Well this is certainly the next step of many in what is becoming a sinister and highly damaging movement against the entire environmental sector and it’s advocates, one which threatens in all seriousness to completely derail the impressive progress made over the recent decades; environmentalism is now being branded as ‘a new religion’. Yep, you read that right, if you’re green, you’re simply a sheep following the crowd into the abyss.
When I first read of this moronic idea a good few months ago, I wrote a blog piece on how enviromentalists were akin to satanists in their worship of Mother Earth, and that any who avidly follow it to the point of speaking out against the normal flow of things should be ignored on the grounds of simple heresy. Back then, I wasn’t too angered by the premise, and I actually couldn’t help but laugh at the entire ordeal, which to me felt like a badly visualised attempt at attacking the science of sustainability and the environment, which bombed like a lead balloon. I’m sure many of you who knew of it at the time laughed along with me, and didn’t give it much of a second thought.
However, history has come back around, and this time it carries some real bile and the potential to cause extreme disruption to the entire green movement. Anti-environmentalists and climate deniers have spewed some wonderfully abstract and pointless words in the past in their vein attempts to collapse the industry before it gets fully rooted, and for the most part the wider public has been sane enough to see through these attacks and to focus on the bigger picture, where science and evidence prevail, not the blind punches dealt by the radical haters. Think of the Heartland Institute or fossil fuel lobbies - not the smartest of cookies, but rich enough to fool us into thinking it.
So then, what about environmentalism as a religion? That could actually mean something, something powerful, and the idea truly angers, scares and deeply worries me.
Religion as we know it is the following of a deity or faith, not often based upon evidence or solid fact, but something higher, a sometimes irrational belief that our world and lives are affected at every level by a force outside our control. This faith is stronger than any science can even attempt to rationalise, and can grow like wildfire into the wider public through simple preaching of the belief, with any counter argument shot down in the blink of an eye.
Now, we combine this with environmentalism, the crucial and utterly scientific understanding of our natural surroundings, how we consume and use them, what direction they’re headed in, how we can sustain them and simply put, how completely important they are in our everyday life. This field covers everything from sustainability, to renewable energy, climate change and food security, all of which are issues constantly debated on the global stage and described as the very defining problems of our time.
In recent years, environmentalism has grown in popularity and political attention greatly, but it has divided a good amount of people at the same time. Climate science, model simulations and renewables in particular have come under constant fire from the other side for being unreliable, expensive, unconstitutional and even backwards, all the while we continue to pump out carbon and pollute our only home. I for one consider myself a relatively open advocate of this movement, although the word movement degrades environmentalism to a simple fad, and am a complete atheist, which I should note does not come into this subject, which shouldn’t involve religion at all.
By placing environmentalism well within the realms of religion, you instantly take away all of the endeavour and scientific rigour that accompanies it. There is a clear divide - environmentalism is purely scientific and relies entirely on evidence from multiple fields coming together under one umbrella. Religion is purely faith-based; evidence does not come into it. Herein lies the crucial issue with this comparison. In effect, environmentalism is reduced from an evidence battle, to one which must be believed on faith alone, despite the mountains of data available.
No longer can those who speak out for the science side be seen as professionals or well-informed individuals, but instead as radicals and extremists who are akin to religious zealots, who everyone quickly learns to ignore. The public will become accostomed to viewing new advances in the environmental sector as nothing but a faith in science, and soon popularity will rapidly drop off the cliff.
Alongside this, those who come out as against environmentalism will feel secure and protected by those around them harbouring the same feelings. No more will climate deniers and skeptics be viewed as uninformed or illiterate, but as individuals with faiths in other things, a heretic if you like to the new green religion, and this is a much safer place to be than outside of the scientific crowd.
This entire idea is driven by the one thing that is becoming more and more evident as time goes on; those against sustainability and science are rapidly becoming the outsiders, and must be increasingly vocal in their attempts to shout us down and make themselves known. Branding their enemy as a religion is by far their most inventive way to do this, and proves their desperation in quelling it once and for all.
What’s more worrying is that some major names have begun to think and talk along these lines, including the very creator of the Gaia Hypotheis, James Lovelock, someone who could be viewed as a founding father of the green ideology from which environmentalism has stemmed. Even if his and others mention of religious comparisons was purely incidental and meant as a warning rather than a message, it is not a stones throw away to warp their words into evidence that even these great thinkers have cottoned onto the premise.
We cannot let this idea latch on and multiply like a virus, that is the simple truth. This could be far too damaging to everyone involved in the field and, to humanity as a whole. You may think I’m being over dramatic there, but think of it this way. Bringing the environment to the forefront of our thoughts is more crucia than ever, and finally it may actually be gaining some serious momentum, even despite the failings at Rio+20. To let it be ripped apart and have its reputation tarnished because it was morphed into a ‘faith’ and not a science would be, in my eyes, one of the greatest injustices committed against our intelligence in our entire history.
Environmentalism can be many things; a political agenda, a global convention, an individual hobby or a simple ideology, but to compare it to any form of faith, religion included, is just plain insanity. I almost can’t swallow it.