NOTE: This article appeared in the Los Angeles Times today, and given it is generally left leaning, I’m surprised to see it printed there. I have posted an except and a link to the original below.
The Church of Green
No doubt for millions of Americans this is a distinction without a difference, as the two words are usually used interchangeably. But they’re different things, and the country would be better off if we sharpened the distinctions between both word and concept.
Environmentalism’s most renewable resources are fear, guilt and moral bullying. Its worldview casts man as a sinful creature who, through the pursuit of forbidden knowledge, abandoned our Edenic past. John Muir, who laid the philosophical foundations of modern environmentalism, described humans as “selfish, conceited creatures.” Salvation comes from shedding our sins, rejecting our addictions (to oil, consumerism, etc.) and demonstrating through deeds an all-encompassing love of Mother Earth. Quoth Al Gore: “The climate crisis is not a political issue; it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity.”
I heard Gore on NPR the other day. He was asked what he made of evangelical pastor Joseph Hagee’s absurd comment that Hurricane Katrina was God’s wrath for New Orleans’ sexual depravity. Naturally, Gore chuckled at such backwardness. But then the Nobel laureate went on to blame Katrina on man’s energy sinfulness. It struck me that the two men were not so different. If only canoodling residents of the Big Easy had adhered to “The Greenpeace Guide to Environmentally Friendly Sex.“
Whether it’s adopted the trappings of religion or not, my biggest beef with environmentalism is how comfortably irrational it is. It touts ritual over reality, symbolism over substance, while claiming to be so much more rational and scientific than those silly sky-God worshipers and deranged oil addicts.