FSE: Earth Day 2008

Today is Earth Day, so I’ll be sharing my thoughts about environmentalism, however scattered they may be.

If my memory is correct, I first heard of Earth Day when I was in seventh grade. My mom and grandma owned a health food store, which sold organic foods, the types that lacked pesticides and all that artificial junk. Well, they were going to do a special exhibit for Earth Day.

Come to think of it, my school was really promoting Earth Day that year too. In my home ec class, my teacher was urging us to buy a certain brand of tuna, the type that was not caught in a dolphin-hurting manner. All this emphasis on Earth Day was strange to me, since I had never heard of it before that year. And I’m still puzzled about why that was. This was 1990. The day had existed since at least the 1970’s. Maybe Bush I injected environmentalism into the atmosphere with his promise to be “the environmental President.”

Overall, my family was sympathetic to environmentalism. We didn’t like pesticides. My dad insulated houses, which was a pro-conservationist thing to do. My mom was a member of Greenpeace, and her motive for that was distinctly Christian, for she said that she was trying to preserve God’s creation.

Some relatives and friends of mine believe in a conspiracy among elites to create a one world government. At one time, they tended to see the conspirators as big-time polluters, so they managed to combine their anti-internationalism with an environmentalist streak. Rockefeller was always a villain of theirs, after all, and he owned all these big oil polluters. But, over time, they came to see the environment as the excuse that would bring the nations together. They now view global warming as a sham that will convince the public that global problems require global solutions, leading to a one world socialist dictatorship. And they can point to trends in that direction. Does not the Kyoto treaty compromise the sovereignty of nations and impose regulations on their economies? And who is the biggest promoter of the doctrine of man-made global warming? The UN.

I guess my own personal skepticism about environmentalism came about when I was in the eighth grade. I read Opposing Viewpoints: The Environmental Crisis, which contained both liberal and conservative articles about the environment. There was an article in there from the ultra-conservative American Opinion that really shredded environmentalism. It said that environmentalism was socialist, that Earth Day was Lenin’s birthday, that the government created huge, costly bureaucracies that burdened businesses in the name of protecting the environment, and that environmental problems were not that huge. In high school, Rush Limbaugh was starting to get famous, with his rants against “environmental wackos.” And Al Gore was making the environment a big part of his platform. As a small government conservative Republican, it was clear to me what my stance should be.

But there was always a part of me that wanted to have my cake and eat it too. Can I oppose big government while also supporting the environment? There were some articles in that Opposing Viewpoints book that answered “yes.” According to one of them, private ownership of land is a good way to protect the environment, since people tend to take care of what they own. I also had no problems with recycling or buying green. Isn’t freedom the right to make choices? And if people want to make environmentally safe choices, then they have a right to do so.

But many environmentalists would look at what I just said and declare that such measures are not enough. That’s because they view everything in a crisis mode. For them, drastic big government “solutions,” if not world government “solutions,” are absolutely necessary to preserve planet earth.

And I’m just not sure if there’s an environmental crisis. Sure, there are environmental problems that need common-sense solutions, ones that balance the environment and the economy. I want to breathe clean air and drink clean water as much as anyone. But I don’t really buy into the green apocalypticism that has existed since the 1970’s. Environmentalists have predicted doomsday scenarios for years, and life continues to go on, long after their projected dates for environmental catastrophe have passed.

Global warming? It exists. But are we absolutely certain that we’re the ones causing it? Sure, most scientists will answer in the affirmative. But there are also plenty of credentialed scientists who claim the opposite. They’re usually dismissed as paid-off by the oil industry, but the global warming alarmists also stand to gain with their doomsday scenarios. In the excellent documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle, the argument is made that scientists get more grants when they exaggerate global warming, making it out to be a crisis. That documentary has other jewels too. It features scientists who dispute the existence of a global warming crisis, along with ex-environmental activists who acknowledge the environmental movement’s tendency to exaggerate.

A big villain of the environmental movement, of course, is President George W. Bush. I once signed an environmental petition to save baby seals, since they were so cute and reminded me of my white cat (“White Baby”). As a result, I got on a mailing list that bashed Bush day in, and day out. But Bush has not hurt the environment. EPA statistics show that air pollution has decreased under his administration. Actually, it was decreasing before him, but at least he’s helping to continue that trend. Bush helped pass a treaty that reduced methane, which plays a significant role in global warming (for those who believe that human beings are causing it). And I remember Christine Todd Whitman, Bush’s former EPA chief, saying on C-Span that Bush’s environmental record is actually better than most think, but the Administration downplayed that fact to appease his conservative base, which dislikes government regulations.

During my high school years, I protested Earth Day. We had to make Earth Day T-shirts, and mine criticized Al Gore. One year, a libertarian friend and I didn’t get desperately-needed extra credit in a chemistry class on account of that. But at least we sparked a good debate with our chemistry teacher!

I read a good quote in Rod Dreher’s Crunchy Cons that makes me a little more sympathetic to preserving the environment. It was from Pope John Paul II (I think), and it said that God made everything for a reason, and that reason is bigger than our personal or economic gratification. And that is true. God made all sorts of plants and animals for his pleasure, and he called them good. I still oppose socialism. I believe in helping the economy rather than hurting it with big government. But I think that environmental protection is a worthy goal, though I wouldn’t go as far as a lot of environmental preservationists.

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
This entry was posted in Current Events, Environment, Free Style Entry, George W. Bush, Holidays, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to FSE: Earth Day 2008

  1. Felix Taylor says:

    Take a look at Newt Gingrich’s take. Very bright guy!

    Like

  2. James Pate says:

    Hi Felix!

    I wrote some posts a while back on his new book, which you may find interesting.

    Like

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