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The Heidelberg Appeal, authored by Michel Salomon and signed by a large number of scientists, is a statement decrying "an irrational ideology which is opposed to scientific and industrial progress, and impedes economic and social development." Issued to coincide with the opening of the United Nations-sponsored Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, the Appeal stated that its signers "share the objectives of the 'Earth Summit'" but advised "the authorities in charge of our planet's destiny against decisions which are supported by pseudo-scientific arguments or false and non-relevant data. ... The greatest evils which stalk our Earth are ignorance and oppression, and not Science, Technology and Industry."
A version of the Heidelberg Appeal was published in the June 1, 1992, Wall Street Journal over the signatures of 46 prominent scientists and other intellectuals. It has subsequently been endorsed by some 4,000 scientists, including 72 Nobel Prize winners. The Appeal was for an anthropocentric assessment of the world's resources and a utilitarian as opposed to abolitionist approach to hazardous substances used or created by technology. It targeted as irrational, by implication, if not explicitly, both a vision of a "Natural State" with intrinsic rights to impede the activities of man, and hysterical fears of environmental poisons, disproportionate to the threat and dismissive of their associated benefits.
The Heidelberg Appeal has been enthusiastically embraced by critics of the environmental movement such as S. Fred Singer of the Science and Environmental Policy Project. Conservative think tanks frequently cite the Heidelberg Appeal as proof that scientists reject the theory of global warming as well as a host of other environmental health risks associated with modern science and industry. Its name has subsequently been adopted by the Heidelberg Appeal Nederland Foundation, which was founded in 1993 and disputes health risks related to nitrates in foods and antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The Heidelberg Appeal was promoted in 1993 by the International Center for a Scientific Ecology, a group set up by Michael Salomon "that was considered important in Philip Morris' plans to create a group in Europe similar to The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition (TASSC)".
Parts of the Heidelberg Appeal endorse environmental concerns, such as a sentence that states, "We fully subscribe to the objectives of a scientific ecology for a universe whose resources must be taken stock of, monitored and preserved." Its 72 Nobel laureates include 49 who also signed the "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity", which was circulated that same year by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) and attracted the majority of the world's living Nobel laureates in science along with some 1,700 other leading scientists. In contrast with the vagueness of the Heidelberg Appeal, the "World Scientists' Warning" is a very explicit environmental manifesto, stating that "human beings and the natural world are on a collision course" and citing ozone depletion, global climate change, air pollution, groundwater depletion, deforestation, overfishing, and species extinction among the trends that threaten to "so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know." Moreover the Heidelberg Appeal has been, if not specifically misrepresented, at least broadly interpreted out of context, for example, by The National Center for Public Policy which asserts "The appeal warns industrialized nations that no compelling scientific consensus exists to justify mandatory greenhouse gas emissions cuts." Although the Heidelberg Appeal may be open to such an interpretation, it is not what the document said, as the text below shows.
Text of the Heidelberg Appeal
Addressed to the chiefs of state and governments
Heidelberg, April 14, 1992
"We want to make our full contribution to the preservation of our common heritage, the Earth.
"We are, however, worried at the dawn of the twenty-first century, at the emergence of an irrational ideology which is opposed to scientific and industrial progress and impedes economic and social development.
"We contend that a Natural State, sometimes idealized by movements with a tendency to look towards the past, does not exist and has probably never existed since man's first appearance in the biosphere, insofar as humanity has always progressed by increasingly harnessing Nature to its needs and not the reverse.
"We fully subscribe to the objectives of a scientific ecology for a universe whose resources must be taken stock of, monitored and preserved. But we herewith demand that this stock-taking, monitoring and preservation be founded on scientific criteria and not on irrational pre-conceptions.
"We stress that many essential human activities are carried out either by manipulating hazardous substances or in their proximity, and that progress and development have always involved increasing control over hostile forces, to the benefit of mankind. We therefore consider that scientific ecology is no more than an extension of this continual progress toward the improved life of future generations. We intend to assert science's responsibility and duty towards society as a whole. We do however forewarn the authorities in charge of our planet's destiny against decisions which are supported by pseudo-scientific arguments or false and non-relevant data.
"We draw everybody's attention to the absolute necessity of helping poor countries attain a level of sustainable development which matches that of the rest of the planet, protecting them from troubles and dangers stemming from developed nations, and avoiding their entanglement in a web of unrealistic obligations which would compromise both their independence and their dignity.
"The greatest evils which stalk our Earth are ignorance and oppression, and not Science, Technology and Industry whose instruments, when adequately managed, are indispensable tools of a future shaped by Humanity, by itself and for itself, overcoming major problems like overpopulation, starvation and worldwide diseases."
- DeWeese, Tom (2002-03-29). "The Heidelberg Appeal". American Policy Center. Retrieved 2013-12-06.
- Junking Science to Promote Tobacco, Am J Public Health. 2001 November; 91(11): 1745–1748.
- International Center for A Scientific Ecology Guidelines for the Seminar on Linear Relationship for Risk Assessment of Low Doses of Carcinogens
- tobaccodocuments.org, Philip Morris archive, Heidelberg Appeal to Heads of States and Governments
- Kaufman, Ron (1992-07-20). "Rio Document Spurs Debate: Is Science An Ecological Foe?". The Scientist, Magazine. LabX Media Group. Retrieved 2013-12-06.
- Heidelberg Appeal at SourceWatch