Often on the right hand side of the political dial I hear claims that environmentalism is "a religion."
I guess by this it’s meant that some people, maybe including me, think the earth is sacred. Horrors!
Instead of contesting this, I’m beginning to think enviros should agree, and point out that to many on the right, money is a religion, and if a conflict between the value of money and the value of the planet should arise, than that means the planet must fall by the wayside.
(This is absurd and self-defeating, of course, as even huge oil companies like Chevron — which accepts the concept of natural capital — will concede. But never mind that now.)
A prime example comes from a recent interview with Libertarian candidate for president Bob Barr and far-right radio host Glenn Beck:
GLENN: Do you believe in manmade global warming and to what extent will
you try to correct it, if you do believe in manmade global warming?
BARR: Mankind has done a lot of good in the world.
They have done a lot of bad as well, but change in the climate is not
one of them. I’ve seen no legitimate scientific evidence that indicates
that the cyclical — and they are very much cyclical — you know,
increases and drops in global temperatures over the decades and over
the centuries is the result of, you know, mankind.
Barr denies the existence not only of climate change, but of billions of dollars of research, four international reports by the IPCC, the latest totaling 996 pages — but never mind.
Some minds are closed: not much news there.
Here’s my point. In the l9th century, similarly closed-mind religious believers refused to accept the concept of the extinction of species. New York Times blogger Olivia Judson explains in a recent column:
Extinction is so much a part of today’s cultural background — this
species endangered, that habitat lost, save the whale, save the rhino,
save the rainforest — that it’s strange to think that as little as 200
years ago, most people didn’t think extinction was possible. The very
idea was an affront to the Creator: it suggested imperfection and
incompleteness in the original design of the world. So even once it
became accepted that fossils had been formed from living beings — which
itself took some time — most people supposed that the corresponding
organisms were still alive, somewhere, awaiting discovery.
But in the last years of the 18th century and the first decade of
the 19th, the great French anatomist Georges Cuvier made a study of the
fossil bones of enormous animals — giant ground sloths, and extinct
elephants like mammoths and mastodons. Some of the giant ground sloths
reached 6 meters (almost 20 feet) long. The bones and teeth of mammoths
and mastodons showed that they were clearly distinct from living
Cuvier argued that such creatures could not correspond to anything
currently alive: if animals that big were still blundering around,
they’d be known about. It was only then, in the years after he
presented and published his work, that the reality of extinction in the
history of life became recognized and accepted.
Like the now-extinct Stellar Sea-Cow, Barr and his fellow climate change deniers simply can’t believe in the facts in front of their faces. The Sea-Cow had not the wit to avoid hunters, and was extinct along the West Coast not long after it was discovered.
I can’t help but hope that the Libertarian fanaticism will be similarly short-lived.
Is that wrong?