Year 4, Month 8, Day 13: I’ve Enjoyed About As Much Of This As I Can Stand

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette publishes the driveling of an unintentional apologist for our corporate overlords:

The resolution on climate change approved last month by the General Synod of the United Church of Christ has garnered mostly admiring attention from the news media. But I admit to a degree of perplexity and sorrow over the document, which seems to place the blame for our heavy use of fossil fuels mostly on the companies that produce them — not the consumers who demand them.

The resolution is intended to create a path toward divestment of church funds, including pension money, from “fossil fuel companies” unless they meet certain benchmarks. The text never defines “fossil fuel companies,” but it’s a good bet that the target is oil and mining enterprises.

The resolution also calls upon church members to “make shareholder engagement on climate change an immediate, top priority for the next five years” and to “demand action from legislators and advocate for the creation and enforcement of carbon-reducing laws.”

Poor pathetic little sociopaths. Sheesh. July 21:

Yes, when it comes to our societal dependence on fossil energy, we’ve all got to go beyond the call of ordinary duty to reduce our consumption of the prehistoric carbon which has fueled our civilization and triggered a rapidly accelerating greenhouse effect. But to feel “perplexity and sorrow” over deploring the roles played in the climate crisis by oil and coal companies is breathtakingly naive. In the service of higher profits, these corporate miscreants have invested countless millions of dollars in manipulative media campaigns, and even more millions in the co-optation of US lawmakers, resulting in hopelessly muddled public discussion of climate issues, and a legislative paralysis which would be hilarious if it weren’t tragic.

These “corporate persons” are the worst sort of planetary citizens, and they deserve the worst sort of reputation. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but there’s not enough blame for them.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 8, Day 10: Is That A Solar-Powered Electric Chair Around Your Neck?

The Victoria BC Times-Colonist insists on a “faith” perspective on climate:

Christian teachings can shed light on this dilemma of economic and environmental policy. The theology of the United Church, as with most other Christian traditions, clearly identifies the fundamental role of humans in creation as one of responsibility. There are many scriptural references to God’s charge to humans that they should use the fruits of a productive Earth wisely and steward the resources provided to them. The evidence suggests we are failing in this sacred duty. We are causing unprecedented damage to the ecological systems and the climate that supports productive life on our small planet, and we will pay the price one way or another.

Typically, policy makers present the situation as an unavoidable tradeoff: We can improve the environment and make our society more sustainable, but only at the cost of economic investment and jobs.

Leaving aside the ecological and economic fallacies in this argument, the moral and spiritual imperatives are clear. The United Church of Canada has been one of many faith communities who have repeatedly pointed out that sustainability cannot be traded off. More than 20 years ago, the general council of the United Church called for the protection of the planet’s life-sustaining environment to fulfil humanity’s sacred obligations of stewardship and to ensure the rights of generations yet unborn to benefit from the abundance and productivity of our shared heritage of complex living systems. This call arose out of a spiritual vision that affirms the rich diversity of life on Earth as a sacred gift, and in which love is the basis for our relationships with one another and with nature. The general council affirmed 12 key ethical principles that guide the church’s work on ecological issues including economic justice, human responsibility, sustainable life styles, the protection of biodiversity and ensuring the rights of future generations.

There is a long way to go, but the warning signs should be spurring us on to action now.

Okay. But rein in the fanficcers, please? July 21:

It is self-evident not just to those of faith, but to any thinking person, that morality demands a commitment to a sustainable future for our posterity. But it’s equally self-evident that many of the self-professed faithful are antagonistic to the findings of climate scientists, believing either that humanity possesses a special exemption from the laws of physics and chemistry which govern the accelerating greenhouse effect, or that the events foretold by Revelations will supersede atmospheric CO2 when it comes to ending Earthly life as we know it.

Environmentally cognizant religious organizations will have a significant role to play in addressing those eagerly anticipating the End Times, and persuading them to leave its timing to their deity of choice, rather than loading the dice by refusing to recognize the wholly mundane nature of the climatic apocalypse our species currently confronts. Let’s not make Armageddon a self-fulfiling prophecy.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 7, Day 28: The Only Thing We Have To Fear

Here are the final grafs of an op-ed in the Roanoke Times (VA), titled “The Courage To Act on Climate Change.” Good stuff, if essentially rather anodyne:

As the president pointed out in his speech, there are also impacts of climate change that we must adapt to such as rebuilding homes and infrastructure in New Jersey and New York after Superstorm Sandy. We need to make plans to protect our own coast and infrastructure at Hampton Roads, which remains extremely vulnerable.

We have an obligation to aid our brothers and sisters in adapting to and developing resilience from the full spectrum of climate impacts, be it heat waves, looming wildfire risks or increased public health concerns such as mosquito- or tick-borne diseases.

This is not something one person can do alone — not even the president of the United States. This is something that takes each and every one of us. It starts with supporting the president’s climate plan and includes reducing our own carbon footprint. It includes encouraging our legislators to support these important regulations from the EPA and confirming McCarthy as EPA head.

We can — and we must — create a future in which our children and grandchildren will look back at this time in history and say, “They made the right choice for my future.”

While this piece is written with allusions to “faith” I chose instead to focus on the glib rhetorical trope that provides the header. July 10:

If a hurricane is coming, battening down the hatches is pure common sense. If there’s a tornado watch, it’s just plain reasonable to get into the basement with our families. In times of drought, we’ll let our lawns yellow and take shorter showers in order to conserve water. None of these acts are anything more than sensible preparations for extraordinary circumstances. Why, then, are we so often exhorted to find “the courage to act” on climate change?

Preparing for a climatically-transformed future should be a no-brainer. Reinforcing and rebuilding our infrastructure, planning ahead for the safety of communities likely to be in harm’s way, and introducing reasonable conservation measures for increasingly scarce resources don’t require us to find hidden reserves of strength and fortitude, only to pay attention to the facts and plan accordingly.

Courage is only necessary to face the corporate-funded denialists in media and politics who use their vast resources to obscure the scientific evidence of climate change and irresponsibly attack those who recognize the severity of the crisis.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 6, Day 26: Wading In The Kiddie Pool

The Christian Post says that evangelicals need to address climate change if they want to bring their youth back into the fold. Sheesh:

A five-year study by the Barna Group, a leading research organization focused on faith and culture, found that three in five young Christians leave the church after reaching the age of 15. As a result, over the past five years the percent of young evangelicals fell 4 points to a mere 13 percent, while the percent of young agnostics/athiests grew by the same amount to 35 percent.

Most evangelical leaders point to the widening gap between traditional Christian views and those of a changing American culture – especially on issues like same-sex marriage, abortion, and pre-marital sex – as the primary cause of this problem. The reality is that for many of today’s young Christians, who are more immersed in mainstream culture than ever before through digital and social media, holding on to the church’s teachings amid such overwhelming opposition is often too difficult a task.

And there don’t appear to be any easy solutions. Evangelicals, whose social views are based primarily on Biblical teachings, cannot, and should not, change them just to better align with modern culture. And in today’s vastly interconnected world, young people can no more easily remove themselves from the conflicting influences.

However, there are issues on which we evangelicals can reengage our youth – without compromising our values.

Climate change is the perfect place to start. A large majority of young Americans view climate change as a serious problem facing their generation. And to date, American evangelicals have been among the slowest to recognize the problem. Far from compromising our values, helping to address the world’s changing climate – which the United Nations Development Program says “will reverse decades worth of human development gains” – would help us fulfill Christ’s command to care for the poor in a way that unites our faith tradition with America’s youth and the broader society.

Some kinds of stupid can’t be fixed. June 11:

If evangelicals want to prove they’re genuinely serious about addressing climate change, they’ll need a stronger rationale than simply needing to draw youth back into their faith communities. The climate crisis transcends the marketing and membership requirements of even the most fervent religious group. When agriculture collapses due to extreme weather and prolonged drought, the starving will include those of every creed; when rising seas submerge coastlines and remove island nations from the map entirely, issues of religious affiliation will be irrelevant.

Young people everywhere around the world can see that their elders have not only failed to solve the problem, but have all too often denied that a problem exists in the first place — scarcely a way to inspire confidence in those who are supposed to be examples of leadership, wisdom, and responsibility. Those who ardently anticipate the End Times cannot be credible advocates for long-term environmental sustainability.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 6, Day 16: I Ain’t Got Nobody That I Can Depend On

The Tampa Bay Times runs a remarkable document:

Editor’s note: A Yale University student from Miami and a fellow classmate have won the inaugural writing competition sponsored by the Energy & Enterprise Initiative founded by former U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis, R-S.C., at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Their winning essay, written in the form of a letter to U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is in print for the first time here.

Dear Senator Rubio,

To many young conservatives like us, it seems that our politics has ridden roughshod all over our ideals. For no issue is this truer than climate change. We are counting on leaders like you to show the country that conservatives have responsible, pro-growth solutions to pressing challenges that young people care about. There is a generation of fiscally conservative Millennials who neither wish to inherit crushing debt nor an abused environment. You are one of the few conservative leaders capable of leading on this issue.

By leading on prudent climate solutions, we can defend and strengthen the free-market system that has produced so much prosperity for America and the world. We can reinvigorate the principle of personal responsibility that our communities require to thrive. And we can bolster America’s energy security.

Conservatives have rightly opposed many of the climate change proposals offered by the Left. But standing against bad policy does not require hiding from good science. We can’t govern responsibly by belittling America’s National Academy of Sciences (and all the other science academies on the planet). We can only govern responsibly by confronting the reality that we will be forced to spend big money dealing with the effects of climate change — money that won’t be invested in our communities, our schools, or our private enterprises.

Aren’t they just adorable? June 1:

In their hypothetical letter to Senator Rubio, Rafael Fernandez and Taylor Gregoire-Wright blithely assume that conservatives can address climate change responsibly and intelligently. Their naivete is touching; Rubio is, after all, the senator who couldn’t bring himself to publicly acknowledge what science tells us about the age of the universe for fear of offending the Young-Earth creationists in his constituency.

Yes, once upon a time there were pro-business Republican politicians who recognized that intelligently conceived public policy required, well…intelligence. But that was long ago. In its aggressively faux-populist anti-intellectualism, today’s GOP rejects anything that smacks of reason, logic, or expertise.

As long as the Republican party’s held hostage by the proudly ignorant, responsible solutions to even trivial problems are unlikely to emerge — and the climate crisis is anything but trivial. In their laudable advocacy of reality-based solutions to a genuine emergency, Fernandez and Gregoire-Wright sound suspiciously like (gasp!) liberals.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 6, Day 6: Du da du du, du du du-du du-du…

The San Luis-Obispo Tribune notes Jerry Brown’s principled advocacy with an unfortunate term:

Gov. Brown continues climate change crusade

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. — Gov. Jerry Brown is set to continue his climate change charge, joining scientists releasing a 20-page call to action on environmental problems including pollution, extinctions and population growth.

Brown plans to address Silicon Valley leaders, as well as climate scientists from University of California, Berkeley, Stanford University and NASA, on Thursday morning at a conference at NASA Ames Research Center.

The governor has repeatedly called for changes in public policy to better address the impacts of the changing climate on the world’s economy and environment.

Berkeley professor Anthony Barnosky, a featured speaker, says the earth is now at a tipping point, and what decisions makers do now “will determine whether or not human quality of life declines over the next few decades.”

Sheesh. May 23:

Unlike the theologically-driven military adventures of the Middle Ages, Jerry Brown’s “crusade” against climate change is based on facts and evidence. The scientific consensus on the human causes of global heating and the dangers it poses is overwhelming. Another difference from the medieval attitude that motivated hundreds of years of pointless violence is that scientific method actively seeks disproof — which means that even in an “overwhelming consensus” there is always room for doubt.

But this fact, which is a feature of science’s epistemology, should not be used as an excuse for inaction. Climatologists are the closest we’ve got to “planetary physicians,” and their advice to us right now is less scientific than practical: don’t wait for the chimera of absolute proof before taking action to fight the accelerating greenhouse effect. When 97 out of 100 oncologists diagnose malignancy, you don’t need the remaining three to agree before starting therapy.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 5, Day 15: Shut Up He Explained

This study is red-hot, and most newspapers aren’t going to touch it. But the Central Michigan Morning Sun’s Eric Baerren takes it on. Good for him:

Will Christianity destroy humanity? Is it making the End Times a self-fulfilling prophesy?

That’s only a half-fair assessment. To be truthful, religious beliefs don’t shape people’s general attitudes. They only reflect them. People who are prone to hating homosexuals, for instance, are prone to find reason in their religious tomes for doing it.

A study a few years back found that 76 percent of Republican voters believe that the end of times will come soon, kicking off one final epic conflict between God and the Antichrist. After God wins, he’ll clean up the planet and all of God’s believers get to spend eternity in paradise. Growing up, I attended a church attended by people who believe this. It was also in a part of the state notable for using religion as an excuse to rave on about the Apocalypse. And, let’s be clear about what this means: About 35 percent of the electorate is reliably Republican. If the poll is accurate, that means that the percentage of the American electorate who believes that the Biblical end is near is about 25 percent.

People who believe in the End Times are also statistically more prone to opposing things intended to curb climate change, which is the point of this. This shouldn’t surprise anyone. Conservatism is underpinned by a fear of change, and doing things to mitigate climate change means changing the way we do things. If you fear change, then you don’t want to do that, so naturally you find excuses not to like denying climate change or pretending that it’s all part of God’s plan.

Damn hard to get all this into 175 words. May 3:

While it’s true that religious beliefs don’t necessarily direct individual attitudes, it is indisputable that they can profoundly shape a society. Western civilization has been steeped for centuries in Christian theology; regardless of whether particular men and women believe in a Biblical apocalypse, there is no doubt that New Testament conceptions of time, progress and eschatology have steered our nominally secular society towards a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In every aspect of our culture — symphonies, movies, fairy tales — we observe “ways of ending” similar to those in the Book of Revelations: a dramatic final conflict, and a happy resolution. Study of other cultures shows that these models of closure are by no means universal.

End-times Christian opposition to significant action on climate change is only the visible face of a broader societal inability to imagine any other way to end our collective story. Believers see themselves living happily ever after; climate scientists, however, are much less sanguine about the coming centuries of life on Earth if we fail to address the unsettling facts of a runaway greenhouse effect.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 4, Day 27: My Ding-A-Ling

The National Post (Canada) tells us about important news on the diplomatic front:

WASHINGTON – The world’s two biggest polluters have signed what could be a groundbreaking agreement and “call to action” on the fight against escalating climate change.

The United States and China announced Sunday they would accelerate action to reduce greenhouse gases by advancing cooperation on technology, research, conservation, and alternative and renewable energy.

But while the listed actions sound relatively mundane, the words that accompanied the announcement were not. In a joint and quite powerful statement on the dangers of climate change, the two sides said they “consider that the overwhelming scientific consensus regarding climate change constitutes a compelling call to action crucial to having a global impact on climate change.”

The statement recognizes an “urgent need to intensify global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions… is more critical than ever.” It goes on to say, “Such action is crucial both to contain climate change and to set the kind of powerful example that can inspire the world.”

Just one problem…Sent April 15:

A US-China agreement on tackling global warming may indeed help Canada recognize that its positions on climate are inconsistent with the rest of the developed world. However, there’s another industrialized country with an appallingly backwards stance on this issue. “Conservastan” is a religion-dominated nation-state whose borders match those of the United States, and whose lawmakers have for decades adopted willful obduracy and inflexible scientific ignorance as policy.

Conservastani politicians have inordinate influence on US affairs, often exploiting their dual-citizenship status to block or hinder important treaties and legislation, often for bizarrely ignorant reasons. Texan Congressman Joe Barton recently cited Noah’s flood as an example of climate change unconnected to CO2 emissions, and asserted that this Bronze Age myth provided a “scientific” justification for ignoring the conclusions of the world’s climatologists.

While this intellectually backwards theocracy maintains its geopolitical influence, agreements between China and the USA may never be ratified.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 4, Day 25: There’s Idiots, And Then There’s Texas. And Then There’s Texas’ Idiots.

Time Magazine, reporting on the latest embarrassment from Texas:

“I would point out that if you’re a believer in in the Bible, one would have to say the Great Flood is an example of climate change and that certainly wasn’t because mankind had overdeveloped hydrocarbon energy.”

— Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) at a hearing Wednesday discussing the Keystone XL pipeline, according to Buzzfeed.

Give me a freakin’ break. April 13:

Leave aside that Noah’s Flood is a tribal myth originated in the Fertile Crescent thousands of years ago, for which no actual geological evidence can be found. Leave aside Texas Congressman Joe Barton’s obvious strawman fallacy in asserting that this mythical event is proof that climate change is not exclusively caused by human activity — a notion held by no climatologist ever, and which is equally incorrect on scriptural grounds: if the deluge was God’s response to human sinfulness, then it was as surely anthropogenic as industrial civilization’s greenhouse effect.

Leave these errors of history, science and logic aside, though…and consider Rep. Barton in constitutional terms. A congressman’s refusal to acknowledge scientific fact when it conflicts with a literalist reading of the Bible makes this a theater-of-the-absurd violation of the Establishment Clause. Barton’s buffoonery may win him points with his tea-party constituents, but Texas (and the United States) deserves better.

Warren Senders

Year 4, Month 4, Day 7: Only Sky

The Charleston Post And Courier (SC) runs a column from a religious apologist named Todd Levasseur:

I want to take this insight further to argue that religions also have ignored the climate crisis for 25 years. Mirroring American society at large, we see a slow but inexorable shift toward recognizing climate change as being a deeply ethical and religious matter, one that causes us to dig deeply and re-create our respective covenants with whomever we deem to be the creator’s.

Climate change brings an added urgency to the Holy City. We are at its “ground zero” with the emissions of the industrial economy set to trigger a predicted 3-foot rise in sea level this century. If climate models are correct, the standing water on East Bay Street during high tides is only the beginning, and the ports where cargo ships anchor will need to be raised quite a few feet.

We also are at “ground zero” for feeling the impact of ocean acidification, which can trigger the collapse of aquatic food chains and decimate our maritime economy.

Such scenarios call out for sober leadership from politicians and, especially, community leaders.

Religion historically has provided a seedbed from where our society could graft moral concerns onto progressive community change. Climate change may provide yet another occasion for the emergence of ecumenical, interfaith work.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. March 25:

The growing turbulence of a planetary environmental emergency may well bring together adherents of different belief systems in the recognition of a common adversary. But for such a confluence of diverse faiths to have an impact on the climate crisis will require religious adherents to practice a different sort of renunciation. The proximate cause of climate change is the greenhouse gas emissions of industrial society, but at root is something far older and more pervasive — the notion that our species is privileged by providence.

If we are to survive on a climatically-transformed planet, religious traditions can no longer invoke the will of a supernatural being to justify human ignorance of, and antagonism to, the natural world. The faithful must engage in a new form of spiritual discipline, leaving behind the magical thinking of medieval times and recognizing the hard truths offered by climate science about atmospheric CO2 and its impact on Earthly life. There is more genuine evidence for the greenhouse effect than for any of humanity’s thousands of deities.

Warren Senders