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Jan 12, 2011

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David

I think that critical thinking and democratic decision making is becoming a thing of the past. In light of so called political agendas on both the left and right. I agree that the "religion" of clean and green is in fact taking priority over critical and thoughtful science. As an example even making inroads towards a religion of it's own !

Maybe just an overall result of a general view that we are our own Savior and not a Creator / Redeemer known as Jesus our Lord.

I also expect that people will continue to get Gen 1:28-29 wrong unless they are confronted with the fact of our sin against God and His creation. Our Redemtion is not only about restoring a relationship with a Holy God but with His creation as well. So I hole little hope about the future of the environment.

I like the efforts of environmentalist to a point, but feel they miss the bigger picture of Restoration when it relates to Gen 1:28-29 and our own Salvation.

phil_style

I can't agree with the assertion that environmentalism has replaced religion for "urban atheists"... I work in an environmental consultancy. Almost everyone who I work with is atheist, (not becasue they're environmentalists, but becasue it's London) and they all pursue environmental action largely because it has human utility (environments collapse, so do human/social groups).

We don't see books about how medical care is the "religion" of the atheists. Unless you're going to buy into deep-ecology (gaia hypothesis and the like) then environmentalism really is much like the pursuit of medicine. We build hospitals to look after the sick. And we ensure high standards of air quality, water quality and protect critical habitats for the ssimilar reasons.

phil_style

In fact the more I read Joel Garreau the more angry I'm becoming. He strikes me as completely unfamiliar with what environmental work is, what our legal frameworks are here in Europe regarding the environment and why they are in place. Why is it that Denmark/Sweden always get referenced in these discussions? Just becasue they happen to have high % of non-traditionally religious people and strong environmental credentials? This is a tiny data set and does NOTHING to show global trends.

Garreau might be addressing some aspects of fringe new-age environmental though but he's lost the plot if he thinks that the environment/green industry and it's policy counterparts are up to their knees in some kind of pholisophical religious reformation. A few extreme quotes from carbon skeptics does not undermine, or represent environmentalism.

Environmentalism is essentially about trying to ensure that things can live. Environmentalism is pro-life. Garreau - get on board!

David

Hi Phil, I must say I don't agree with you. Don't think Garreau is addressing the fringe or new-age environmental thoughts here. But main stream issues. I have no data to back that up just experience in discussions with those who call themselves environmentalist. Seems to me that politics is always part of the discussion along with shacky science and a dooms day mentality. I know this is extremely gereral in it's context and I'm sorry for that. But there is a reason for it and a reason that most environmentalists I know don't believe in God, let alone a Savior. And if we don't do this or that regardless of the effects it has on people then we will be distroying the environment in some way. I wish your last paragraph was really true and I expect for some in the field it is. But for too many others there is always another agenda. Stop oil production, no nuclear power, can't build here or there because of..., mother earth this and that, global warming brought about by man etc.....

phil_style

David,

First of all, with respect to "other" agendas I think your last staement reveals why people are (in my opinion un-necessarily) skeptical of environemntalism.

Restrictions on nuclear power are about safe storage of VERY toxic waste materials, risks associated with reactor leak, and the knwown measurable impacts of cooling water on water quality. Environmentalists understand the need for electrical energy. In fact, many "greenies" support the diversification of energy generation - part of which includes a nuclear component. The most vocal opponents of nuclear sites tend to be fringe elements and local residents (NIMBYs).

Reducing oil production is about managing the known, toxic effects of prolific (un-regulated) oil exploration, transportation and combustion. To deny these impacts on human health and well-being is reckless in the least

Global warming/ climate impacts brought about by man is based on preventing a proven chamiecal reaction (the greenhouse effect) that the industrialist scientists discovered over 100 eyars ago. This can be demonstrated in the lab. The "debate" over serverity goes on, but the basic physics ARE demonstrable.

Being prudent about where we construct things is common sense. Take for example flood-plains. Environmental legisaltion (pushed for by those evil environmentalists) drives the restriction of bulding settlements on flood plains in Europe. Ignore that advice if you want, but you'd be a fool once the heavy rains start. Take noise emission standards - (the backbone of construction/development restrictions in urban areas) are driven by conceern for human health. Yes, you can't do "this or that" especailly" when it means the permanent loss of hearing for people like you and me.

All of these things you mention are not alterior religious agendas. They are common sense, based on the precautionary principle and scientific investigation to achieve results that mean human society can continue to flourish. Even the globally accepted definition of "sustainability" is anthropocentric! Check the Rio conference of 1992. Societal well being and health is the foundational concern of the lead statement issued by that conference, and this definition continues to drive sustainability efforts today.

The "mother earth" thing is a red herrring. Deep ecologists are few and far between. It's a metaphor anyway. Just as is Jesus' comparison of God the Father to a female chicken.

phil_style

"most environmentalists I know don't believe in God, let alone a Savior"

Aside from the fact that this is anecdotal I want to address some assumptions hidden within this assertion.
Perhaps many environmentalists are not theists because it is actually that christians (in particular) are not willing to call themselves environmentalists. They have been preached to that somehow wanting to protect our environment means you are in bed with "ungodly" religions, or denying humanity's reliance on God. This is bunk, and just as weak as saying that christians should not care for the sick because that denies our need for a saviour too.

When it comes down to it (whilst not wanting to wear the "green" badge) most christians DO actually care about their environment. And we explicitly know we are dependant on it. Take a man's clean air away and he will die. Only an idiot, or a total fatalist would deny the connection between the health/cleanliness of the natural environment and human well-being. Don't believe me? Try inhaling sulphur dioxide.

Michael W. Kruse

Phil, thanks for your push back here. I always value your comments on this topic.

In Garreau’s defense, I did not understand this article to be about research and applied scientists working on environmental issues. Rather I read him to be addressing how the environment is perceived in the popular mind and how opinion makers seek to shape that mind. I thought a key paragraph was this one:

“Describing environmentalism as a religion is not equivalent to saying that global warming is not real. Indeed, the evidence for it is overwhelming, and there are powerful reasons to believe that humans are causing it. But no matter its empirical basis, environmentalism is progressively taking the social form of a religion and fulfilling some of the individual needs associated with religion, with major political and policy implications.”

I do find non-scientists who are avid environmentalists who argue for policies and values based on science and the concerns you raise. But I find them to be a minority among the avid non-scientist environmentalist I encounter. Science functions as a proof-text about deeply held metaphysical beliefs. Citing science becomes a way of deflecting having to address an incoherent set of metaphysical beliefs. Furthermore, I think there are opinion makers who welcome this wedding of religion and science. They know that the science of environmentalism can be tedious and complex. It is hard to generate a passionate movement for something without a grand narrative. And as the axiom goes, not every movement needs a god, but nearly every movement seems to need as Satan.

So again, I don’t the Garreau is doubting environmental science or its importance for one moment. Based on what I know of his work I suspect he is deeply committed to issues of environmental concern. It is the wedding of religion to environmentalism in the public mind to promote policy is what I understood this article to be about.

phil_style

Sorry if the push was a little strong Michael.

Environment gets me fired up ;)

Michael W. Kruse

And that is why I so appreciate your perspective.

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