Sunday, March 23, 2008

Global Warming "Religion"?

The following is a letter-to-the-editor which I submitted to the Wisconsin State Journal and (Madison WI) Capital Times on 22 March 2008.


Many skeptics have begun to assert that Global Warming has become a “religion” of sorts, and several made this charge at the March 19th public listening session held by the Wisconsin Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming. Such allegations contain more than a kernel of truth: zealousness, righteousness, and stern reproaches of “disbelievers” are prevalent among Climate Change activists.

Yet it is clear many skeptics are motivated no less by their faith in the Church of Perpetual Economic Growth. Nor can anyone deny which “religion” reigns supreme in these United States: the doctrine of producing and consuming, of developing and expanding, of discarding and emitting more and more, forever and ever, Amen. Our economic high priests proclaim that the “Law of Substitution” will overcome all material and energetic limits. They praise the infinite wisdom of the “Invisible Hand”. And they demand that “The Market” be unshackled and set free at last – then irksome non-monetary considerations like foresight, ethical governance, and enlightened self-restraint can be cast aside.

God Himself may not know whether in this century mankind will render Earth a thermodynamically-inhospitable habitat for humanity. But only complete fools would ignore the fact that our species is reaching and exceeding many of our planet’s limits: the devastating overharvesting of ocean fish, the combustion of a cubic mile of non-renewable petroleum per year, and vast soil erosion due to unsustainable agriculture. If we do not ration our exploitation of Earth, Nature will ration us.

Edmund Burke’s warning summarizes it best: “Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters."

1 comment:

Beth said...

If you follow the logic that anything that people feel passionately about, and are willing to defend and 'convert' others into believing as true also, is a religion, then we are on new and slippery ground, indeed.

I believe one thing that sets a belief apart from being a faith-based conviction, is whether or not reason, data, and science can also support the belief.

Much religious belief does not have this luxury, but global warming does.