A note on the green religion, one of the growth industries in America

This is another in a series of posts examining the deterioration of America’s ability to cope with reality, called the observation-orientation-decision-action loop (aka the OODA loop; at the end are links to other chapters in the series).

The rise of the Green religion is an example of this, as the previously majority religion (in Lewis Laptham’s words) “softens into Sunday School irrelevance.” Faith or need for the sacred can be displaced, but appearently not eliminated from human society — always providing an alternative to reason.

Excerpt from Money and Class in America, Lewis Laptham (1988):

It is no accident that environmentalism in its more militant phases is a rich man’s cause. The Club of Rome discovered the limits of growth while gathered on the terrace of a villa overlooking a vineyard that belonged to its founder.

Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s the most diligent advocates of the movement tended to possess substantial wealth and property, and their expressions of concern about the natural world had a way of sounding like the pleasant condescensions of landowners asking tenant farmers about the chances of an early frost.

Their earnestness invariably reminded me of a lady who, making a show of her innocence, was nearly stabbed to death on a beach at East Hampston. From the deck of a glass house, at about noon on a Sunday in August, the lady noticed a company of fisherman dragging a heavy net through the surf. It had taken them six hours to set and haul the net, but the lady apparently wasn’t aware of their labor or their need to sell the fish for something so loathsome as money. The piteous sight of so many fish gasping on the sand moved her to politics. Arming herself with garden shears, she rushed forth to cut the net.

One of the younger fisherman, not yet accustomed to the whims of intellectual fashion, had to be restrained from driving a knife into the woman’s stomach. he didn’t understand that we was watching a dramatization of the lady’s innocence. Presumably she didn’t object so much to the killing of the fish (later that same evening I doubt that she had much difficulty eating smoked salmon); she objected to bearing witness, and therefore becoming an accomplice, to the killing. As long as the fish were killed in cold and distant seas she could pretend that they arrived on her table of their own free will. Like mine workers and cleaning women they chose their places in the universe for the sheer joy of doing what they always had wanted to do.

Update:  Articles discussing environmentalism as a religion

As an emminent scientist, Dyson’s brief comment (#5) on the subject IMO deserves special attention.

  1. Environmentalism as Religion“, Michael Crichton, speech at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco,15 September 2003
  2. Faith in Nature: Environmentalism as Religious Quest“, Mark R. Stoll(Profesor of History at Texas Tech University), H-Net Reviews. September 2004.
  3. Environmentalism as a religion“, Fernando Diaz Villanueva (author of Che Guevara), 22 March 2006
  4. Environmentalism as Religion“, John M. Ostrowski, posted at Lew Rockwell, 21 March 2007
  5. The Question of Global Warming“, Freeman Dyson (Wikipedia bio), The New York Review of Books, 12 June 2008

Afterword

Please share your comments by posting below.  Per the FM site’s Comment Policy, please make them brief (250 words max), civil, and relevant to this post.  Or email me at fabmaximus at hotmail dot com (note the spam-protected spelling).

For information about this site see the About page, at the top of the right-side menu bar.

For more information from the FM site

To read other articles about these things, see the FM reference page on the right side menu bar. Of esp relevance to this topic:

Some posts on the FM site about environmentalism:

Posts about the sociology and politics of climate science:

  1. President Kennedy speaks to us about global warming and Climate Science, 7 August 2008
  2. “Aliens cause global warming”: wise words from the late Michael Crichton, 15 November 2008
  3. My “wish list” for the climate sciences in 2009, 2 January 2009
  4. Apostasy against core leftist doctrine at the Huffington Post!, 13 January 2009
  5. Peer review of scientific work – another example of a flawed basis for public policy, 22 January 2009
  6. Obama opens his Administration with a powerful act that will echo for many years, 4 February 2009
  7. Science in action, a confused and often nasty debate among scientists, 5 February 2009
  8. Richard Feynmann, one of the 20th centuries greatest scientists, talks to us about climate science, 12 February 2009
  9. An opportunity to judge for yourself the adequacy of today’s climate science, 2 March 2009

Posts about America’s broken OODA loop:

  1. News from the Front: America’s military has mastered 4GW!, 2 September 2007
  2. The two tracks of discussion about the Iraq War, never intersecting, 10 November 2007
  3. Diagnosing the eagle, chapter I — the housing bust, 6 December 2007
  4. Another cycle down the Defense Death Spiral, 30 January 2008
  5. Quote of the day: this is America’s geopolitical strategy in action, 26 February 2008
  6. What do blogs do for America?, 26 February 2008
  7. Everything written about the economic crisis overlooks its true nature, 24 February 2009
  8. The housing crisis allows America to look in the mirror. What do we see?, 9 March 2009
  9. Globalization and free trade – wonders of a past era, now enemies of America, 16 March 2009

65 thoughts on “A note on the green religion, one of the growth industries in America

  1. The green movement has every chance to develop into a new kind of totalitarian frenzy like we saw it a hundred years ago. The industrial revolution and the rise of the working class created the communist idea, but with time the communist movement broke up in different parts like anarchism or the social-democratic parties.

    Today the green movement is mainstream, but already I hear voices saying democracy is too slow and failing in dealing with the threat of climate change. James Hanson – the leading expert from NASA – violently attacked the democracies for being to slow to respond at a climate conference in Copenhagen.

    So whats next? Well, my personal prediction is that we will see a radicalization of the green movement and just like communism broke up in different parts we will see the green movement break up in different parts. Some more radical than others. I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the worst movements would be totalitarian in their nature. After all – we no longer debate the future of the Aryan race or the fate of the workers but the fate of our planet. Wouldn’t that justify a little genocide or two? Dead people can’t deforest the rain forest or pollute the climate.

    Its just a prediction, but when I hear James Hanson I hear the voices of a not too distant past in Europe.

  2. There are indeed, on the one hand, greens, such as myself, who are good guys in moderation (clean up the water, air and soil) and, on the other hand, Green-fascists (members of the Green Party and other extremists of the green faith whose proposals, if fully implemented, would restore the Stone Age) though all the members do not know it.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Both polls and elections show massive majorities in America in favor of clean up the water, air and soil. Which is why we have made such fantastic progress during the past 30 years in these things.

  3. The world’s level of CO2 will not go down. The Green’s have no power in China’; see this. The CO2 emissions of the US and Europe could go to zero, and it will still inevitably climb.

    If the Green’s and China succeed, this will have the effect of increasing the trade deficit, and the eventual passing of the US off the world stage into irrelevance.

  4. Environmentalists = watermelons — green on the outside, red in the middle.

    I agree with #1, that the logic of most environmentalist arguments (reduction in births, energy, consumption, mining, logging, farming, animal husbandry, etc.) is a simple call for genocide and suicide by the human race.

  5. On the issues raised by Robert Petersen, two things you might find interesting:

    – Mike Hulme (AN IPCC co-author) on the final note of the Copenhagen climate science meeting, calling for “immediate action” and apparently written by a small committee in the name of all scientists without said scientists being informed: “What message, and whose, from Copenhagen?”, Mike Hulme, op-ed in the BBC News, 16 March 2009.

    – An old book — “The New Ecological Order” — which I found very interesting, written by Luc Ferry in 1995 – “the new ecological order” – on the links between green and fascist ideologies.

  6. FM note: Authors live for complementary reviews, like this one from India. I provide a few others, even better, at the end of this comment.

    Fabius Maximus is playing logistician on the Green Genralissimos in an indirect way, current account imbalances and all.
    The Logistician
    Logisticians are a sad and embittered race of men who are very much in demand in war, and who sink resentfully into obscurity in peace. They deal only in facts, but must work for men who merchant in theories. They emerge during war because war is very much a fact. They disappear in peace because peace is mostly theory. The people who merchant in theories, and who employ logisticians in war and ignore them in peace, are generals.
    Generals are a happy blessed race who radiate confidence and power. They feed only on ambrosia and drink only nectar. In peace, they stride confidently and can invade a world simply by sweeping their hands grandly over a map, point their fingers decisively up terrain corridors, and blocking defiles and obstacles with the sides of their hands. In war, they must stride more slowly because each general has a logistician riding on his back and he knows that, at any moment, the logistician may lean forward and whisper: “No, you can’t do that.” Generals fear logisticians in war and, in peace, generals try to forget logisticians.
    Romping along beside generals are strategists and tacticians. Logisticians despise strategists and tacticians. Strategists and tacticians do not know about logisticians until they grow up to be generals–which they usually do.
    Sometimes a logistician becomes a general. If he does, he must associate with generals whom he hates; he has a retinue of strategists and tacticians whom he despises; and, on his back, is a logistician whom he fears. This is why logisticians who become generals always have ulcers and cannot eat their ambrosia.
    Unknown Author (293 words)
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    FM replies: Thank you! Here are other reviews of the FM site:

    “This book … tremor … Manichean guilt … existential … pleonastic … redundancy …”
    — Orlando di Biscuit, Hobnob Review of Books

    “A slightly more liberal reading of the leash-laws would keep sites like this off the Internet.”
    — Wilmot Proviso, The Rocky Mountain Literary Round-up

    “Much have I travelled in the realm of gold, and many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
    round many western islands have I been, which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
    Oft of one wide expanse had I been told, which deep browed Homer ruled as his demesne.
    Yet never did I breathe its pure serene, till I heard Fabius Maximus speak out loud and bold.
    — John Keats, Manchester Nighingale

    {Bonus points to anyone who correctly identifies the source of this material!}

  7. What is this post getting at? Some rich woman is a self-indulgent dumbass. Okay. This proves that environmentalism is a rich man’s cause? And let’s say that environmnetalism is more likely to be the cause of the rich. So what?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: As it says on the About Page, “Read the posts of this blog as Dickens was read in the 19th century, a book delivered to you by installments.” If this chapter is not clear, read some of the earlier chapters (listed in the “for more information” section at the end).

  8. When Professor Erik Pianka and James Lovelock agree the world is better off without 90% of its humans, Al Gore and James Hansen are in full agreement. Wealthy environmentalists discuss such ideas among themselves, and how to accomplish the deed.

    If only busybodies such as George Bush with his Fifteen billion dollars to Africa for AIDs treatment would not get in the way! Western medical groups to the third world, vaccines, such a nuisance! The problem is how these western busybodies are financed. Erik, James, Al, James and company have to destroy their financing. Destroy global capitalism. But how?

    Yes, modern leftist environmentalism is not about saving the planet. It is about destroying the dominant world economy, market capitalism. This will leave those who know best in charge, to dial down the world’s population of viral humans to more manageable levels. 100 million? Dieoff.org

  9. The righteousness of the ends can end up justifying the evilness of the means. There is nothing more righteous than keeping an environment suitable for human life. Therefore any means of stopping climate change is justified. As climate change models become more extreme and it becomes more evident drastic action must be taken soon in order to avoid unacceptable climate degradation the more pressure there will be for extreme and even totalitarian solutions to the problem. Communists meant well. They meant to create heaven on earth. And because they meant to create heaven on earth the opposition was totally evil and had to be dealt with accordingly. Environmentalists are going in the same direction.

  10. FM: “Both polls and elections show massive majorities in America in favor of clean up the water, air and soil. Which is why we have made such fantastic progress during the past 30 years in these things.”

    You’re kidding, right? Lapham is making fun of his own social class, as he’s been doing for quite awhile. he’s not making fun of environmentalism, which is more of a middle class than an upper class movement. If environmentalism deserves to be questioned, it could be seen as an example of NYMBYism — not in my backyard. The central contradiction and political challenge of the Green movement, as someone notes above, is that it can’t succeed unless we convince the rest of the world not to follow the same path of development that we have. What right do we have to do that?

    A possible solution to that contradiction might be to invest our energy and resources into producing energy efficient technologies which we could then sell to the rest of the world and thereby help their own path of development be less damaging than ours. It’s a win-win approach, worth trying.

    Most of the commenters on this thread seem to equate environmentalism with some kind of left-leaning “big government” conspiracy. Now that’s creative thinking!
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Why do you say that I am kidding. Nothing you say is even relevant to my statement.

  11. Once the international Corporate Monsters have adopted the Green movements to acquire more greenbacks, Greens will back away as hundreds of thousands of bushels of naturally green hemp are harvested into the monetary printing presses yet again!

  12. I know you aren’t really in earnest, but dude Environmentalism isn’t a religion. It’s a social movement. Apply some sociological reasoning please. Social movements are wide, nebulous, often shallow, and can contain radical members. Nevertheless they aren’t religions.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: I suggest that you no longer rely on the Force to determine what other people are thinking; it does not work well for you.

    As for the green religion, your certainty about this is interesting, but quite a few people disagree.
    Environmentalism as Religion“, Michael Crichton, speech at the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco,15 September 2003
    Faith in Nature: Environmentalism as Religious Quest“, Mark R. Stoll (Professor of History at Texas Tech University), H-Net Reviews. September 2004.
    Environmentalism as a religion“, Fernando Diaz Villanueva (author of Che Guevara), 22 March 2006
    Environmentalism as Religion“, John M. Ostrowski, posted at Lew Rockwell, 21 March 2007

  13. To play devil’s advocate here, isn’t what greens advocate really just making our industry and our other systems, like transportation and pwoer generation, more efficient? And isn’t that really the fundamental basis of capitalism? Doesn’t market capitalism work by innovating to drive inefficiencies increasingly out of the system?

    Are you absolutely certain you want to argue against increasing the efficiency of our power plants and our cars and our factories and our computers? What advantages does our society gain from such a policy?

  14. I feel better now that Erasmus, electrophoresis and atheist have weighed in. Now, would Duncan please show up? And what about Old Skeptic?

  15. “isn’t what greens advocate really just making our industry and our other systems, like transportation and power generation, more efficient? And isn’t that really the fundamental basis of capitalism?”

    Is efficiency the basis of capitalism? I thought the basis of capitalism was a means to turn productivity of the many into profit for the increasingly few. Works very well as such. Certainly not viz. efficiency.

    Example: after several thousand years of civilisation and at least two hundred of capitalists ‘efficiencies’ it is becoming increasingly more difficult for the average citizen to
    a) buy a decent egg
    b) buy a good loaf of bread
    c) go for a walk in the country without being hit by a vehicle or zapped by an electric fence!

  16. As a professional hydrologist and water resources engineer, with a masters degree in environmental fluid mechanics and post graduate training in meterology, I feel as if my opinions on this matter have a small amount more validity than most of the other comments thus far.

    CO2 is not a greenhouse gas. It has never been proven to enact anything close to the ‘greenhouse effect’ in laboratory tests, and the computer models that show increase in global temperature follows CO2 increases are a coincidence. Pointing to those computer models as evidence that global warming is due to CO2 fundamentally fails the cardinal rule of scientific study – never, ever assume correlation implies causality.

    That global temperatures have increased over time with CO2 increase shouldn’t be too big of a stretch. That CO2 levels have increased with human population shouldn’t be too big of a stretch either. But many other things have increased with human population as well – things that should be better accounted for in climate models, and simpley aren’t.

    Albedo is the big one.

    Data on mean global temperature going back to the 1800s is spotty, but data on glacial extent is fairly reliable, and it shows the recession of glacial ice begins not with increases in fossil fuel consumption, but with increases in global population. Increases in global population are tied almost directly to the conversion of forests and grassland to farmland. Farmland is hotter than grassland, and significantly hotter than forests. Urban centers are hotter still. Most of this goes back to albedo.

    For more information on albedo, and how it’s been verifiably proven to increase mean surface temperature, look up Urban Heat Islands on Wikipedia. Their treatment is reasonably well written.

    The reason albedo isn’t accounted for well in global climate models, is that the guys doing the climate modeling are by and large atmospheric chemists. If you ask atmospheric chemists what’s causing (fill in the blank) you shouldn’t be too surprised to hear them respond, “atmoshperic chemistry.” Their research grants are at stake.

    The public dialog regarding global warming is fundamentally flawed by the media’s efforts to categorize everybody and everything as “Republican” or “Democrat.” As a result of this drastic oversimplification, the two “sides” of the dialog we are expected to choose from are either, A) The earth is not warming and if it is warming it’s not due to man, or B) The earth is warming and it is due to man and it is 100% due to CO2 emissions. Neither side can verifiably “win” the dialog because both sides are wrong.

    The biggest tragedy of all this, is the long term damage Al Gore and the climate lobby is doing to the environmental movement. There are a huge number of extremely important, extremely damaging environmental phenomena going on in the world today, that deserve serious, urgent international attention. All of these have been sidelined because of Al Gore’s efforts to paint disaster around CO2 emissions. In this mad rush to put every Environmental Egg in the Climate Change basket, not only are these other, more deserving problems marginalized, but the entire movement is being set up to fail as soon as the science catches up to the myth. Some time within the next decade or two, scientists are going to be able to definitively state, with authority, that CO2 is not a significant greenhouse gas, at which time the entire environmental movement will have to take the fall for Al Gore’s transgressions. All environmentalists will be labeled ‘quacks’ simply by association.

    This will be a terrible tragedy, unless environmentalists themselves take a stand against Gore and his ilk.

    I am an environmentalist.

  17. Actually the biggest tragedy is the likely result of trying to quickly decrease the emission of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. In order to decrease these gases very quickly we must force “lifestyle” change on large numbers of people against their will. This creates vigorous opposition to policies aimed at decreasing the emission of greenhouse gases. Well intentioned movements become totalitarian because they find totalitarianism is the best means of dealing with vigorous opposition to their policies. The more rapid the rate of decrease in greenhouse gas emissions we desire the more vigorous will be the opposition to the policies needed to obtain this decreae. The more vigorous the opposition the greater the likelihood of the environmental movement becoming a totalitarian movement. This explains why those who are opposed to totalitarianism are also opposed to environmentalism. A rapid decrease in greenhouse gas emissions simply can’t be done. At least not at a political price most of us are willing to accept. And make no mistake, those who are willing to accept that price are dangerous indeed.

  18. Greens are much less fearsome than communists. Communists, for all their faults believed in Science, Technology, and Progress, in the 19th century manner. They had their own theories about how society might be organized, but they would never reject something like nuclear power on the basis that it was bad JuJu.

    A radically green society might execute all scientists, engineers and factory workers, going back to the blessed pastoral existence. They wouldn’t last long though… I suppose it would be something like the Khmer Rouge…

  19. I worked with a land surveyor named Robert Armstrong. Funny coincidence.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m in favor of lots of environmental activities, and I do think that an overall reduction in CO2 emissions would have tertiary benefits, as other “real” pollutants are often also emitted with CO2. I also think carbon credits would help the environment, because credits are a free market incentive solution to reducing emissions of all sorts and increasing plant cover of all kinds. Those two would help overall air quality. It’s the “climate change” motivator that’s the red herring, and long as the fake “environmental crisis” is driving the policy makers, the environmental benefits of cap-and-trade cannot be weighed properly against its economic impacts. And they must be weighed; else we cut our nose off to spite our face.

    I believe that shifting the world’s population to more sustainable and less destructive lifestyles should definitely be a goal of environmentalism. If my lifestyle was three Whaleburgers (or Jewburgers) a day, I doubt anyone on this blog would have a problem with environmentalists forcing me to change my lifestyle. Lifestyle is not a fundamental right. But again, the impact of environmental policy on lifestyle and the environment must be weighed; else we cut off our nose to spite our face.

    This weighing process cannot take place without real facts.

    Painting all of environmentalism as totalitarian is silly. At its core, environmentalism and conservation is about the long term survival of our species. It’s about being responsible. There’s very little difference between true environmentalists and those who support a balanced budget amendment. Far from totalitarian, true environmentalists are actually quite libertarian, because they understand that your right to defile my water ends when I drink it.

    That doesn’t mean scissors-lady in today’s Fabius post is libertarian, though – she’s probably just a big wuss.

    Those fundamental pillars of responsibility and stewardship had finally started to gain true traction in the center, when Gore derailed it on his crusade to get a Nobel Prize for Handwaving Freakoutery. The fallout once he’s finally exposed by science is going to set the environmental movement back several decades at least. I personally fear the environmental damage that will be caused in its wake. Once Gore is proven wrong, all eggs in his basket break, and he’s stolen all the eggs.

  20. I would like to post a link to an article by James Hansen. So now we know: Coal power plants are factories of death and trains carrying coal are death trains. “Coal-fired power stations are death factories. Close them“, The Observer, 15 February 2009.

    If he is right – or, more precisely – convinces people that he is right who can blame somebody for blowing up these death trains and sabotage these factories of death, killing the engineers building them and burn the books with the knowledge to build or maintain such a power plant?

    This scares me.

  21. Paul it could be exactly like the Khmer Rouge. People could be marched from the cities back to the country in the name of creating a sustainable society.

    Mr. Peterson this is why it is called the “Green Religion.” Like all religions the holiness of the ends can be used to justify the evilness of the means. This is why James Hansen’s rhetoric scares you. People who think like this can easily rationalize sabotage and terrorism. The nineteen men who carried out 911 did it because they thought it was the only way to carry out the will of their God. Saving planet earth has the same effect on some people. This make them dangerous.

  22. The thing that rags me is how CO2 pushed its way to the front of the line without a good explanation as to why. Make no mistake, we can’t fund everything. Electrical conductivity, i.e. salinity of our rivers is going up, and soon the ionic make-up of our rivers will be dominated by man’s activities instead of natural processes like rain dissolving salt from rocks. Selenium is a nasty and astonishingly toxic byproduct of industrial activity, most notably coal mining and burning. Right now, it’s being essentially ignored by the powers that be even though permits are being exceeded at thousands of outfalls from coal mining alone. Look up “Landfill Leachate” if you want another example of underfunded environmental calamity around the world.

  23. In terms of all environmental disasters waiting in the wings on this planet, the two that concern me the most are oceanic dead zones, and changes in the trace concentrations of hormones in the fresh water supply – most of which found their way into it via birth control pills or hormonal manipulation of the food supply. I believe Fabius has covered one or both of these issues in the past.

    Dead Zones in particular are increasing at an alarming rate, and coral world wide has seen huge, mostly unexplained damages in recent years. Of course the Warm Earthers try to claim credit for those as well.

  24. Why all this fear of Greens? As atheist says, above, it’s just a social movement. If environmentalism were (subjunctive tense) ever to become a majority politics, it would still have to operate within the existing capitalist system, which is based on profitable selling of products and services to willing customers. Don’t worry, if we were all forced to live in the country (which may happen anyway, as we run out of oil) we would still be able to buy things, have work, try to be better than our neighbors, etc.

    What we do have to worry about is environmental initiatives being hi-jacked or co-opted by existing industry for profit — as in the case of ethanol — a truly bad form of alternate energy. FM worries that a major alternative energy program would strangle our current productive capacities, and waste a lot of money. That’s a reasonable fear, although I think fear of radical climate change is greater.

  25. FM , spill the beans on yourself/selves . Your income comes from ? And next year it will come from ? You live on a hill in an area of high rainfall ?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: On a hill with high rainfall — what does this mean? Do you fear that God will flood the world, again? As I recall, he promised not to do so. The Demiurge is brutal but seems to be reliable and honest, so I suggest you need not worry about folks on the coasts.

  26. Holy Moley. Just listen to the wild-eyed, greenfearing hallucinators commenting on this thread. Many of them truly sound like they are in the grip of a paranoid fantasy.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Do you consider this a reply? In what sense is this more than a schoolyard taunt that “I’m right and you’re not!”

  27. A story about the Green Party:

    I lived through the tenure of the first Green-Party-majority elected body in the country: the Arcata, California City Council. Small college town of 13,000 with about half of that students, plus a melange of 60’s refugees (and their descendants), out-of-work loggers, people who fell in love with the place and managed to find work there, and a sizable portion of itinerant street hippies and urban travelers. The latter would unsurprisingly congregate in the downtown plaza, hanging out, playing frisbee or guitar, dealing pot and begging for change. Not the sort of people you would want dating your daughter but basically harmless, and a source of “local color” and the relaxed atmosphere that made the town an appealing place to live.

    In any case, I quickly became disillusioned with Arcata’s incarnation of the Green Party when their first order of business became “cleaning up” downtown: increased police harassment for blocking the sidewalk, unlicensed dogs, possession of marijuana, etc. The capper was a proposal to install a police surveillance system overlooking the downtown plaza. Thankfully the robust sense of paranoia and healthy anarchism of a town full of drug users and eco-activists put the kibosh on that.

    It became apparent that the local Green Party was a stalking-horse for the clique of former Bay Area yuppies who owned the various “new age” clothing boutiques that catered to the tourist trade downtown. They exhibited totalitarian tendencies alright, but not in the way one might expect – rather, they were willing, without a moment’s thought or hesitation, to destroy the entire free-wheeling spirit of the place in order to make more money selling ugly, overpriced dresses.

  28. I’ve been lurking here for a while but the responses to this post has made me break my silence.

    To compare environmentalism with totalitarianism is such a gross misunderstanding of both ideologies it’s almost not worth a response. Anyone who thinks environmentalists could ever come even close to the likes of the Nazis or Khmer Rouge has obviously never met an environmentalist, who are overwhelmingly open, tolerant people concerned not only with the planet but also with quality of life and social justice; there is a massive difference between working toward a cleaner and more ecologically-sound society and huge programs of genocidal social engineering, and to conflate the two is tantamount to slander.

    “Social movements are wide, nebulous, often shallow, and can contain radical members.”
    This absolutely correct. To think that a few people operating on the edge of a movement defines the core is simply sloppy reasoning. Do we discount the Evangelical movement because some quacks assassinate abortion doctors? Do we discount libertarianism because some Neo-Nazis in Michigan tangentally agree with its ideals? Dieoff.org is no more the voice of the Greens than John Hagee is of all Christianity, and for every radical apocalyptic/terrorist environmentalist there are a thousand peaceful, decent people working to make the world a better place for EVERYONE.

    Wild-eyed hallucinations indeed.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Always nice to hear from folks living in fantasy land. In Oz reports might not have reached your of green activism. Nails in trees, hoping to blind loggers. The large numbers of arsons in the West, ranging from sawmills to car dealers. Bombings and attacks on scientists.

    See the wikipedia entry on the Earth Liberation Army and the Earth Liberation Front. The FBI declared the latter a top terrorist threat in 2001: see FBI tesimony to Congress on 12 February 2002: “The Threat of Eco-Terrorism“.

  29. re phageghost: I’ve also had bad experiences with the Green Party- as with any political entity, they often have ulterior agendas. Most of my environmentalist friends would also consider themselves libertarians or anarchists, because once institutional politics becomes involved, ecology takes often takes a backseat to pork and special interests.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: This is one of the most foolish of cognitive errors, assuming that your friends are representative of the full range of greens. Since they don’t include bombers, arsonists, or terrorists — then the green movement as a whole must not include them.

  30. Greens are not totalitarian. They are downright genocidal. If you see them coming, run! Totalitarians will take your money, your property, your jobs. Greens will take your right to breathe. Greens do not want to make the world a better place for EVERYONE. They want to make the world a better place for Greens. Everyone else is excess baggage.

  31. re Fabius: Perhaps you misread my comment. I don’t deny that there are radicals, as would be expected of any ideology; my point is their location on the fringe. You, and many of your readers, seem to think they define the movement, when in fact quite the opposite is true. The very fact we are debating this points to the damage they’ve done with their misguided militancy.

    Perhaps this discussion has strayed: Do you mean to focus exclusively on the radicals? Because if you did, then perhaps the terms should be narrowed from “environmentalism” to “eco-terrorism”?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: My posts discuss the deterioration of America’s ability to cope with reality, called the observation-orientation-decision-action loop. The rise of the Green religion is an example of this, as the previously majority religion (in Lewis Laptham’s words) “softens into Sunday School irrelevance.” Faith or need for the sacred can be displaced, but appearently not eliminated from human society.

    One common dynamic of religious faith is violence. To say that they are radicals on the fringe is nonsense. They are always on the fringe, but the often the center does not hold and those on the fringe drive events. This is not something about which I’ve written in my posts, although it understandably appears in the comments.

  32. Dear complexfatwa
    I have no doubt that most environmentalists are decent people. But that hardly matters: Most communists and Nazis were also decent people who had friends, loved their kids, listened to music in the evening and loved to read books. And – oh yes – considered it to be a sacred duty sending people to concentration camps because they didn’t share their visions of a better world.

    It is my firm belief that the 21th Century will be defined by the green movement. Just like the 19th and 20th Century was defined by the rise of the workers and socialism as a consequence of the industrial revolution. This is inevitable, but it is not inevitable who will be in charge of this growing movement. Already I hear voices saying “democracy is too slow” or “democracy doesn’t work” in the face of the great danger of climate change. If you already believe that in a couple of decades the sea level will rise with 75 meter how can you not demand dictatorial powers to prevent that from happen? Not to mention powers to deal with those who dare question such assumptions?

    I hope I am wrong, though.

  33. Points taken, clarified and accepted. The potential for militancy exists in all ideologies, and the Greens are no different. I should have known better than to debate the fundamental goodness of environmentalism on a blog about conflict; wrong topic in the wrong arena. I hope, for all of us, that the center holds.

    It’s been fun!
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    Fabius Maximus replies: A small correction — this site is about geopolitics. That means the harsh glare of reality, not the soft glow of illusions. When folks talk about the “fundamental goodness” of any ideology or group they will encounter scepticism here.

  34. FM Note: I strongly recommend reading this comment.

    FM: “Do you consider this a reply? In what sense is this more than a schoolyard taunt that “I’m right and you’re not!”

    It is an honest reaction to a bunch of statements which are simply, paranoid.

    … My posts discuss the deterioration of America’s ability to cope with reality, called the observation-orientation-decision-action loop. The rise of the Green religion is an example of this, as the previously majority religion (in Lewis Laptham’s words) “softens into Sunday School irrelevance.” …

    Religion is a very vast, complex, and often vague concept, as I well know. Still, there are definitions of religion. Definition #4 in the linked article: “any specific system of belief and worship, often involving a code of ethics and a philosophy.” This is one thing that the Green/Environmental movement lacks– worship. Greens have no movement-wide philosophy of worship.

    Or, take definition #2 from the linked page: “Human recognition of superhuman controlling power and especially of a personal God entitled to obedience“. Greens don’t say, “Obey the dictates of your Mother the Earth, here they are on two tablets made from recycled clay”. Or, at least no Greens/Environmentals that I have dealt with have said that.

    Or, take definition #6 from the linked page: “An organized system of belief that generally seeks to understand purpose, meaning, goals, and methods of spiritual things. These spiritual things can be God, people in relation to God, salvation, after life, purpose of life, order of the cosmos, etc.”. The Greens/Environmentalists aren’t particularly organized, they’re a wide, often ragged, multifaceted group. They have very influential books that they have all read, but that’s not really an “organized system of belief”.

    Also, if someone is trying to get purpose and meaning from environmentalism, I don’t think that will work. It is true that activism can become a source of meaning in someone’s life. I think that to some degree, this has happened to me in the past 8 years. But that’s activism itself, which is a certain attitude toward society, not environmentalism per se, which is a certain political/social orientation.

    Finally, look at the end of definition #6, which I’ve bolded. This is the really key part to me. “God, people in relation to God, salvation, after life … order of the cosmos, etc.” There is nothing from the Greens/Environmentalists about personal or even societal salvation, there’s just warning people about percieved coming disaster. There is nothing from the Greens about the afterlife. There is nothing from the Greens about order in the cosmos. How can Environmentalism be a religion if there is nothing from them about life after death?

    Christianity, which is the major religion of the USA and will be for quite some time I think, has an especial emphasis on the importance of the afterlife. But even a tiny minority religion like Buddhism (in the USA I mean) also has a very key emphasis on life after death, with its belief in Karma, and Reincarnation. At least in the majority Mahayana tradition. Admittedly the smaller Theravada tradition can often lack the idea of an afterlife.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: That seems a narrow definition of religion. To use a bad analogy, consider a definition of women’s roles in human societies written circa 1700. I doubt that it would cover today’s practices.

    The expansion of knowledge, new technology, and radical philosophical change have fundamentally altered our society — and other societies around the world. Why do you expect that the institution of religion would not also evolve? New beliefs, new structures, new forms.

    As Nietzsche said, God is dead. With atomic power and genetic engineering we have powers previously seen only in Gods. We have stared into the abyss, seeing a future of possible nuclear and environmental annihilation. Perhaps we have been born again, so that the old forms of religion no longer fit us.

    Open your minds to the possibility of new things in our future.

    As for your observations about the lack of doctrine, that is a sign of mature religions. Christianity spread across the Roman Empire without any writings, just reports that Jesus died and was reborn to free us of our sins — and promised everlasting life. It was a decades (perhaps a century) before anyone needed metaphysics beyond that.

  35. I know that that post is over the 250 word limit and I’m sorry but I don’t see how to make this argument in less than 250 words. It’s too big.

    So in sum, the Greens/Environmentalists lack:
    -emphasis on Worship
    -notion of Superhuman Power entitled to obedience
    -notion of personal God or Power
    -Organized system of beliefs
    -concept of Purpose and/or Meaning (except that gotten from activism itself)
    notion of Salvation
    Afterlife concept

    Therefore, it seems to me that they cannot truly be considered a religion. It seems to me that they are much better described as a social movement.

    Now, I admit that you can focus on certain aspects of the Green/Environmental movement and point out that those aspects have some of these things. For instance, you can point out that the religion of Neo-Paganism is often associated with Environmentalism, and the Neo-Pagans do worship the Earth and other natural phenomena. This is a real connection, but IMO that’s normal for social movements because society is vast, complex, and interconnected.

    You could also say that, since some people do actually get a sense of purpose and meaning from devoting their lives to ecological activism, that satisfies the purpose/meaning criterion. I guess this is an argument, but IMO it’s a misunderstanding of the notion of “Purpose” or “Meaning” in religion. Religions tend to have lots of members who don’t do a whole lot, but nevertheless consider themselves part of the religion.

    Now, I don’t doubt but that folks here feel that Environmentalism is a wack social movement. OK, fine. Make the argument that Environmentalism is wack, or counterproductive, or nutty, or what-ever you like. That can be debated, and should be. You don’t need to be gentle with the Environmental movement. Go right ahead and blast away. But realize that a lot of what you were saying earlier sounds like a paranoid delusion.

    Finally, take a look at the 10-part platform of the US Green party, adopted in 2004. Look at the “10 Key Values” especially. Do you see anything on there which comports with the idea of a Green Religion? Not, do you agree with it all. Do you think it sounds religious?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Now this comment moves into weaker ground.

    (1) “Now, I don’t doubt but that folks here feel that Environmentalism is a wack social movement.”
    Some do, some don’t. Much the same could be said about Republicans and Democratics.

    (2) “that a lot of what you were saying earlier sounds like a paranoid delusion.”
    Heavy words. Do you have a specific example?

    (3) “the 10-part platform of the US Green party”

    The political affiliates of social movements often have platforms designed for political effectiveness and do not reflect the aspirations and beliefs of its core members. That is standard leftist practice, which many Greens will know. Hamas is unusual in that its platform calls for the elimination of Israel; most are more politic.

    This is a caricature (exaggeration for effect), but this comment reminds me of Victorians looking at Suffragettes marching — grumping that this isn’t how political movements are supposed to be! Welcome to the New World, Gramps!

    (4) Also, your list is flawed. Many religions lack both a “concept of the afterlife” and “notion of salvation”. Read the Pentateuch (aka the Torah).

  36. viz. #34-5: Religion: “a cause, principle, or system of beliefs held to with ardor and faith.” Miriam Webster.

    I find that a good modern definition which includes the (Western) traditional but goes a bit deeper and wider. It links well with the root meaning from religare which comes from a similar word in Greek meaning ‘to bind’, i.e. a commitment or way to which one is bound.

    My personal view is that religion differs from spirituality per se in that it is essentially a social or institutional phenomenon which (ideally) serves to channel similar moral and spiritual values and practices throughout an entire society. This differentiates it from discrete spiritual/yogic lines whose function is often contra or extra societal.

    In the contemporary context, our ‘religions’ today tend to be atheistic, humanistic, mixed in with political views, scientific dogmas and so forth. For example, there might not be ‘salvation’ in the Christian sense as you say, but avoiding planetary destruction could be regarded as an atheistic ‘secular’ expression of the salvation principle.

    Anything to which one is deeply committed can end up involving extreme feelings and behaviour so I doubt this is all that relevant viz. the Greens in particular.

  37. Small pt: Buddhists of all schools do not ‘believe’ in an ‘afterlife’, rather karmic momentum (residue) that continues after the death process. Different schools have different methods and definitions of liberation, but the most basic is that there is no further attachment to selfish existence and thus no further rebirth. All schools hold to the view that there is no solid, continuous self and therefore even though incarnation is mentioned (rarely) in some texts, it is not generally assumed that Person A reincarnates as Person B. The Tibetan tradition of reincarnating teachers is too complex to be discussed here.

  38. @Atheist: I would not be so sure in claiming that Environmentalism lacks the attributes highlighted on your list. Consider my reasoning:

    James Lovelock proposed a theory in the late 1960s known as the “Gaia Hypothesizes.” This hypothesizes stated that the Earth was a collection of connected and complicated environments that work in tandem to keep the planet in a proffered state of homeostasis- much like a living organism. According to the theory, the Earth is a self-regulating system that keeps itself in a relative state of equilibrium. Around the 1980s Lovelock’s concepts began to be used in environmental parlance- the Earth had a natural equilibrium that humankind was disrupting. Modern society was “throwing nature out of balance.”

    This is where AGW stepped in, transforming Environmentalism from a social movement to a full-fledged belief system. Now there was evidence that there was dire consequences for disrupting Mother Nature’s natural course! A warming Earth was the natural consequence of humankind’s unchecked sacrilege of Gaia, and now Gaia was going to strike back unless we transform our society. (Lovelock wrote a book to that effect in 2007, titled “Revenge of the Gaia”). If humankind does not stop this evil, there will be, in the words of Al Gore, “a day of reckoning.”*

    Thus, you have your humble environmentalist trying to stave off the destruction by following the will Mother nature/”The Environment”/Gaia, by living a “sustainable life” so that he may be will have a clean conscience and a safe existence.

    That hits everything on your list, save the “concept of an afterlife.”

    My source for this statement is Ted Nordhaus, Michael Shellenberger’s book, “Breakthrough: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility”.

  39. From FM reply to #35: “that a lot of what you were saying earlier sounds like a paranoid delusion.”
    Heavy words. Do you have a specific example?”

    Examples of paranoid delusion:
    From #1: “The green movement has every chance to develop into a new kind of totalitarian frenzy like we saw it a hundred years ago.”
    From #2: and, on the other hand, Green-fascists (members of the Green Party and other extremists of the green faith whose proposals, if fully implemented, would restore the Stone Age) though all the members do not know it.”
    From #4: “I agree with #1, that the logic of most environmentalist arguments (reduction in births, energy, consumption, mining, logging, farming, animal husbandry, etc.) is a simple call for genocide and suicide by the human race.”
    From #18: “A radically green society might execute all scientists, engineers and factory workers, going back to the blessed pastoral existence. They wouldn’t last long though… I suppose it would be something like the Khmer Rouge…”

    From FM response to #36: “The political affiliates of social movements often have platforms designed for political effectiveness and do not reflect the aspirations and beliefs of its core members. That is standard leftist practice, which many Greens will know.”

    And I’m the one using the force to ascertain people’s inner thoughts from afar?
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    Fabius Maximus replies: (1) Thanks for the examples. Agreed, those are quite far out there. I thought you referred to my comments (my misinterpretation of what you said).

    (2) Your second point seems odd, IMO. I state that many greens know a widely known fact, taught in undergraduates in history and policial science classes for 30 years — also described in general audience magazines like the Economist. You reply that I “ascertain people’s inner thoughts.” Let’s try again. I believe that many Greens know that the US constitution was ratified in 1788. Do you believe it requires telepathy to say this?

  40. Re FM response to #34: Open your minds to the possibility of new things in our future.

    As for your observations about the lack of doctrine, that is a sign of mature religions. Christianity spread across the Roman Empire without any writings, just reports that Jesus died and was reborn to free us of our sins — and promised everlasting life. It was a decades (perhaps a century) before anyone needed metaphysics beyond that.

    Fabius, I accept that it’s possible environmentalism could become a true religion in the future. In response to T. Greer in #38, I accept that there are some environmentalists who seem to be trying to make it a religion, though I disagree they’re even close to a majority. I also accept, Fabius, that in its inception Christianity was a lot more like a ‘social movement’ than a ‘religion’ as we know it today, and became a “Capital-R Religion” when it got powerful. I don’t claim to know the future, and never did. I’m no oracle.

    Tom Hayden is a lifelong scholar of, and member of, social movements. Here is his fairly short description of how social movements start, interact with the establishment, and end. I think he’s on target. Perhaps if you read it, you’ll still feel that Greens are a religion, because Hayden makes semi-explicit their similarities to religions, but also suggests their differences.

    Your comment on #34 about Christianity got into this also. Social movements and religions do both start from feelings and dissonances that lots of people feel on a pretty deep level at the same time. Especially check out sections “Minorities at the Margins”, “Miracle”, “Magnetism”, “Memory”, “The Community of Meaning”.
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    Fabius Maximus replies: Tom Hayden a scholar? While he is sometimes described as such, my mind always boggles at the description.

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