Friday, February 2, 2007

Environmentalism - the New Canadian Religion

Is Environmentalism the new Canadian religion? At breakfast a few days ago, I made that pointed suggestion to my wife. I could tell she wasn’t buying my musings. I guess my reasoning fell flat. It was just a feeling, and not something I'd looked into. Before she lost all patience, I finished up by alleging that I wasn’t alone in that view, and beat a hasty retreat to my office. Was I correct? Have many others formed the same impression?

The quick way to find out was to Google the question. First encountered was a discussion thread which ran from January 16-18 on a site called DAIMNATION!. It’s a conservative Newfoundland Blog which I had not seen before. The topic, “Canada Pays, China Pollutes” was triggered by a scathing report on China’s massive environmental degradation in the current edition of Der Spiegel. Provisions of the Kyoto Accord allow nations to buy and sell carbon credits, and many Canadians are incensed by the fact that China gets a free ride. The Chinese government talks in soundbites like Greenpeace, but behaves like they still worship King Coal. China opens coal-fired generating plants at a rate of one a week.

The DAIMNATION! debate was largely one-sided, but what did interest me was how these pseudonymous Canadians were framing their arguments. Positions seemed to coalesce around a useful history metaphor. Said one contributor, “This whole thing reminds me of Medieval Church ‘indulgences’; Chaucer’s ‘Pardoners Tale’ could stand in as a modern editorial piece”.

Another agreed, adding “Most so-called secular environmentalists are acting upon cryptic sentiments of Christian guilt arising from too much ostentatious consumption and worldly success. Kyoto is an atonement for those sins; it is salvation. Setting the climate "right" is, thus, their religion, and like many religious fundamentalists, environmentalist arguments are somewhat devoid of reason, logic and facts, but big on the *shrill factor*.”

Still another voice concluded, “Environmentalists have always been predisposed to paint humanity as a scourge on earth. It’s a major part of their catechism.” The original originator of the metaphor returned to enlarge on his point. “If the response to global warming (etc) was posited to be prayer, meditation and a call for divine intercession, would we be excited about an economic scheme that promised a greater investment in temples, shrines, and prayer mats and improved efficiency in the construction or production of these items?”

A fourth voice opined that “Kyoto has become a morality play far removed from any sort of scientific reality. It's akin to wearing hair shirts to ward off the plague.” Is this just political rhetoric or are they on to something?

We cannot escape the fact that Canadians have suddenly put Global Warming on the top of the political agenda. The Liberals believe that Harper’s government is vulnerable on “Kyoto” and are poised to make the environment the only issue in the next election. The drum beaters are certainly marching with evangelic zeal. They cry out, “think nationally, act globally”. Watch out world! The American’s just want to sell you electoral democracy. Canadians want to restructure your industries and put you back on a bicycle saddle. Your hearts and minds will follow.

My next stop was a report published by STATS CANADA in May, 2006. It’s called “Whose Religious?” and is rather blunt about evolving Canadian belief patterns. Revealed is that we cannot be measured by our professed religious affiliations, as recorded by Census item every ten years. Only one third of us attend a place of worship even a 'lazy ass' once a month. But 53% of Canadians “engage in private religious behavior either at home or in other locations, even though they may have little or no connection with religious organizations.”

Canadians it seems, are making up their own core belief systems as they go about living their lives. Make no mistake, survey’s say we are “believers”, but you can’t pin labels on what most of us believe. STATS CANADA sidesteps that real life glitch by categorizing it as “Religiosity,” for lack of a better word. Well what are we believing in private? If elected government and current policy initiatives are an indication of popular belief patterns, Canadians have adopted environmentalism as their new religion. Mother Earth. The Great Spirit. Gaia. Take your pick. All through the 80s and 90s the Christians went on and on about the growing social influence of the “New Agers”. It turns out they were right.

My mouse kept clicking. I ended up looking at Michael Crichton, author of techno thrillers and co-creator of the wildly popular Jurassic Park concept, realized on-screen by Stephen Spielberg. Crichton could do no wrong it seemed, until he wrote STATE OF FEAR, in 2003. It became a 2004 best seller, and a banned book among the "believers". At that point they descended upon Crichton. He had committed the cardinal heresy of being creative and playful with their core belief - that mankind was responsible for rapid global warming. Salmon Rushdie could have told Crichton what to expect. But the American author is made of healthy material, and is a wealthy, articulate man. He stood his ground, choosing to lecture on the experience of becoming a human lightning rod for a dangerous new form of energy.

In a speech called “Environmentalism as Religion” Crichton has suggested, “If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.” He is horrified at the degree to which science is being politicized and states bluntly that “what more and more groups are doing is putting out is lies, pure and simple. Falsehoods that they know to be false.”
I won’t deprive you the fun of reading his views. They are found at Select speeches from the menu.

Every Canadian is free to worship their own God, but many of these new religionists, the clever ones practicing religion on a keyboard, seem determined to proselytize. That’s what “true believers” do. Their tithes are the carbon taxes and their orthodoxy is to force sweeping behavior change. Geologists have identified 35 massive Ice Ages which the earth always emerged from, entirely without the help of human beings. Mars has its own unique form of glacial growth and melting, which also manages to cycle in the absence of a human population of any size. If the super-environmentalists have their way, we will never colonize Mars. They will not content themselves with managing one planet.

PHOTO- The frozen southpole of MARS, recorded in September 1877. Ten years later German engine designer Siegfried Marcus started a company to build two-stroke gasoline engines. Glaciers everywhere were doomed.

When will this new “green” religion burn itself out? Not in my lifetime or yours. It's going to get worse before they have exorcized all of their demons. Perhaps our only hope to preserve some grudging form of individuality is to take our cue from grimy, unhappy Winston Smith in Nineteen-Eightyfour. Turn your back to the tele-screen and keep your private thoughts to yourself. They’re searching for non-believers, and they’re ruthlessly unforgiving

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