moment both the grotesque cynicism of egregiously exploiting a clearly troubled and vulnerable child to advance an eco-totalitarian political agenda, and the incongruity that few of us can whistle up a $4million, 18-metre (60ft) yacht."
By Michael St George
LAST Wednesday, in a blaze of unremittingly fawning publicity and uncritical adulation of which even Moses descending from Mount Sinai with the tablets bearing the Ten Commandments would have been envious, the good ship Mazilia – or, as I prefer to call it in view of its almost quasi-religious mission, ‘Greta’s Ark’ – set sail from Plymouth bound for New York, carrying no less a personage, if you believe the Green hype, than putative Saviour of the World, diminutive, pigtailed ‘climate activist’ Greta Thunberg, aged 16.
There’s much about this stunt and its main protagonist to mock. But just for the purposes of this article, ignore for a moment both the grotesque cynicism of egregiously exploiting a clearly troubled and vulnerable child to advance an eco-totalitarian political agenda, and the incongruity that few of us can whistle up a $4million, 18-metre (60ft) yacht from Prince Albert of Monaco to cross the Atlantic to assuage our enviro-guilt, and consider just one question.
Precisely how green is the Blessed Greta’s planet-saving maritime odyssey?
Initially, let’s hopefully forestall any potential criticism for mixing up the terminology. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is an invisible, colourless, odourless 0.04 per cent trace gas essential to all plant life on Earth – though that, apparently, has not stopped Greta’s mother, a well-known Left-‘Liberal’ activist called Marlena Ernman, from saying her daughter can see it. Truly do the righteous have bestowed upon them gifts denied to the rest of us.
Carbon (C) on the other hand, is the predominant element in coal. Which is why the Green movement always uses the language of ‘carbon’-footprint or ‘carbon’-free, when they actually mean CO2. Because in the public mind, carbon is nasty black stuff, isn’t it, while wanting, on spurious scientific grounds, to reduce the Earth’s capacity for plant and crop growth perhaps isn’t a good look.
First, how did Greta get to Plymouth? On foot? By bike? On a magic carpet borne aloft by unicorns? Or perhaps, more prosaically, not by ‘carbon’-free means at all, but by using the same fossil-fuel powered transport that we’re enjoined to eschew on pain of eternal eco-damnation?
Next, Greta’s Ark required the assistance of other vessels to undock her and tow her out of Plymouth. Oddly, this was not accomplished by several longboats manned by brawny matelots lustily belting out a traditional sea-shanty, but by a couple of RIBs. They may have electric engines, but ‘carbon’-free their production ain’t.
Let’s look at the supposedly ‘zero-emissions’, ‘carbon’-free yacht itself. It’s built of carbon fibre. (Remember, we sceptics aren’t the ones who started the misuse of scientific terminology for political effect.) Now, the production process for building a carbon-fibre yacht is estimated to be around 14 times as energy-intensive, and thus in ‘carbon’, i.e. CO2, emissions, as that for building one of equivalent length in steel. Not only that. The epoxy resins used in the construction of Greta’s Ark are different and are all organic materials made from petroleum and significant amounts of natural gas.
Some intriguing revelations about the crewing arrangements emerged soon after departure. It turns out that the three westbound crossing crew will be flying back from New York to Europe, while the replacement crew of five will be flying from Europe to New York for the return passage.
So that’s three transatlantic flights for Greta’s Ark westbound crew to return from New York, plus five more for its replacement eastbound crew to get to New York. I’m guessing those flights won’t be in Economy, either. What’s their ‘carbon’-footprint? Why can’t she just fly to New York with her father? Or even address the United Nations via Skype?
Even though this eco-boondoggle has its own website on which the yacht’s progress can be tracked, some of us prefer to access more independent sources of information. So it was some surprise to see that, last Friday, on the Marine Traffic website, it appeared that the yacht’s position had stopped being reported at 0132 BST on Thursday morning, a mere 9½ hours after leaving Plymouth, and still identifiably in the English Channel Western Approaches.