Enviro Extremism vs. Extreme Enviro Problems, Part I

I’m trying to understand the point of view of those who don’t believe anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is happening.  I’m thinking that to them, we environmentalists seem to be screeching alarmists, who are either crazy or bamboozled by evil scientists and politicians, or have some evil agenda ourselves.  We might seem like extremists to them as we go around warning of catastrophic dangers.  But I suggest that just because an environmental problem may be (or perceived to be) extreme, doesn’t make the environmentalist an “extremist.”  I’ll talk about these “extreme environmental problems” in Part II, after looking at environmental extremism.

There are those who follow the Church’s environmental teachings to some extent and say they are concerned about the environment and we need clean water and air, but they claim environmental extremists are out of balance for focusing so heavily on AGW, to the exclusion of other problems.   To me such persons come across as doctors who diagnosis a common cold, when the patient also has cancer.  They are correct; the cold does need a remedy, but the more serious problem is overlooked.  I’ve always been concerned about all environmental problems, but after I became aware of AGW, I really honed in on it, and realized that it causes a lot of knock-on problems (and in recent years I’ve realized that it could mean the end to life on planet earth — see Part II).  And I also became aware that solutions to AGW are good solutions to a plethora of environmental and non-environmental problems.  An environmentalist mainly focused on global warming is NOT at all an extremist; it is the problem which is extremely dangerous and demands our full attention.  Other environmental problems are not suppressed or forgotten, but addressed and mitigated by the very measures that mitigate AGW.  Sort of like vitamin C is good for the cold and for cancer.

ENVIRONMENTAL EXTREMISM:  I’m also trying to understand why some environmentalists are tempted to extremes — into neopagan-pantheistic-anti-human atheism, and such.  I’m thinking it might be because the more the climate change denialists resist believing that global warming is real and dangerous, the more such environmentalists might be tempted to extremism — as in an ever frustrating lament of WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO GET THEM TO BELIEVE US AND SAVE THE EARTH BEFORE IT’S TOO LATE.  In other words, it is the denialists who may be pushing some environmentalists into extremes, not necessarily environmentalism.

THE NEOPAGAN PANTHEIST ENVIRONMENTALISTS:  So, environmentalists are searching fervently into what is lacking in the motivation and world view of the anti-environmentalists.  Like maybe we need a new religion or new theology, they may think, because the old ones obviously aren’t enough to get people to do the right thing.  Like, maybe we need an earth-centered religion, rather than a sky-centered one, with mother earth rather than heavenly father. 

That’s all fine & dandy, if you happen to be a cultural or ideological determinist and think religion determines people’s behavior.  I happen to be a nondeterminist, believing that the human condition is impacted by the social (other people, groups, status, relationships), the psychological (the cognitive and affective/emotional), the biological, and the environmental dimensions, as well as by the cultural dimension (including religion).  ((As a religious person, I also believe there is a spiritual dimension beyond human comprehension that impacts us and totally interpenetrates the world as well.))  So, no, we don’t need a new religion, because it won’t help.  We just need to implement the dictates of the old religions — like “thou shalt not kill.”

There is also a question as to whether these neopagan pantheist environmentalists actually believe that the earth or various aspects of it have supernatural powers to make those darned anti-environmentalists come around and do the right thing, or it is just a metaphor for them, like “Rock” in “Let us sing to the Lord and shout with joy to the Rock who saves us” (Ps. 95).  And do they really believe the earth systems — Gaia, if you will — have rational/irrational anthropomorphic powers, motives, and behaviors.  Or, do they believe AGW is due to natural causes and laws of physics that can be discovered and analyzed by scientists, and that we will need to implement practical measures to mitigate it. ((BTW, the scientific tradition came out of Christianity, and perhaps that is because rather than despite of our God being an awesome God, beyond the trees, wind, earth, sun, Zeus, or any other anthropomorphic concept we can possibly come up with, no matter how grand our highest thoughts.  Our God is way beyond all that.  Nature operates by scientific laws, which were ordained by God.  Scientists, wittingly or unwittingly, are theologians in a way.))

THE ANTI-HUMAN ENVIRONMENTALISTS:  The other thinking of tiny portion of environmentalists at the ends of their wits with anti-environmentalists is that people are obviously very evil for not being willing to mitigate destruction of life on planet earth, and that’s unfair to the rest of earth’s biota, who would be better off without people.  Note that it is our human capacity, not shared by animals, to be able to take on such a role and perspective of another being, including animals.  The thinking of these anti-human environmental extremists might be, if we want to destroy ourselves and our progeny, that’s bad enough, but it’s just totally evil to destroy all of life, so down with people. 

I say NO to that position.  Killing off people to save the earth from being destroyed just reconfirms this stupid belief of how evil we are.  Yes, we are fallen, yes we are the children of Eve, Adam and Cain, the original sinners and denialists of wrong-doing.  Yes, it is hard, nearly impossible to do anything right or good.  And yes, we know better than the animals, and we still do wrong.  And yes, Jesus came to show us the way, redeemed us by his blood, and gave us abundant grace, and we still do wrong, but let’s give people just one more chance.  Okay?  (I just hope there is one more chance before reaching tipping points of no return.)

So that is the environmental extremism the anti-environmentalists are so up-in-arms about, which doesn’t apply to me or most other environmentalists.  And though such enviro extremists may be out there, that still begs the question of who pushed them into it.  I’m thinking it’s at least in part the anti-environmentalists, especially the Christian anti-environmentalists (that includes Catholic anti-environmentalists, too), who would not only kill off life on earth and lose their own souls, but would push others into extremism and cause them to lose their souls as well.

Whether or not we are facing extreme environmental problems, however, is not determined by or dependent upon our thinking, whether it be extreme or moderate, Christian or neopagan or atheist, or whether we deny environmental problems exist because we hate cap and trade, fear becoming a pantheist, or have qualms about population control some environmentalists bring up.  They exist outside our heads, and are the topic of Part II.

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