Back in September of 2003, Michael Crichton delivered an address in which he made the claim that modern environmentalism has become much more than a desire to be wise stewards of our environment; rather, he said, it has become a full-fledged religion. Here’s a sample:

I studied anthropology in college, and one of the things I learned was that certain human social structures always reappear. They can’t be eliminated from society. One of those structures is religion. Today it is said we live in a secular society in which many people—the best people, the most enlightened people—do not believe in any religion. But I think that you cannot eliminate religion from the psyche of mankind. If you suppress it in one form, it merely re-emerges in another form. You can not believe in God, but you still have to believe in something that gives meaning to your life, and shapes your sense of the world. Such a belief is religious.

Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it’s a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.

Eden, the fall of man, the loss of grace, the coming doomsday—these are deeply held mythic structures. They are profoundly conservative beliefs. They may even be hard-wired in the brain, for all I know. I certainly don’t want to talk anybody out of them, as I don’t want to talk anybody out of a belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God who rose from the dead. But the reason I don’t want to talk anybody out of these beliefs is that I know that I can’t talk anybody out of them. These are not facts that can be argued. These are issues of faith.

And so it is, sadly, with environmentalism. Increasingly it seems facts aren’t necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. It’s about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved. Whether you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation, or on the side of doom. Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them.

While I may quibble with some of the details, overall that address is well worth a read in full. The reason I thought of it today was that I ran across a news item this morning which indicates to me that a certain someone has genuinely achieved sainthood in the church of environmentalism:

Visitors to the Gaia Napa Valley Hotel and Spa won’t find the Gideon Bible in the nightstand drawer. Instead, on the bureau will be a copy of “An Inconvenient Truth,” former Vice President Al Gore’s book about global warming.

Thanks be to Gaia for inspiring the sacred, inconvenient word which was written down by Saint Albert, and through which we shall all be saved!

Update: John Reed – Media Relations at Gaia Napa Valley Hotel and Spa – left a correction to the Bloomberg story quoted above in the comments to this post, noting that An Inconvenient Truth will not be replacing the Bible, but will rather be made available along with the Bible in each guest room.

Granted, that’s a little better than outright replacing God’s Word with the Goracle, but I still have to roll my eyes at the fact that it places Al Gore’s manifesto at the same level of importance as Holy Scripture…

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Over the last week I’ve done a couple radio interviews related to my op-ed in the Detroit News, “U.S. must move beyond Earth Day slogans.”

Thanks to The Bill Meyer Show out of Medford, Oregon, who had me on in the morning last Thursday.

And thanks also to The Paul Edwards Program for having me on yesterday. I spoke with Paul at some length about the complications of owning Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs (CFLs). In the course of the interview (which you can listen to here), I referenced a couple webpages that I’ll pass along.

The first is 18Seconds.org, hosted by Yahoo!, at which you can track the sales of CFLs in your state or locality. Michigan has bought over 1.2 million CFLs since the beginning of 2007.

There is some information on the mercury in CFLs fairly deep into the “Why Switch?” section. Here’s a taste of the copy: “All fluorescent lights contain trace amounts of mercury. But don’t worry — there is far less mercury in CFLs than in thermometers or old thermostats. Plus, using these bulbs helps
prevent mercury from being released into the air from coal-powered power plants. When they burn out years down the road, recycle them.”

But here’s a second piece I talked about that might take issue with those claims: “The CFL mercury nightmare,” by Steven Milloy of JunkScience.com. Milloy describes the experience of Brandy Bridges of Ellsworth, Maine, who faced a $2,000 clean-up bill when she accidentally broke a CFL, exposing mercury in her daughter’s bedroom.

Governments and corporations are engaging in huge campaigns to push the use of CFLs. The Home Depot gave away 1 million CFLs in an Earth Day promotion, and Wal-Mart is advocating them heavily. Check out this promotional video, “Energy Makeover,” from In Front with Wal-Mart, the company’s newest webcast program.

If the mercury in these CFLs, almost universally acknowledged to be a harmful environmental hazard, turns out to have serious health consequences, companies like Wal-Mart and The Home Depot could be opening themselves up to litigation. They may need to attach some sort of warning label (hopefully not a useless one that would win this contest).

Blog author: mvandermaas
posted by on Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Via Stephen Hayward at Planet Gore comes word of another scientist off the “consensus” reservation. According to David Evans (who, according to his bio, is a genuine rocket scientist – sweeeet…), “… in 1999 the evidence that carbon emissions caused global warming seemed pretty conclusive, but since then new evidence has weakened the case that carbon emissions are the main cause. I am now skeptical. As Lord Keynes famously said, ‘When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?’”

Evans does a great job of laying out why the science on the issue of climate change is not settled, and also notes the potential dangers of the current “consensus”:

The evidence is not currently conclusive either for or against any particular cause of global warming. I think that it *is* possible that carbon emissions are the dominant cause of global warming, but in light of the weakening evidence I judge that probability to be about 20% rather than almost 90% as estimated by the IPCC.

I worry that politics could seriously distort the science. Suppose that carbon taxes are widely enacted, but that the rate of global warming increase starts to decline by 2015. The political system might be under pressure to repay the taxes, so it might in turn put a lot of pressure on scientists to provide justifications for the taxes. Or the political system might reject the taxes and blame science for misinforming it, which could be a terrible outcome for science because the political system is powerful and not constrained by truth.

Some people take strong rhetorical positions on global warming. But the cause of global warming is not just another political issue that is subject to endless debate and distortions. The cause of global warming is an issue that falls into the realm of science, because it is falsifiable. No amount of human posturing will affect what the cause is. The cause just physically is there, and after sufficient research and time we will know what it is.

Perhaps the best thing about this post is that it comes as part of a civil, rational debate about the merits of climate science, something that is sorely lacking in the current highly politicized climate. This sort of exchange is an encouraging sign that rationality may win out over hysteria in the end.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Monday, April 30, 2007

Via Slashdot, news comes today that Google’s next shareholders meeting will feature a vote on a shareholder resolution to protect free speech and combat censorship by intrusive governments.

According to the proxy statement, Proposal Number 5 would require the recognition of “minimum standards,” including, that “the company will use all legal means to resist demands for censorship. The company will only comply with such demands if required to do so through legally binding procedures,” and that “the company will not engage in pro-active censorship.”

Part of the basis cited for the proposal is the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares that the “advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.”

One of the specific provisions of the declaration related to freedom of speech is Article 19: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

It’s pretty clear that China’s censorship practices, which include a so-called “great firewall,” violate this provision.

I’m curious to see how this resolution fares and how the directors, especially considering that Google co-founder Sergey Brin has said that the company’s cooperation with China “a net negative.” External considerations might also be at play, given the potential for legislation like the Global Online Freedom Act of 2007 to regulate the activities of companies like Google.

This week in the PowerBlog’s Global Warming Consensus Watch: A final pass at the Sheryl Crow/Toilet Paper controversy, just to ensure that the issue is wiped clean; The fight against climate change goes to 11; Global warming causes everything, and we’ve got professional athletes to prove it; and finally, what – if anything – are those carbon offsets offsetting? (more…)

Blog author: mvandermaas
posted by on Thursday, April 26, 2007

Whoever wrote this deserves an award for managing to keep all of the various threads together. It’s almost a perfect storm of public policy ineptitude:

Just in case you lost track of the bouncing ball, here it is: Virginia has finally put the crisis-ignoring haters of truth in their place by passing a roads package to encourage the use of cars that are destroying the planet, so people can reach their sprawling subdivisions that Virginia is trying to keep in check with tax-subsidized conservation easements that will grow less popular as corn grows more expensive thanks to ethanol mandates from a federal government that is also mandating a cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay whose pollution will be made worse by corn farming.

I’m almost positive that there’s a really powerful moral to this story having to do with good governmental intentions going awry or something, but I’m laughing too hard to tease it out and I really need to get to bed, so go ahead and figure it out for yourselves.

HT: Planet Gore

Blog author: abradley
posted by on Thursday, April 26, 2007

Tim Townsend, of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, reports:

ST. LOUIS — Rock singer Sheryl Crow was coming home to Missouri this weekend to sing her polished, roots-rock songs at the Fox Theater to help raise money for children with cancer.

But St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke was not interested in Crow’s altruism. He was interested in her activism — specifically her support for embryonic stem cell research, which the Roman Catholic church believes is akin to abortion. On Wednesday, Burke said Crow “promotes moral evils.”

Burke felt so strongly that Crow’s performance supporting the Bob Costas Cancer Center at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center would be wrong that he resigned from the hospital foundation’s board earlier this week. He believes Catholics — even those who have already bought tickets to the show — should think hard before attending.

For the archbishop, the matter was simple. He had a moral responsibility to avoid the appearance of entangling church teaching and the views of a public figure who supports abortion rights. Burke said he could not allow someone who “publicly espouses the mass destruction of innocent human beings” to raise money for a Catholic hospital.

What if, for instance, there were someone appearing who we discovered was openly racist and who made statements and took actions to promote racism?” he said at his first news conference in years. “Do you think that I would let that go on?”

Read the full story here.

Blog author: jballor
posted by on Thursday, April 26, 2007

Biotech giant Monsanto has added its considerable influence to the push to restrict or ban labeling of dairy products as free from added rBST, a hormone commonly used to induce cows to produce more milk.

Christopher Wanjek, a columnist at LiveScience.com, reports that Monsanto thinks that such advertising practice “scares consumers into thinking there’s something unhealthy about its human-made recombinant bovine growth hormone.”

As I related earlier this year, Julianne Malveaux headlined a similar campaign against such labeling. The claim is that the labeling is deceiving people into buying something more expensive that doesn’t have any added safety. From the perspective of Malveaux and Monsanto, companies that use “no rBST” labeling are profiting from fear-mongering. (Fellow HuffPost blogger and progressive Kerry Trueman lambasts Monsanto here. No surprise that Trueman picks on a “multinational biotech behemoth” like Monsanto rather than Julianne Malveaux and the National Organization for African Americans in Housing.)

But as Wanjek’s (and Trueman’s) piece points out, the potential harm to humans caused by added rBST hormones isn’t the only relevant factor: “For animal welfare reasons alone, consumers have the right to know how their milk is produced.”

The ultimate in natural milk is of course untreated, unpasteurized, straight-from-the-udder, “raw” milk. The FDA and various local and regional governments have been cracking down on the sale of raw milk, arguing that the threats to consumer safety necessitate such harsh action.

Perhaps the most famous case recently came to media attention last year when an Amish farmer got into trouble over violations of a milk ordinance. Arlie Stutzman was busted in a raw milk sting operation, but claimed that his religious beliefs required him to share the milk he produces with others.

“While I can and I have food, I’ll share it,” said Stutzman. But a spokeswoman from the Ohio Department of Agriculture said, “You can’t just give milk away to someone other than yourself. It’s a violation of the law.”

That seems like a classic case of the government overstepping its boundaries and insinuating itself into a relationship characterized by free exchange and association. From Stutzman’s perspective, he’s simply fulfilling his divinely ordained responsibility to be a productive and obedient servant of God, helping others by the fruit of his labor.

Maybe Stutzman should have to disclose in some fashion, perhaps via a sign or a label, that his milk is raw, just in case some unsuspecting and rather silly city slicker should unwittingly buy milk from him thinking that it is treated.

But that’s precisely the sort of disclosure about the source and production of the milk that Malveaux and Monsanto want to prevent companies like Land O’Lakes and Stonyfield Farm from making. To be fair, Stonyfield isn’t in an any more admirable position, since it (contra Monsanto) wants the FDA “to immediately withdraw approval of rBST.”

The FDA shouldn’t be siding with major milk producers to squash competition from Amish farmers. And neither should it be taking sides in corporate marketing disputes about the merits of using or not using rBST. Let the customers have the information and decide for themselves.

Anthony Bradley looks at America’s children of privilege and the influences that have put so many of them into crisis. “There is mounting evidence that we are faced with a new reality in America: educated, middle-class kids represent a new ‘at risk’ group, as both perpetrators and victims of peer-related violence,” Bradley writes.

Read the rest of Bradley’s commentary here.

Blog author: jspalink
posted by on Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Despite strong overall growth, a number of internal problems, including excessive regulation, continue to limit wealth creation throughout Latin America, reports Samuel Gregg. The regulations Dr. Gregg examines include those on starting a business and on banking.

Dr. Gregg explains that while it takes as few as 5 days to file the appropriate paper work to start a business in the United States, it takes an average of 152 days in Brazil. Dr. Gregg states that there are fewer loopholes to starting a business in Iran, than in most of Latin America.

Dr. Gregg also examines, in detail, some of the legacy economic laws that exist in much of Latin America, which regulate banking. These laws, intended to protect people from unjust interest rates, often hurt the people best in the position to increase the economic prosperity of Latin America – namely first-time entrepreneurs who are will to take risks to gain the capital needed into order to create wealth. Dr. Gregg argues that removing some of the regulations mandating interest-rate ceilings would benefit Latin American much more than it helps to protect it.

Read Dr. Gregg’s commentary here.