Published: March 25, 1998

Patrick Moore is NOT a Big Fat Liar

Published: March 25, 1998

The Forest Action Network (FAN), an extremist environmental group, has put up a web-site especially dedicated to me On this page they accuse me of being “A Big Fat Liar” regarding my beliefs about forests and forestry. They also published a fake biography.

Here are the so-called “ten top lies” I stand accused of and my response to them. You might say these people are not worthy of a response. I believe that extremists must always be countered and that we must always defend ourselves against this kind of misinformation.


  • THEIR LIE”I am an environmentalist and represent an independent scientific perspective on forest issues”
  • THEIR TRUTHMoore is paid by the British Columbia Forest Alliance: an industry-front group set up by public relations firm Burson-Marsteller (the same PR firm that represented Exxon after the Valdez oil spill and Union Carbide after the Bhopal chemical disaster). The BC Forest Alliance is funded primarily by the logging industry.
  • THE REAL TRUTHAlong with many of the so-called ‘lies’, this is not presented as a quote (in quotation marks). I don’t know where FAN got this sentence but it actually does state my position fairly accurately.I most certainly am an environmentalist, I spent 15 years as a founder and leader of Greenpeace and this can be verified by many sources. All my work is in the context of understanding the environment and of helping to devise strategies for sustainability.

    The Forest Alliance was set up by the BC forest industry to help address the environmental issues they face. The board of the Forest Alliance is made up of people from all walks of life from across the province who want to help the forest industry, by far BC’s most important industry. Other directors represent tourism, ranching, education, labor, communities, small business, law and accounting, etc. I am a director of the Forest Alliance of BC and proud of it. I bring my long history of environmentalism to the organization. My family has been in the forest industry for nearly 100 years. I believe that supplying the world with wood is a worthy enterprise, so long as it is done sustainably. Past forest practices were not up to modern environmental standards, but neither were any other industry’s standards. The forest industry is modernizing and reforming and I am working to help them do just that.

    I am an environmentalist, an ecologist, and a forest biologist, not a public relations agent. I do have my own, independent views on forest issues. The Forest Alliance doesn’t pay me to go around with a script written by someone else, they pay me as a consultant to tell them what I think because they know I understand the issues from a different perspective than they do. I have often been critical of the forest industry when they do things that damage the environment. I am in favour of sustainable forestry. I realize there are many different opinions about what constitutes ‘sustainable forestry’. My opinions are my own, independent, opinions based on my knowledge of forest science and my experience in forests around the world.


  • THEIR LIE”Large openings like clearcuts are natural”
  • THEIR TRUTHLarge openings do occur naturally in some forest ecosystems, but not with any frequency in coastal temperate rainforest — something that Dr. Moore does not notice. Furthermore, clearcuts remove a considerable amount of the biomass, whereas natural openings caused by wind leave all the bio-mass on site and openings caused by fire leave 70% to 20% of the biomass on site.
  • THE REAL TRUTHAgain, there are no quotation marks around this statement and it is not worded in a way that I would word a statement dealing with a comparison between forestry and natural disturbance. I don’t understand why they portray this statement as a lie when they go on to admit that ‘Large openings do occur naturally in some forest ecosystems. . ‘Large disturbances are common in most forest ecosystems, including coastal temperate rainforests. In 1908, before logging began on northern Vancouver Island, a single hurricane blew 30,000 hectares of forest flat in one day. This is a common phenomena in coastal forests and they are very capable of recovering from this kind of catastrophic disturbance. Natural landslides are another form of severe disturbance that occur regularly in coastal mountain forests. In fact, many of the most productive coastal rainforests are those that are regularly disturbed by blow-down or landslides.

    It is also a fact that large areas of coastal forest are not disturbed regularly, as they are too wet to burn and are protected from hurricanes due to their location in the landscape. This doesn’t mean these forests are not perfectly capable of recovering if they are disturbed, by logging for example. If you never get a cut, you never have to heal, but that doesn’t make you any less capable of healing. I am more than forthright in my book ‘Pacific Spirit’ regarding the fact that much of the rainforest has not been catastrophically disturbed for hundreds, even thousands, of years. Here is an excerpt from my book:

    ‘This coastal fringe is so wet that it will not burn even in the driest summer. Where it is sheltered from the wind it never blows down in the frequent hurricanes that roar in from the Pacific. Because red cedar is so predominant in these forests there is little chance of disease as cedar is immune to most fungi and insects. As a result, large areas of coastal rainforest have remained relatively undisturbed for thousands of years as individual trees have grown and died. Composed almost entirely of red cedar and western hemlock, this type of forest occurs from around Bamfield on the west coast of Vancouver Island north to the Alaska Panhandle. In many of these forests today, the western hemlock is stunted and heavily infected with mistletoe while the red cedar is gnarled and dying back from the top. Locals refer to these forests as

    ‘cedar spike-top country’ or ‘cedar-hemlock scrub.’

    Its hard to imagine how FAN an characterize me as ‘not noticing’ this situation.

    The FAN extremists do not understand the ecology of fire, wind or forest disturbance in general. Forests can recover from total destruction such as caused by volcanoes and ice-ages, never mind lesser disturbance such as logging or fire. The amount of biomass left on site is important, but severe fire often leaves less biomass than logging. Many of the worst cases of soil destruction and loss are caused by wildfires on rocky hillsides. It can take over 100 years for soils to recover after a hot fire burns the soil right down to bedrock.

    Even though this is not presented as a direct quote, I agree with the basic statement that nature often produces large disturbances in most types of forests. This is particularly true for most of the Canadian temperate and boreal forest that stretches right across the continent. See (link=’ ‘The State of Canada’s Forests, 1996-1997’

    which documents that, on average, 9,500 fires burn 3 million hectares of forest annually, while about 1 million hectares are logged.


  • THEIR LIE”Not one species has gone extinct as a result of logging”
  • THEIR TRUTHIn the eastern forests of the US the following four bird species have gone extinct and logging of old growth forests is cited as a primary factor: Campehilus principalis, Vermivora bachmanni, Conuropsis carolinensis, Ectopistes migratorius. Furthermore there are localized population extinctions. 142 distinct runs of salmon in BC and the Yukon have gone extinct and logging again is cited as a major factor.
  • THE REAL TRUTHThere are many points here. First, I never said this as it is quoted, this is a made up quote. I challenge FAN to state where they found this quote. I have stated, ‘To the best of our scientific knowledge, no species has become extinct due to forestry’, (I usually add ‘in Canada’), and I stand by that statement. I don’t know enough about every country in the world but I would be surprised if there were many, if any species anywhere, where forestry was the main cause of their extinction. Repeated challenges have, so far, produced no legitimate candidates.Second, I always refer to ‘forestry’, not ‘logging’, when talking about extinction and other impacts of forestry and land use. Many environmental groups try to trick the public by using the word ‘logging’ when they mean clearing the forest and converting the land to farming and towns. They then blame the ‘forest industry’ for all ‘logging’. There is a classic case of this published recently by the World Watch Institute in which ‘forest corporations’ are blamed for land clearing and conversion to agriculture.

    Third, the extinction of the species mentioned by FAN had little, if anything, to do with logging, never mind forestry. This is probably why they provide only the Latin names; because people would not take them seriously if they provided the common names. The first species mentioned, Campehilus principalis, is the ivory-billed woodpecker. It is the only one of the four species whose demise is probably linked with loss of forests. Most of this loss was associated with clearing for farming. It is only in recent decades that extensive reforestation of agricultural lands has resulted in a great increase in forest cover in eastern North America.The second species, Vermivora bachmanni, is the Backmann’s warbler, which depends on disturbed sites for nesting, and was never very abundant. It’s cause of extinction is not known for certain. Clearing forests for agriculture may have been partly responsible. The third species, Conuropsis carolinensis, is the Carolina parakeet, the only parakeet species that was native to North America. As with the passenger pigeon, the history is clear that this species was shot to death, mainly by farmers as it was an agricultural pest. The fourth species, Ectopistes migratorius, is the passenger pigeon. The passenger pigeon was exterminated by hunters long before there was any forestry practiced in the United States. Consider this account:

    ‘As early as the 1850’s the Passenger Pigeons were being demanded in the East as cheap meat. After 1860 railroads were able to carry birds from West to East fairly quickly. Also, telegraphs were used to notify men where the birds were flocking. The destruction of the Passenger Pigeon began for real.

    It is not necessary here to go into details about how men hunted and killed so many birds, using guns, nets, clubs, and smoke. It can be said that time after time large groups of men descended on nesting sites, sometimes killing as many as a million birds per hunt. By 1896 there were only 250,000 Passenger Pigeons left . . . only a small fraction of the billions that flew over the whole of Eastern North America only a few years before. This last flock was attacked by hunters in April of 1896 and a mere 5,000 pigeons escaped.

    The last wild Passenger Pigeon was killed by a boy in 1900 and a captive 29 year old pigeon died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.’

    It is interesting to note that despite the extensive alteration of the land in eastern North America, particularly deforestation for cities and farms, only 4 of the original approximately 200 bird species have gone extinct.

    FAN claims that logging is mainly responsible for the extinction of 142 salmon stocks in British Columbia and the Yukon. There has been very little logging in the Yukon. Biologists have identified 9,663 individual salmon stocks for BC and the Yukon of which 142, or 1.5%. have gone extinct since records have been kept. (There are six species of salmon in BC, none of which are extinct). Of the 142 extinct stocks, all but 3 are either in the populated southwestern part of the province or in the heavily hydro-dammed Columbia River system. Over 60 of these stocks were once in what is now Greater Vancouver, where their spawning streams have been put into large pipes underground. Very few, if any, of the extinct stocks can be attributed directly to forestry operations. <—red—>>(Status of Anadromous Salmon and Trout in British Columbia and Yukon, T. L. Slaney et al, Fisheries, Vol. 21, No. 10, October 1996)


  • THEIR LIE”Logging causes reforestation, not deforestation”
  • THEIR TRUTHWebster’s Dictionary defines deforestation as ‘the action or process of clearing of forests’. The argument advanced by forest industry spin doctors that clearcutting ’causes reforestation, not deforestation’ is ludicrous. It is like arguing that having a heart attack improves your health because of the medical treatment you receive afterwards.
  • THE REAL TRUTHFirst, this is another ‘invented quote’ that is not in quotation marks. It is also another example of substituting ‘logging’ for ‘forestry’. I am fully aware that logging followed by clearing followed by planting corn or wheat is deforestation and that, therefore, logging can and often does, lead to deforestation. Forestry, on the other hand, is generally followed by reforestation with trees. A correct quote would be ‘Deforestation is usually caused when forested land is converted to another use such as agriculture or human settlement. Deforestation is seldom caused by forestry because a central ambition in forestry is to establish a new forest after harvesting’.Deforestation is not an event that just happens, and then is over for good. Deforestation is an ongoing process of continual human interference, preventing the forest from growing back. The most common forms of such interference are agriculture and urbanization, where people continuously maintain the land in a non-forested state to grow food or provide housing. When farm fields are abandoned the forest will eventually return as seeds blown in on the wind, or carried by birds and animals, take root and grow. There are examples of this all over the world. We tend to think that once a forest has been turned into a farm or shopping mall that there could never be a forest there again. This is not true. All that is required is that the area be left alone and eventually it will revert back to a forest. Of course it will take longer for pavement to recover than it will for plowed fields of pasture, but given time it will recover.

    It is instructive to visit the ruins of the Mayan civilization in the Yucatan and Central America. Many of these ancient cities were not discovered until recently because they were so over-grown with forest. Even 100-foot tall stone pyramids become entirely reforested, as if they were little hills in the landscape.


  • THEIR LIE”Clearcuts are temporary meadows”
  • THEIR TRUTHA meadow is a level expanse of water-logged soil that floods in wet periods and supports a rich growth of moisture-loving plants. The conditions are so ideal for these plants that trees are crowded out. Clearcuts frequently dry out due to exposure to wind and sun and unlike meadows, clearcuts are often on steep slopes and can erode into gullies.
  • THE REAL TRUTHEven though this so-called ‘lie’ is in quotes, I have never uttered this phrase so it is a misquote. In my lecture about forest ecology, I use the metaphor, or analogy, by stating ‘Consider, for a moment, metaphorically, the clearcut as a temporary meadow. It is temporary because it will not stay that way, a new forest will soon grow back. But it is meadow-like for the time being, because the trees have been removed and now the sun can reach directly to the ground, fostering the growth of plants that could never grow in the shade of trees.’The FAN description of what they think a meadow is indicates a lack of knowledge about meadow ecology. What they are describing as a meadow is, in fact, a bog, where it is too wet for trees and where only water plants can survive. The reason there are no trees in temperate and boreal bogs, as opposed to sub-tropical and tropical bogs where there often are trees, is because the trees don’t like to be that wet, not because aquatic plants ‘squeeze them out’. A meadow is a dry place, too dry for trees, which is the reason they do not grow there. Meadows are basically small deserts or grasslands. The Prairies are basically one huge meadow. Smaller meadows will be found on south-facing slopes in dry forests, places such as the Okanagan, and other savanna ecosystems. Meadows are usually fairly poor in plant biodiversity compared to forests, precisely because they are so dry. Meadows are often on steep slopes.

    The reason meadows are so pleasant has little to do with biodiversity and much to do with the fact that they are open to the sun and nice and smooth, because there are no large pieces of wood in them. Clearcuts are ‘ugly’ and harder to walk through, but there is generally more biodiversity in a clearcut within a few years after logging, than there is in a natural meadow.

    The reason meadows are so pleasant has little to do with biodiversity and much to do with the fact that they are open to the sun and nice and smooth, because there are no large pieces of wood in them. Clearcuts are ‘ugly’ and harder to walk through, but there is generally more biodiversity in a clearcut within a few years after logging, than there is in a natural meadow.

    Anyway, the main point here is that I am speaking metaphorically in order to make a point. I believe this is a legitimate usage in the English language and does not constitute a ‘lie’ even when it is quoted correctly.

# 6

  • THEIR LIE”After being clearcut, the forest will renew itself “
  • THEIR TRUTHIt would, given at least 1500 years; but the unstated intention is to cut the trees down again after about 100 years. An even-aged plantation must take several multiples of the life span of a single tree to become a true forest.
  • THE REAL TRUTHEven though this statement is not in quotes, I believe it is a fairly accurate portrayal of my belief about forests. Even FAN admits ‘It would’ (renew itself). Anyone who doubts the process of renewal need only visit areas of coastal forest that were clearcut logged 80-100 years ago. One classic example is in Pacific Spirit Park in Vancouver, part of which has been declared an Ecological Reserve because it is so well restored to its original biodiversity (with no assistance from people) only 80-100 years after being clearcut logged. As I often state ‘There is no getting around the fact that it takes 500 years for a tree to become 500 years old, but it does not take 500 years for forests to re-acquire the characteristics required by forest-dependent species. This usually requires only 50-100 years.’ The absolute age of individual trees is not the main determining factor in forest renewal, it is the ability of the forest to provide suitable habitat for a particular species.According to the above statement by FAN, after harvesting an area of Douglas-fir forest, and replanting it with Douglas-fir, which has a potential life of about 750+ years, it would require ‘several multiples’ i.e. 2250 years or longer to become a forest. I find this preposterous.

# 7

  • THEIR LIE”Second-growth forests are the same as old-growth forests”
  • THEIR TRUTHWhen old-growth forests are chopped down they are replaced with tree farms. Old-growth forests are complex, supporting a diverse composition of plant and animal life, with multi-aged trees. Tree farms are single aged, simplified ecosystems, can not absorb carbon as old growth trees do, and have far less capacity to serve as a water filtration system. Because of simplification, tree farms are more susceptible to diseases, pests, fires, and the impacts of climate change.
  • THE REAL TRUTHIts a good thing they didn’t put quotes around this one because I would never make such a statement. No forest is the ‘same’ as any other forest, although some forests are more similar to each other than other forests. The FAN statement is far too general. In some regions of the world, New Zealand, for example, the second growth forests are entirely different from the original forests because they are mainly composed of plantations of non-native species such as Radiata Pine (There are good reasons for this that I won’t get into here). In British Columbia, however, the second growth forests are simply younger versions of the original forest, using native tree species is required by law. The myth that British Columbia is establishing ‘tree farms’ or ‘monoculture plantations’, repeated here by FAN, is just that, a myth.Once again, the statements made by FAN indicate a poor knowledge of forest science and of the particular circumstances in British Columbia, which is the region where I live and write about. See (link Spirit – The Forest Reborn’ on this Web.

# 8

  • THEIR LIE”Clearing land for fuel and agriculture causes deforestation, but logging does not.”
  • THEIR TRUTHMost deforestation in temperate and boreal forests is due to industrial logging. The World Resources Institute has identified logging as the predominant threat to the future of the world’s frontier forests.
  • THE REAL TRUTHAgain, there are no quotes and I would never make this statement because it is too absolute in nature. This is nearly the same point as alleged ‘lie’ #4. It is a fact (State of the World’s forests ’97, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations) that about 90% of deforestation is caused by clearing for farms and towns, including fuelwood gathering. Forestry does cause some deforestation but that is generally because it is failed forestry. These kinds of problems can usually be remedied in time by finding the correct species and techniques.Once again, FAN is using the term ‘deforestation’ incorrectly. Logging followed by reforestation is not deforestation, reforestation is the opposite of deforestation. FAN implies that all logging leads to deforestation when this is simply not true.

# 9

  • THEIR LIE”Moore describes a forest as a factory”
  • THEIR TRUTHWe can build factories but we cannot build old-growth forests. Forests are so complex that we have yet to identify or name a large percentage of forest species (perhaps even the majority in tropical forests), let alone grasp the complex interactions of forest ecosystems. The connections and interactions in one cubic meter of rainforest soil is greater than even the most advanced computer.
  • THE REAL TRUTHThis is another case of taking a metaphorical statement out of context. How FAN can characterize it as a ‘lie’ is beyond me. The best way to explain what I mean regarding forests and factories is to provide the actual quote, from my editorial that has been printed around the world. Here it is:’The only viable substitutes for wood as a building material are steel, cement. plastic, and bricks. All of these materials require a great deal more energy to make than wood, Why?, because wood is renewable and is made mainly with solar energy in a factory called the forest. All these substitutes are non-renewable and have severe negative environmental impacts of their own. But most significantly, because they require more energy, they inevitably result in more carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel use and are therefore contributors to climate change.’ ( To read the entire editorial click here)

    If anything, I have indulged in a bit of alliteration and metaphor in order to communicate the difference between wood production and other building materials.

    As for the FAN statement that humans cannot make old growth forests, they are wrong on this too. All that is necessary is some tree planting and a long wait, say 200 years. This is perfectly feasible. Every forest in the world, including old growth forests, is the result of recovery from destruction by nature. Nature is often far more destructive than even the most careless logging. Volcanoes, landslides, firestorms, ice-ages, and floods have been destroying forests since forests evolved over 350 million years ago. So long as the climate remains suitable for the growth of trees, the forest will recover from total destruction and all that is needed is time.

# 10

  • THEIR LIE”I am a co-founder of Greenpeace”
  • THEIR TRUTHThere is speculation as to whether Patrick Moore was a co-founder of Greenpeace. Yes, Mr. Moore was a former director of Greenpeace; Judas was also one of the twelve Disciples.
  • THE REAL TRUTHI always say the I am ‘a founding member of Greenpeace’ so this is a misquote. The reason I do not use ‘co-founder’ is that it makes it seem like there were only two founders. There are a number of people who can legitimately claim to be among the founding members. The three individuals named by FAN were the founders of the ‘Don’t Make a Wave Committee’ which was the precursor to Greenpeace. (And it’s Irving Stowe, not Stone) I was an early member of the ‘Don’t Make a Wave Committee’ and took part in the planning for what became the first Greenpeace campaign against nuclear testing at Amchitka in the Aleutian Islands. I was one of twelve crew members on the expedition on board the M.V. Phyllis Cormack in 1971. I then served for 15 years in the top committee of Greenpeace as we grew from a small committee to an international organization. Greenpeace’s forest policy has been developed since I left in 1986. I wish they had a more scientifically based forest policy.There is, in fact, no speculation about my status as a founding member of Greenpeace. It’s in the history books for all to see.

    So, there’s the Ten Top Lies of Patrick Moore. It is ironic that FAN should distort and misrepresent the truth, and outright lie, in attacking me as a liar. It seems the only thing threatenened with extinction in the forestry debate – is the truth. I hope its not too late too save it.

I’d be interested in your thoughts.

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