To many environmentalists, an expression of skepticism about even the most alarmist of global warming hypotheses is like breaking wind in church.
“It's a pity that responsible, empathetic environmentalists like myself have to fight narrow-minded destructive men like yourself in order to bring about a common good for nature,” said one writer, who identified himself as a professor of meteorology, in an e-mail to me. “You are a disgusting man.”
What provoked this outburst was my column of April 22, in which I pointed out that real world temperature measurements do not support the more extreme of the global warming scenarios. To him, this was like scoffing at the Immaculate Conception, or the holiness of Mecca.
He is passionate in his environmentalism: “I wish I had the time and resources to educate sinacle [sic] individuals like yourself on this extremely important issue because it is indeed the most threatening doomsday scenario which exists,” he said.
Perhaps the professor is better at science than at spelling. But perhaps not. Self-styled environmentalists tend to exhibit more religious zeal than scientific skepticism. Too many are Druids, or watermelons.
Druids were the priests of an ancient Celtic cult that worshipped trees, often by human sacrifice. Watermelons are green on the outside, but red on the inside. Watermelons are Stalinists who - now that the workers of the world have become conscientious objectors in the class war - have donned environmental green to camouflage their real objectives.
The more extreme environmentalists seem prepared to sacrifice their fellow men on Gaia's altar. David Foreman, founder of Earth First!, declared: “We are a cancer on the earth.” Bill McKibben noted with approval the assessment of some “deep ecologists” that the human population on Earth should not exceed 100 million. David Brower, founder of Friends of the Earth, thought childbearing should be a criminal offense, “unless the parents hold a government license.”
But if environmentalists have a low opinion of people generally, they tend to be pretty high on themselves. “Environmentalists are people who have the cognitive ability to realize that one's self is not the most important thing in the cosmos,” my e-mail accuser wrote. “It takes great benevolence to restrict one's current lifestyle and destructive habits in order to give the possibility of life for creatures in the distant future. It is the ultimate gift of charity.”
As a Christian, I think there is Someone Else in the universe who is more important than I am, and that the ultimate gift of charity was made on a hill called Calvary not quite 2,000 years ago.
Earth Day was observed this year with a solemnity in the past reserved for Easter or Ramadan or Yom Kippur. In San Francisco it was celebrated with a “creative liturgy” to “affirm the sacredness of the Earth,” featuring an address by that noted climatologist, drummer Mickey Hart of Grateful Dead fame.
The holy books of the great monotheistic religions describe an Apocalypse, an end time when God's judgment will be wreaked upon a wicked world. A yearning for an apocalypse of their own may explain why so many environmentalists insist upon catastrophic global warming scenarios, despite a paucity of evidence to support them.
Longing for an apocalypse may also explain why so many environmentalists insist that warming is caused by human activity, though the evidence suggests Mother Nature has a much larger hand in it. If global warming were just another natural phenomenon, like earthquakes or tornadoes or floods, there wouldn't be this delicious sense of punishment for sin.
The quasi-religious nature of environmentalism also may explain why so many environmentalists are so intemperate. Global warming skeptics aren't reasonable people with a different point of view, but heretics who should be burned at the stake (if it wouldn't contribute to warming the planet).
In the 1970s, when the crisis du jour was global cooling, the solution the watermelons offered was government control of the economy. The problem now, we're told, is global warming. But the “solution” offered is the same.
Most Americans want a cleaner environment, and are willing to make reasonable sacrifices to bring this about. But consensus cannot be achieved until responsible environmentalists separate themselves from the neo-pagans and the recycled Marxists.
Jack Kelly is a member of The Blade's national bureau. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.