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Gaia’s Vengeance: The Caustic Cliché of Environmentalism

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gaiaIn this week’s Acton Commentary, Ryan H. Murphy asks, “Why don’t we bat an eye when extremists hope a pagan god will smite SUV owners?”

TV Tropes, a Wikipedia-style website, catalogs many clichés of fiction, including this, which the site calls “Gaia’s Vengeance.” Some variation on this theme can be found in major Hollywood movies like The Happening, The Day After Tomorrow, and Avatar. To take a specific example, Kid Icarus: Uprising, a 2012 Nintendo 3DS video game that has sold over a million copies worldwide, features a genocidal maniac of a nature goddess whom the player-protagonist must protect humanity from even while quipping, “I have to admit, she has a valid point.”

It’s this type of attitude that makes it appear that many activists, rather than recoiling from the global warming that they see as inevitable, instead welcome its onset as a day of reckoning for the prideful men who dare emit carbon into the atmosphere. If global warming ends up never causing serious problems for human beings, it would be as if a murderer was acquitted, not the release of a collective burden.

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Joe Carter Joe Carter is a Senior Editor at the Acton Institute. Joe also serves as an editor at the The Gospel Coalition, a communications specialist for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, and as an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. He is the editor of the NIV Lifehacks Bible and co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicator (Crossway).


  • Kim halik

    This article is interesting, but perhaps it could go just a little further to recognize what the new religion of environmentalism really is: another version of totalitarian ideology. For instance, when Stalin in 1937 wanted an alibi for exterminating millions of Kulak peasants in the Ukraine, he had a ready justification in the notion that these peasants were sabotaging the greater good of the Soviet ideal and the Soviet State. I don’t see the new ideologies of the environment as being all that much different from those endless variants on social Darwinism from the late 19th century, which could justify anything from Nazism to the Yankee ideal of laissez-faire. Writing under the shadow of emerging European Fascist movements during the 1930’s, Etienne Gilson wrote about the misapplication of evolutionary theory in the social sciences, and warned that humanity is “doomed to live more and more under the spell of a new scientific, social and political mythology, unless we resolutely exorcise these befuddled notions whose influence on modern life is becoming appalling. Millions of people are starving and bleeding to death because two or three of these pseudo social deified abstractions are now at war. For whengods fight among themselves, humans have to die” (god and philosophy, page 136).