Do you want to understand why the Ecumenical Patriarch’s coddling of environmentalism is not only wrong-headed but dangerous? First read Environmentalism as Religion in the New Atlantis magazine. Then recall that His All Holiness threw the full moral weight of his office behind of the Geneva Protocols, a crown jewel of environmental activism, during the Mississippi River Boat cruise last year.
Fortunately the UN sponsored protocols were dead on arrival when the East Anglia fraud was exposed a month later. But the Ecumenical Patriarch has yet to explain why he supported them. Why employ such a reckless political strategy that could easily boomerang and undermine an already fragile moral authority? (We tried to warn him.)
So why did he do it? And why does he persist in defending global warming as legitimate science and, even more troubling, build moral exhortations around it? Why insist on continuing the defense — the sanctification really — of the ideology?
Could it be that the plan all along was the self-investiture of the Ecumenical Patriarch as the titular head of environmentalism? Do his advisers envision a convergence between the religious dimension of the movement and the international prominence they so desire? If anyone has a better explanation, I’m all ears.
We need to understand the religious dimension of environmentalism in order to comprehend the movement’s purpose and aims. A newly published article in the New Atlantis lays it out well:
In his seminal essay “The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis,” published in Science magazine in 1967, historian Lynn Townsend White, Jr. argues that those Biblical precepts made Christianity, “especially in its Western form,” the “most anthropocentric religion the world has seen.” In stark contrast to pagan animism, Christianity posited “a dualism of man and nature” and “insisted that it is God’s will that man exploit nature for his proper ends.” Whereas older pagan creeds gave a cyclical account of time, Christianity presumed a teleological direction to history, and with it the possibility of progress. This belief in progress was inherent in modern science, which, wedded to technology, made possible the Industrial Revolution. Thus was the power to control nature achieved by a civilization that had inherited the license to exploit it.
To White, this was not a positive historical development. Writing just a few years after the publication of Rachel Carson’s eco-blockbuster Silent Spring, White shared in the concern over techno-industrial culture’s destruction of nature. Whatever benefit scientific and technological innovation had brought mankind was eclipsed by the “out of control” extraction and processing powers of industrial life and the mechanical degradation of the earth. Christianity, writes White, “bears a huge burden of guilt” for the destruction of the environment.
White believed that science and technology could not solve the ecological problems they had created; our anthropocentric Christian heritage is too deeply ingrained. “Despite Copernicus, all the cosmos rotates around our little globe. Despite Darwin, we are not, in our hearts, part of the natural process. We are superior to nature, contemptuous of it, willing to use it for our slightest whim.” But White was not entirely without hope. Even though “no new set of basic values” will “displace those of Christianity,” perhaps Christianity itself can be reconceived. “Since the roots of our trouble are so largely religious, the remedy must also be essentially religious.” And so White suggests as a model Saint Francis, “the greatest spiritual revolutionary in Western history.” Francis should have been burned as a heretic, White writes, for trying “to substitute the idea of the equality of all creatures, including man, for the idea of man’s limitless rule of creation.” Even though Francis failed to turn Christianity toward his vision of radical humility, White argued that something similar to that vision is necessary to save the world in our time.
The sections about Christian teleology are absolutely true. The idea of progress is not possible when time is circular (the pagan view). The scientific system could only arise in a Christian culture where time is linear; it has a beginning and an end. Linear time makes progress possible. Today builds on yesterday for a different tomorrow. In circular time, yesterday, today, and tomorrow are not meaningful distinctions. White gets his history and philosophy right.
But White fails in the moral value he assigns to the birth of the idea of progress (a change of almost incalculable historical consequence). He sees the development as regress, as failure, and yearns for the primordial Eden, that vision of a new society first articulated by Rosseau when he shifted the locus of the fall from Adam’s singular disobedience to his socialization, to Adam’s entry into the world of men. White follows a familiar track expressed most recently in the paintings of Gauguin and his ideas of the noble savage, to Margaret Mead’s (now discredited) studies about the Edenic existence of the Polynesians, to Margaret Sanger’s eugenic fantasies, to Peter Singer’s views of the newly born having less value than the pet dog. It all draws from the same well, it all leads to the same end.
White gets another thing right too: Religion is the ground of culture. The “enemy” in White’s view is Christianity because of its teleology. The only way to recast culture in the image of the primordial Eden is to vanquish the religion that shaped and informed the idea of progress that corrupted it. White’s neo-paganism allows for no concrete distinction between man and nature; both are one. He sees the the abolition of this radical distinction* as a higher form of progress.
*(The distinction is indeed radical, and first given to us in Genesis when God formed man out of the created dust and breathed His spirit into him — “And man become a living soul.” No other creation story has such powerful — and liberating — anthropological imagery.)
The authors at the New Atlantis, as do others, understand that the abolition of Western culture is at stake if the environmental movement succeeds in imposing its view of how society should order itself on an unsuspecting populace. That’s one reason why the Ecumenical Patriarch’s egregious support of the Geneva Protocols needs to be questioned. It’s a mistake that Pope Benedict or Patriarch Kyrill, or even our Orthodox leaders closer to home would never make. That he still doesn’t see his error is troubling.
Read the full essay on the New Atlantis website.