Category: Public Policy

Blog author: jcouretas
Wednesday, June 14, 2006

TerraPass is a way to assuage a guilty conscience caused by your car’s CO2 emissions. In the interest of trying to be balanced on the whole CO2 debate, here’s a link to their climate change blog with plenty of GW posts.

To each his own. But it sounds like a way for the common folk to buy into what Iain Murray calls "the new aristocracy:"

Al Gore justifies his enjoyment of a carbon-intensive lifestyle in a speech in the UK:

He said he was "carbon neutral" himself and he tried to offset any plane flight or car journey by "purchasing verifiable reductions in CO2 elsewhere".

Translation: I am rich enough to benefit from executive jets and Lincolns because I pay my indulgences. All you proles have to give up your cars, flights and air conditioning. The new aristocracy; there’s no other way to describe it.

I can’t afford a G-5, but thanks to TerraPass, I don’t have to give up my car or A/C now.

You can do whatever you want with your money, and obviously this isn’t the worst way to spend it. But I hope people buying this service will make sure it actually goes to alternative energy and doesn’t become just another trough to fund global warming politics.

"Indulgences" is an interesting choice of words, by the way. If you’re new to church history, Martin Luther’s stand against this method of buying your way out of a guilty conscience had him branded by the Catholic aristocracy as a heretic. The way the global warming debate is going, the heretic label will be plastered on anybody who defies the religion of climate change. Maybe it’s fair to place the blame squarely on false religion, which has set up this whole notion that guilt is something you can buy or work your way out of.

Christ is the only answer to guilt driven ecology. As EEN describes in this series of Bible passages, people are guilty of sin (including pollution). God loved us enough to send Jesus to tell us first hand about stewardship, and then pay the price for our guilt by dying on a cross. He sends the Spirit of a risen Christ to transform our lives and ultimately all of creation. Christian ecologists are motivated by love instead of guilt, living out our thankfulness for what God’s done for us by loving others and caring for what God has made.

So rather than only spending our money to "make a difference," maybe we should be spending more time on our knees getting to know the One who made us and everything around us, and find out what He wants us to do to be good stewards of it.

Look – You can toss a couple bucks in the offering plate and go home to watch football on a Sunday afternoon, or you can invest your life in a Christian community and volunteer your time. In the same way, you can toss your money at others to plant your tree for you, or you can spend a day picking up trash or planting trees yourself, and give God a chance to get you outside in his Creation for a while.

The choice is ours to make. The consequences are eternal. And as far as getting rid of that guilt is concerned, it doesn’t cost a red cent.

On April 3, I reported the story of Texas scientist Eric Pianka, who allegedly argued in a speech that the only hope for the planet was for a mutated Ebola virus to exterminate 90% of the human population. Forrest Mims, who attended the speech, broke the story. Over the next few weeks, there was a media firestorm over the incident, and Mims was accused of misrepresenting Pianka’s speech. As a result, I received several emails telling me that I should retract the story. I did not, and I have no plans on doing so. I remain convinced that Mims basically got the story right.

The problem was that Pianka had asked that video cameras be turned off during his speech, and partial transcripts released later failed to fully corraborate Mims’ account. But, as Mims’ pointed out, the transcript lacked precisely the part of the speech with the offensive comments. In any event, Mims’ claim had several other corroborating pieces of evidence, which James Redford discusses in a blog posted entitled, “Forrest Mims Did Not Misrepresent Eric Pianka.” Cathy Young’s piece in the Boston Globe focused the issue properly: the point was not that Pianka had called for the active extermination of 90% of the population. It’s that he thought such an extermination by natural causes (like the Ebola virus) would be a “good thing.”

This story became especially irritating because many bloggers were more interested in the views of Forrest Mims than of Eric Pianka. Perhaps more troubling is that many commentators insisted that a respected scientist would never say that he looked forward to the deaths of billions of human beings. As a result, these commentators assigned Mims’ account a prior probability of about 0. This meant that virtually no evidence would be enough to confirm that Pianka had said more or less what Mims reported.

But anyone who reads widely in the environmental literature knows that suggestions such as Pianka’s are not uncommon. In fact, the desire for mass human death follows logically from the anti-human beliefs of some radical environmentalists. Some are more consistent in their beliefs than others. But Pianka is by no means the only person to express such opinions. Back in November, 2005, I reported on some personal correspondence from a prominent scientist, who expressed some Piankish views. He complained about “the devastation humans are currently imposing upon our planet” and then added:

Still, adding over seventy million new humans to the planet each year, the future looks pretty bleak to me. Surely, the Black Death was one of the best things that ever happened to Europe: elevating the worth of human labor, reducing environmental degradation, and, rather promptly, producing the Renaissance. From where I sit, Planet Earth could use another major human pandemic, and pronto!

Since I didn’t post the letter, however, I received several skeptical inquiries. So, in light of the recent events surrounding Pianka, I have decided to post a PDF of the letter. Anyone who looks at this letter will notice that it did not come from some obscure researcher, but from a scientist who for many years held a significant position. I do not post this for the purpose of harming the individual who sent this letter. Rather, I am posting it in hopes that more people will recognize that profound misanthropy is afoot in the academic and scientific community, most of it officially motivated by a desire to save the planet. It is naive to continue acting as if this type of death wish is reserved for isolated crackpots. On the contrary, it is well on its way to being respectable opinion in some quarters–held by the well educated and the otherwise civilized–just as eugenics was respectable a century ago.

A story over the weekend in Washington Post gives a good overview of the mixed motives behind evangelical campaigning for and against a la carte pricing of cable channels, despite the poorly chosen title, “Evangelicals vs. Christian Cable” (as if Christian broadcasters aren’t largely evangelicals of some sort or another). Just a sign that in the MSM evangelical is becoming a term with primarily political rather than theological content.

On the one side, lobbyists who want to be able to single out stations that they don’t want to receive. For some evangelicals, this is important because they don’t want to pay for or support stations that carry objectionable material.

On the other side, Christian cable broadcasters who are concerned that there won’t be enough demand for them to stay afloat. Or if there is enough demand, it will only be among Christians, and so they ministry that these stations offer will be truncated.

This seems to me to be an either/or situation, and I’m generally in favor of the former, although if consumers really want a la carte they shouldn’t need the crutch of federal legislation to get it. If you are going to allow choice for moral reasons on the one hand, you can’t force other people to get religious programming if they don’t want it. As it works now, most of these Christian stations are simply there as part of the basic package, whether you want them or not.

“‘We do not believe that ‘a la carte’ is the cure for the disease,’ said Colby May, attorney for the Faith and Family Broadcasting Coalition, which represents Trinity and CBN, in addition to other stations. ‘In fact, it is a cure that may very well kill the patient.'”

“But the Christian networks’ main concern is that the only ones willing to subscribe would be Christians. If a la carte were in existence, May argues, conversion experiences for alcoholics and people contemplating suicide or suffering from a crumbling marriage never would have happened.”

I actually do have some sympathy for this argument, but am not swayed simply because TBN and other Christian cable broadcasters are enjoying a sort of subsidization of their ministries from cable companies by means of these limited and rigid packages. What TBN and CBN have to fear is that many Christians won’t even sign up to pay for their station programming, and there are other ways to get the gospel message out to people, free of charge.

The Back to God Hour, for example, is the electronic media ministry of the CRC, and part of what the ministry does is to use radio signals to pipe the Gospel into areas where Christianity may be oppressed or illegal. By the way, Bob Heerspink, new director of the Back to God Hour, blogs here.

More thoughts here previously, here and here.

Update: GetReligion weighs in on the issue.

I haven’t been uncritical of American bishops’ statements concerning immigration. But I wouldn’t go *quite* as far as Pastor Ralph Ovadal of Pilgrims Covenant Church, for whom the terms ‘antichrist,’ ‘Romanist,’ and ‘Reconquista’ fairly roll off the tongue.

Rick Garnett has an appropriately tongue-in-cheek treatment at Mirror of Justice.

Yes, I realize that no one likes the current version of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill. But it is possible to make constructive changes without being comprehensive. Here are a couple of recent examples:

1. Assimilation needs to be a priority. The Administration just formed a Task Force on New Americans to help legal immigrants become more fully Americanized. Whether the Task Force will do anything substantial remains to be seen. But it is encouraging that someone in the Adminstration understands that this is an important issue.

2. New rules requiring documentation of legal status for Medicaid go into effect on July 1. There will be problems of course. (The story linked is basically all about how difficult it will be for people to come up with the required documentation, even for people who are here legally and are entitled to Medicaid.) But the principle is sound: enforce the law we already have. The documentation problems can and should be addressed.

Blog author: jballor
Wednesday, June 7, 2006

Rep. Vito Fossella (R-NY13) endorses federal tuition tax credits for K-12 education at NRO, “An A+ Choice.”

Says Fosella: “Here’s how it would work: Families would be permitted to take a dollar-for-dollar reduction in their tax liability for non-public-school-tuition expenses. For example, a taxpayer with a liability of $10,000 and a tax credit of $4,500 would be required to pay only $5,500 in taxes. Simply, it allows families to keep more of their money to spend on their children’s education.”

The Vatican recently concluded a conference on corruption (insert joke about ‘knowing whereof they speak’). It was an impressive array of speakers, including World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, and many sensible things were said. But one is tempted to respond, “That’s all well and good; but what is anybody *doing* about it?”

Which is why it’s encouraging to see, coincidentally, another story on the same day, detailing the grassroots efforts of Catholic schools in Cameroon to nip corruption in the bud.

Blog author: jballor
Monday, June 5, 2006

“Cultural institutions are latching on to the issue of global warming to provide a focus and urgency to their work. At a time when museums and heritage organisations feel somewhat outdated and directionless, global warming provides a quick-fix rallying point….

This is an almighty cop-out. Institutions are avoiding the challenge of making history and science attractive to the public. Instead of inspiring visitors, institutions end up hectoring and lecturing them.”

Read the rest here: Josie Appleton, “The tide turns against culture,” sp!ked, Wednesday 31 May 2006.

Also check out the following piece from the Heartland Institute, which debunks a number of exaggerations and errors a recent issue of Time magazine: Time‘s Climate Change Issue Rife with Deception,” by Marlo Lewis.

We often hear about the “need” for debt forgiveness. Our movie stars and celebrities like to clamour about it being a “moral obligation” and, of course, leaders of developing nations like the idea as well. But is debt forgiveness really going to help out the people of these developing nations? Samuel Gregg, Acton’s director of research, argues that debt forgiveness is not a moral obligation, nor is it necessarily such a great idea for the economies of some of these countries. Dr. Gregg examines the Republic of the Congo as an example of why debt forgiveness is a bad idea.

President Sassou-Nguesso is meeting with President Bush today, and will likely raise the topic of debt forgiveness. The average person in the Congo lives on about $2 a day. The nation does have a well supplied oil industry, although much of the revenue doesn’t ever make it to the marketplace.

Where does this money end up? Likely, it is diverted to extravagent spending for President Denis Sassou-Nguesso (for example, his 8-day, $295,000 trip to New York in 2005) and his entourage. Diverting monies from the oil industry hurts the economy directly by destroying the nations contractual accountability. In order for foreign investment to function well the investor needs to have some assurance that he will see profits and growth. If an economy tends to make money disappear, investment becomes unlikely. Dr. Gregg writes:

Allowing heavily indebted nations to walk away from their debts sends precisely the wrong economic signal to private and public international lenders of capital. Why should they lend any more funds to such countries in the future if they can never be sure their funds will be returned? Developing countries need to develop reputations as responsible borrowers who not only deploy the borrowed funds productively but who also repay their debts as contracted. How will debt forgiveness of a country like the Congo, especially given its extensive government corruption, help the Congo to achieve either goal?

The solutions to the problems of national poverty, especially in developing nations with rich natural resources and motivated, entrepreneurial, citizens lies in holding those nations’ leaders accountable rather than giving in to pleas for more money that can be further diverted into their own, personal treasuries.

For more information about debt forgiveness and solutions to poverty, look into our Impact campaign. The solution to poverty requires more than good intentions, it requires sound economics as well.

Related Items:

White House Press Office, “Remarks by President Bush and President Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of the Congo in a Photo Opportunity,” U.S. Newswire, June 5, 2006.

Associated Press, “Bush, President of Congo Discuss Darfur,” Washington Post, June 5, 2006.

Eli Lake, “Congo Battle Looms Over White House,” New York Sun, June 5, 2006.

Robert E. Wright, “Review of James Macdonald A Free Nation Deep in Debt: The Financial Roots of Democracy,” Economic History Services, May 31, 2006.

Marc Vander Maas, “Bono: Give Us a Call,” Acton Institute PowerBlog, May 19, 2006.

Jordan J. Ballor, “The Myth of Aid,” Acton Institute PowerBlog, May 15, 2006.

Samuel Gregg, Banking, Justice, and the Common Good. Grand Rapids: Acton Institute, 2005.

Jordan J. Ballor, “Movie Review: ‘The Debt of the Dictators’,” Acton Institute PowerBlog, July 21, 2005.

Osvaldo Schenone and Samuel Gregg, A Theory of Corruption. Grand Rapids: Acton Institute, 2003.

Hear ye, hear ye! The U.N. Environmental Programmmmme’s World Environment Day is June 5.

Wiki - The topic for WED 2006 is Deserts and Desertification. The slogan for WED 2006 is "Don´t desert drylands". The slogan emphasises the importance of protecting drylands, which cover more than 40% of the planet’s surface. This ecosystem is home to one-third of the world’s people who are more vulnerable members of society. The main international celebrations of the World Environment Day 2006 will be held in Algeria.

Don’t see much going on in the US for WED-06, though the folks in San Francisco put on a party last year.

This year, Pakistanis will plant 125,000 trees , corporate pioneers will be recognised by the European Union , desert wastelands are the highlight of discussions in Viet Nam, Filipinos are riding bikes (more here), Green Left Australians are highlighting old-growth forests, folks in India are having oil company sponsored quizzes and magic shows, Swaziland leadership attends conferences to "raise public awareness" (always a good reason), they’re planting trees in Malta, making post-cards in Antigua, demonstrating alternative power in Leeds (UK), and launching "green networks" in the Dominican Republic.

Tree Hugger sez I should have bought my new CIVIC in June to get a free gift from Mr. Honda (who knew?). Friends of the Earth are encouraging us to "organize events" to "raise awareness." Does blogging count? And my personal favorite: Lilongwe Hash House Harriers ("Drinkers with a running problem") have a note on their blog to visit a local nature sanctuary in honor of WED.

As I added 4th June in my calendar for the dedza hill walk, I noticed thatJune 3, Saturday, is the WESM LL World Environment Day learning thingy. The theme this year is Deserts and Desertification. Contact WESM LL for more details if you want to take part in the displays or give a talk or a walk around the LL Nature Sanctuary.

World Environment Day Learning thingy. Heh. Grab a six pack of your favorite adult beverage and wander down to your local park for a couple hours; just make sure to recycle those bottles and cans.

Oh, by the way, last Wednesday was World No Tobacco Day. If you missed it, you’re not alone.

[db also blogs at The Evangelical Ecologist.]